Wednesday, May 12th, 2021

Soliom S90 Pro Solar Cam Review: Don’t Count on It!

Soliom S90 Pro Hand
The Soliom S90 Pro is a massive solar Wi-Fi security camera.

In a small way, the Soliom S90 Pro is an improvement to the previous S60 — it has a louder speaker. In many others, however, it’s an example of expecting different results by doing the same thing. Among other things, the new solar camera inherits the one thing that has made the S60 a terrible security apparatus: The awful Soliom mobile app.

Indeed, months after my previous review, there’s no major app update. It’s the same version that’s buggy, unreliable, and borderline useless. On top of that, the S90 is now much bulkier, yet delivers the same video quality, plus a narrower viewing angle.

At a current cost of $140, the S90 Pro is cheap compared to other sollar IP cameras. But still, you’d pay way too much for what you get.

READ  Soliom Bird S60 Review: Good Hardware, Terrible App

Soliom S90 Pro Solar Wi-Fi Security Camera

5.3

Performance

4.5/10

Features

7.5/10

Design and Setup

6.0/10

Value

3.0/10

Pros

  • Good solar charger with capacious battery
  • Relatively cheap
  • Free unlimited cloud storage included

Cons

  • Bulky design, cheaply made
  • Horrid mobile app
  • Inaccurate motion detection
  • User must access live video before recorded footage
  • Dated Wi-Fi specs

Soliom S90 Pro: A bulky, and cheaply made, solar camera

Out of the box, the S90 looks excellent. It’s a battery-operated outdoor security camera that includes three large solar panels — one on top and two on the side can rise like wings. The whole package resembles a satellite.

Here’s the idea: Connect the S90 Pro to your Wi-Fi — the cam supports the dated 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi 4 — mount it up somewhere with lots of sunlight, and you won’t need to worry about it running out of juice. (By the way, the camera’s setup process is straightforward, as the case of the S60.)

But scrutinize a little bit, you’ll immediately realize it’s a cheaply made product.

Loose plastic parts

For one, almost the entire camera is plastic. Holding it, and I feel bad for the oceans since there’s a lot of raw materials. The S90 is massive, about four times the size of the S60, measuring 7.67 x 8.66 x 3.24 inches (19.5 x 22 x 8 cm).

Soliom S90 Pro Bay
The Soliom S90 Pro’s I/O bay, note the lack of the I/O shield.

What’s more, the cam is not well put together. Things are loose at the joints. For example, the side solar panels can raise, but you leave them alone, they tend to drop down slowly. You can tighten them with a screwdriver, but after a while, they might become loose again, especially when the temperature changes from hot to cold.

On the underside, the S90 has a small input/output (I/O) bay where you can access its microSD card slot and micro-USB power charger port, as well as the reset and on/off button. The bay has no I/O shield. As a result, you can easily drop small objects, like a micro SD card, into the inside of the camera by accident. In this case, good luck getting them out. Also, this bay has a lid that shields it from the elements as part of an effort to keep the camera IP66 weather resistant. The way the cover works, taking it out is easy, but putting it back can be a challenge. In cold weather, this lid also shrinks and might fall off by itself.

High(er) capacity battery, larger speaker, bad mic

Below the I/O bay, there’s another compartment that you have to undo four screws to open. Inside, you’ll find a high-capacity 10000mAH battery and a speaker.

READ  Synology Surveillance Station: DIY Security at Its Best

The speaker works for the camera’s intercom function, which enables you to remotely talk to the person standing in front of the camera using the Soliom app on the phone. I tried this out, and the speaker was quite loud and clear. Unfurtatenly the camera’s mic was terrible; I had to pay attention to make out what somebody standing just a few feet from the camera was saying. Also, since the app is so bad — more on his below — and the live video has a significant delay, the intercom feature is more of a gimmick than a real function.

Soliom S90 Pro: Awful mobile app

The Soliom mobile app (for iOS and Android) is the only way for you to use the S90 Pro. There’s no other software or a web user interface. As a result, how well these app works determine the camera’s user experience. And it’s bad.

Soliom S90 Pro App
The Soliom S90 Pro can’t record videos longer than 8 seconds apiece. Note the erroneous micro SD card’s status.

Common issues

Similar to the case of the S60, the Soliom app on the S90 Pro has the same problems, including:

  • Privacy concern: The app needs to have access to many aspects of your phone (storage, video, mic, location, etc.) to work.
  • Poorly written interface text: The text seems coarsely translated from Chinese and is generally confusing. By reading the interface labels, you’ll have a hard time figuring out what a setting means and what it does.
  • Intrusive notification: The camera’s motion detection sends notifications to the phone. When this happens, the alert takes up the entire screen and kicks you out of any app you’re using.

Unreliable functions

In my testing, many parts of the Soliom app didn’t function as intended.

For example, battery life is a selling point of the S90 Pro. As a solar camera, users expect it to last without having to plug it in, yet, the Soliom app’s battery indicator has only two variations: charging and non-charging. There’s no battery gauge, and the icon always looks like the battery is full. So, when the sun is out, you’ll see that the camera is charging; at night time, you only see that the battery is full, even when it’s about to run out of juice entirely.

Another example is the formatting function for the micro SD card. I put a full card in and chose to format it; the app prompted that the task completed successfully but yet still showed that the card is full. So was it formatted? Well, as it turned out, I needed to remove and re-insert the memory chip for its capacity to refresh. And then, after a while, it was shown as “NOT FORMAT” though it was working fine.

Soliom S90 Pro vs. S60 Photo
Though much bigger in physical size, the Soliom S90 Pro has a narrower viewing angle than the S60.

Badly designed video management

Like the case of the S60, the S90 Pro’s deal-breaker is the way it handles its security footage.

The camera comes with “unlimited” cloud storage, and you can also use a micro SD card to store videos locally. For the former, you can view the footage day by day, using a calendar; for the latter, there’s a 24h timeline dial that allows you to swipe back and forth. Both methods sound like a good idea, but the devil is in the details.

First, the cloud storage calendar doesn’t have filters or search function. You need to pick a day and view a list of recorded vids on that day. Looking at the calendar, though, you’ll have no idea which days have any recordings. You have to open a particular day to find out.

On the other hand, the 24-hour timeline view doesn’t show dates, so you’ll have no idea which day you are looking at unless you let the camera record with time stamps. What’s annoying, the timeline often doesn’t stick and would jump to the live view, so it’s quite useless.

Finally, the worst is the fact you’ll need first to view the camera’s live footage before you can access its recorded videos. As a result, when the camera is out of battery, broken, or stolen, there’s no way to find out what has happened.  By the way, Soliom ties the cloud recorded footage with the camera itself (and not a user account). That means if somebody steals your S90 Pro, they will also have in their possession all of its security footage.

Soliom S90 Pro: Unreliable performance

I tested the S90 Pro for about three weeks and had a lot of issues with it.

Soliom S90 Pro Package
The Soliom S90 Pro comes with everything you’d need to mount it.

Motion detection is a joke

The S90 Pro’s motion detection didn’t work most of the time in my trial. Even when set at the highest PIR sensitivity setting, the camera didn’t record even when I was dancing right in front of it. On the other hand, I got a lot of videos with no action at all. It seemed the camera recorded randomly without any specific triggers.

When motion detection did work, it always lost a few first seconds of the action. So say if you catch somebody stealing your package, you’ll see only the part they walk away.

Overall, the only thing of the S90 Pro that works persistently is the live view. But even in this case, the stream is never smooth, and you’ll at times see the object jumps from one place to another. And when you choose to record manually, the footage will be saved to your phone’s library, not the micro SD card or the cloud storage.

So-so battery life

I was happy with the S90 Pro’s battery life for the first few days.

Per instruction, I charged it to full before mounted it outside. The first three days, it was working all the time, none-stop. And, as mentioned above, the app always showed the battery as charging or full. Quite impressed, I decided to move it to a place, in which the sun only shined in the afternoon, to see how that’d pan out.

The next morning, the battery died. I charged it for a few hours and put it out in the same spot. The following morning it died again. That repeated for a couple of days. Finally, I charged it overnight one more time and placed it the original spot with sunlight all day long, and, again, it lasted for days.

It was no scientific, but per my calculation, a full day of sunlight — I live in the San Francisco Bay Area which has extended daylight– replenishes about 30 percent of the camera’s battery. And each night, the camera uses up about that much of its juice.

That said if you need to place the S90 Pro in places with lots of sunlight for it to work continuously. Otherwise, you’ll need to charge it once in a while. All this, of course, will vary depending on how busy the area is.

By the way, it takes about 12 hours, plugged in, to charge the battery from empty to full. There’s no charger included, just a micro-USB cable, but you can charge the S90 Pro using a phone charger or a computer’s USB port.

Soliom S90 Pro vs. S60
The S90 Pro is much larger than the Bird S60.

OK image quality, super-short videos

The S90 Pro’s image quality is exactly like that of the S60’s, but with one caveat, it has a narrower viewing angle of just 110° degrees (as opposed to the S60’s 130°). So despite being more imposing in size, the S90 Pro delivers less in terms of coverage.

Like the S60, though, the video quality leaves much to be desired. The motions are choppy, often too fast with missing frames and grainy textures. Also, at most, you can record only 8 seconds of footage at a time when using cloud storage.

Conclusion

The Soliom S90 Pro outdoor wireless solar security camera is a good idea that poorly executed. Until there’s a major software update — Soliom told me that might happen in a few months — there’s absolutely no reason to get it.

READ  Arlo Ultra Review: Outstanding Video Quality at the Expense of All Else

If you want to play around with a solar cam, maybe consider the S60, which isn’t all that good but slightly more tolerable. But if you’re serious about home security camera, try Synology Surveillance Station or the Arlo, instead.

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