Hands-on review: Pawbo+ Wi-Fi pet-monitoring camera
The high-tech way to keep an eye on canine or feline members of your family.
Pawbo+ is one of a new (pedigree?) breed of Wi-Fi-connected video cameras designed for pet monitoring rather than home security. Up to eight users can log in via the app to see through the camera and have two-way conversations with their moggy or mutt.
Users can also take still photos and videos. Other features include a treat dispenser and a laser pointer designed to let you play games with your pet. You can also play noises to entertain them.
Pawbo+ is curved and reasonably compact – it stands at 20cm high and is mains powered. You can mount it to the wall to reduce the risk of tampering but still the mains cable might be tempting to pets that chew – you need to position the camera correctly to capture your pet’s movement so that the treats reach them.
Setup took ages as we attempted a Wi-Fi connection via multiple methods. Using the free Pawbo Life app to find Pawbo+ didn’t work, nor did using the WPS button on our router. In the end, we had to turn Pawbo+ into a Wi-Fi hotspot and log onto it from the smartphone app, then direct it to our router and its password. Third time lucky.
Apparently the cam requires a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi connection – something our router offers, but the phone was connected using 5GHz so that was probably the problem. The process was all managed via the Pawbo Life app adequately but it really shouldn’t be so hard or time-consuming.
Once it’s all set up, the Pawbo Life app makes light work of accessing Pawbo+ remotely. Open the app, press play and within a few seconds you’re watching live footage from the camera. The time lag when we tested from within the same room was between one and four seconds.
The camera makes a loud doorbell sound whenever you log into the app to take a peek and when you log off again. We couldn’t find a way to turn this off. We appreciate the idea – to not breach anyone’s privacy – but surely the sound could disturb a pet? Let sleeping dogs lie, we say. Indoor Wi-Fi security cameras don’t have an audio alert, so why should a pet camera?
When our puppy Rocky was sound asleep, the sound didn’t disturb him, but he did notice it during the day. Over time, though, pets should acclimatise and ignore it.
The app lets you take photos and videos and then save them to your smartphone. There’s also the option to share them instantly to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. The snaps are 1280x720 pixels and the video footage is the same, so 720p high-definition. It’s good enough that you can see what your pet’s up to, but don’t expect to zoom in and see detail.
You can also have ‘two-way conversations’ with your pet via the app. So you can speak and also listen to them. The listening we can appreciate, but isn’t it confusing rather than soothing for them to hear their owner’s disembodied voice?
We have similar concerns about the laser pointer game. It’s clever – you can either set the red dot of the laser pointer to whizz around randomly or you can control it yourself via on-screen controls – and some cats and dogs do seem to enjoy chasing lasers. But many animal behaviour experts think that laser pointers aren’t good for our pets’ mental health: chasing non-existent prey triggers their predatory instincts but, because the laser can never be caught, there’s no real reward.
Our pup did indeed seem frustrated rather than excited by the laser. Also the noise Pawbo+ makes when moving the laser is annoying.
Speaking of rewards, there’s a built-in treat dispenser in Pawbo+ with nine compartments that can be filled with one or more small treats or pieces of kibble. Press the app’s treat button and they drop out from the front, rather than being flung across the room, so if you’re planning to use this feature it’s worth checking the camera’s positioning to ensure the treats will drop down and reach your pet.
Better still, position Pawbo+ on or near the ground and you’ll actually see your pet eat the treat. The camera’s 130-degree wide-angle lens means you can put it higher up on a table or bookshelf and still see your pet, but the treat will drop downwards, out of sight.
Also be careful to position it securely – Pawbo+ is solidly built and unlikely to come to harm, but once a pet realises there are treats inside it... my goodness it’s going to try to get at them. Rocky objected to Pawbo+ full stop and knocked it over several times, but Rocky’s a puppy and also boxes his own shadow.
The other built-in enrichment is the ability to play sounds: birds chirping, three types of meow, a carrier bag rustling and a rat squeaking. We thought the latter would appeal most to our terrier, but in fact it was the meows that got his attention. If you log in to Pawbo+ throughout the working day to see your pet sleeping in the same position, so perfectly still that you wonder if they’re still breathing, these sounds could be just the ticket. Turns out they’re alive and just really, really lazy – saving their energy for playing with you in the wee hours of the morning...
Pawbo+ is competitively priced compared with some pet cameras, but one feature it lacks is night vision. If it’s dark in the room overnight, you’ve got little chance of keeping an eye on your pet.
Enter: Pawbo Flash (£29), a pair of plastic ‘ears’ that sit on top of the camera and – bizarrely – help it see. The ears contain bright LED lights that act as a nightlight, illuminating matters whenever the room is dark, not just when you’re logged in to the camera.
This does lead to better-quality photos and footage: night-vision cameras are effective but the picture quality isn’t great. But we instinctively felt the bright lights weren’t great for pets, who’d surely benefit from total darkness in the night. Night vision would be better suited to checking on pets in the night,
In all, then, we thought Pawbo+ good value for a well-featured pet camera but it has its flaws. We’d like to see it updated to add night vision and make the doorbell sound optional. We’d also do away with the laser pointer and instead have it throw treats further.
Stylish, with treat dispenser and night vision. A barking alert can send you push notifications, so you know when Fido is demanding that you come home (or dispense another treat).
This large petcam stores up to 100 treats and makes them more fun by throwing them varying distances of up to 6ft. Log in remotely or, alternatively, it can stream activity directly to Facebook Live.
This indoor, Wi-Fi security cam spots burglars and tracks family members as well as featuring pet recognition. It can alert you in real-time – with a photo and video – each time your pet passes the camera.