Hands-on review: Imou Versa and Imou Cell Go security cameras
Image credit: Imou
Keeps your eyes on all your prizes, day and night.
Whatever your thoughts about the CCTV era, many people want the security of monitoring their own immediate environment. An Englishman's home is his castle, now with cameras.
Imou makes a wide range of security cams, for both indoor and outdoor use. We had the Versa already lined up for review when the company announced the Cell Go, so we're taking a look at both cams here.
The Versa is a straightforward indoor/outdoor 2K 2MP cam with a 114° diagonal field of view, a 2.8mm lens for focus up to 10m (32.8ft), H.265 video-compression technology, 'Smart Colour Night Vison', IP65 weather resistance, a built-in spotlight, and a deafening 110dB siren.
It's also blissfully easy to install, with semi-permanent magnetic or sticker installation options, as well as a much more permanent drilling-and-screwing option. There's also the free-standing (i.e. inside the property) approach, whereby you simply stand and point the camera wherever you want it.
The Versa has a smart night-vision mode, in which it operates mostly in black and white, infrared mode – to save on battery life – and switches to full-colour mode, deploying its built-in spotlights, when an event is detected (such as a person or large animal approaching your house). Alternatively, you can choose to film in full colour the entire time, 24/7, or equally black and white, if you prefer a more artistic film-noir approach to all of your footage. An IR algorithm fine-tunes the black and white images to help keep things crisp. You can also turn the camera entirely at night, if you wish.
The Versa has Imou's human-detection algorithms, so you can receive alerts when a human target has been detected, and that 110dB siren can be sounded to scare the bejeebus out of them and anyone else in the immediate vicinity.
Note that you can't specifically set a human detection area, only an area for general motion detection. If you get a lot of badgers or muntjac deer in your garden at night, you might get a lot of alerts. Still, better safe than sorry – and if those deer are eating all your salad vegetables, this might well be something you want to know about.
Inside the house, the Versa offers broad flexibility regarding positioning; being so small, it's easy to fit in anywhere, and being battery-powered no cable or wall socket is required. It also has a microphone and speaker, so you can speak to pets and such like while you're away from home. The microphone also picks up any unusual or unexpected sounds and sends an immediate alert to your phone, which is another reassuring feature.
Imou also offers an inevitable paid-for cloud storage service ('Imou Protect') for all your security footage, synced with your smartphone, with a 30-day free trial for new users. You don't have to sign up for this, though, at any time: the camera has onboard storage, albeit it is limited. You'll be wanting to rescue important footage quick smart before it's overwritten. SD cards can also be used: a 32Gb memory card will continuously capture footage for approximately three days.
The company's persuasive sell for its cloud service is the 30 days of unlimited history storage and enhanced AI detection, supposedly leveraging the supercomputing power of the cloud to provide more than 200 times the computing power of the camera's built-in chip, bringing greater accuracy and object detection. The jury is out on all this. It's probably true to say that the cloud offers some advantages, but as a standalone security camera the Versa does a fine job of capturing the key moments.
The new Cell Go camera builds on the solid foundations of the Versa, adding a large-capacity 5000mAh battery for longer run-time; upping the capture resolution with a 2K 3MP camera, for even better-quality footage, day or night; introducing support for a solar panel, so you never need to recharge the battery again, and trimming the overall outer dimensions. It's slightly smaller, although slightly heavier, due to that beefier battery.
The same easy-breezy installation options apply, being essentially the same camera in terms of both core form and function. However, the Cell Go cam does usefully extend the functionality, including a two-way talk feature with a built-in voice changer to hide your identity from strangers and protect your privacy. This does actually work in practice, so it's a useful addition for anyone living alone and concerned about cold callers. The Cell Go's siren is slightly quieter – on paper, at least – than the Versa's, although 90dB is still Very Loud Indeed.
Imou has also upped the cloud ante with the Cell Go, offering one year of cloud storage for free. The unit itself has 4Gb built-in eMMC storage, which is definitely not enough for 24/7 continuous recording for more than a couple of days.
The Cell Go also offers a vlogging feature, being essentially a webcam, if that's a thing that interests you. In conjunction with this, Cell Go can act as a hotspot in areas with no Wi-Fi signal (e.g. garages, basements, sheds), connecting directly to your phone to transmit footage.
Arguably, Cell Go's most useful feature could be its support for Imou's small solar panel accessory. If you're intending to install the Cell Go in a permanent location, the solar panel is practically a no-brainer. You can set the system up and then forget about it – Cell Go will recharge itself and just keep on running. It's not even that expensive – expect to pay around a £15 premium for the solar panel bundle.
Both of these Imou cams are good options for straightforward security monitoring of a property. There isn't a huge amount of really crucial difference between them. The Cell Go is perhaps superior overall and has the slightly higher-resolution camera, but the 2K 2MP cam in the Versa also produces perfectly acceptable footage. As a pair of user-friendly and thoroughly modern security cameras, both fulfil their core brief well: keeping a watchful eye over the immediate environment and recording it all with clarity and definition.
£39.99 from B&Q
£59.99 from B&Q / £74.99 with solar panel
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