Aqara’s latest smart home security camera, the Camera E1, is the company’s least expensive camera that still packs high-end features. First shown at the IFA 2023 tech conference, the $60 indoor camera is now available to buy in the US and Europe. It has impressive specs for its price point: 2K video, a wide-angle lens, a 360-degree pan and tilt view, local storage, and on-device processing of smart alerts.
The camera also continues Aqara’s commitment to Apple’s HomeKit Secure Video (HKSV), making it one of the cheapest options to work with Apple’s end-to-end encrypted video storage service. There are several inexpensive cameras that work with Apple HomeKit, but not many that also support the HKSV service. Other similar options include Eufy’s $55 E220, which also has pan and tilt, and the static C120 for $43.
The Camera E1 is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Home, and Aqara has said its cameras will support Matter when the smart home standard adds video to the specification. The E1 is the company’s first device to support Wi-Fi 6, which should help with faster network performance, and it also has Bluetooth 5.2 for set-up and offline control.
The lower price point compared to Aqara’s G camera line, which starts at $110 for 2K video, is because the E1 doesn’t have a Zigbee hub built in for connecting Aqara’s Zigbee-based devices like motion and contact sensors.
Video recording can be stored locally on a microSD card (up to 512GB) or NAS, through Aqara’s cloud service, or through Apple’s HomeKit Secure Video service. This is Apple’s end-to-end encrypted storage option for recorded videos in your personal iCloud. It uses an Apple Home hub such as an Apple TV or HomePod to analyze footage locally and provide smart alerts for people, packages, pets, and cars.
Other features of HKSV include deep integration with Apple Home to do useful things like turn your cameras off when anyone in your Apple Home arrives home and let you tailor your camera’s capabilities to allow for streaming only, streaming and recording, or just detect activity with no video. These are all features many other camera companies charge monthly subscriptions for, but for HKSV, you do need a paid iCloud plan, which starts at $1 a month.
The downside of using a camera like the E1 in HKSV is that the service only supports 1080p video, so you lose the 2K quality. Apple also doesn’t support the camera’s pan and tilt capability in the Home app.
The camera does need to be set up in Aqara’s own app, even when using HKSV. Here, you can take advantage of the better video quality and pan and tilt. If you have other Aqara devices, such as contact sensors, the camera can be programmed to turn to face a preset angle such as the front door when that contact sensor is triggered.
There’s also a new privacy mode that deactivates the camera and angles the lens away from an activity zone. The E1 offers on-device processing of smart alerts for people and sounds including barking and crying. (Aqara says support for sound alerts will be coming in a firmware update.)
Aqara is offering a 20 percent discount at launch on Amazon, with the code USE1CAMERA (US) and CAMERAE1EU (Europe) through November 17th, bringing it down to $48. This makes the E1 the cheapest pan and tilt-capable camera with HKSV — for this week at least.