The Dropcam Echo makes no effort to hide the fact that the hardware is actually the AXIS M1031-W. The front of the camera shows the AXIS logo in addition to Dropcam's.

Front & Rear Views of the M1031-W
[ Source: Axis M1031-W User Manual ]

Our main peeve with the M1031-W is that it is a VGA class camera. With Logitech introducing a 720p IP camera at a similar price point, the supported resolution of the M1031-W is indeed a minus point. However, for people on the go who rely mainly on streaming to the iPhone, QVGA (320x240) streams have a sharp enough quality. Despite the camera itself supporting VGA resolution, Dropcam makes it work at QVGA. As Dropcam is focused on the cloud experience and bandwidth optimization, the initial viewing is QVGA. Higher resolutions (upto 640x480) will probably turn up in a firmware update and it will not be necessary to buy a new camera.

Compared to the MJPEG used by similar cameras in its class, the M1031-W (as configured in the Dropcam Echo) encodes video in L4.1 Baseline H264 and 2 channel audio in AAC. Audio and video bitrates are around 80 Kbps and 60 Kbps respectively. A look at the datasheet specifications of the M1031-W reveals that the hardware has some pretty nifty features like two-way audio and privacy masks which don’t seem to be enabled in Dropcam’s firmware yet.

From an external perspective, the M1031-W lacks the PTZ (Pan, Tilt, Zoom) control found in the M1054 (which happens to be the 720p model). Also, the lens is fixed focus in nature, with a horizontal viewing angle of 47 degrees. The PIR (Passive Infrared Sensor) delivers excellent motion detection even in very low lighting conditions. Light from the camera also helps capture images in this situation.

The AXIS M1031-W can be had for $275 or so, but AnandTech advises investing a couple of dollars more and getting the Dropcam instead. The Axis software front end is, unfortunately, not very user friendly. Dropcam’s major innovation is the development of the firmware frontend from the ground up. This interfaces with a cloud backend, which is covered in detail in the next section.

Unboxing & Setup Impressions The Cloud Backend
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  • vgribok - Thursday, August 12, 2010 - link

    Security camera footage is just one kind of data generated by households that one wants to make accessible on the web in a secure, authenticated manner while not having to tinker with routers, IPs and such. Real problem is that it's very hard to create any web-based application that is easy enough for a non-technical person to install, and yet secure enough to expose it on the web. That's why there are very few redistributable web applications for consumers and small businesses, while large corporations moved to web based apps long time ago.

    An ability to build easily-redistributed web-based applications that can be installed inside LANs but still be securely exposed on the web without making non-techy people fiddle with routers, DNS, etc. is the idea being implemented by UltiDev HttpVPN ( It will be paired with Apple-like application store allowing creation and distribution of web applications for customers with no technical skills required to setup secure web hosting on premises, like consumers and small businesses. Home surveillance systems would be a perfect example of who would use HttpVPN.
  • ipvideomarket - Saturday, August 14, 2010 - link

    Dropcam has dozens of competitors with more mature offerings delivering cloud native solutions.

    For instance, Axis has over 12 partners world-wide supporting Axis's Video Hosting Service.

    Also, contrast to Viaas who is delivering a more sophisticated end to end solution.

    Finally, a free 'cloud integration' service is offered by Lorex providing no-cost live video monitoring at half the up front cost of Dropcam.
  • Lonbjerg - Saturday, August 14, 2010 - link

    Who in their right mind still thinks a MAC filter gives any form of security?
    It's spoofed in less than a second...madre mia :/
    Anyone still using MAC filtering should turn in their network-man-card.
  • xtian78h - Tuesday, August 17, 2010 - link

    I'm NOT associated with this company before I'm accused of shameless plugging, but given the subject matter I'm surprised no-one has mentioned (Video Intelligence As A Service). It looks to be similar to Dropcam.

    Key differences appear to be - that Dropcam has audio support & iphone monitoring (big plus) - The Viaas cameras come with a micro SDHC slot which allows for the loss of internet connectivity and a can also provide a buffer allowing the user to impose bandwidth / traffic shaping over DSL etc. Other challenges with Viaas - no iphone support.. lack of UK presence (pricing).

    Whilst some will doubtless argue, why do you need UK pricing, it's a cloud service after all. When you start shipping cameras from the US and need to guestimate import duty, VAT etc - it just becomes tedious. Likewise with fluctuating exchange rates - services billed only in dollars can rapidly start adding up.

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