Review - TOP-201 Super Mini 720P HD IP-Cam (The Cheapest IP Cam So Far !!)

lojix

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This review has taken me a little while to put together, but it was inspired by another post in the forum Disguised/Hidden IP Camera Recommendations. While assisting the OP with a solution, I came across the TOP-201 Super Mini 720P HD IP-Cam at a well-known ‘free-shipping’, China shopping website (linked below).
The main reason for doing this write up on a fairly no-name product is to provide an analysis of the quality of product that can be produced at such a ridiculously low cost. After the amazement that this kind of technology can now be produced with such little value, my initial thought was… What possible kind of IP camera can be offered to the low-end retail market at just over $20 USD?

A year or so ago, I purchased 4x similar cams for a client’s office setup but they were not IP capable, AV only and can be seen here. They were in a similar casing and many of the cam specs were comparable. They came at a cost of about $50 AUD each and I remember being pleasantly surprised by the ‘cost V’s quality’. This was another reason that I got curious enough to find out how this TOP-201 IP version stacked up.

* The TOP-201 - video capture at the bottom of the review.



Features As Described By The Distributor

  • Ultra mini size, it's one of the smallest IP Camera’s.
    • I agree with this. There are many other smaller pin-hole cams, but none that I know of which are available to the low-end retail market are IP capable.





  • Advanced image sensor and great video quality.
    • Surprisingly good quality image. There is no noticeable jitter, no ghosting and remains fairly clear with hardly any pixel grain at all. There is not really a huge difference between the image quality of the 2x Foscam’s running alongside it and In fact, is better than the Wanscam which is also connected and can be seen in the attached images.
    • Image Sensor =1/4" Sony Super HAD CCD I cannot confirm the validity of this. Compared to other cams I have worked with, the image quality seems to be about right. There is nothing obvious in the image quality that identifies this as being false.
    • Shutter = 1/50(1/60)s - 1/10,000s I can only assume this to be correct.
    • Min. Illumination = Colour: 0.1Lux@(F1.2,AGC ON) – I have to admit that the TOP-201 works very well with low-level illumination. This cam has NO IR capability, so is obviously suited towards specific situations where that is not a requirement. However, in a very dimly lit room, the TOP-201’s image remains clear, doesn’t suffer increased noise, is well contrasted and keeps fairly vivid colour. This is also a good indication of the image sensor being at the quality of the Sony SHAD CCD.
    • Image Setting = Brightness and contrast adjustable via web browser and client – The OEM software and browser client both allow for various aspects of the image to be further optimized to your specific conditions. There are actually many image settings to tune, providing more flexibility than many other standard model IP cams. This is largely responsible to the choice of firmware/software chosen by the manufacturer. The cam uses a common DVR software, simply branded ‘H.264 DVR’ and many people who have worked with various DVR’s will have likely come across this software. Various functions that cannot be supported by the TOP-201 are simply greyed out and unavailable to configure.
    • Max. Image Resolution = 1280*720 (720P) – The Image 720P, when scaled up to 1280, it is not as crisp. As you can see from the recording taken from the stream, the image quality is decent.
    • Frame Rate = 50Hz:25fps (1280*720); 60Hz:30fps (1280*720) – In my live streams, I have 2x Foscam’s running at 2Mp, on average 10fps and at a bit rate of 160kBs. The TOP-201 is averaging 12fps and average bit rate of 60kBs. This equates to about 50% and correctly indicates that stated 1Mp. Without accounting for any up-scaling of the image which I suspect may have been done to talk up the cam’s specs a bit.





  • Advanced H.264 video, low bit rate with better image.
    • Video Compression = H.264 High Profile, JPEG snapshot
    • Bit Rate =100Kbps-6Mbps – In my live streams, I have 2x Foscam’s running at 2Mp, on average 10fps and at a bit rate of 160kBs. The TOP-201 is averaging 12fps and average bit rate of 60kBs. This equates to about 50% and correctly indicates that stated 1Mp. Without accounting for any up-scaling of the image which I suspect may have been done to talk up the cam’s specs a bit. I don’t think up to 6Mbs is correct.
  • Hassle free, plug and play.
    • The TOP-201 was easy to configure. Not quite “plug n’ play”, but definitely no more complicated than setting up most other IP cams. There is a ‘config tool’ which finds the device on the network after connection, which is excellent if you have a network like mine. I have 2 subnets across 2 routers and a switch with everything manually configured for security. No DHCP and IP’s bound to MAC’s, as well as double port forwarding for various services… So in my case, it makes things a bit easier by not having to temporarily change things just to connect an extra device, move it of DHCP and onto the correct IP/port range. However, the config tool on the supplied disc did not execute, as is the case with many of those cheap mini-disc’s (they are not burned correctly). It only took me 10 minutes or so and I tracked down a working version on the web (I am happy to save others the trouble and provide it for download upon request).




  • Multiple browser supported. Easy configuration.
    • The TOP-201 utilises UPnP, and it actually works (unlike many Foscam versions) making for a no fuss set up if you choose to have UPnP enabled on your network. The built-in browser client uses Apples, QuickTime. And runs from within IE, Firefox and Chrome. Although beware of compatibility issues that may be faced with different versions. I did no extensive testing across versions, but it would be a good point to note.
    • Storage = Network or Local storage – The TOP-201 will record to a location on the network of your choice. It runs more like a DVR than a traditional IP Cam, in that the built in client want’s access to a partition of its own to use and abuse. There is a ‘Local’ config and a ‘Remote’ config. Local is happy to just store in a folder of choice for on demand recording/snaps. Whereas Remote wants the more dedicated storage partition.
    • Intelligent Alarm = Motion detection, video loss, cable break, IP address conflicts – All the usual DVR type alarm functionality.
    • Basic = anti-flicker, dual-stream, heartbeat, password protection – Okay, I am unfamiliar with whatever “heartbeat” is, but it does have dual-stream and password protection.
    • Net Interface =One RJ45 10M/100M (Ethernet Cat5e min.)
    • Protocol = TCP/IP, HTTP, DHCP, DDNS – Pretty much what defines it as being an IP camera.
    • Power Supply = DC12V±10% – Note that the TOP-201 does not come with a power supply. These are usually in abundance in most device-riddled homes, just beware of the Amp output of the power supply as to high will make the cam run hot. I used a generic 12V 1A power supply and could probably swap it down to a 12V 0.5A.
  • Working Temperature = -20? - 60?
  • Size / Dimensions: 3.6cm x 3.6cm x 3.6cm - 1.42inch x 1.42inch x 1.42inch.






Conclusion:

Firstly, this is a camera was $20. It has a massive range in application and if you use a software NVR such as BlueIris, iSpy or Xeoma etc. you will find this cam will integrate into the mix fairly easily. As long as you have applied it to the right situation, it will work well and for the cost it is worth the risk on account the value of the technology has basically been made disposable. By the time it no longer serves it purpose for you, you will be ready to throw it away and replace it.

The one negative I must note, is that the cable running out from the back of the cam was poorly finished, the connection itself is strong and bonded well. However as I have shown in the close images at the top, there is no protective rubber grommet secured onto the metal housing of the cam. For me, this is not a problem. There are dozens of ways to correct it, but it must be highlighted as it is clearly a poor quality control point. Some silicone bonding will easily take care of it though.

I am happy with the cost V’s quality, and after analysis, I actually think the quality completely outweighs the cost. If you found this review interesting or helpful, please click the “Thanks” and “Like” the recording clip at the link.
Please post any questions and I will do my best to answer them. I hope this Post is informative and has help others ...or at the least, has provided some interesting information.

Go To The TOP-201




(Sorry for the large res images, but I hate it when you want to see the detail of an item and the uploader has used useless images that don't help).
 

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Zxel

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I came across the TOP-201 Super Mini 720P HD IP-Cam at a well-known ‘free-shipping’, China shopping website (linked below).
This looks like it came from Aliexpress, however, there is no link (no a picture does not qualify) to where you purchased this. Can you please provide a url for where you purchased this - thanks!
 

Zxel

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Thanks, I re-read that post multiple times and didn't cache that (I thought that was a "go to the top" link).

This looks like it might make a good dog house camera (no that is not a joke - I have 8 dogs and want to spy on their activity in their dog houses).

It would have been usefull in the review if it mentioned the sensitivity (and what wave leangth) of the camera to IR, even though it doesn't have IR's.
 

lojix

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This looks like it came from Aliexpress, however, there is no link (no a picture does not qualify) to where you purchased this. Can you please provide a url for where you purchased this - thanks!
Sorry I didn't make the link more obvious. I didn't want my review to come across as an advertisement for another website, that's all.

I just bought one of these cameras. Can you tell me the polarity of its DC connector? Is it center positive or center negative (as described here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polarity_symbols )?
Yes, it's a standard center positive connection.



I also forgot to mention that the lens is changeable. It comes with a 3.6mm lens which is a good balance between width and length in the field of view. With the option to customize it to a more specific application if needed.
 

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LittleBrother

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Great review!

The "infrared waterproof" on the box is hilarious. It's obviously not waterproof.

For $20 this thing is producing an amazing image, and it's very small as well. I feel I must have one.

Would it be possible to post a screen shot of its web server? I don't use any DVR products at all. My current hikvisions I manage directly on the cams. I assume this thing can send to an FTP location?

Too bad it lacks POE. I wonder when a $20 cam like this will support that, then I'd truly have no excuse not to get it.
 

lojix

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The "infrared waterproof" on the box is hilarious. It's obviously not waterproof.
I know!! ...as soon as I saw it I laughed :laugh:

Would it be possible to post a screen shot of its web server?
I sure can ...and I will note that this image was taken in very low lighting. The light in this room is turned off, and only ambient light from my PC monitors and the next room is what illuminates the camera.



I assume this thing can send to an FTP location?
Yes... I have not tested it, but I assume that it works fine. As you can see in the 'Net Services' menu below, there are some options such as 'WiFi' which are not applicable to the TOP-201, and just remain dormant (As the manufacturer has simply adapted this NVR software to work with the device).



Another point I will mention (which is something that bugs me)... is the CMS client window is not scalable. It allows only 3 options - minimized / full screen / and half-size window. On a positive note, the web interface is good. All options / functions are accessible and it's actually more flexible than the CMS client. So it should would work well in your situation.

Too bad it lacks POE. I wonder when a $20 cam like this will support that
True! ...Make sure you let us know if you come across one :friendly_wink:
 

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pal251

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Looks like the same software as nellys ion nvr and empire security nvr. I'm going to order one and try it out. Looks pretty nice
 

lojix

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Also looks like yours might support Onvif as well ("According to the above cameras specifications"):

Onvif (port is 889)

From ISpy Connect: http://www.ispyconnect.com/man.aspx?n=camera

RTSP (port is 554) rtsp://IPADDRESS:554/user=[USERNAME]&password=[PASSWORD]&channel=1&stream=0.sdp?

Could be newer firmware as well. Can't easily determine what products the below are really referencing.
This is the path I am using in BlueIris:

RTSP on 554 - rtsp://IPADDRESS:554/user=[USERNAME]_password=[PASSWORD]_channel=1_stream=0.sdp?real_stream

...and the software disk comes with firmware on it, but I think you can understand my hesitation to play around with it. It's very poorly documented as well. I accepted the "implied" tech support opt-out for the price... but I am going to have a look into this now, thanks for the tip!
 

RevCo

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Hello everyone, I recently got the Top-201 ip cam you have listed above and have alot of experience with IP cam's in general but with this one I am at a loss. When I try to access the cam via its IP info on the back, the info is completely in chinese. Also, further research says I need some sort of active X running as well. My fear is that this unit has some sort of back door access to my network(sorry I'm abit paranoid). Could someone provide some facts/steps on how to access this unit before I put in the garbage please. I have managed to get working via Ispy but it crashes alot(assuming I'm not using the proper type of ip cam) tho I have spent countless hours just getting it to this point. Again, any assistance and references, as well as software links to access and change its internal settings would be awesome. Thank you in advance and happy holidays to all.

RevCo
 

lojix

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Sorry to here you have had some trouble getting it up and running, your experience with it is quite different from mine. I hope I can be of some assistance and change the situation for you.

When I try to access the cam via its IP info on the back, the info is completely in chinese.
In the files I received with the device, there was both Chinese and English. The Chinese documentation understandably seems to be a lot more thorough than the English translation. The English translation is pretty much what I would expect, it's a good attempt but poorly done.

I have uploaded the 'striped' (Software and English only files) for you and anybody else who may want them. I have also included the 'Cam Config Tool' which I had to source separately as the included version did not execute for me. See the link below.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-cxAbQ6UqEjR3dJb2dVaXFwVkU/view?usp=sharing

Also, further research says I need some sort of active X running as well. My fear is that this unit has some sort of back door access to my network(sorry I'm abit paranoid).
I have not needed ActiveX to use the camera. There are various other methods to connect to it (some of which I have covered). I can connect to it through Google Chrome and Firefox using Java and the Apple Quicktime plug-in. The included CMS connects with almost plug n' play ease... and I can can assure you, with how tight my network and PC security is, it would have to be some really advanced malware bundled in there to get past me. I'm not saying that it's impossible, just that it's highly improbable. I honestly do not believe that would be a problem for you.

Could someone provide some facts/steps on how to access this unit before I put in the garbage please. I have managed to get working via Ispy but it crashes alot(assuming I'm not using the proper type of ip cam) tho I have spent countless hours just getting it to this point. Again, any assistance and references, as well as software links to access and change its internal settings would be awesome.
I really think I have covered a fair bit about this cam, including the RSTP path in one of my comments (which may have saved you a bit of the time spent on iSpy). However if there is something specific you would like me to clarify further or any other information I can help out with, I am happy to answer what I can :)
 
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gonzo here

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Hi everyone new to the board here, and I must start out by saying A very big thank you to you all .A little background,i am from the states and i wanted to get my feet wet with cctv.So i went straight to ebay and found this cam.I've doing some research and home work,and really have learned so much,But i must sat that is very easy to get bogged down in information when you are dealing with the networking side.Quite daunting and frankly can be frustrating with so many acronyms,protocols,and just outright data.You guys have my respect for offering out the info the way you do.Any who I loved lojix's review from that review alone i got the nuts and bolts for this camera and followed his link for the software (of course my disc came cracked) and it worked beautifully.thank you sir.
Now to my problem i downloaded ispy.and as per overlords link i tried to get my cam up and running,well by using the wizard it gave me over 500 possibilities and my day was long enough just getting to that point,I know i took a wrong turn somewhere.If any one could help I would truly appreciate it
As a side note I can't tell you guys how fun I had with something that was so inexpensive,And i was sure wasn't going to work,and how proud of myself i am (please don't mistake this as my being arrogant ) for having gotten this far.So from this side of the world I'll pat you guys on the back,And thank you kindly
 

pal251

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I ordered one of these caneras off ebay for 24 bucks from a us place. Eager to see how well it works
 

lojix

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Hi everyone new to the board here, and I must start out by saying A very big thank you to you all .A little background,i am from the states and i wanted to get my feet wet with cctv.So i went straight to ebay and found this cam.I've doing some research and home work,and really have learned so much,But i must sat that is very easy to get bogged down in information when you are dealing with the networking side.Quite daunting and frankly can be frustrating with so many acronyms,protocols,and just outright data.You guys have my respect for offering out the info the way you do.Any who I loved lojix's review from that review alone i got the nuts and bolts for this camera and followed his link for the software (of course my disc came cracked) and it worked beautifully.thank you sir.
Now to my problem i downloaded ispy.and as per overlords link i tried to get my cam up and running,well by using the wizard it gave me over 500 possibilities and my day was long enough just getting to that point,I know i took a wrong turn somewhere.If any one could help I would truly appreciate it
As a side note I can't tell you guys how fun I had with something that was so inexpensive,And i was sure wasn't going to work,and how proud of myself i am (please don't mistake this as my being arrogant ) for having gotten this far.So from this side of the world I'll pat you guys on the back,And thank you kindly
Hi gonzo here,
Great introduction, I think you are among good company here and I for one think that it's great that you have taken an interest in IP Cams. I'm sure if anybody can answer any questions you might have, they would be happy to do so.

The amount of information that you are faced with when first working with IP cams can be daunting, especially for somebody who has little or no experience with networking protocols and devices. So it can be a lot to take in at first and yes, there are more acronyms than I'd like to remember :D but they do become familiar. Be persistent, ask questions and read all the great information that others have taken the time to produce.
 
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