UniFi Video 3 vs. UniFi Protect [Ultimate Review]

Ubiquiti’s UniFi Video Camera platform offers professionals and prosumers a compelling alternative to consumer-grade home security camera systems. In this review, I’ll tell you all about UniFi Video 3 (UV3) and UniFi Protect (UP). Plus, I’ll share with you how I migrated from UV3 to UP, and what the differences are between these two video surveillance platforms.

Background: I have used UniFi Video around my house since mid-2018, but in 2019 I decided to upgrade to Ubiquiti’s next-generation video surveillance platform UniFi Protect.

This article is split into three major parts, including an overview of both platforms as well as a side-by-side comparison. To help you navigate, you can use the shortcuts below.

UniFi Video Platform Overview

The UniFi Video camera system strikes a reasonable balance between flexibility and ease of use. Ubiquiti designed UniFi Video to provide advanced continuous monitoring capabilities with a ton of options to fine-tune and customize both the cameras and network video recorder.

Where consumer-grade systems such as Arlo or Nest are better is in the area of bridging the gap between home security cameras and alarm systems. For example, UniFi Video 3 does not yet support advanced motion detection that can differentiate between a person vs. an animal.

However, unique features — such as support for Power-over-Ethernet (PoE), on-premise video storage, and flexible multi-user support — make UniFi Video a favorite among tech-savvy users.

Overall Rating (4/5)
Hardware (5/5)
Software (3/5)
Ease of use (4/5)

Getting Started With UniFi

If you’re new to products from Ubiquiti, and especially their UniFi brand, I’d recommend taking a peek at my AmpliFi vs. UniFi comparison. That will give you a sense of what the differences are between Ubiquiti’s consumer-grade hardware, such as AmpliFi, and their commercial offering (UniFi).

Note that you don’t necessarily need UniFi networking infrastructure to use UniFi video cameras, but I think it makes the deployment a bit easier. Below is a list of the hardware I already owned before I installed the camera equipment.

UniFi Networking Equipment

  • UniFi Security Gateway (USG)
  • Two UniFi Switches (US-8-150W)
  • UniFi CloudKey Gen1 (UC-CK)

UniFi Video 3 Equipment

All the UniFi video camera equipment I owned was third-generation (G3), as you can tell by the naming convention of the products listed above.

With the upgrade to UniFi Protect, Ubiquiti provided me with the following hardware additions:

I started out with a single UniFi switch but decided to purchase a second one. The reason was that I wanted to leverage ethernet to deliver power to most of the cameras — especially the ones I had planned to install outside of the house.

My existing switch only had one Ethernet port left, so I needed additional ports via a second switch.

UniFi Video 3 Review

UniFi Video Management Console
UniFi Video management console.

In a nutshell, the UniFi Video platform consists of a network video recorder (NVR), cameras, and optional accessories. Below is a list of the devices that I have already installed and will be testing shortly.

One of the primary advantages of the UniFi Video system is what Ubiquiti calls Hybrid Cloud Technology. Most consumer home security camera systems require a paid subscription to provide services such as:

  • Continuous monitoring and recording
  • Management of more than five cameras
  • Remote streaming of live and recorded footage

Plus, most of the camera systems I had tested in the past store video footage in the cloud, which raises privacy concerns. Ubiquiti goes a different route with its UniFi Video solution by offering local video storage combined with secure, cloud-based remote access.

To manage the UniFi Video infrastructure, Ubiquiti offers a web-based management console as well as mobile apps for iOS and Android.

UniFi NVR

UniFi NVR

The UniFi NVR (network video recorder) is the central hub of the UniFi Video system, and it comes pre-installed with UniFi’s video software to deploy and manage your cameras. Additionally, the UniFi NVR has a 2 TB hard drive that can store up to 700 hours of video at 1080p, and more if you use a lower resolution.

Ubiquiti recommends the device for up to 20 UniFi Video cameras. If you have more than 20 cameras, you need the UAS-XG device ($1,999 on Amazon), which features an Intel Xeon CPU and 32 GB of DDR4 memory to handle the load.

Specifications

Dimensions5.31 x 7.48 x 0.98 in (135 x 190 x 25 mm)
Weight17 oz (483 g)
ProcessorIntel J1800
Memory4 GB
Internal Storage2 TB hard drive (Spinning)
Network Interface(1) 10/100/1000 Ethernet
Power Supply65 W, 19V, 3.42A
Additional Ports2x USB 3.0, 4x USB 2.0, MS/SD/MMC Slot, 3.5 mm microphone and headphone jack, HDMI, VGA
Supported CamerasUp to 20

It’s worth noting that Ubiquiti has disabled many of the additional ports and interfaces on the UniFi NVR. Specifically, the following ports do not work:

  • HDMI
  • VGA
  • 3.5 mm jacks

However, the USB ports on the front and back do work, and you can use them to add additional video storage. Note that adding an external hard drive is not a plug and play operation. That means you’ll have to SSH into the NVR and partition/format the external drive before you can use it. Ubiquiti has published a help article that explains how to do it.

UniFi Video 3 Cameras – Download Comparison Sheet

At the time of this writing, Ubiquiti has five UniFi cameras in its lineup. All of them feature a 1080p Full HD resolution, but they differ in the image sensor and lens they use, among other things.

If you’d like to receive a PDF copy of this table, you can request a download link by submitting your email address using the form below.

UniFi Video 3 Camera Comparison Table

UniFi Video Camera G3 (UVC-G3-AF)

UVC-G3-AF
Pros
  • 1080p Full HD video resolution
  • Flexible mounting options
  • High Dynamic Range (HDR) sensor
  • Weather resistant
Cons
  • Field of view
  • Performance in complete darkness w/o IR range extender

The G3 is a reasonably priced HD video camera suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. It offers flexible mounting options (thanks to Ubiquiti’s ball joint mount design), and while the camera offers reasonable night vision performance, I would recommend getting the optional LED IR ranger extender (Amazon) to enhance its performance in complete darkness.

The disadvantage of the UVC-G3-AF is its relatively narrow field of view, which is 85 degrees (horizontally). After applying lens distortion correction (LDC), the FOV drops to an even smaller 72 degrees.

If you’re not using a switch that supports Power over Ethernet (PoE), such as the UniFi US-8-150W (Amazon), you have to purchase a separate PoE adapter (Amazon) to supply the camera with power.

Specifications
Resolution1920×1080 Full HD
Sensor1/3″ 4MP HDR
LensEFL 3.6mm, f/1.8
Frames per Second (FPS)30 FPS
Field of ViewBefore Lens Correction: 85° (H), 44.8° (V), 98.1° (D)
After Lens Correction: 72° (H), 42.9° (V), 80.4° (D)
Optical ZoomNo
Network Connection10/100 Ethernet Port
Two-Way AudioNo
MicrophoneYes
Image SettingsBrightness, Contrast, Sharpness, Saturation, Noise Reduction, 50/60 Hz
Mounting OptionsWall/Ceiling/Pole
Power Supply802.3af PoE Switch
Specifications

Check price on Amazon

UniFi Video Camera G3 Dome (UVC-G3-Dome)

UniFi Video - G3 Dome
UniFi Video – G3 Dome.
Pros
  • Flexible mounting options
  • Adjustable lens and swivel base
  • You can mount it outdoors under an overhang
Cons
  • Performance in complete darkness

The pancake-style G3 Dome features a sleek design and numerous indoor and outdoor mounting options. Note that while you can mount the camera outdoors, you have to do so under an overhang because of its limited weather resistance.

I have mounted the G3 Dome under the overhang next to our garage to monitor the driveway and the area surrounding the garage. You can swivel both the lens (vertically) and the base (horizontally) after installing the camera to fine-tune the viewing angle, but I’d recommend testing the swivel of the mounting plate before you fasten the screws. That way, you know the direction you can swivel the base. In my case, I didn’t realize that I could rotate the camera towards the house but not away from it (which is what I wanted) until I had already locked the mounting ring.

I have little to complain about when it comes to the G3 Dome’s video quality, except for its performance in complete darkness. In my opinion, the camera would benefit from an IR range extender. Unfortunately, Ubiquiti doesn’t sell one for this model.

Specifications
Resolution1920×1080 Full HD
Sensor1/3″ 4MP HDR
LensEFL 2.8mm, f/2.0
Frames per Second (FPS)30 FPS
Field of ViewLens Distortion Correction Off: 100.4° (H), 59.1° (V), 117.3° (D)
Lens Distortion Correction On: 87.8° (H), 55.4° (V), 96.4° (D)
Optical ZoomNo
Network Connection10/100 Ethernet Port
Two-Way AudioNo
MicrophoneYes
Image SettingsBrightness, Contrast, Sharpness, Saturation, Noise Reduction, 50/60 Hz
Mounting OptionsCeiling/Table/Wall/Pole
Power Supply802.3af PoE Switch or 24V, 0.5A PoE Adapter

Check price on Amazon

UniFi Video Camera G3 Micro (UVC-G3-Micro)

UniFi Video G3 Micro
UniFi Video G3 Micro.
Highlights
  • Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) sensor
  • 124° field of view
  • Two-way audio
  • WiFi network support
  • Mounting options

The G3 Micro is the only video camera in Ubiquiti’s lineup that does not have an ethernet port. Instead, it supports WiFi. That means you don’t need to run an ethernet cable, which gives the device more flexible mounting options. Of course, if you don’t leverage PoE, you have to connect the G3 Micro to a conventional power outlet.

Note that the G3 Micro is an indoor camera because it’s not weather-resistant. On the bright side, this camera features two-way audio, a relatively wide field of view of 124 degrees, and an image sensor that supports Wide Dynamic Range (WDR).

UniFi Video - G3 Micro Magnetic Desktop Mount
UniFi Video G3 Micro magnetic desktop mount.

WDR is similar to High Dynamic Range (HDR), which improves image quality in challenging lighting conditions.

What makes the G3 Micro particularly flexible indoors is its magnetic base that you can connect to a variety of mounting options. For example, we have mounted the camera on its desktop stand and placed it on top of the mantle of our chimney in the family room.

Specifications
Resolution1920×1080 Full HD
Sensor1/3″ 4-Megapixel Sensor with WDR
LensEFL 2.7 mm, f/2.2
Frames per Second (FPS)30 FPS
Field of ViewLens Distortion Correction Off: 124° (H), 65° (V), 150° (D)
Lens Distortion Correction On: 92° (H), 60° (V), 100° (D)
Optical ZoomNo
Network Connection2.4 GHz/5 GHz Dual-Band Wi-Fi
Two-Way AudioYes
MicrophoneYes
Image SettingsFlip, Brightness, Contrast, AE Mode (50/60 Hz), WDR, Hue, Infrared, Sharpness, Saturation, Noise Reduction
Mounting OptionsMagnetic Base/Wall/Table
Power SupplyAC Adapter or Instant PoE Adapter

Check price on Amazon

UniFi Video Camera G3 PRO (UVC-G3-PRO)

UniFi Video G3 PRO
UniFi Video G3 Pro.
Highlights
  • Sony image sensor with Wide Dynamic Range (WDR)
  • 124° field of view
  • Enhanced performance in complete darkness
  • IP67 water-resistance rating
  • 3x optical zoom
  • Improved microphone

The G3 PRO is Ubiquiti’s flagship camera, featuring a professional-grade lens and Sony image sensor that results in better image quality, especially in low-light and no-light conditions.

Ubiquiti has achieved this significantly improved low-light performance, compared to other UniFi cameras, by adding high-power infrared LEDs, a larger image sensor, and larger lens aperture.

The wider aperture (lens opening) allows more light to reach the sensor, and the larger sensor means less digital noise and thus sharper images. If you’re a photographer, you can surely relate to that.

Besides the improved image quality and 3x optical zoom, the G3 PRO also features an IP67 weather-resistance rating. As I explained in my review of workout headphones, the acronym IP stands for ingress protection and the numbers 6 and 7 indicate how well the device is protected from dust (6) and water (7).

Specifically, IP67 means that the camera is dust-tight and that it can withstand immersion in water of up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes.

Specifications
Resolution1920×1080 Full HD
SensorSony IMX290, 1/2.8″
Lens3-9 mm, f/1.2 – f/2.1
Frames per Second (FPS)30 FPS
Field of ViewWide Angle: 108° (H), 58° (V), 125° (D)
Zoom: 37° (H), 20° (V), 43° (D)
Optical Zoom3x
Network Connection10/100 Ethernet Port
Two-Way AudioNo
MicrophoneYes
Image SettingsFlip, Brightness, Contrast, 50/60 Hz Flicker Reduction, WDR, Hue, Sharpness, Saturation, Noise Reduction
Mounting OptionsWall/Ceiling/Pole
Power Supply802.3af/802.3at/24V Passive PoE Switch

Check price on Amazon

UniFi Video Camera G3 FLEX (UVC-G3-FLEX)

UniFi Video Camera G3 FLEX
Pros
  • Flexible mounting options
  • Adjustable lens and swivel base
  • Optional skins to better blend into the environment
Cons
  • A narrow field of view
  • Performance in complete darkness

The UniFi G3 FLEX is one of the most versatile video cameras Ubiquiti has to offer, thanks to its flexible mounting options. The indoor mounting options include:

  • Desktop mount
  • Wall mount
  • Hard-ceiling mount
  • Ceiling mount
  • Conduit mount

The outdoor mounting options include:

  • Wall mount
  • Pole mount

In addition to the numerous ways you can mount the camera, you can horizontally adjust the lens by 63 degrees and the swivel base by 60 degrees (vertically). That means you can place the G3 FLEX almost anywhere, and then adjust the viewing angle accordingly. That’s a good thing because of the camera’s relatively narrow field of view, which is wider than that of the G3 but below the G3 Micro and G3 PRO.

UniFi Video - G3 Flex Mounting Options
UniFi Video G3 Flex mounting options.

The other thing I like about the G3 FLEX is the option to customize the camera’s look to better blend it into the environment. Ubiquiti will soon start selling skins that will allow you to change the camera’s appearance.

Specifications
Resolution1920×1080 Full HD
Sensor1/3″ 2MP HDR
LensEFL 4 mm, f/2.0
Frames per Second (FPS)25 FPS
Field of ViewLens Distortion Correction Off: 87.4° (H), 47° (V), 104° (D)
Lens Distortion Correction On: 80° (H), 46° (V), 92° (D)
Optical ZoomNo
Network Connection10/100 Ethernet Port
Two-Way AudioNo
MicrophoneYes
Image SettingsBrightness, Contrast, Sharpness, Saturation, Noise Reduction, 50/60 Hz
Mounting OptionsCeiling/Table/Wall/Pole
Power Supply802.3af PoE

Check price on Amazon

Installing the UniFi Video 3 System

Installing the UniFi Video system isn’t rocket science, but it doesn’t hurt if you know a thing or two about technology and networking. For example, you should be familiar with terms like IP address and ethernet ports. If those terms mean nothing to you, it won’t prevent you from installing UniFi products, but I would probably ask for assistance from someone who works with computer networks.

As mentioned earlier in this article, I already had the necessary network infrastructure in my house to “plug” the UniFi Video equipment right into. Specifically, I had CAT6 ethernet cables running from a UniFi switch in my home office, through the outside wall and into the attic, where they would terminate on a patch panel. As part of the initial setup, I added a second UniFi switch, positioned it in the attic, and connected it to my primary switch.

In case you’re wondering, an attic without air conditioning usually is too hot for electronics, but we have a stairwell leading up to the attic. At the bottom of the stairs, the temperature is only ~10 degrees Fahrenheit higher than in the house, and is thus suitable for the switch.

Setting up the NVR

UniFi NVR Network Switch -- With Stand.
UniFi NVR switch, with stand.

To set up the UniFi NVR, I connected the device to my ethernet switch and a nearby UPS, so it would continue working in the event we lost power.

Then I logged into the UniFi management console and verified what IP address the UniFi Security Gateway (USG) assigned to the NVR via DHCP. At this point, I opened a web browser and navigated to the NVR’s IP address.

In my case it was https://192.168.1.155:7443, but your IP address might be different, depending on your network configuration. However, the port (7443) should be the same.

You may get an SSL certificate warning because the NVR uses a self-signed certificate, which you can replace later on.

For now, just accept the notice and proceed. Ubiquiti has a support article explaining how to replace the self-signed certificate. Additionally, I found these step-by-step instructions, posted by another user.

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If you can’t figure out the IP address of your NVR, you can download and install the Ubiquiti Device Discovery Tool, which works on Windows, Mac and mobile devices.

Operating System and Browser Support

I first tried to complete the initial configuration of the NVR using Safari running on macOS 10.14 Beta. When I got stuck, I realized that the UniFi Video management console and Safari aren’t the best of friends. So I would recommend using Chrome, which is what I did from that point forward.

Initial NVR Configuration

During the initial configuration, you can give your NVR a name and connect it to a UniFi cloud account. If you don’t have a cloud account yet, you can create one. Otherwise, you can use your existing account.

A UniFi cloud account is vital to enable remote access to your UniFi Video system for when you are not connected to your LAN or WiFi network.

Last but not least, I “adopted” the NVR (which is what Ubiquiti calls adding devices) via the UniFi dashboard and upgraded its firmware to the latest release.

Connecting the UniFi Cameras

Once I had successfully set up and configured the NVR, it was time to connect my cameras. I started with the UVC-G3-Micro because it shipped with a regular power plug and I could use WiFi to connect the camera.

One of the easiest ways to add UniFi cameras to the NVR is via “auto-discovery” using the UniFi Video mobile app (App Store). All I had to do was select the discovered camera, give it a name, and add it to the management console.

Then I repeated these steps for the other cameras that I had connected via ethernet instead of WiFi.

UniFi Video Features

Before we get into the weeds of how you can customize your UniFi cameras, let me highlight the key features of UniFi Video.

Highlights
  • UniFi stores all video footage locally
  • Seamless integration with other UniFi equipment
  • Support for Power-over-Ethernet (PoE)
  • See all of your cameras on a map
  • Flexible motion detection settings
  • 24/7 recording with timeline scrubbing
  • Customizable video/picture settings
  • Enterprise-class multi-user support
  • Web and mobile apps
Not Supported
  • Geo-fencing
  • PIR motion detection
  • Integration with home automation platforms
  • Trigger recording if the camera detects sound

Highlights

Here’s an overview of the key features of the UniFi Video camera platform.

Hybrid Cloud With Local Video Storage

UniFi video stores all of your footage locally on the NVR. That means that unlike Google Nest and others, Ubiquiti does not get a copy of your footage. Connecting your NVR to your UniFi cloud account for easier remote access and streaming is optional. If you don’t feel comfortable exposing your devices to Ubiquiti’s cloud, you can configure your network for remote access using a DMZ or VPN.

Besides privacy, the other benefit of storing all footage “on-premise” is that you don’t have to pay a subscription fee and you can expand the storage by plugging in an external hard drive to the NVR.

Seamless Integration
UniFi Video Integration
UniFi Video integration.

Since I already owned UniFi networking equipment to power my LAN and WiFi network, being able to integrate the video cameras seamlessly was a huge benefit.

In the corporate world, “integration” is highly valued. I’ve been selling enterprise software for over a decade, and anywhere I go, customers ask for integration with their existing solutions. Consumers usually don’t care as much about that, but I started appreciating the concept when I realized how well everything in the Apple ecosystem fits together.

That’s why I couldn’t possibly imagine changing from an iPhone to an Android device or from a Mac to a PC. Even if the non-Apple device offered better features in certain areas, it would break my integrations.

Long story short, the fact that UniFi Video integrates so nicely with my network is a huge plus.

Support for Power-Over-Ethernet (PoE)

Traditional home security cameras usually require batteries, or you have to plug them into a power outlet. For indoor cameras, that’s often not a big deal. You just have to find a nearby power outlet.

For outdoor cameras, many users opt for a wireless model running on batteries because it’s a hassle connecting a camera to the home’s power supply. Plus, unless you know what you’re doing, I’d recommend staying away from doing your own electrical work.

UniFi cameras have an edge because they support Power-over-Ethernet (PoE). That means the camera can draw power from a regular ethernet cable, as long as you connect the cable to a PoE-enabled switch. That’s one of the reasons why I like my UniFi switches: they support PoE.

Working with ethernet is much more convenient and significantly less risky than doing electrical work. Plus, you’re unlikely to violate any local building codes by adding ethernet wires to your home.

Initially, I didn’t see PoE as a significant advantage over battery-powered cameras. But once I started having to replace or recharge the batteries of my Arlo outdoor cameras every few months, I changed my mind. With PoE, you can significantly reduce the ongoing camera maintenance.

Plus, as long as you have your switch connected to a UPS, you don’t have to worry about your cameras going offline when the power goes out.

Camera Overview on a Map
How I positioned two of our UniFi video cameras
How I positioned two of our UniFi video cameras.

Using the UniFi Video management console, you can place your cameras on a satellite map, or you can upload a bird’s eye view drawing of your home. That way, you get an overview of where you’ve placed the cameras and what areas they cover.

Flexible Motion Detection Settings

While UniFi Video does not support passive infrared motion detection, UniFi offers a ton of features to customize how motion detection works. That means you can set up triggers that determine when the camera records, or you can define motion zones that include or exclude certain areas from triggering a motion event.

Additionally, you can set up recording schedules and combine them with flexible, per-user alert settings.

24/7 Recording and Timeline

Alternatively to setting up motion triggers, you can record 24/7 and then use the timeline feature (currently in beta) to scrub through motion events.

24/7 recording works in combination with your alert settings. That means you can limit alerts to specific times of the day, or to when certain conditions are met.

Customizable Picture/Video Settings

For each camera, you can tweak the video and picture settings for when the camera records footage and during the live view. That way, you can configure each camera to fit your specific requirements and the environment the camera is in.

Multi-User Support

UniFi Video supports multiple users and user groups that can have different roles. Additionally, each user can have dedicated permissions and settings, such as a custom alerts profile.

Web and Mobile App
UniFi Video App - Live Stream
UniFi Video app: live stream.

UniFi offers both a web-based interface as well as a mobile app. The web app works best in Chrome (and maybe Firefox), but most of the features also work in Safari and other browsers. What I like most about it is that UniFi doesn’t require Adobe Flash or any other (crappy) third-party technology to stream video and watch the recorded footage.

The mobile UniFi application has slightly fewer features than the web app, but it’s been working great on iOS 11 and iOS 12, and I have no complaints.

Missing Features

The importance of the items on the “Not Supported” list ultimately depends on how you intend to use your UniFi Video equipment. In my opinion, most of the “missing” features are only crucial for residential use, and you won’t miss them in a commercial setting. I’m using UniFi video cameras in my home, and so I wanted to give you an idea of why these features could be useful.

Geo-Fencing

Geo-fencing is a feature that detects the presence of a device (i.e., a mobile phone) based on its GPS location.

I have configured my indoor cameras to record only if they detect motion while we’re sleeping, which is between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. However, it would also be nice to trigger a recording if the camera detected motion during the day while nobody is home. That doesn’t happen very often because I work from home and my wife is a stay-at-home mom, but still.

Of course, there are occasions when we’re all out, and it would be nice if the camera could detect that via the UniFi Video mobile app. For more extended periods of absence — when we’re on vacation for example — I can add a vacation schedule via the UniFi Video console.

Passive Infrared (PIR) Motion Detection

While geo-fencing can help you automatically activate the camera’s motion sensors when nobody is home, it’s not foolproof, and you may end up with false alarms.

As of this writing, the UniFi Video cameras support only pixel-based motion detection. That means the camera can detect pixel differences between each video frame the camera records. That can result in a lot of false positives because things like leaves or changing shadow patterns (e.g., when a cloud moves in front of the sun) can trigger a motion event.

Most consumer home security cameras (especially battery-powered ones) use PIR sensors to detect the infrared light radiated by a warm object (a person or an animal). Since PIR sensors are passive by definition, they consume much less energy.

An individual PIR sensor detects changes in the amount of infrared radiation impinging upon it, which varies depending on the temperature and surface characteristics of the objects in front of the sensor. When an object, such as a human, passes in front of the background, such as a wall, the temperature at that point in the sensor’s field of view will rise from room temperature to body temperature, and then back again. The sensor converts the resulting change in the incoming infrared radiation into a change in the output voltage, and this triggers the detection. Objects of similar temperature but different surface characteristics may also have a different infrared emission pattern, and thus moving them with respect to the background may trigger the detector as well.

Wikipedia

But even with PIR sensors, you may end up with false-alarms triggered by pets or other people, such as their caretakers while you are away.

For that reason, some consumer home security cameras offer intelligent motion detection that can differentiate between a person and a pet or moving object. Google’s Nest pushes the envelope even further by using artificial intelligence (AI) to identify the person. So, in theory, it would not trigger an alarm if the camera detected a “trusted” face. Of course, those advanced features come at the cost of privacy, because Google handles the footage analysis in the cloud.

Integration With Home Automation Platforms

Home automation platforms, such as Apple’s HomeKit, Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Home, or IFTTT can be incredibly convenient. I use them to automatically turn lights or fans on and off based on schedule, voice commands and more. Many consumer home security cameras offer such integrations. For example, you can have a light automatically turn on if the camera detects motion.

Sound Detection

Sound detection is a useful feature for indoor security cameras to detect things like breaking glass. For outdoor cameras, it’s less critical as it can lead to a lot of false alarms.

The good news is that Ubiquiti could add most of the missing features via software updates. Only the advanced motion detection features, such as person detection, might require the computing power of a cloud platform.

Using the UniFi Video 3 Camera System

Below is a brief overview of how I have set up and configured my UniFi Video system. Most of the configuration settings I have changed are camera-specific, but there are a few settings that I modified on all cameras, including:

  • Disable Status LED: The LED may attract insects and give away the camera, so I turned it off.
  • Override Resolution Settings: I increased both the FPS and bitrate, and turned on adaptive streaming. The former two options increase the necessary storage space, but I appreciate the improved video quality.

To meet my home security needs, I have decided to use different configuration settings for indoor and outdoor cameras.

Outdoor Camera Configuration

UniFi Video - G3 Dome Motion Detection
UniFi Video: G3 Dome motion detection.

For the cameras I have installed outside the house, I monitor 24/7 but only record when they detect motion.

Configuration

  • Record Mode: Record only motion
  • Resolution: High (1920 x 1080)

Motion Detection

  • Minimum Motion Event Trigger: 3 seconds
  • End Motion Event Delay: 10 seconds
  • Seconds to Record Before: 10
  • Seconds to Record After: 10

Initially, I could make sense of three of the four settings just based on their naming. But I wasn’t sure what “End Motion Event Delay” would do. Then I found the explanation in the Ubiquiti Community Forum, and figured I’d paste it here.

Minimum Motion Event Trigger (a.k.a. MMET) = The number of seconds must occur before the camera considers something a true motion event. Use Case: helps eliminate false positives like dust, bugs, etc.

End Motion Event Delay = In prior releases, this was fixed at 5 seconds of cool-down after a motion event took place before considering the motion ended. Use case: an environment where there may be a lot of motion with brief instances of no motion. Take retail as an example. There are likely instances where an employee is doing a transaction with a customer. There will be motion when he/she is working with the register, but while entering the order on a keyboard, there isn’t enough motion to trip the sensitivity. You can set this value higher so you record the whole transaction in a single motion event rather than missing something because of the cool-down.

Seconds to Record Before (a.k.a. Pre Padding): The number of seconds that is constantly cached on the UniFi Video server. When a motion event occurs, the cached video is prepended to the recording. Use Case: You may want to hear the conversation that is taking place prior to motion within the video frame or in instances where there is sudden and brief motion.

Seconds to Record After (a.k.a. Post Padding): Similar behavior to the above but not to be confused with the End Motion Event Delay. The End Motion Event Delay is the amount of time the camera considers motion to be ongoing while the Seconds to Record After is video taken after motion has ended. Use Case: same as the above, you may want to catch a conversation after motion has ended.

Ubiquiti Community Forum

To learn more about these settings and see some examples, check out this forum post.

UniFi Video G3 Dome Motion Zone
UniFi Video: G3 Dome motion zone.

You can also configure so-called “zones,” which limit the surveillance area of the camera’s motion sensor. Here’s a screenshot of how I set the zone of my G3 Dome camera that I mounted above the garage.

Indoor Camera Configuration

UniFi Video - G3 Micro Motion Detection
UniFi Video: G3 Micro motion detection.

My indoor cameras record only on a schedule. In our case, that means when everybody is sleeping (between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.).

Configuration

  • Record Mode: Record on schedule
  • Schedule: Night (my custom schedule)

Of course, I could use the same approach as I do for my outdoor cameras and limit motion alerts to a specific schedule (night time). That way, if we’re out of the house and someone breaks in, I at least have it on tape, even if I don’t get alerted.

UniFi Video - Custom Recording Schedule
UniFi Video: custom recording schedule.

I decided against that because any intruder would get caught by the outdoor cameras anyway.

Alerts

With UniFi Video, you can set up alerts on a per-user basis. That means you and someone else could have entirely different alert settings.

I have limited alerts for my user account to an “overnight” schedule, which is a duplicate of the “night” schedule I use to limit when the camera records.

Unfortunately, you cannot share schedules between users, so each one has to set up his or her own schedule.

UniFi Video 3 Troubleshooting Tips

As part of testing the UniFi Video platform, I have run into a couple of minor issues that all had a simple solution. But it some cases, it took me a while to figure it out.

Push Notifications Don’t Work

To enable push notifications, make sure you have the UniFi Video app installed on your mobile phone, and allow notifications.

Additionally, verify that you can access your NVR from the mobile app.

Unable to Connect to the NVR

UniFi NVR - Disconnect from Ubiquiti Account
UniFi NVR: disconnect from Ubiquiti account.

For a while, I was unable to connect to the NVR using the UniFi Video app on my iPhone. I could connect directly to the IP address of the NVR, but I was not able to reach the appliance via the UniFi Video cloud.

To fix the problem, I disconnected and re-connected the NVR from my Ubiquiti account using Chrome.

The UVC G3-Micro Beeps

If you use the G3-Micro in a residential setting, I’d recommend disabling “System Sounds.” On one occasion, we noticed a recurring beep coming from an unidentified device in our family room. Later, we realized it was coming from the camera, which had an alert pending.

G3 Dome Image Looks Dirty

UVC G3 Dome with dirty lens cover
UVC G3 Dome with dirty lens cover.

If your camera image looks similar to the one in the photo above, it’s likely because either the camera’s lens or lens cover is dirty. To fix the problem, just clean it with a soft cloth.

UniFi Protect Review

UniFi Protect Video Surveillance Platform
UniFi Protect video surveillance platform.
Pros
  • Powerful and high-quality hardware
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Intuitive web interface and mobile app
Cons
  • Lacks some features found in UniFi Video 3

UniFi Protect is an evolution from, and the next generation of, UniFi’s video surveillance system (UniFi Video 3).

With Protect, Ubiquiti decided to rethink video surveillance entirely and rewrite the associated software (apps) and services.

With UniFi Protect, Ubiquiti’s goal was to deliver users the best-possible video viewing and reviewing experience. Being able to skim through previously-recorded footage quickly is particularly important for video systems that record 24/7, such as UniFi Video.

I have been using and testing other security camera systems, such as the ones from Arlo, and they usually record only if the camera detects motion. As a result, you end up with individual clips that you can review and replay. 

Protect record all the time (unless you tell it otherwise), so it’s important to be able to identify the parts of the video that have motion and rapidly scrub through the timeline.

Prerequisites for UniFi Protect

UniFi CloudKey Gen2 +.

While UniFi Protect supports a wide variety of older UniFi Video cameras, you need new hardware and software to use that platform.

Hardware

As of this writing, UniFi Protect requires a second-generation UniFi CloudKey Plus to work. The new CloudKey comes built-in with a 1 TB spinning hard drive that you can upgrade to 5 TB if you run out of space.

As a result, UniFi CloudKey Gen2 practically replaces both the previous generation CloudKey as well as the UniFi network video recorder (NVR) that you might have used with UniFi Video 3.

Software

UniFi Protect App - Remote Access from iPad
UniFi Protect app: remote access from iPad.

With the new CloudKey hardware, you also get brand-new UniFi controller software and a web interface that currently works best with Chrome or Firefox. Support for Safari, Apple’s web browser, is coming as well, pending the support of additional features UniFi Protect relies on.

WebRTC is a free, open-source project that provides web browsers and mobile applications with real-time communication via simple application programming interfaces.

In addition to the web interface, UniFi Protect also has a new mobile app for iOS and Android.

UniFi Video Camera G4 Pro
UniFi Video Camera G4 Pro.

IP Cameras

UniFi Protect supports all second-generation (G2) or later UniFi Video cameras. As of this writing, that means all G2 and G3 models, as well as the latest G4 cameras. UniFi Protect doesn’t support the first-generation airCams (and probably never will).

The UniFi Video Camera G4 Pro is the best IP camera I have ever tested. It feels like an expensive lens of a DSLR camera. I used to shoot Nikon cameras and lenses, and the G4 reminds me of the super-fast 24-70mm f/2.8 lens I had back in the day.

Where Can You Buy UniFi Protect Hardware?

Product
UniFi CloudKey Gen2 Plus (UCK-G2-PLUS)Amazon
UniFi Video Camera G4 Pro (UVC-G4-PRO)Amazon

UniFi Protect Features

UniFi Protect App - Timeline Scrub
UniFi Protect app: timeline scrub.

Beyond what I already mentioned, below is an overview of the technical features of UniFi Protect, as of October 2019.

Web Interface

UniFi Protect - Camera Details
UniFi Protect: camera details.
  • Add/remove cameras
  • Basic alert configuration
  • Camera overview (status, IP address, last motion, link state, live feed)
  • Change the name of the camera
  • Customizable live view
  • Detailed camera overview with filtering capability (type, link state)
  • Enable automatic updates
  • Factory reset
  • List of (motion) events with thumbnails and timeframe selection shortcuts
  • Manage backups
  • Set geo location
  • Manage cloud/remote access
  • Restart camera
  • Timelapse
  • Un-manage a camera
  • User management with rudimentary support for user roles (administrator or view only)

IP Camera Settings

  • Motion zone configuration (including privacy zones)
  • Overlay information (time, camera name, logo, bitrate)
  • Set RTSP settings (high, medium, low)
  • Turn microphone on/off (if applicable)
  • Turn status light on/off
  • Video quality settings (FPS, bitrate)

UniFi Protect Mobile App

The mobile app has numerous features that the web interface doesn’t have, and vice versa. I have marked in bold the ones that are only available in the app.

  • Activity and alerts overview
  • Add/remove cameras
  • General settings (time zone, location…)
  • User management
  • Watch camera live stream or time-lapse 
Camera Settings
UniFi Protect App - Camera Settings
UniFi Protect app: camera settings.
  • Image settings (brightness, contrast, etc.)
  • Infrared (night vision) settings
  • Microphone sensitivity

UniFi Protect Missing Features

Ubiquiti’s new video platform isn’t perfect. At the moment, it doesn’t even offer all the features UniFi Video 3 had. However, Ubiquiti built this new offering on what appears to be a solid foundation that can quickly grow into something more.

I have used UniFi Protect for a while now, and love the Apple-like simplicity of both the web and mobile apps. It’s a joy to scrub through previously-recorded footage to see when the kids fell asleep or what animals visited our backyard overnight.

UniFi Protect - Alert Configuration
UniFi Protect – Alert Configuration

Until recently, UniFi Protect didn’t support time-based alerts and multi-user geo-fencing. The goods news is that both features are now available.

What I’m missing most with UniFi Protect is the ability to get notifications from motion events only during certain hours of the day, or when we’re away from home. As of this writing, you can only turn notifications on or off on a per-camera basis; you can’t set custom notification rules.

I turned notifications off completely because, if I didn’t, I’d be flooded with them. In the future, I’d like to be able to get notifications only at night or when nobody is home. For the latter to work, UniFi needs to add some sort of multi-user geo-fencing mechanism to its app, similar to that offered by Arlo.

Additionally, I’d like UniFi Protect to get smarter by better understanding what it sees. For example, it makes a difference if the camera’s motion sensor detects a person, an animal, or an insect that’s flying in front of the lens.

Consumer-grade home security cameras deliver such capabilities already, thanks to machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Unfortunately, pretty much all of those solutions provide such “smart motion detection” features in combination with a cloud backend. In other words, your footage gets analyzed in the cloud and not on-premise.

I’m hoping that UniFi Protect will be able to deliver such advanced features using the hardware and software I already have installed on my network, without the need to send my footage to the cloud.

UniFi Protect: Conclusion

UniFi Protect is a robust security camera system with a ton of potential for future improvements.

While I acknowledge the shortcomings of this new platform, particularly compared to UniFi Video 3, I’m happy with what I have seen so far.

I’m very much looking forward to Ubiquiti delivering more advanced software features that can harness the power of its hardware.

Why I Decided to Migrate

I decided to migrate to UniFi Protect because I’m a technologist and I’m excited about the potential of this new platform. I enjoy being an early adopter of new technology and being able to provide feedback that can help vendors improve their products.

UniFi Protect is an exciting new platform with the potential to grow into a video surveillance station unlike anything that’s currently on the market. It’s not difficult to imagine what Ubiquiti’s video software might be capable of doing, considering the powerful hardware the company already offers.

I’m envisioning UniFi Protect becoming a camera security system for your home or business that:

  • Records footage 24/7
  • Doesn’t require a cloud subscription
  • Stores all footage on a local hard drive 
  • Makes it easy to find and view previously-recorded clips
  • Doesn’t require changing or charging the batteries every few weeks or months
  • Provides advanced recording and notification settings
  • Offers advanced motion detection capabilities

The cool thing is that the current version of UniFi Protect already provides most of the features listed above. The only two items missing are the last two, which we’ll get into more in a moment.

Migration from UniFi Video to UniFi Protect — Step-by-Step

UniFi CloudKey - Replace Internal Hard Disk Drive
UniFi CloudKey: replace internal hard disk drive.

When I realized that I had to replace my CloudKey Gen 1 with the new version, I was a bit concerned because I use CloudKey for more than my video equipment.

Fortunately, replacing the CloudKey and migrating from UniFi Video 3 to UniFi Protect was dead simple and took only a few minutes.

Ubiquiti has the process well documented on its support portal, but below are the top-level steps I took:

  • Update the firmware and controller software of my old UniFi controller and CloudKey to the latest version.
  • Download a backup of the configuration file.
  • Plug in the new CloudKey via ethernet ports (or USB-C) and update its firmware to the latest version (I could do that during the initial setup wizard).
  • Import the previously-exported configuration file (backup).
  • Remove cameras from the old UniFi Video recorder (NVR).
  • Assign cameras to the new CloudKey via the UniFi Protect app.

Note: If you plan on selling the old CloudKey and NVR, don’t forget to erase and reset them completely.

UniFi Video vs UniFi Protect

When I first heard about Protect, I thought it was an add-on or update to UniFi Video.

I didn’t realize that Protect was an entirely new platform, with a new codebase, that was incompatible with the previous generation NVR and UniFi Video app (App Store).

 UniFi ProtectUniFi Video 3
Camera SupportG2, G3, G4, and laterG2, G3
Cloud Key SupportUniFi CloudKey Gen2 PlusUniFi CloudKey Gen1
Application Server XG Support
Network Video Recorder Support
Browser Support (Web Access)Chrome, FirefoxChrome
Mobile AppUniFi ProtectUniFi Video 3
Number of Cameras Supported15-Unlimited20-50
Recording ModesAlways, On Motion, NeverAlways, On Motion, On Schedule
NotificationsAdvanced schedulesAdvanced schedules
Improved Timeline Scrubbing

If you’re a Mac user, you might remember when Apple decided to relaunch its iWorks suite, replace its professional photo editing app (Aperture) with Photos, and replace Final Cut Pro with Final Cut Pro X.

In each of these examples, Apple launched a new product that had fewer features than its predecessor. The company did that for the sake of building a brand-new framework that would allow it to add new features that the older apps and codebase wouldn’t have supported.

Ubiquiti went a similar route with UniFi Protect by releasing a first version that has fewer features than UniFi Video 3. Some of the key features that were missing include:

  • Advanced notification settings
  • Recording modes

For example, in UniFi Video 3 you could configure each camera to record continuously, only when it detected motion, or based on a predefined schedule. Additionally, you could set each camera to always send notifications when it discovered movement, or to do so based on a schedule.

The UniFi Micro G3 camera we have in our family room would previously only record at night, and limit notifications of detected motion to that time. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to questions I have seen users ask a lot. As I get more feedback from readers of this review, I’ll update this section.

Can UniFi Video and UniFi Protect run on the same network simultaneously?

You can operate both platforms on your network. However, you can only use your cameras with either UniFi Video 3 or UniFi Protect. Technically, that means that a camera can only be associated with an NVR or CloudKey Gen2 Plus, but not both.

What NVR hardware does UniFi Protect support?

As of this writing, UniFi Protect only works in combination with the UniFi CloudKey Gen2 Plus, which doubles as an NVR and comes with a built-in hard disk. UniFi Protect doesn’t support the old UniFi Video Recorder 3 or any other hardware, including the UniFi Application Server XG.

What camera models does UniFi Protect support?

As mentioned above, UniFi Protect supports all UniFi cameras that are second-generation or newer.

Does UniFi Protect have the same features as UniFi Video 3?

No, it doesn’t have feature parity with UniFi Video 3 yet. But Ubiquiti is continuously rolling out updates to get UniFi Protect closer to and beyond the feature set UniFi Video 3 provides.

Can a camera be managed by both UniFi Video and Protect at the same time?

No. You have to choose one platform.

Will my existing video cameras work with UniFi Protect?

For G2 through G4 cameras, the answer is yes. For the first-generation AirCams, the answer is no.

What browsers are officially supported for web access?

Right now, UniFi Protect supports Chrome and Firefox because only these two browsers have implemented all the WebRTC features that UniFi Protect relies on.

If you’re a Safari user (like I am), you could try the Safari Technology Preview that Apple provides. While I haven’t tested any pre-release versions of Safari yet, I know that Apple has recently made improvements to its WebRTC support.

What’s the difference between the old and the new CloudKey?

Compared to the previous generation, the new CloudKey G2 Plus is an entirely different animal. From a form factor perspective, the UCK-G2-PLUS looks like a tiny network switch with a glass front panel and ports on the back. The front panel is actually a screen that displays some status information, such as the current data throughput, the number of connected cameras, the time, IP address, etc.

What’s new is that instead of using Power-over-Ethernet, you can now use USB-C with QuickCharge to power your CloudKey. I’m using a regular PoE-enabled ethernet port with my CK, so I don’t have to occupy another port on my uninterruptible power supply (UPS).

Storage-wise, UC-CK had a small built-in storage unit and a microSD card slot to store its configuration data and UniFi controller software, among other things. UCK-G2-PLUS has a built-in 1 TB hard drive that you can upgrade to up to 5 TB.

From a controller and software perspective, the new CloudKey includes not only the UniFi SDN network management software but also the UniFi Protect Video surveillance software. In other words, the new CK has inherited the capabilities the NVR used to provide.

UniFi Cloud Key Gen2 Plus

Is UniFi Protect compatible with my UniFi networking infrastructure?

Absolutely! While UniFi Protect requires the use of a new CloudKey and controller, it doesn’t matter what networking equipment you have. So your existing UniFi Security Gateway (or UniFi Security Gateway Pro) and network switches, as well as VPN and other services, will continue to work as before.

What’s the difference between UniFi Security Gateway and UniFi Security Gateway Pro?

The USG Pro is a beefed-up version that offers more powerful internal hardware designed for enterprise users, like businesses that have many cameras and users. The company calls it an “enterprise gateway router with gigabit ethernet” capabilities. It has a 1 Ghz dual-core processor compared to the USG’s 500 Mhz dual-core chip, and 2 GB of DDR3 ram compared to the USG’s 512 MB or DDR2 ram, which both improve its speed over larger deployments.

Conclusion

I have been a satisfied UniFi networking customer for a few months. So, I expected a lot from Ubiquiti’s video camera platform. UniFi Video has delivered on my expectations by seamlessly integrating into my network infrastructure and by providing excellent video surveillance technology for my home.

While both platforms are missing a few features, UniFi is heading in the right direction with UniFi Protect.

UniFi’s video platform may be too much for the average consumer. But if you’re into technology and know a bit about networking, you’ll appreciate the flexibility and advanced features that UniFi Video brings to the table.

I hope you’ve found this UniFi video review informative. If you have experience with UniFi Video or UniFi Protect, or have any questions about these products, let me know by leaving a comment below!

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

21 thoughts on “UniFi Video 3 vs. UniFi Protect [Ultimate Review]”

  1. Many thanks for a great review! Impressive. You say one can define multi user roles, is it possible to define a role (eg ”Kids”) so that in a push of one button that role/user can turn on/turn off all indoor cameras through the ios app?

    Reply
  2. Thank you for this long review, very useful. I noticed that ubiquiti now offers unifi cloud key plus gen 2. Do you know if this is an evolution of your nvr? Thanks.

    Reply
  3. Michael,

    Thank you so much for the fantastic review. While not a techie I found it easy to understand. At this moment I am in the process of selecting a new security system for my 1200 sq ft ranch. I currently have an older Honeywell hybrid system that is monitored. I am confused as to integration of my existing system with the Ubiquity system. Would these have to be two separate stand alone systems? Any thoughts and opinions you might have after reviewing the new software would be greatly appreciated!

    Reply
    • Hi Mark,

      I would consider those two separate systems that you can use in combination. UniFi is not monitored, so it’s up to you to take action if the camera alerts you about, potentially, suspicious activity. The pro of UniFi is that is constantly records footage, so you can easily go back in time and look at the footage. In our house, we rely on security cams only, without a monitoring service.

      Cheers
      Michael

      Reply
  4. Hy Michael, you did a great job in doing that review. I am short of buying a set of 8 to 10 cameras for the next project. I am considering REOLINK (used until now with good results) or try UBIQUITI wich I only used for the WIFI antennas until now.
    Do you have any insight about the combination of UBIQUITI Cams and SYNOLOGY NAS Server or grabbing the IP Stream of the Cameras for use with Homeserver Applications like DIVUS ? kind regards Wolfgang

    Reply
  5. Spent weeks trying to get this device to use an nfs target for storage. The nfs-common rpms wouldn’t install. After many rounds with tech support they finally replied, it’s there if you can make it work, we don’t really support this. How is this an almost 5 star product when it does not work as advertised.

    Reply
  6. Imam also an Apple and Ubiquiti fan – but have been disappointed in how long it takes to connect to my UniFi NVR when using UniFi video … This makes checking up on recordings painfully.

    Does UniFi Protect connect faster? Or is this dealt I herently due to the “on premises” recordings (rather than On Cloud)?

    Reply
    • Hi Andrew,

      Launching the Protect app takes a few seconds. It’s not annoyingly long but maybe 1-2 seconds longer than Arlo takes.

      I think it’s mostly related to the fact that the app as to loop back to your home network, and the slower your home connection is, the longer it takes.

      Cheers,
      Michael

      Reply
  7. How much processor does it take to monitor live stream on 15-20 cameras? Finding that viewing more than 4 live loads most of our cpu’s to 100%. Seems to do better with VLC watching RTSP streams. Does camera normally put out H264+ for recording? or both.

    Reply
  8. Hi Michael,

    thanks for the great work. After reading your post, I bought some G3’s and the Cloud Key Gen2 Plus and I’m very happy with this setup.
    Just wanted to add some information for other people :
    In the latest firmware of Unifi Protect, they added some crucial functions:
    – Recording options “never” and “on motion” is now available
    – multi-user-geofencing (guess you already mentioned that)
    – scheduling for alarms

    https://community.ui.com/releases/RELEASE-UniFi-Protect-v1-10-0/86116372-7b67-4db5-80c8-6e5c297de9a0

    https://community.ui.com/releases/UniFi-Protect-1-12-0/58961a69-ca7c-4048-851f-da5b542f2e8e

    IMO, there’s no need to go for Unifi Video any more, except you are on >10 cams or something like this, because Unifi Protect is still only available on their Cloud KeyGen2 hardware…

    Greetings from Germany,
    Stefan

    Reply
  9. Thank you, Danke and Muchas Gracias Michael. Your review was very helpful in my decision making process. I have used the NVR product for few years now and have deployed to few clients, I have also tried UniFi Video on a Virtual Machine and skipped the NVR hardware. I like the idea of protect and your article helped me clear some of the queries I had in my mind. Thanks a lot.

    Reply
  10. I have installed several Unifi video systems over the past few years. The NVR is underwhelming as it is limited to a maximum of 2 tb of internal hard drive storage and is headless. I usually use Intel NUC’s running Ubuntu and have used a SFF box that can take 3.5″ drives for more internal storage. These setups allow local monitoring and cost less than the NVR. The NVR is almost unrepairable. Ubiquiti does not make a hard drive image available, so you’re out of luck if the hard drive fails. You can clone a working drive.

    The Unifi Protect makes sense. The CK Gen2 Plus is under $200 and can take 5 tb of internal storage. I’m currently in the process of installing my third Protect setup. The inclusion of the Unifi controller is a big plus as that’s another $60 savings or so.

    Reply

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