The Best Home Security Cameras of 2020
Best for Most People
Nest Cam Indoor
For the majority of people looking for a high-quality security camera, we think the original Nest Cam Indoor is the best choice. This model has been a flagship in the home security camera world for years, and with good reason. In our tests it consistently provided some of the highest quality video (both day and night) that we experienced, always avoided choppiness or pixelation in its live-view stream, and is controlled from a streamlined and intuitive app. Plus, relatively reasonably priced subscriptions can gain you access to advanced person alerts, 24/7 video histories, field-leading motion zones, and more.
The biggest disadvantage of this, and all other Nest cameras, is the glaring lack of non-subscription services. Without a monthly fee you're limited to a paltry 3-hours of available video history and only basic and unrestrained motion alerts (which, in our experience, generally results in so many nuisance alerts that you'll want to turn them off). Essentially, unless you're only going to use your camera for real-time viewing, you need to purchase a subscription. Luckily subscriptions start at about the price of a latte per month, so this certainly isn't a dealbreaker. As long as you can stomach paying for a subscription service we think this camera will serve you well, no matter the application.
Read review: Nest Cam Indoor
Best Overall Home Security Camera
Nest Cam IQ
For those willing to spend a little extra to get the most advanced features available, the Nest Cam IQ is the clear choice. This camera provides the hallmark high-quality video and seamless user interface that have become synonymous with the Nest brand, and employs advanced facial recognition technology to cut down on the number of alerts you get on your phone. Not only can you set the camera to only send you an alert when it sees a person, after a few rounds of learning via user input it can only send you an alert if it sees someone you don't know. Now available in both indoor and outdoor versions, the IQ is by far the most advanced consumer security camera on the market today.
All of that capability does come at a price, and a relatively hefty one. If you don't feel you need the facial recognition feature, you can get the same performance for significantly less with the original Nest Cam (sidenote: due to biometric data laws facial recognition is not available in Illinois). Also, that feature is only available with a Nest subscription. Without a subscription you also only get a 3-hour video history, so this camera is really only useful if you make that extra monthly investment. If you want more history without a subscription, both Blink and Wyze offer more comprehensive free services, but far fewer features. However, if you want the most feature-laden camera that can cut notifications down to only when the camera sees a person you don't know, the IQ is worth the extra cost.
Read review: Nest Cam IQ
Best for Outdoor Use
Nest Cam Outdoor
If your security camera needs extend to the outdoors, the Nest Cam Outdoor offers both the best quality and user experience of any of the cameras we tested. With impressively clear video, seamless live viewing streams and a 25' cable that increases placement opportunities, this camera certainly won't leave you wanting. Nest's activity zones and person alerts can also cut down on nuisance alerts, so you won't get an alert every time a squirrel runs along the fence. You can even upgrade to the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor, which uses facial recognition to only send alerts when the camera sees an unfamiliar person..
Like all Nest products, this camera is only worthwhile if you're willing to spend at least $50/year on a Nest subscription. Without the subscription, you only get 3 hours of video history and none of the advanced features that make Nest's cameras stand out. The fact that the Nest Cam Outdoor needs to be plugged in means no lapses in coverage for recharging, but also somewhat limits where you can put it. If you're looking for a less expensive, totally wireless outdoor camera the Blink XT2 would be a better choice. But if you want the best video quality you can get in an outdoor camera, don't mind paying for a subscription, and have a conveniently placed outlet, this is the best option around.
Read review: Nest Cam Outdoor
Nest now offers both their indoor and outdoor cameras in an IQ version. The only difference between the original and IQ versions is the facial recognition feature, which zooms in and takes a mugshot whenever the camera sees a face. It also raises the price for both the indoor and outdoor versions.Do you need this feature? If you're willing to spend the extra money and a little time scrolling through mugshots to teach your camera which faces you recognize, so that in turn you can get a different notification when the camera sees a friend versus a stranger, then get the IQ. If that feature doesn't seem important, save some money and go with one of the original versions. One note: due to stricter biometric data laws, the facial recognition feature cannot be used in Illinois.
Best Bang for the Buck
Amazon Cloud Cam
While not the cheapest camera out there, the Amazon Cloud Cam gets very close to the performance of the top Nest cameras while costing significantly less. We particularly like its non-subscription services, as the 24-hours of motion-activated clips you can store on the cloud for free is more generous than what many manufacturers offer. Perhaps the most compelling thing about this camera is the fact that it works with Amazon Key, a service that uses a smart lock to allow deliverers to place your Amazon packages inside your door, and monitors the process with a Cloud Cam. This is great for those that order a lot of Amazon packages, or that have had packages stolen from their front porch.
The biggest drawback of the Cloud Cam is that its footage is slightly less crisp than that of the competing Nest cameras, but in pretty much every other way it's just as good. If you don't mind dealing with a tad more graininess in order to save some money, the Cloud Cam won't disappoint.
Read review: Amazon Cloud Cam
Best on a Tight Budget
Wyze Cam v2
With the release of the Wyze Cam v2, the home security camera market has its first viable shoestring budget option. For just a fraction of what most models cost, this camera provides 1080p footage, a convenient and intuitive app, real-time viewing, standard activity alerts, and a 14-day history of 12-second activity clips stored on Wyze's cloud. You even get motion detection zones that allow you to cut down on the number of meaningless motion alerts that get sent to your phone. This essentially provides most of the functionality you get from one of the high-end cameras and a monthly subscription fee for just a small fraction of the price.
The biggest shortcoming of the Wyze is that the camera takes 5 minutes to reset after it senses motion and records a 12-second clip. That means if there is continuous activity in front of the camera, it is only going to record 12-seconds of video once every 5-minutes. You can rectify this by storing footage locally on a microSD card, in which case the camera will record all the motion it sees, but you can then lose that footage if someone steals the camera itself. This may be a dealbreaker for some people, but if you just want the ability to quickly check in on the house and review small chunks of what's happened there over the last two weeks, this is by far the least expensive option.
Read review: Wyze Cam v2
Best Buy for Outdoor Use
Most outdoor cameras require either running a power cable or use expensive rechargeable batteries that drive their cost up. The Blink XT2 somehow eschews both models, offering a sleek and waterproof body that can operate for over a year on two standard AA batteries. Despite its simple, low-profile design, this camera still manages to deliver impressive video quality, and does so for far less than the competition. continuing its low-cost pedigree, the XT2 does not have any paid subscription services, instead offering a customizable 2-hours of cloud storage for free that, with a little extra effort, can function nearly as well as the paid services of many other cameras.
The biggest downside of the XT2 is that, especially if you go on an extended vacation, that 2-hours of video storage requires some management if you want to make sure no important clips are deleted before you get back home. In comparison, the paid services of many other cameras can save a month's worth of video, enough to cover even an extended vacation without any checking in while you're gone. We also ran into occasional issues with the real time view failing to load. But if you don't mind checking your camera every few days while you're away, the XT2 provides effective outdoor monitoring for often just a fraction of the price of the competitors.
Read review: Blink XT2
Best for 24 Hour Monitoring
Logitech Circle 2 Wireless
If you're dealing with incessant vandalism or vanishing lawn ornaments, it can be nice to review everything your camera has seen in the last 24-hours quickly. That's where the Logitech Circle 2 excels. It compresses all of the activity that it's seen in the last 24 hours into a 30-second timelapse, letting you quickly and easily identify the person (or raccoon) that knocked over your garbage bins. It also has a super-wide field of view, is waterproof, and has a rechargeable battery, meaning you can place it almost everywhere and get a good view of things.
The Logitech Circle 2 has very few downsides. It does have more of a fisheye effect than other cameras, so the edges of images look oddly distorted. However, this doesn't affect its usefulness at all. It also offers only a 24-hour video history without a subscription. However, since you can so quickly review everything that's happened in the past 24 hours, that small amount of history feels much more useful than it would with other cameras. Bottom line, for those that want to easily and quickly monitor everything that transpires in front of their camera, the Circle 2 is a high-performing and convenient option.
Read review: Logitech Circle 2 Wireless
Why You Should Trust Us
Max Mutter and Steven Tata have been testing smart home devices, including security cameras, smart locks, smart speakers, Wi-Fi thermostats, and robot vacuums, for more than 3 years. After using more than 100 smart products and all of their associated apps, Max and Steven have a deep understanding of the attributes that can make these devices a useful addition to daily chores and habits, and what kinds of annoyances can make them superfluous trinkets that aren't worth buying. They've also spent 100s of hours evaluating video quality in a side-by-side manner, not only with security cameras but with projectors, camera drones, dash cams, and Chromebooks as well.
This review comprises over 200 hours of hands-on testing, as well as countless hours of passively letting the cameras do their thing. In that time we evaluated dozens of hours of both day and night time footage from each camera, side-by-side, to determine which produce the best video quality. We also evaluated the quality of real-time video feeds and the relative lag times in those feeds. Possibly most importantly, we lived with each camera in one of our homes for multiple weeks, providing a holistic look at how many meaningful motion alerts each camera produced versus the number of meaningless, nuisance alerts, and how easy it was to use advanced settings in the corresponding apps to improve those ratios.
Can These Cameras Replace a Security System?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. While many of these cameras can sound alarms to ward off intruders, doing so requires user input. That means you'll have to be awake and hear the alert on your phone saying the camera has seen motion. Then you'll need to enter the app and check the camera's live feed to confirm there is actually an intruder and that the camera wasn't just confused by a stray shadow. Finally, you can then press the button to sound the alarm. While this could be effective under ideal circumstances, we've found that it is unlikely to work out that way in the real world. First off, even the best cameras tend to send more nuisance alerts than meaningful ones, so the likelihood that you'll end up ignoring those alerts, or even shut them off altogether, is fairly high. Second, you'd have to be glued to your phone to guarantee you'd see an alert of an actual intruder and be able to actually notify the police in time to stop a robbery in progress (and you don't want to spend your vacation glued to your phone). While these cameras are unlikely to stop a burglary, they are great for checking in on pets, making sure the kids got home from school ok, the general peace of mind that comes from being able to confirm that everything is ok at the homestead, and possibly getting footage of an intruder that could lead to getting any stolen possessions back (but we wouldn't hang your hat on that one).
Analysis and Test Results
The ideal home security camera 1) offers good video quality 2) reliably sends alerts to your phone when it sees a person or something substantial, but avoids sending meaningless alerts caused by moving shadows or scurrying squirrels 3) allows quick access a good live-feed of your home for peace of mind, and 4) makes doing all of this simple and straightforward. Accordingly, we organized our testing metrics to match up with these ideal attributes, assessing each camera's offered monitoring services, overall video quality, the user-friendliness of their associated apps, and the real-time viewing experience.
For those that want the best possible performance from a security camera, the Nest IQ line along with a subscription is the clear way to go, but it is also the most expensive way to go. If you can do without some advanced features like facial recognition, the Amazon Cloud Cam offers otherwise top-notch performance at more of a middle-tier price range. For bargain seekers that don't want to be tied to a subscription premium, the Blink XT2 is the best value we've found for outdoor use, and the impressively inexpensive Wyze Cam v2 offers an incredible value for indoor applications.
The best video quality in the world won't do you any good if your camera doesn't capture the clips you need, if you can't access the clips that it has captured, or if you get so many extraneous activity alerts that you start ignoring them completely. Our testing focused on these aspects. Additionally, most manufacturers require a paid subscription to unlock some of their monitoring features, so we broke all of the cameras' performances down into what you get for free, and what you have to pay extra for.
Nest offers very little to non-subscribers with only a 3-hour video history, activity alerts, and no downloads. Without a subscription Nest cameras are great for live viewing, but not much else. Buying a subscription unlocks the best monitoring services of any brand out there, including 24/7 video recording, the ability to save clips, time lapses, and intelligent alerts. These intelligent alerts include activity zones, which let you tell the camera to look for motion in front of the door, but to ignore motion outside the window. Other brands offer similar features, but we've found Nest's to be the most effective at cutting out erroneous motion alerts (though it is still far from perfect). You can also receive a separate alert when the camera sees a person versus simply seeing motion. We found this feature to work quite well, though pets could sometime trigger the person alert. Finally, the top of the line Nest IQ models can identify specific people (after a bit of user input) and thus warn you specifically when the camera sees an unfamiliar face (note: this feature not available in Illinois). All Nest cameras also offer clear 2-way audio, so you can converse with anyone standing in front of the camera.
Nest subscriptions are priced based on the amount of video history that is stored on the cloud. $5 a month (or $50 upfront for the full year) gets you 5 days of 24/7 stored video history. $10/month or $100 for the year and $30/month or $300 for the year gets you 10 and 30 day histories, respectively.
Amazon's Cam has much more generous non-subscription services than Nest, providing a 24-hour history of motion activated clips for free. Subscriptions start at $7/month or $70/year. The basic level gets a 7-day history of motion activated clips, specific alerts for when the camera sees a person, Amazon zones, which are similar to Nest's motion zones, support for up to 3 cameras. For $10/month or $100/year you get a 14-day history and support for up to 5 cameras, and for $20/month or $200/year, you get a 30-day history and support for up to 10 cameras. However, all of these histories only include motion-activated clips, not the 24/7 history offered by Nest. You also get 2-way audio with or without a subscription.
Without a subscription, Logitech cameras can store a 24-hour history of motion activated clips on the company's cloud. It's important to make the distinction that this means you'll be able to review all the motion the camera has seen in the past 24 hours, not the last 24 hours of motion it has seen like some other manufacturers offer. However, Logitech does compress all of the action from the last 24 hours into an easily digestible, 30-second time lapse, allowing you to quickly review the last day's events and make sure nothing was amiss. All of these clips are downloadable was well. For $4/month that video history extends out to 14 days. For $10/month you get an even longer 31 day history and the ability to get a unique alert when the camera sees a person, which makes it much easier to cut out all those useless alerts triggered by a shadow passing in front of the camera.
Canary's non-subscription offerings are quite slim, offering just a 24-hour history of only 10-second long motion activated clips. You do, however, get Canary's version of motion zones without a subscription which is somewhat of a rarity, and in some cases can go a long way towards weeding out nuisance alerts. For $10/month you get 30 days of video history and the maximum clip length balloons to a full 10 minutes, ensuring you can capture almost any and all of the activity that happens in front of the camera. This is one of the few manufacturers that does not offer 2-way audio, but you can set off a very loud siren at the of a button if you need to scare someone away.
Arlo is a compelling option for those that don't want to be tethered to a subscription service, as the company's free offerings are better than most. For no charge you get a 7 day or 1 GB (whichever comes first) history of motion-activated clips stored on the cloud. Which comes first will depend on how much activity your camera sees, but placing ours in the stairwell of a crowded office for a month never caused the 1 GB limit to be reached before the week's end. Paying $3/month pushes the limits out to 30 days or 10 GB, but those extensions can only be applied to a single camera. $10/month extends those services out to as many as 10 cameras. Both of these basic subscriptions also provide access to activity zones that allow you to focus where the camera does and doesn't look for activity, and specific alerts for people as well as, uniquely, animals and vehicles. The $10 level also provides an e911 feature that allows you to contact emergency services via your phone and have your location be marked as your home rather than your phone. Some subscriptions offer access to 24/7 video history on a per camera basis. $10/month gets you 14 days of 24/7 history and $20 accesses 30 days. However, these subscriptions are separate and don't include the advanced alerts and motion zones of the basic subscriptions.
Ring offers just a bare-bones monitoring experience without a subscription: no clips stored on the cloud and only basic motion alerts and live viewing. For a reasonable $3 a month you get a long, 60-day history of motion-activated clips stored on the cloud, and activity zones that allow you to select areas where the camera should look for and ignore motion. While these activity zones generally worked in our testing, they weren't quite as effective at reducing superfluous alerts as the version offered by Nest (however, no motion zones were able to reduce alerts to a point where we didn't feel compelled to turn them off). If you buy a Ring alarm system you can also get professional monitoring of that alarm, plus all of the camera,s features, for $10/month.
The YI Dome Camera boasts a free 7-day cloud history of activity events, but saved clips are limited to 6 seconds, making it likely you'll miss some crucial footage if a significant event occurs. This limitation bumped its score down to a relatively low 5 out of 10 in this metric. We couldn't find any literature stating how long it takes the Dome to reset and record another 6-second clip when there is continuous motion, but in our testing, the shortest interval we encountered was 30 seconds. This means, best case scenario if there is continuous activity in front of the camera it is recording 17% of the action. Two different $10/month plans offer a 15-day history of 6-second clips for up to 5 cameras, or 15 days of 24/7 history for one camera. Both plans can also be upgraded to 30-day histories. Like most cameras, YI offers 2-way audio.
Wyze offers one of the most generous non-subscription packages of all the camera manufacturers, with a free 14-day history of 12-second, motion activated clips. It also provides basic alerts, sending your phone a notification every time the camera sees motion. You even get motion detection zones that allow you to specify areas where you want the camera to look for motion. This is great if you only want the camera to alert you of motion in a very specific area, like the doorway, but it's a bit clunky if you just want the camera to ignore a specific area, like a window (Nest does a much better job of the latter). Additionally, Wyze cameras only record 12-second motion activated clips to the cloud at a maximum of once every 5 minutes. To record more than that you have to record locally to a microSD card. All of Wyze's cameras also have two-way audio, so you can hear the people talking in front of the camera, and talk back to them.
Blink offers different monitoring services depending on which camera you're using. The original Blink camera and its upgraded sibling, the Blink XT2, receive free clip storage on the company's cloud servers. This storage is limited to 2 hours of footage per camera. Once you reach that 2-hour limit the oldest clips are automatically deleted to make way for the new. These cameras only record video to the cloud when they see motion. You can set the length of these motion-activated clips to be from 5 to 60 seconds and they can be saved to your phone if you'd like to save them indefinitely. Once a motion activated clip is recorded, the camera goes to sleep for a bit before starting to look for motion again. This 'retrigger' period can be set to last from 10 to 60 seconds. While this system isn't as foolproof as those that just record 24/7, it offers a useful set of monitoring services that do not require a monthly subscription fee.
Both of these Blink cameras can send standard alerts to your phone anytime the camera sees motion. The upgraded Blink XT2 allows you to set different areas of the image where you would like the camera to look for or ignore motion and provides a speaker that allows you to speak to anyone that passes in front of the camera.
The newer Blink Mini operates under the same cloud recording protocols as the other Blink cameras, but it is not free. The company is offering a free trial for all customers through the end of 2020, but after that the service will cost $3/month or $30/year for a single camera, and $10/month or $100/year for an unlimited number of cameras. This is a big change for the company, which previously didn't offer any sort of subscription program. We can't be sure, but it seems that cloud storage will remain free for the original Blink and the Blink XT2 even after the new year. The Blink Mini also provides the same motion zones and 2-way audio of the Blink XT2
The better the quality of video captured by your security camera, the more likely you'll be able to identify and nefarious individuals that lurk about your home, the more sharable of a clip you'll get when some wildlife decide to do something cute in your backyard, and the more enjoyable it will be to check in on your pup during the day. We tested video quality by setting all of our cameras up in the same location looking in the same direction. We then performed faux break-ins, let pet prance about in front of them, and generally let life unfurl in their presence, both during the day and at night. This provided us with hundreds of hours of footage with which to directly compare each model's relative daytime and nighttime image quality.
For the most part, the scores were fairly tightly packed in this metric, with 1080p models performing a bit higher than their lower resolution counterparts. The Nest Cam IQ was the sharpest camera in our testing, with both day and night time footage looking very crisp. The IQ is the only camera with a 4K sensor, and while its video is better than the 1080p models we tested, it certainly isn't 4 times the resolution. We think most of the 4K sensor's horsepower is used for the IQ's facial recognition feature.
Also in the groups of top scorers were the Nest Cam Indoor and the Nest Cam Outdoor. Both of these Nest models created top-notch daytime footage, and a plush 130˚ field of view with only minor distortion at the edges. The night vision was also very clear, but not the best.
Also providing great video quality in our testing was the Ring Stick Up Cam Wired. Though its 1080p footage is just a tad less crisp than that of the Nest cameras, its night footage provides field leading detail and the 150˚ field of view is wider than that of most cameras.
Another member of the 8 out of 10 club, the Canary All-in-One Security Device provides a wide 147˚ field of view while only producing a small amount of distortion at the edge of the frame. It backs that up with crisp day and night time footage, though lots of motion would sometimes leave the image looking a bit pixelated.
The Amazon Cloud Cam offers great video for a relatively low price, earning an 8 out of 10 in our video quality metric. Its footage is comparable to that produce by the original Nest Cam. If anything, the Cloud Cam's night footage is just a tad brighter and more detailed. However, the Cloud Cam's field of view is 120˚, slightly narrower than the 130˚ that most models offer.
Still providing 1080p resolution, but not in the top group of scorers, was the Canary Flex. It scored a 7 out of 10 in this metric. It still boasts super clear daytime footage, and night vision that is up to par with the top scorers. Its exclusion from the top group was solely due to its relatively narrow 116˚ field of view, which was by far the narrowest of the 1080p models we tested. The NETGEAR Arlo Q also scored a 7. It has a nice 130˚ wide field of view and great daytime video quality, but its night vision was noticeable a step down in clarity when compared to the top scorers.
Punching well above its price class, the Blink XT2 earned an impressive 7 out of 10 in our video quality testing. In our tests it treated us to very clear and crisp 1080p daytime footage, and its nighttime footage managed to be quite bright and clear without washing out any significant details. The only reason it didn't earn a higher score was its color composition, which in comparison to the top models was a bit dull and muted. However, in our opinion, this did not detract from the camera's usefulness at all (though it did make checking in on pets just slightly less fun).
Also falling into the 7 out of 10 video quality range, the Arlo Pro 2 provides 1080p resolution. Its colors are a bit more vivid than those of the Blink XT, but still a bit duller than those produced by the Nest cams. Its night vision also works quite well in ideal conditions, but often has issues with reflective surfaces (like windows) confusing the sensor and washing out parts of the image.
The Blink Mini offers acceptable but not fantastic video quality. The 110˚ field of view is a bit narrower than average, but is wide enough for most situations and largely avoids any sort of disorienting fisheye effect. The 1080p footage looks fairly crisp, but particularly when displaying motion looks a bit less sharp than footage from some of the more expensive models. When transferring to night footage things get a bit more grainy, but the camera generally still provides enough detail to differentiate between people and identify which dog knocked over the ficus.
Both Wyze cameras we tested provided good, but not the best footage. Daytime video looks sharp with good color and detail. The night vision is similarly clear when there is even a small amount of ambient light, but if the camera has to rely on its infra-red light (think total darkness) things can get a bit grainy. The Wyze Cam v2 has a relatively narrow 110˚ field of view. The Wyze Cam Pan's view is slightly wider, but still somewhat narrow, at 120˚. It can also pan to follow motion, but we found that unless your subject decides to slow-motion walk in front of the camera, it probably won't be able to keep up with them.
Rounding out the 7 out of 10 club, the Logitech Circle 2 provides the widest field of view of any of our cameras, a whopping 180˚. This does come at the expense of some very noticeable fisheye distortion, but the sheer area the camera can cover is incredibly impressive. The 1080p resolution produces a nice, clear image, and the night vision quality is well above average, falling just short of the quality of the Nest Cam IQ.
Dropping down into the 720p resolution bracket, the NETGEAR Arlo and NETGEAR Arlo Pro fell out of the top group in this metric, both earning a score of 6 out of 10 in our video quality testing. Day and night time footage of these models still looked fairly crisp, but was clearly inferior when compared side by side with footage from the higher resolution models. The Arlo Pro does provide a wider field of view than the Arlo: 130˚ vs 110˚.
The YI Dome Camera scored a 5 out of 10 in this metric. Both its day and night time videos were noticeably more grainy than the Arlo 720p models and it has a fairly narrow 112˚ field of view. This is partially compensated for as it can swivel around nearly 360˚. It can also be set to automatically pan to follow moving objects, which does make its effective viewing range much bigger. However, if someone walks quickly past the camera it won't swivel in time to follow them and you'll still be limited to that fairly narrow view.
The Blink received our lowest score of 3 out of 10 in this metric. The relatively low 720p resolution and small lens combined to create the grainiest videos we viewed in our testing. They still provide enough detail to check in on the house or driveway but are reminiscent of watching a youtube video with a bad internet connection. It is also the only camera we tested that does not have infrared night vision. It can still take video at night by turning on a bright LED, but this draws a lot of attention to the camera: not ideal for trying to catch a good image of an intruder. Additionally, because it relies on an actual light its range is very limited at night.
App Ease of Use
Once installed, your wifi home security camera's app will be the only way you will interact with it (we found all the cameras were very similar in their initial setup, so we didn't score that aspect of their ease of use). Being able to easily navigate through activity alert histories and live viewing is crucial. We tested app ease of use by having multiple testers install every camera app on their phones (our wireless providers now think we're super paranoid) and assess side by side how easy it was to navigate through each camera's video history, settings, and features. We also forced them to attend to each activity alert they received and to try to adjust the alert setting to see if they could get only the kinds of alerts they wanted.
Nest, in conjunction with its subscription, offers more features and adjustability than any other wifi home security camera manufacturer. They also designed an amazing app with which to navigate those features. The Nest app took home the top score of 9 out of 10 in our app ease of use testing. Browsing video history and adjusting settings are very easy within the app, and the customizable alerts greatly improve the usefulness of the camera. The only bummer: Nest's industry-leading activity zones must be set on a computer and can't be adjusted on the app. Also, remember that the majority of these features aren't available without a subscription.
The Ring app is the only one we've found that can match the user-friendliness and intuitiveness of the Nest app. Setting schedules, adjusting motion sensitivity and adding one of Ring's motion zones can all be easily accomplished without any fuss or googling for directions.
Amazon's Cam App is very intuitive and lets you easily adjust any setting you'd like. The only reason it didn't receive a top score is the fact that it does not off a scheduling option, so you have to use geofencing to ensure the camera turns on and off when you leave and return home. This isn't a huge deal, but could be annoying if you like to keep your phone's locations services turned off.
Wyze's app provides a fairly streamlined user experience, with most functions easily accessed and adjusted. We did find setting up one of Wyze's motion detection zones could be a bit clunky, but still not too painful.
Arlo also offers a well-designed app for its cameras, earning a score of 8 out of 10 in this metric. It offers easy management of video history and adjustment of settings. Navigating the app felt just slightly clunkier than the super streamlined Nest app, but was still intuitive. It also offers a simple push to record button when in live view mode in case you want to save what you're seeing when you check in on the homestead.
Canary's app is well designed. Its menu makes it easy to download clips and adjust notification settings. However, you must swipe down to switch from a live view back to the menu. Sometimes this gesture wasn't recognized and it certainly wasn't the intuitive thing to do on the first go around, hence the slightly lower score.
The Blink app makes most basic things, like setting schedules or scrolling through motion-activated clips, feel quite intuitive. Beyond that, however, there are some oddities. For example, when you pull up a camera, the image you see is just an old still of the camera's view, not a live stream. You have to press the little camera icon in the corner if you want to see a live view. Once you realize this it's no big deal, but we could easily see new users checking the app and thinking their dog was peacefully sleeping on the couch when in fact it's just a still taken hours ago. Additionally, the advanced camera settings feel a bit arcane upon first view, you have to familiarize yourself with the loop-recording style of the cameras before these settings make sense.
Logitech also offers a fairly user-friendly, but not completely intuitive, app. Sometimes you may have to search through a few menus before finding the setting you're looking for, but after a short learning curve, it's not much of a hassle. It also got huge brownie points for being able to make its 30-second time-lapses that show all the action from the previous 24 hours.
YI's app is well suited to its Dome Camera but could be a bit more straightforward. It earned a 6 out of 10 in our testing. The app provides a nice little onscreen joystick to move the camera around, but the latency in the camera's response makes it hard to get it just where you want. It's generally easy to adjust settings and browse the video history, but often cryptic symbols are used to represent certain menus rather than words, so there is a small learning curve.
Real Time Viewing
Whether it's the peace of mind that comes with seeing your kids safely home after school, or knowing that the dog hasn't ripped the couch apart, real-time viewing is one of the best and most used aspects of wifi home security cameras. We used all of our cameras to look after pets, watch things be shifted around our storage facility, and to snoop on coworkers complaining about free brownies that everyone should appreciate. We also timed latency by walking in front of each camera and then timing how long it took for that to show up in the live view window in the app. (Please note: the latency periods we experienced are not absolute. Different users may experience different latency times based on their internet connection, any possible sources of interference, and a myriad of other factors. However, since we tested all of the cameras under the same conditions, our times represent accurate relative comparisons of the latency of each device.)
If you mostly want a security camera for checking in on your home or pets in real time, we would suggest you either get a camera from Nest, from Ring, or look at the Amazon Cloud Cam. All of these cameras shared the top score of 8 out of 10 in this metric, and all offered superb real-time viewing experience. These cameras provided unmatched picture quality in our real-time viewing tests, and all had less than 5 seconds of lag time, so we were watching events almost right as they happened.
The Arlo Pro 2 is our favorite of the company's cameras for live viewing purposes. We measured its latency at just 4 seconds, and the stream generally retained clear images and rarely dropped any frames. Occasionally the stream did take a bit to load, fumbling around for 20 seconds before settling into a high quality view. This is something we didn't have to deal with when using any of the Nest models, but this occasional nuisance certainly didn't sour our opinion of the Arlo Pro 2's real time viewing capabilities.
The Logitech Circle 2 Wireless earned an above average but not elite 7 out of 10 in our real time viewing tests. In general its stream was just as clear, crisp, and smooth as those of the top models during our testing. We did experience some occasional moments of pixelation and dropped frames, but these events were few and far enough between that they didn't feel inhibitive. The one thing we don't like is that this camera takes about 45 seconds to wake up if it's entered its power saving mode, so if you haven't checked the live stream in a while there will likely be a delay before the stream springs to life.
The NETGEAR Arlo picked up a 6 out of 10 in our real-time viewing test. It boasts a latency of only 5 seconds, but the feed had to pause and refresh multiple times in just a 30-second span, which felt quite distracting. The Canary All-in-One also earned a score of 6. Its latency of 12 seconds is just on the edge of feeling comically slow, but it generally provides a good, smooth video stream. Occasionally that video would get a bit pixelated, but we didn't feel like it was making us miss what was happening.
Also earning a 6 out of 10, the Blink XT2's stream is generally smooth without any pixelation and boasts a latency of just 3 seconds. However, we ran into a small but not trivial amount of instances when the live stream refused to load, requiring quitting and restarting the app multiple times before it finally appeared.
Likewise, the Blink Mini's live stream has a latency of only 3 seconds and is generally clear and smooth. However, around 10% of the time when we tried to open the stream it would completely fail, requiring multiple app relaunches and sometimes even shutting our phones off and on before the stream would load. While these instances were relatively rare, when they happened they annoyingly turned the 15-second process of checking in on pets into a 5-minute fest of furious screen swiping. Additionally, like with all Blink cameras, live stream viewing is divided into discrete 30-second chunks, requiring you to restart the stream after each if you want to watch for longer.
At the bottom of our score sheet were several models that scored a 5 out of 10 in this metric. While these models all provide a high enough quality live stream to reassure yourself that no one has broken into the house, they are infuriating if you're actually trying to watch activity (such as seeing what the pets or kids are up to). These models include the NETGEAR Arlo Q and both Wyze cameras that we tested.
At the bottom of our real time viewing scoresheet, the Original Arlo Pro offers a usable if not stellar viewing experience. We measured its lag time at 12 seconds, which isn't terrible, but would make trying to have a conversation via its 2-way audio quite difficult. We also ran into frequent instances where the picture became pixelated and laggy. We were still able to clearly see what was happening in front of the camera, we just often had to wait a few seconds for the pixel haze to clear.
Adding a security camera to your home can allow you to easily check in on pets, to gain peace of mind when traveling, capture a record of any packages that are stolen from your porch, and, if many factors align perfectly, has the potential to prevent a robbery or break-in. Not only are there multiple different cameras on the market, but there are also different free and paid services associated with those cameras, yielding a variety of options that lend themselves to different intended use cases and scenarios. We hope that our objective testing has helped you wade through all of these complexities and find the perfect camera or group of cameras for your home.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata