Best Home Security Camera of 2020
Best Home Security Camera for Most People
Ring Stick Up Cam Wired
We feel the Ring Stick Up Cam Wired's combination of excellent video quality, reliable real-time viewing, and comparably reasonable subscription fees make it the best all-around home security camera for most people. All of these outstanding features are accessed via a well-designed and intuitive app that makes checking in on notifications quick and easy. You also have the option of using the social media-style Ring Neighbors app that turns Ring users in close geographies into a sort of digital neighborhood watch, allowing for the quick dispersal of footage of suspicious activity, lost pets, or problematic wildlife. Don't worry if these sorts of networks aren't your thing; participation is entirely optional.
Unfortunately, the Ring Stick Up Cam's non-subscription services are minimal — just real-time viewing and basic motion alerts, making it a poor choice for those who don't want to be saddled by a monthly fee. However, for just a few dollars per month, you get 60 days of motion-activated clips stored on the cloud and advanced motion alerts, making this subscription one of the best values-per-dollar on the market. As long as you can stomach the small monthly fee, the Ring Stick Up Cam provides exceptional overall performance.
Read review: Ring Stick Up Cam Wired
Nest Cam Indoor
For most people looking for a high-quality home security camera, we think the original Nest Cam Indoor is one of the best available choices. This model has been a flagship in the home security camera world for years, and with good reason. 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 provide access to advanced person alerts, 24/7 video histories, excellent motion zones, and more.
The most significant disadvantage of this, and all other Nest cameras, is the glaring lack of non-subscription services. Without a monthly fee, its capabilities are limited to a paltry three 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 some of the most advanced features available, the Nest Cam IQ is an ideal choice. This camera provides the hallmark high-quality video, and seamless user interface synonymous with the Nest brand and employs advanced facial recognition technology to cut down on the number of alerts you get on your phone. You can set the camera to send an alert only when it sees a person, and after a few rounds of learning via user input, it can also only send an alert if it sees someone you don't know. Now available in both indoor and outdoor versions, the IQ is one of the most advanced consumer security cameras that we tested.
All of that capability does come at a relatively hefty price. If you don't need the facial recognition feature, you can get the same performance for significantly less with the original Nest Cam (Side note: 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 three-hour video history, so this camera is only optimized 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 a more feature-laden camera that can cut notifications down to only when the camera sees a person you don't know, we think the IQ is worth the extra cost.
Read review: Nest Cam IQ
Best for Outdoor Use
Nest Cam Outdoor
If your home security camera needs to extend to the outdoors, the Nest Cam Outdoor offers the best quality and user experience of any of the cameras we tested. With impressively clear video, seamless live viewing streams, and a 25-foot 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 send alerts only when the camera sees an unfamiliar person..
Like all Nest products, this camera is most useful only if you're willing to spend some extra money on a Nest subscription. Without the subscription, you only get three 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 some of 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.
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 with a much more affordable price tag. 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. This service uses a smart lock to allow deliverers to place your Amazon packages inside your door and monitors the process with a Cloud Cam. This option is ideal 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 performs just as well in most other ways. If you don't mind dealing with a tad more graininess to save some money, the Cloud Cam is a good choice.
Read review: Amazon Cloud Cam
Best on a Tight Budget
Wyze Cam v2
The Wyze Cam v2 is one of the best-performing home security cameras for those on a shoestring budget. 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 sent to your phone. The Wyze Cam's functionality is similar to higher-end cameras for just a small fraction of the price.
The biggest shortcoming of the Wyze is that the camera takes five minutes to reset after it senses motion and records a 12-second clip. Even if there is continuous activity in front of the camera, it will only record 12-seconds of video once every five 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 system 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 a very affordable option.
Read review: Wyze Cam v2
Excellent Value 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 offers a sleek and waterproof body that Blink claims 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 for much less than other competitors in our lineup. Continuing its low-cost pedigree, the XT2 does not have any paid subscription services, instead offering a customizable two 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 XT2's biggest downside is that its two hours of video storage require some management to ensure that no critical clips are deleted before you return from an extended absence. 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 constant vandalism or vanishing lawn ornaments, it can be helpful 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 previous 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 designed to be 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 three 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 not 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.
This review comprises over 200 hours of hands-on testing and countless hours of passively letting the cameras do their thing. 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 assessed the quality of real-time video feeds and the relative lag times in those feeds. Most importantly, we lived with each camera in one of our homes for multiple weeks. This provided a holistic look at how many meaningful vs. nuisance motion alerts each camera produced and how easy it was to optimize the corresponding apps' settings to improve those ratios.
Can These Cameras Replace a Security System?
Unfortunately, the answer is most likely 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 like that in the real world. Even the best cameras tend to send more nuisance alerts than meaningful ones, so the likelihood that you'll ignore those alerts, or even shut them off altogether, is fairly high. You'd also have to be glued to your phone to guarantee you see a warning of an actual intruder and be able to 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 prevent 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 check in on the homestead.
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 suspicious, but avoids sending meaningless alerts caused by moving shadows or scurrying squirrels 3) allows quick access to 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 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 looking for the best possible performance from a home security camera, the Nest IQ line and subscription service are a great, yet 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 who don't want to be tied to a subscription payment, the Blink XT2 is an excellent value for outdoor use. The impressively inexpensive Wyze Cam v2 also 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 captured clips, or if you get so many extraneous alerts that you start ignoring them altogether. Our testing focused on these aspects. Additionally, most manufacturers require a paid subscription to unlock some of their monitoring features. We broke down each camera's performance between what you get for free and what you get with a paid subscription.
Nest offers very little to non-subscribers with only a three-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 Nest's top-notch monitoring services, 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, for example, to look for motion in front of the door and ignore movement 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 only 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 two-way audio so that you can converse with anyone standing in front of the camera.
Nest subscriptions are priced based on the amount of video history stored on the cloud. Different monthly or annual pricing tiers provide five days, 10 days, or 30 days of 24/7 stored video history.
Amazon's Cam has much more generous non-subscription services than Nest, providing a 24-hour history of motion-activated clips for free. The basic level subscription gets a seven-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, and support for up to three cameras. The mid-level tier gets you a 14-day history and support for up to five cameras, and the highest-level subscription provides 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 two-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. All of the action from the last 24 hours gets compressed into an easily digestible, 30-second time-lapse, allowing you to quickly review the previous day's events and make sure nothing was amiss. All of these clips are downloadable as well. For a few extra dollars per month, that video history extends out to 14 days. And for a few dollars more, 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. However, you do get Canary's version of motion zones without a subscription, which in some cases can go a long way towards weeding out nuisance alerts. The paid subscription gets you 30 days of video history, and the maximum clip length balloons to a full 10 minutes, ensuring you can capture almost any activity in front of the camera. Canary is one of the few manufacturers that does not offer two-way audio, but you can set off a loud siren at the push 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 seven day or 1 GB (whichever comes first) history of motion-activated clips stored on the cloud. Whichever 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 a few dollars per month for the basic subscription pushes the limits out to 30 days or 10 GB, but those extensions only apply to a single camera. The mid-level subscription tier extends those services out to as many as 10 cameras. Both of these two subscription levels also provide access to focused activity zones, and specific alerts for people, animals, and vehicles. The mid-level also offers an e911 feature that allows you to contact emergency services via your phone and have your location marked as your home rather than your phone. Two higher-level subscriptions offer 24/7 video history on a per camera basis for either 14 days or 30 days. However, these higher-level subscriptions are separate and don't include the advanced alerts and motion zones of the basic and mid-level offerings.
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 few dollars per month, you get a 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 excessive 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 a reasonable monthly subscription fee.
The YI Dome Camera boasts a free seven-day cloud history of activity events, but saved clips are limited to six seconds, making you likely to miss some crucial footage if a significant event occurs. We couldn't find any literature stating how long it takes the Dome to reset and record another six-second clip when there is continuous motion, but in our testing, the shortest interval we encountered was 30 seconds. If there is ongoing activity in front of the camera, it is only recording up to 17% of the action. Two different subscription plans offer a 15-day history of six-second clips for up to five cameras or 15 days of 24/7 history for one camera. You can also upgrade both plans to 30-day histories. Like most cameras, YI offers two-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 movement. This feature is useful if you only want the camera to alert you of motion in a particular 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 five minutes. To capture 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 two hours of footage per camera. Once you reach that two-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 five to 60 seconds, and they can be transferred 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. You can set this 'retrigger' period 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 movement and provides a speaker that will enable 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, there are two different subscription services for a single camera or an unlimited number of cameras. These offerings are a significant change for the company, which previously didn't offer any 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 two-way audio of the Blink XT2.
The better your home security camera's video quality, the more likely you'll be able to identify any potential intruders, the more you'll enjoy capturing clips of cute wildlife, and the more you'll enjoy checking 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 our pets prance about in front of them, and generally let life unfurl in their presence during the day and at night. We captured hundreds of hours of footage to compare each model's relative daytime and nighttime image quality.
Performances in this metric were fairly tightly packed, with 1080p models performing slightly 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 doesn't seem to be four times the resolution. We think most of the 4K sensor's horsepower gets used for the IQ's facial recognition feature.
Other top performers were the Nest Cam Indoor and the Nest Cam Outdoor. Both of these 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 excellent 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 exceptional detail, and the 150˚ field of view is wider than that of most cameras.
Another solid performer, the Canary All-in-One Security Device, provides a wide 147˚ field of view while only producing a small 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 excellent video for a relatively low price. 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 performers, was the Canary Flex. It still boasts super clear daytime footage and night vision that is up to par with the top performers. Its exclusion from the top group was solely due to its relatively narrow 116˚ field of view, which was the tightest of the 1080p models we tested. The NETGEAR Arlo Q also performed similarly in our testing. It has a useful 130˚ wide field of view and excellent daytime video quality, but its night vision was noticeable a step down in clarity when compared to the top models.
Performing well above its price class, the Blink XT2 impressed in our video quality testing. 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 critical details. The only reason it didn't earn higher accolades was its color composition, which was a bit dull and muted compared to the top models. 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 offering good video quality, the Arlo Pro 2 provides 1080p resolution. Its colors are 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 disorienting fisheye effect. The 1080p footage looks relatively crisp but is slightly less sharp than footage from some of the more expensive models, particularly while displaying motion. When transferring to night footage, things get a bit more grainy. Still, the camera generally provides enough detail to differentiate between people or identify which dog knocked over your plants.
Both Wyze cameras we tested provided good, but not the best footage. Its 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 only slightly wider 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.
The Logitech Circle 2 provides the widest field of view of any of the cameras in our lineup, a whopping 180˚. This feature 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 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. The day and night time footage we collected from these models still looked reasonably crisp but was 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 is another step down in terms of video quality. Both its day and night time videos were noticeably more grainy than the Arlo 720p models, and it has a relatively narrow 112˚ field of view. This potential limitation 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 was one of the worst video quality performers in our testing. The relatively low 720p resolution and small lens combined to create the grainiest videos we viewed. 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 footage 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 minimal at night.
App Ease of Use
Once installed, your Wi-Fi 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 had multiple testers install every camera app on their phones and assess 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.
In conjunction with its subscription, Nest offers more features and adjustability than any other Wi-Fi home security camera that we tested. They also designed a fantastic app with which to navigate those features. Browsing video history and adjusting settings are straightforward within the app, and the customizable alerts significantly improve the usefulness of the camera. The only downside: Nest's high-quality 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 to 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 spot is that it does not offer a scheduling option, so you have to use geofencing to ensure the camera turns on and off when you leave and return home. While this may not be a huge deal, it 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. It provides easy management of video history and adjustment of settings. Navigating the app felt slightly clunkier than the super-streamlined Nest app, but it 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 see when you check in on the homestead.
The Canary app is also 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.
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 it's just a still photo taken hours ago. Additionally, the advanced camera settings feel a bit arcane upon the first view. You have to familiarize yourself with the loop-recording style of the cameras before these settings make sense.
Logitech also offers a relatively user-friendly, but not wholly 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 scores massive bonus points for making its 30-second time-lapses that show all the action from the previous 24 hours.
The YI app is well suited to its Dome Camera but could be a bit more straightforward. 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 specific 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 Wi-Fi 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, 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. These cameras provided unmatched picture quality in our real-time viewing tests, and all had less than five 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 four 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 delay is something we didn't have to deal with when using any of the Nest models but certainly didn't sour our opinion of the Arlo Pro 2's real-time viewing capabilities.
The Logitech Circle 2 Wireless turned in an above-average but not an exceptional performance in our real-time viewing tests. In general, its stream was just as clear, crisp, and smooth as the top models we tested. We did experience some occasional moments of pixelation and dropped frames, but these events were rare enough that they didn't feel inhibitive. We don't like 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 it springs to life.
The NETGEAR Arlo's real-time viewing boasted a latency of only five seconds on our tests, 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's latency of 12 seconds is just on the edge of feeling comically slow, but it generally provides a 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.
The Blink XT2's stream is generally smooth without any pixelation and boasts a latency of just three 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 three seconds and is generally clear and smooth. However, around 10% of the time, when we tried to open the stream, it would ultimately 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 five-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.
Now we come to some of the less impressive real-time viewing performances we encountered. 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 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.
Our least favorite model for real-time viewing, the Original Arlo Pro offers a usable but 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 two-way audio quite tricky. We also ran into frequent instances where the picture became pixelated and laggy. We were still able to 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 home security camera can allow you to check in on pets, gain peace of mind when traveling, capture a record of any packages delivered to or taken from your porch, and possibly prevent or provide information about a break-in. There are multiple cameras on the market, each with 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