The Best Home Security Cameras of 2017
Ever wish you could check in on the house while you're away? We reviewed more than 50 home security cameras, then bought the 11 best and tested them side-by-side for 100 hours. While these cameras can't replace a traditional home security system, we did find that they can provide great peace of mind, whether that's just making sure the house is still intact when you're on vacation, or checking to see if Fido knocked over the garbage can. Our tests cover everything from video/audio quality to the subscription services offered in conjunction with these cameras, so we can guide you to the perfect camera for your specific needs.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Updated July 2017
Nest just released the Nest Cam IQ, which ups the camera resolution to 4K. This added resolution is only used in a new motion tracking zoom feature, the live stream is still the same quality as its predecessor. This would only be a worthy upgrade if you're concerned with recognizing faces in captured video clips. Expect a full review soon.
Blink recently released a waterproof version of its camera, the Blink XT. You can expect a full review here soon, but our first impressions of the product are good. It ups the resolution to 1080p, and uses an infrared night vision system. These two upgrades should alleviate most of our grievances with the original Blink Camera.
After using these cameras for a few months now, we'd just like to reiterate that these devices are not a replacement for a home security system. Even with the advanced notification features of the Nest Cam we still found ourselves turning notifications off because they got too annoying. We still love them for checking in on the house when we get a nagging feeling something isn't right, but we feel the chances of stopping a burglary with one of these cameras alone is unlikely.
Best Overall Home Security Camera
Nest Cam Indoor
Nest is likely the first company that comes to mind when you think of wifi security cameras, and for good reason. Their signature Nest Cam was far and away our favorite camera. This was mostly because it provided the most consistent and high quality live video stream of any of the models we tested, and was thus the best for checking in on the homestead. The only downside is that it offers a paltry 3 hours of video history without a subscription. With a subscription (starting at $10/month) you can get 10-30 days of video history and 'activity zones' that cut down on extraneous activity alerts by focusing where the camera looks for activity (ie. look at the space in front of the door and not at the tree outside the window). Other cameras have similar functions, but we found Nest's version to be the best. If you're looking for more video history without a subscription the NETGEAR Arlo Q offers 7 days free and the Canary All-in-One provides 24 hours for no fee.
Great video quality
Smooth real time viewing
Field leading monitoring services available
Very limited without a subscription
read full review: Nest Cam Indoor
The Nest Cam can also function quite well as a baby monitor. For more check out this review from our friends at BabyGearLab.
Best Overall Value
Canary All-In-One Security Device
If you think having to purchase a subscription in order to get more than 3 hours of video history is borderline highway robbery, the Canary All-in-One may be for you. It strikes a fairly good balance between quality, fee-free video history, and price. It was one of the top scorers in our video quality tests, and its clips had by far the best audio quality of any of the models we tested. When using it for real time viewing the feed can sometimes be a bit jumpy, but it's good enough to give you a clear idea of what's happening at home. It also provides 24 hours of video history without a subscription fee. This may not sound like a lot, but if you come home to dog food all over the floor it guarantees you'll be able to go back and see how Fido was able to get into the kibble.
Great video quality
Useful non-subscription services
real time viewing can be choppy
read full review: Canary All-in-One Security Device
Best Bang for the Buck
YI Dome Camera
Besides inducing WALL-E esque feelings of sympathy towards a robot, the YI Dome Camera provides a very budget friendly option for adding video monitoring to your home. For just $70 you get a camera that can tilt up and down 115˚ and swivel in nearly a complete circle. you can control the camera position with the app, but when it detects motion it will automatically follow it until it gets out of range. You can insert a MicroSD card and record as much video as you'd like locally, giving you the option of saving all-day footage. The camera also automatically records 6 seconds of video every time it senses motion, and a 7 day history of these short clips are available from the cloud without any subscription fee. We wish those clips were a little longer (something interesting can happen for more than 6 seconds) but it's still pretty good considering the low price. The 720p resolution is also noticeably fuzzier than footage from other models, but you can upgrade to the Full HD version for just $30 more.
Can pan nearly 360˚
relatively poor video quality
real time viewing can get pixelated
read full review: YI Dome Camera
Top Pick for 24 Hour Monitoring
The Logitech Circle offers great video quality, good real time viewing, and a decent app. Where it really sets itself apart is its Day Brief feature, which creates a 30 second time lapse at the end of each day comprised of all the moments when the camera detected motion. This means you can view all the activity within a 24 hour period in just half a minute. If you want to know exactly what happens in a particular area on a daily basis, there really isn't an easier way to do it than the Logitech Circle. This earned it a Top Pick nod as the best model for 24 hour monitoring. To boot you get a 24 hour video history stored on the cloud and unlimited downloads, without paying for a subscription.
Great video quality
Good real time viewing
Convenient day brief time lapse feature
Fisheye distortion slightly more noticeable than on other cameras
read full review: Logitech Circle
Top Pick for Outdoor Camera
Nest Cam Outdoor
The Nest Cam Outdoor provides all the high quality features of the original Nest Cam but in a durable, weatherproof body. It also simplifies installation with a magnetic mount that securely sticks to most metal surfaces and a power cable that can be plugged into any outdoor outlet - no need to drill holes for cables. This high performance and convenience earned the Nest Cam Outdoor Top Pick Award for use outdoors. The only significant downside: the simple motion detection that is available for free will send you a notification every time something moves outside. Adjusting the sensitivity of the motion detection may help a bit, but you still may end up with false alarms. The only real way around this is to pay $10/month for Nest Aware, which allows you to set specific activity zones where the camera looks for motion and ignores the squirrels running around in the woods. Another downside for non-subscribers: you can only access 3 hours of video history. The Canary Flex doesn't perform quite as well as the Nest but can be placed outdoors and provide a 24 hour video history without a subscription.
Great video quality
Smooth real time viewing
Field leading monitoring services available
Very limited without a subscription
read full review: Nest Cam Outdoor
Can These Cameras replace a Security System?
The short answer is no. Why? All of these cameras require real-time user input to do something like sound an alarm or alert the police. So unless you want to spend your whole vacation staring at your phone waiting for motion detection alerts, one of these cameras won't provide the same protection as a traditional security system. What they can do is provide the peace of mind that comes with being able to see what is happening on the homefront, checking in on pets, making sure your youngsters made it home from school, and can possibly catch a usable shot of an intruder's face. For a more in depth discussion of this topic see our buying advice article.
Analysis and Test results
The current wifi home security cameras on the market offer the ability to check that all is well on the home front at any time. Though home security cameras do raise some privacy concerns, there are many instances where placing one in your home can provide peace of mind and possibly even increased safety. We spent weeks using 11 of the best security cameras on the market for both live viewing and autonomous recording, then pored over the resulting videos to find out which one is the best.
Our overall scores are based on four different testing metrics: Monitoring Performance, Video Quality, App Ease of Use, and real time Viewing. Below we discuss which models shined in each of these metrics, and which did poorly.
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. We split our monitoring performance testing into two categories: monitoring services available both with and without a subscription, and the audio quality associated with the video (because you can sometimes hear more than you can see).
Monitoring Services Available With and Without a Subscription
Canary cameras offer activity alerts and a 24 hour video history without a subscription. This is a full 24 hours of video history, not just periods where motion was detected. Canary also offers unlimited downloads, so you can save a record of what happened in front of your camera at any point in the last day. A $10/month subscription ups the 24/7 video history to 30 days and adds an extended 2 year warranty and a guarantee to reimburse your insurance deductible if your Canary device doesn't prevent a theft. These strong sets of features for both subscribers and non, along with exceptional audio quality, earned both the Canary Flex and the Canary All-in-One Security Device the top score of 8 out of 10 in this metric.
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. However, a $10 a month subscription earns 10 days of 24/7 video history and the ability to set activity zones. This allows you to define areas where the camera looks for activity, and areas that it will ignore (so you get an alert when someone opens the door, not when the cat runs by). While some other manufacturers offer a similar feature, we found that Nest's was the most effective. The subscription service will also send you a different alert if the cam sees something that it identifies as a person, a rare feature amongst these cameras. There is also a $30 a month plan that gains a 30 day video history. Despite the poor offering for non-subscribers, the effectiveness of the activity zones earned both the Nest Cam Indoor and Nest Cam Outdoor a score of 7 out of 10 in this metric.
Logitech offers 24 hours of video history with its Circle camera, though users can only access clips where motion was detected. This camera sets itself apart with its Day Brief feature, which condenses all of the action detected by the camera throughout the day into a 30 second timelapse. This feature makes it incredibly easy to review what happened throughout the day, and more likely to catch a clip that you need to save (Logitech also offers unlimited downloads without a subscription). The usefulness of this feature garnered a high score of 7 out of 10 for the Circle in this metric. A $4/month subscription gets unlimited downloads and a 14 day video history. $10/month extend the history to 31 days and adds user defined motion zones and the ability to send a different alert when a person is detected (we found both of these features to be less effective than those available with Nest cameras).
NETGEAR cameras offer a large amount of available video history, a full seven days or 1GB, without a subscription plan. This means you can go on a week's vacation and still be able to view everything that happened at home when you get back (unless the camera sees a lot of motion and fills up the 1GB cloud capacity). However, clips are only captured when motion is detected, so you do miss out on the 24/7 video history offered by some other brands. You can download any of the captured clips to save indefinitely. Activity alerts also come standard without a subscription. Of NETGEAR's offerings the Arlo Q was the best performer with a score of 7 out of 10 in this metric. This was mostly due to its expanded subscription offerings ($10 and $20 monthly plans get you 14 and 30 days of 24/7 video history) and decent audio quality. The Arlo Pro earned a 5 due to diminished audio quality and the Arlo scored a 4 due to lack of audio. These cameras are compatible with Arlo's standard monthly subscriptions, where $10 gets you a history of 30 days or 10GB and $15 gets 60 days or 100GB.
Samsung's SmartCam HD Pro has fairly inexpensive subscriptions and a decent set of free features, which garnered it a 7 out of 10 in this metric. It is one of the few models that does not offer any cloud storage for free, opting for internal SD card storage. This is a great value if you're confident you can hide your cam well, but if a thief spies it he/she can easily steal the camera and any incriminating footage along with it. Activity alerts and motion zones do come for free. Though we found the motion zones did cut down on some extraneous activity alerts, they weren't as customizable or as effective as Nest's version of the technology. A $5 monthly plan gets you a 5 day history of activity events stored on the cloud. $8 and $20 plans push that history out to 7 and 21 days respectively, and add the option of 24/7 recording.
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.
Blink received the lowest score in this metric: 4 out of 10. For free it offers activity alerts and cloud stored clips of recorded activity totalling up to 2 hours of video. Clips can be manually deleted to free up space, so you'll have to remember to empty out your storage before you leave for vacation. There are no subscription plans available to expand upon this storage. The Blinks poor video quality doesn't help either.
Both Canary models possessed the best microphones we tested. Any conversation had within 30 feet of the camera was was perfectly audible when viewing videos on the app (good to know nobody liked the brownies I made for the office…). They don't offer 2-way audio, however, so while you can hear people call your brownies dry and tasteless, you can't yell, "I was just trying to be nice!" at them. You can, however, sound a siren at the push of a button in the instance you catch a burglar in the act. The *Samsung SmartCam**' microphone is just slightly less sensitive, but offers 2-way audio and a decent speaker so you can voice your displeasure at unfair brownie ridicule, or tell an intruder you're going to call the cops.
Both the indoor and outdoor Nest cameras have a clear, high quality microphone that is another slight step down from that of the Samsung. However, Nest offers the clearest 2-way audio, so if you want your admonishment of the brownie haters to have a vengeful being from above quality, get a Nest. We were also able to easily rouse a cat using the Nest's speaker, but nothing caught the attention of the big, lazy, apathetic dog. Both theLogitech Circle and NETGEAR Arlo Q have similar quality speakers, but both microphones aren't quite as good.
Audio captured on the Blink camera is surprisingly good, about the same quality as on the Samsung, but it does not offer 2-way audio. The NETGEAR Arlo Pro had the worst microphone we tested, with conversations only understandable when people stood close to the camera and there was no background noise. It does have a decent speaker for 2-way audio and a loud siren that can be activated from the corresponding app. The NETGEAR Arlo offers neither a speaker nor microphone, so it lacks any kind of audio experience.
The most obvious and arguably most relevant performance aspect of wifi home security cameras is video quality. If you can't make out an intruder's face, tell which pup ripped open the kibble bag, or clearly see that everything is in its place, there isn't much point in having a security camera. We tested all of cameras in both day and night with faux break-ins, rambunctious pets, and normal, everyday activity.
Scores in this metric were clumped fairly close together, with 1080p models generally producing much crisper video (in both day and night vision) than their lower resolution counterparts. Starting off a 5-way tie for the top score of 8 out of 10 in this metric is the Samsung SmartCam HD Pro. It provides a wide 128˚ field of view, clear daytime images, and a night vision function that is just slightly more crisp than the majority of the models we tested. The Logitech Circle was the only model that could match the Samsung's nighttime video quality. Its super wide 135˚ lens provides a large field of view, but the fisheye quality makes the edges of the look a bit distorted.
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 just slightly less so than on the Samsung. The final member of the 8 out of 10 club was the Canary All-in-One Security Device. Its 147˚ wide field of view is the widest of any model we tested, but does create some distortion at the edge of the frame. Both its day and night time image qualities are comparable to those of the Nest.
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 it 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.
Dropping down into the 720p resolution bracket, the NETGEAR Arlo and NETGEAR Arlo Pro were our top performers, both earning a score of 6 out of 10 in our video quality testing. Day and night time footage on 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 NETGEAR 720p models, and 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 is 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.
NETGEAR also offers a well designed app for its Arlo 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.
We also liked the design of Blink's app, which also scored an 8 out of 10 in this metric. It's very easy to adjust things like clip length and to browse and manage the video history. It is also easy to add multiple cameras, making it clear Blink designed the app to work in conjunction with its multi-camera packages. Though easy to use, the apps basic layout felt just a bit less streamlined than the Nest app, and the nice app couldn't compensate for the poor camera.
Canary's app is well designed and received a score of 7 out of 10 in our ease of use testing. 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.
Logitech's app, used in conjunction with its Circle camera, also scored a 7 in this metric. Navigating through setting and activity histories was fairly quick but noticeably more clunky than on the higher scoring models. It garnered this high score mostly due to the ability to create a 'day brief' at the push of a button that allows you to review all of the activity that occurred over the last day in a concise, 30 second clip.
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.
Though still quite usable, Samsung's Smart Cam app was our least favorite, scoring a 5 out of 10 in this metric. Most of its menu options are represented by small icons that aren't completely obvious. It was the only model we tested that doesn't offer any sort of scheduling, so you have to go into the ap and turn the app on and off as you enter and leave your home. It adds a level of security by requiring you to enter a password every time you enter the app, but as it's easy to lock or erase most lost smartphones remotely this felt like more of a hassle than anything else. It was quite easy to set up activity zones, but those zones were less effective and more limited than those offered by Nest.
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 exact same conditions, our times represent accurate relative comparisons of the latency of each device.)
The Nest Cam Indoor and Nest Cam Outdoor were our favorite models for real time viewing, both earning an 8 out of 10 in this metric. Both of these models provided continuous, high quality streams that seemingly didn't need to refresh. Additionally, these cameras got close to truly being real time, with only a 4 second lag between action occurring in front of the camera and seeing it in the app.
The Samsung SmartCam HD Pro and the Logitech Circle performed similarly in our real time viewing test, bother earning a 7 out of 10. Each model had a field leading 3 seconds of latency, making the closest to truly providing real time viewing. They both scored lower than the Nest because their live streams did pause for a second to refresh once or twice a minute. This wasn't particularly annoying, but made the viewing experience feel much less smooth.
The NETGEAR Arlo picked up a 6 out of 10 in out 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. The final score of 6 went to the YI Dome Camera, which had a fairly low latency of just 5 seconds in our testing. It produced a smooth video stream, but that stream was generally a low quality picture, and certainly not the 720p resolution of the clips saved to the cloud by the Dome.
At the bottom of our score sheet were a number of models that scored a 5 out of 10 in this metric. While these models all provide a high enough quality livestream 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). The NETGEAR Arlo Q had the worst latency of all of our models (33 seconds in our test), leading to a 'how many times can your run around the office before the Arlo Q sees you' contest. Its picture also had to pause and refresh frequently, and the sound was often a bit choppy.
Also scoring a 5 out of 10 was the NETGEAR Arlo Pro. It posted a decent latency time of 12 seconds in our test, but produced very choppy video of an inconsistent quality. The Blink actually posted a great latency time of just 5 seconds, but its video was disruptively choppy. Also, it annoyingly stops the video stream every 30 seconds to ask if you want to keep viewing. The final score of 5 in this metric went to the Canary Flex. Its latency was very slow at 30 seconds, and its video tended to be low quality.
There are a number of capable wifi home security cameras available on the market, and the best one for you largely depends on how you plan to use it. We hope our testing results have illuminated the model that will shine in the task you care most about.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
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