Best Home Security Camera of 2021
|Price||$300 List||$200 List||$200 List|
$119.97 at Amazon
$129.99 at Amazon
$99.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Great video quality, smooth real time viewing, field leading monitoring services available, great facial recognition||Great video quality, useful non-subscription services||Good video quality, useful non-subscription services, weatherproof, wireless||Great video quality, smooth real-time viewing, field leading monitoring services available||Great video quality and real time viewing, user friendly app, inexpensive subscription|
|Cons||Very limited without a subscription||Real time viewing can be choppy||Real time viewing can be choppy, must be taken down and recharged periodically||Very limited without a subscription||Very few services offered without a subscription|
|Bottom Line||Top notch video quality and facial recognition, but very little video history without a subscription||A high quality camera that offers unlimited downloads and a limited 24 hour video history without a subscription||A convenient, wireless indoor/outdoor camera that offers useful non-subscription services||Great for live viewing and high quality video, but little video history available without a subscription||A good choice if you're willing to pay for a subscription service|
|Rating Categories||Nest Cam IQ||All-In-One Security...||Canary Flex||Nest Cam Indoor||Ring Stick Up Cam W...|
|Monitoring Performance (30%)|
|Video Quality (30%)|
|App Ease Of Use (25%)|
|Real Time Viewing (15%)|
|Specs||Nest Cam IQ||All-In-One Security...||Canary Flex||Nest Cam Indoor||Ring Stick Up Cam W...|
|Power Source||Wall Outlet||Wall Outlet/Rechargable Battery||Wall Outlet/Rechargable Battery||Wall Outlet||Wall Outlet|
|Mounting||surface, walls||surface||surface, walls||surface, walls||surface, walls|
|Static Field of View (degrees)||130||147||116||130||116|
|Free Features||Activity alerts, 3 hour video history, two way audio||Activity alerts, 24-hour history of 10-second, motion activated clips, activity zones, 1 year warranty||Activity alerts, 24-hour history of 10-second, motion activated clips, activity zones, 1 year warranty||Activity alerts, 3 hour video history, two way audio||Motion alerts, live viewing, two-way audio|
|Paid Subscription Features||5-Day- 5-day video history, 24/7 continuous recording, intelligent alerts, clips and timelapses, activity zones
10-Day- 10 day video history, 24/7 continuous recording, intelligent alerts, clips and timelapses, activity zones
30-Day- 30 day video history, 24/7 continuous recording, intelligent alerts, clips and timelapses, activity zones
|Canary Membership- 30-day video history of up to 10-minute motion activated clips, activity alerts, activity zone masking, two-way talk, incident support, 2 year extended warranty||Canary Membership- 30-day video history of up to 10-minute motion activated clips, activity alerts, activity zone masking, two-way talk, incident support, 2 year extended warranty||5-Day- 5-day video history, 24/7 continuous recording, intelligent alerts, clips and timelapses, activity zones
10-Day- 10 day video history, 24/7 continuous recording, intelligent alerts, clips and timelapses, activity zones
30-Day- 30 day video history, 24/7 continuous recording, intelligent alerts, clips and timelapses, activity zones
|Basic- 60-day video event history, video sharing
Plus- Ring Alarm professional monitoring, 60-day video event history, video sharing
|Monthly Cost (one camera)||$5- 5 Day
$10- 10 Day
$30- 30 day
|$10- Canary Membership||$10- Canary Membership||$5- 5 Day
$10- 10 Day
$30- 30 day
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 reasonable subscription fees make it the best all-around home security camera for most people. All of its outstanding features are accessed via a well-designed and intuitive app that makes checking in on notifications quick and easy. You also get 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 services without a subscription are minimal — just real-time viewing and basic motion alerts. That makes it a poor choice for those who don't want to be saddled by a monthly fee. For just a few dollars per month, however, you get 60 days of motion-activated clips stored on the cloud and advanced motion alerts, making this subscription one of the best values on the market. As long as you can stomach the small monthly fee, the Ring Stick Up Cam supplies 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 choices out there. 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've seen. In its live-view stream, it always avoided choppiness or pixelation, and you're able to control it from an intuitive and streamlined app. Plus, relatively reasonably priced subscriptions offer access to advanced person alerts, 24/7 video histories, excellent motion zones, and more.
The most significant disadvantage of this model, and other Nest cameras, is a glaring lack of non-subscription services. Without forking over a monthly fee, this camera's 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'll need to purchase a subscription. Luckily subscriptions start at about the price of a latte per month, so this certainly doesn't have to be 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 anyone 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 that's synonymous with the Nest brand. It also incorporates 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 reduce alerts to only when 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 these advanced features do come at a relatively hefty price. If you don't need the facial recognition, you can get the same performance for significantly less with the original Nest Cam (Side note: due to biometric data laws, the facial recognition features are not available in Illinois.) Also, facial recognition and many other features are only available with a Nest subscription. Without a subscription, you only get a three-hour video history, so this camera is only ideal if you're willing to make an 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 down notifications 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
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 software, 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 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 to you, 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
The Amazon Cloud Cam gets very close to providing the performance of the top Nest cameras with a much more affordable price tag. We particularly like its non-subscription services. For example, 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 utilizes 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 the footage from competing Nest cameras. However, it performs just as well in most other ways. If you don't mind 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
Wyze released the updated version of this cam, the Wyze Cam v3. The v3 is rated for outdoor use, has a wider viewing angle, and no longer sports a USB outlet. It also boasts 5 extra frames per second.
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 get around this limitation by storing footage locally on a microSD card, in which case the camera will record all the motion it sees. You can then lose that footage, however, if someone steals the camera itself. This issue may be a dealbreaker for some people, but if you just want the ability to quickly check in on the house and review brief clips of what's happened there over the last two weeks, then this is a very affordable option.
Read review: Wyze Cam v2
Best for Outdoor Use
Nest Cam Outdoor
If your home security 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 enhances 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 be bothered with an alert every time a squirrel runs along the fence. You can even upgrade to the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor, which employs facial recognition software 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 it also limits where you can put it. Still, 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
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 is also designed to be waterproof, incorporates a rechargeable battery, and sports a super-wide field of view which means you can place it almost everywhere and get a good view of things.
The Logitech Circle 2 has very few downsides. For starters, its wide-angle lens creates a more 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. But since it's so quick to 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 quickly and easily monitor everything that transpires in front of their camera, the Circle 2 is a convenient, high-performing model.
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 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 also what kinds of annoyances can make them not worth buying. They've also spent hundreds 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 nighttime footage from each camera, side-by-side, to determine which provides the best video quality. We also assessed the quality of real-time video 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 real-world look at how many meaningful motion alerts each camera generated compared to how many nuisances. It also gave us insight into 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 identified 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'll have to press the button to sound the alarm. While this could be effective under ideal circumstances, we've found that it's 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 we know most people don't want to spend their vacation glued to their 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, and the general peace of mind that comes from being able to check in on your home.
Analysis and Test Results
We believe the ideal home security camera would 1) offer good video quality, 2) send alerts to your phone when it sees a person or something suspicious, but avoid sending meaningless alerts caused by moving shadows or scurrying squirrels, 3) allow 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 this ideal and assessed each camera's overall video quality, offered monitoring services, 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 of cameras and associated subscription service is a great—yet expensive—way to go. If you can live without some advanced features like facial recognition, the Amazon Cloud Cam offers otherwise top-notch performance at more of a middle-tier price range. The impressively inexpensive Wyze Cam v2 provides a great 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 of performance. 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 — just 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 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 unnecessary 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 sometimes 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 tiers provide five days, 10 days, or 30 days of 24/7 stored video history with pricing on a monthly or annual basis.
Amazon's Cam has much more generous non-subscription services than Nest, providing a 24-hour history of motion-activated clips. You also get two-way audio for free. The basic level subscription adds a y-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 ups it to a 14-day history and support for up to five cameras. Finally, the highest-level subscription provides a 30-day history and support for up to 10 cameras. All of these histories, however, only include motion-activated clips, not the 24/7 history offered by Nest.
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 than that, it increases to a 31-day history and the ability to get a unique alert when the camera sees a person, which makes it much easier to cut down on the 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 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 adds 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 because the company's free offerings are better than most. For no charge, you get a history of motion-activated clips stored on the cloud of up to 7 days or 1 GB. Whichever comes first will depend on how much activity your camera detects, 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 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. These higher-level subscriptions, however, 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 or 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. 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, which leaves you likely to miss some crucial footage if a significant event occurs. We couldn't find any documentation 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 observed was 30 seconds. In other words, 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, including a 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 with 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 have two-way audio, so you can hear anyone 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 receives 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. It only records video to the cloud when it sees motion. You can set the length of these motion-activated clips to be anywhere 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.
The Blink camera can send standard alerts to your phone anytime the camera sees motion.
The newer Blink Mini operates under the same cloud recording protocols as the other Blink camera, but the service is not free. There are two different subscription services for a single camera or an unlimited number of cameras. These changes are significant for the brand, 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 even after the new year.
The better your home security camera's video quality, the more likely you are to 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, pointed 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 image quality in a variety of lighting conditions.
Performance in this metric was fairly close, 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 nighttime 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 suspect 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 capture top-notch daytime footage and an expansive 130˚ field of view with only minor distortion at the edges. The night vision was also very clear, but not the best.
Also supplying excellent video in our testing was the Ring Stick Up Cam Wired. Though its 1080p footage is just a tad less crisp than the Nest cameras, its night footage provides exceptional detail, and the 150˚ field of view is wider than most other cameras.
Another solid performer, the Canary All-in-One Security Device, offers a wide 147˚ field of view while only producing a small distortion at the edge of the frame. It backs that up with crisp footage both day and night, though lots of motion could 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 the footage produce by the original Nest Cam. If anything, the Cloud Cam's night footage is just a tad brighter and more detailed. However, at 120˚, the Cloud Cam's field of view is slightly narrower than the 130˚ offered by most models.
Still providing 1080p resolution, but not on par with the top group of performers, was the Canary Flex. It still boasts super clear daytime footage and night vision that is comparable to the top performers. Its exclusion from the top group is 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 is noticeable a step down in clarity compared to the top models.
Also offering good video quality, the Arlo Pro 2 provides 1080p resolution. Its colors are vivid, but they're 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 it should be wide enough for most situations and helps it avoid a 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 grainier. 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 footage, but not the best. Their 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 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 ineffective; 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 daytime and nighttime 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 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 enhance its effective viewing range. If someone walks quickly past the camera, however, it won't swivel in time to follow them, so it'll be limited to its 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 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 nighttime range is minimal.
App Ease of Use
Once installed, your Wi-Fi and your 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 settings to see if they could reduce the alerts to only those that 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 camera's usefulness. The only downside: Nest's effective activity zones must be set on a computer and can't be adjusted on the app. Also, remember that most 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 needing to google 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 location services turned off.
Wyze's app provides a fairly streamlined user experience, with most functions easily accessed and adjusted. We did find that setting up 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 simple 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, although not wholly intuitive, app. Sometimes you have to search through a few menus before finding the setting you're looking for, but after a brief learning curve, it's not much of a hassle. It also scores massive bonus points for automatically 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 some 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 these cameras to look after pets, watch things be shifted around our storage facility, and snoop on coworkers complaining about the taste of some baked goods that another coworker brought in. We also timed latency by walking in front of each camera and timing how long it took for that motion 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, sources of interference, and a myriad of other factors. However, since we tested all of the cameras under the same conditions, the listed times represent accurate relative comparisons of the latency between different devices.)
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, Ring, or check out 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 little while to load, buffering 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 cause major complaints. 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 in 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 caused us to miss what was happening.
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 trying to open the stream, it would ultimately fail, requiring multiple app relaunches. Sometimes we even had to turn our phones off and back on before the stream would load properly. 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 frustrating 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 it could 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 their own free and paid services, yielding a variety of options that lend themselves to different ideal scenarios. We hope that our objective testing has helped you wade through these complexities to find the perfect camera or group of cameras for your home.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata