We all get those sinking feelings that we left the door unlocked, left the stove on, or left the fridge open. We bought and tested 15 of the best home security cameras side-by-side, so you can quell those fears with a few swipes on your smartphone. Wifi cameras seem to be popping up everywhere, and while there is little evidence to suggest these cameras can actually prevent burglaries, they have proven very useful in other ways. They are perfect for checking in on pets, making sure the kids got home, and just generally for checking in and making sure all is well at home whenever you are away. We've tested every aspect of these cameras, from image quality to user friendliness to live feed quality, so you can find the perfect tool for keeping an eye on your home.
The Best Home Security Cameras of 2018
Analysis and Award Winners
Logitech recently updated one of its flagship cameras, releasing the Circle 2 Wireless.
We were generally impressed by this new camera, and it stole the Top Pick for 24-hour Monitoring award that its predecessor previously held.We also tested the Amcrest ProHD due to its massive popularity with online reviewers However, the first unit we tested was barely functional, and the second unit received was even worse. We could barely get the camera to actually send an image to any of our various Android and iOS devices, never mind use any of the advanced features advertised. Due to this experience, we felt that the Amcrest didn't warrant an inclusion in this review.
Best Overall Home Security Camera
Nest Cam IQ
Undisputedly the most advanced consumer security camera on the market, the Nest Cam IQ is perfect for those that want the best of the best. It offers all of the high-quality video clips, seamless real-time viewing, and effective activity zones that Nest is known for, and adds an intricate facial recognition feature. With this function, you can teach your camera to ignore familiar faces (your friends and family) and alert you to strange faces (The UPS driver, or a possible intruder). If you don't really care for this facial recognition feature, you can save $100 with the still superb original Nest Cam Indoor. Like all Nest products, the Nest Cam IQ is severely limited without a Nest Aware subscription. If you're looking for a good camera with some generous free services, the NETGEAR Arlo Q provides a 7-day history of activity clips at no extra charge, as opposed to the measly 3 hours you get with a Nest camera without a subscription.
Read review: Nest Cam IQ
Top Pick for Outdoor Camera
Nest Cam Outdoor
The Nest Cam Outdoor stuffs all of the quality of Nest cameras into a weatherproof package. If you want a high-quality video feed of your driveway or front door, this is the camera for you. The only downsides: like with all Nest cameras the functionality is quite limited if you don't buy a Nest Aware subscription. This is even more vital for an outdoor camera, as you'll want to use the activity zones that come with the subscription so you don't get an alert every time a squirrel runs through the front yard. Also, the Nest Cam Outdoor is wired, which limits the placement versatility compared to wireless models, but it also eliminates the chore of taking the camera down to change or recharge batteries every couple weeks. Nest also recently released the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor, which adds facial recognition capabilities but also ups the price to $350.
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 $100 and $150 for the indoor and outdoor version, respectively.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 sticter biometric data laws, the facial recognition feature cannot be used in Illinois.
Best on a Budget
YI 1080p Home
Living up to its name, the YI 1080p Home offers fairly high quality video at a rock bottom price. It also provides a reasonable set of non-subscription services, with a 7-day history of 6-second long motion-activated video clips stored on the cloud at no extra cost. Sure, ideally we would like those clips to be longer, but that week-long history of short clips is still vastly more useful than the non-subscription offerings of Canary and Nest that offer just 24 and 3 hours of history without a subscription, respectively. For those that want good video and a usable video history without committing to a monthly fee, the YI Home is an excellent choice.
Read review: YI 1080p Home
Best Buy for Outdoor Use
If you're looking for an inexpensive way to get a record of everyone that walks up to your front door, the Blink XT is far and away your best bet. It is weatherproof, runs off of AA batteries and can thus be placed anywhere, and does not require any sort of subscription fee to get access to its video history. It only records when it detects motion, and stores 2 hours of video on the cloud for no extra cost. The only big downside is its real-time video feed, which is often quite pixelated and choppy. Therefore we wouldn't recommend this model for checking in on pets, but it excels as a low cost, outdoor monitoring option.
Read review: Blink XT
Top Pick for 24 Hour Monitoring
Logitech Circle 2 Wireless
If you're the kind of person that wants to know about everything that happens in your driveway, front yard, or living room, the Logitech Circle 2 wireless is for you. It compresses all the activity it sees in a 24 hour period into a convenient, 30 second time-lapse, so you can quickly review everything that has happened in that day. Plus its rechargeable battery makes it easy to move from place to place, so you can quickly move the camera if you need to figure out what has been knocking over your trash cans. These features are backed up with good overall video quality and reliable live viewing.
Read review: Logitech Circle 2 Wireless
Great for Amazon Key Users
Amazon Cloud Cam
With the introduction of the Amazon Key, some customers of the retail behemoth can let their delivery person use a one time code to open their door and place packages inside, and use the corresponding Amazon Cloud Cam to monitor that process (this service is not yet available in all geographic locations). While the Cloud Cam isn't the best security camera we tested, it does pack in a lot of performance for its price. If you're largely looking for a security camera because you've had a few packages stolen from your front porch, this is an option worth considering.
Read review: Amazon Cloud Cam
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.
If you want to make sure you're getting the most for your dollar, check out our Price vs. Performance chart. As you can see, the very reasonably priced YI Home still packs in quite a bit of performance despite its low price, earning it our Best Buy Award. The Blink XT is similarly placed when compared to the other outdoor cameras, making it the best value for those that need a weatherproof camera. Though it fell just short of winning an award, the Amazon Cloud Cam also delivers quite a bit of performance per dollar for those that have more of a mid-range budget. You can also see that the Nest Cam IQ is a clear cut above the rest, but you have to pay quite a premium for its extra features and exceptional performance.
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
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. If you have the Nest Cam IQ any of these plans unlock its advanced facial recognition, which can tell the difference between a familiar face (based on some user input) and an unfamiliar one. Despite the poor offering for non-subscribers, the effectiveness of the activity zones earned the Nest Cam Indoor and Nest Cam Outdoor scores of 7 out of 10 in this metric. The facial recognition feature of the Nest Cam IQ earned it an extra point.
Amazon's Cam has much more generous non-subscription services than Nest, providing a 24-hour history of motion activated clips for free. Subscriptions start at $7/month or $70/year. The basic level gets a 7-day history of motion activated clips, specific alerts for when the camera sees a person, Amazon zones, which are similar to Nest's motion zones, support for up to 3 cameras. For $10/month or $100/year you get a 14-day history and support for up to 5 cameras, and for $20/month or $200/year, you get a 30-day history and support for up to 10 cameras. However, all of these histories only include motion-activated clips, not the 24/7 history offered by Nest.
Logitech offers a reasonably generous 24 hours of video history without a subscription. However, only clips where motion is detected are actually saved, so you don't get a full 24-hour history, but you can download and save as many of those clips as you'd like. Those motion clips are helpfully compressed into a single, summary time-lapse, so you can easily review everything the camera has seen in the last day in just 30 seconds. $4/ month bumps your video history of motion activated clips to 14 days. 10$ gets you 31 days, the ability to get a special alert when your camera sees a person, and you can set 'motion zones' - areas where the camera will ignore or specifically look for motion. These motion zones work well but aren't quite as good as the similar technology offered by Nest. This earned Logitech a score of 7 out of 10 in this metric.
Canary was once the champion of non-subscription monitoring services, but the company, unfortunately, reduced their offerings. Without a monthly fee, you still get a 24-hour history of motion activated clips, but those clips are limited to 10 seconds. So, if something happens in front of your camera for 20 seconds, you're going to miss half of it. You do get Canary's version of motion zones for free, which is a huge plus if you're tired of getting notifications every time a leaf blows by the window. With a $10/month subscription, the history is increased to 30 days and the maximum video clip length grows to 10 minutes. We love that you can get activity sones for free, but the short non-subscription clip length pushes the score down a bit, earning Canary a 7 out of 10.
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.
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 totaling 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 some of the best microphones we tested. Any conversation had within 30 feet of the camera 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 new Nest Cam IQ offers an improved microphone over its predecessors, matching the audio quality of the Canary cameras. It also has clear 2-way audio but doesn't offer any sort of alarm like the Canary cameras do.
The microphone of the Amazon Cloud Cam is just behind the quality of the top performers as we were able to understand almost all dialogue spoken in front of the camera. It also offers 2-way audio that is fairly clear. However, the speaker is on the back of the camera, so if you put it in a corner it can sound a bit echoey.
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 the Logitech and the NETGEAR Arlo Q have similar quality speakers, but both microphones aren't quite as good.
Audio captured on the Blink and the upgraded Blink XT cameras is surprisingly good, but 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 the cameras in both day and night with faux break-ins, rambunctious pets, and normal, everyday activity. Just remember that most of these cameras have relatively small sensors and sometimes compress the video both for real-time viewing and for storage on the cloud, so don't expect a 1080p model to look like the HD movies you watch on your TV.
For the most part, the scores were fairly tightly packed in this metric, with 1080p models performing a bit higher than their lower resolution counterparts. The Nest Cam IQ was the sharpest camera in our testing, with both day and 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 isn't 4 times the resolution. We think most of the 4K sensor's horsepower is used for the IQ's facial recognition feature.
Also in the groups of top scorers were the Nest Cam Indoor and the Nest Cam Outdoor. Both of these Nest models created top-notch daytime footage, and a plush 130˚ field of view with only minor distortion at the edges. The night vision was also very clear, but not the best.
Another member of the 8 out of 10 club, the Canary All-in-One Security Device provides a wide 147˚ field of view while only producing a small amount of distortion at the edge of the frame. It backs that up with crisp day and nighttime footage, though lots of motion would sometimes leave the image looking a bit pixelated.
The Amazon Cloud Cam surprised us with its great video quality, considering its more middle-of-the-road price, as it picked up a high score of 8 out of 10 in this metric. The images it produced, both day and nighttime, were on par with those of the Nest Cam. In fact, the nighttime images were just slightly brighter. The only downside is the field of view is a bit narrower than most at 120˚.
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.
Rounding out the 7 out of 10 club, the Logitech Circle 2 provides the widest field of view of any of our cameras, a whopping 180˚. This does come at the expense of some very noticeable fisheye distortion, but the sheer area the camera can cover is incredibly impressive. The 1080p resolution produces a nice, clear image, and the night vision quality is well above average, falling just short of the quality of the Nest Cam IQ.
The Blink XT also provides 1080p resolution and earned a video quality score of 6 out of 10. The video looks fairly crisp, but tends to look a bit dark. This dark quality remained even in well-lit rooms. It has a 110˚ field of view.
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 of these models still looked fairly crisp, but was clearly inferior when compared side by side with footage from the higher resolution models. The Arlo Pro does provide a wider field of view than the Arlo: 130˚ vs 110˚.
The YI Dome Camera scored a 5 out of 10 in this metric. Both its day and night time videos were noticeably more grainy than the 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.
Amazon's Cam App is very intuitive and lets you easily adjust any setting you'd like. The only reason it didn't receive a top score is the fact that it does not off a scheduling option, so you have to use geofencing to ensure the camera turns on and off when you leave and return home. This isn't a huge deal, but could be annoying if you like to keep your phone's locations services turned off.
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 also offers a fairly user-friendly, but not completely intuitive, app. Sometimes you may have to search through a few menus before finding the setting you're looking for, but after a short learning curve, it's not much of a hassle. It also got huge brownie points for being able to make its 30-second timelapses that show all the action from the previous 24 hours.
YI's app is well suited to its Dome Camera but could be a bit more straightforward. It earned a 6 out of 10 in our testing. The app provides a nice little onscreen joystick to move the camera around, but the latency in the camera's response makes it hard to get it just where you want. It's generally easy to adjust settings and browse the video history, but often cryptic symbols are used to represent certain menus rather than words, so there is a small learning curve.
Real Time Viewing
Whether it's the peace of mind that comes with seeing your kids safely home after school, or knowing that the dog hasn't ripped the couch apart, real-time viewing is one of the best and most used aspects of wifi home security cameras. We used all of our cameras to look after pets, watch things be shifted around our storage facility, and to snoop on coworkers complaining about free brownies that everyone should appreciate. We also timed latency by walking in front of each camera and then timing how long it took for that to show up in the live view window in the app. (Please note: the latency periods we experienced are not absolute. Different users may experience different latency times based on their internet connection, any possible sources of interference, and a myriad of other factors. However, since we tested all of the cameras under the exact same conditions, our times represent accurate relative comparisons of the latency of each device.)
If you mostly wasn't a security camera for checking in on your home or pets in real time, we would suggest you either get a camera from Nest or look at the Amazon Cloud Cam. All of these cameras shared the top score of 8 out of 10 in this metric, and all offered superb real-time viewing experience. These cameras provided unmatched picture quality in our real-time viewing tests, and all had less than 5 seconds of lag time, so we were watching event almost right as they happened.
The Logitech Circle 2 Wirelesswas just slightly behind the top performers in this metric, earning a 7 out of 10. It produced a nice and clear live stream in our testing with only some very occasional hiccups and moments of pixelation. We did knock the score a bit because it takes the Circle 2 about 45 seconds to wake up from its sleep mode. So if you haven't checked the live stream in a while, you'll probably have to wait 45 seconds after opening the app to actually see what's going on.
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 live stream to reassure yourself that no one has broken into the house, they are infuriating if you're actually trying to watch activity (such as seeing what the pets or kids are up to). 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 you 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 a very choppy video of inconsistent quality. 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.
The Blink XT and the Blink shared the bottom score of 4 out of 10 in our real-time viewing tests. They actually posted a great latency time of just 5 seconds, but the video was disruptively choppy. Also, it annoyingly stops the video stream every 30 seconds to ask if you want to keep viewing.
Wifi security cameras can add some valuable peace of mind when you're traveling or just at work, whether you want to make sure Fido or feel your stomach drop as you realize you might have left the sink running. We hope that our testing results have helped you find the perfect camera for keeping an eye on your home.
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.