The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of tech gear

The Best Home Security Cameras of 2018

Wednesday August 29, 2018
  • Share this article:

We've all been there, just getting to your destination only to have your stomach drop as you realize you may have left the front door open, or left the stove on, or left that pint of Ben & Jerry's sitting on the counter. We've found that the best way to assuage those fears is a home security camera. To that end, we bought and tested 14 of the best cameras on the market, closely examining how well they integrated checking in on the homestead into our daily routines. We also tested how well their corresponding apps work, how reliable their video streams are, and how much you actually can do with each camera both with and without a subscription. While we still don't think these cameras can totally replace a traditional security system, we very much feel the ability to quickly check in on your home from anywhere can provide great peace of mind. If that sounds attractive to you, we've compiled everything you need to know to pick the perfect security camera for your home.

Compare Top Products

Displaying 1 - 5 of 14
≪ Previous | View All | Next ≫
Updated August 2018
In the last couple of months there haven't been any compelling additions to the home security camera market. We have continued to use all of our top picks. The slick user interface of the Nest models and the good quality to price ratios of the Blink XT and YI Home have continued to impress.

Best Overall Home Security Camera

Nest Cam IQ

Editors' Choice Award

List Price
See It

Max Resolution: 1080p | Power Source: Standard Outlet
Great video quality
Smooth real-time viewing
Field leading monitoring services available
Great facial recognition
Very limited without a subscription

For those willing to spend a little extra to get the most advanced features available, the Nest Cam IQ is the clear choice. This camera provides the hallmark high-quality video and seamless user interface that have become synonymous with the Nest brand, and employs advanced facial recognition technology to cut down on the number of alerts you get on your phone. Not only can you set the camera to only send you an alert when it sees a person, after a few rounds of learning via user input it can only send you an alert if it sees someone you don't actually know. Now available in both indoor and outdoor versions, the IQ is by far the most advanced consumer security camera on the market today.

All of that capability does come at a price: a hefty $300 one to be exact. If you don't feel you need the facial recognition feature, you can get the same performance for $100 less with the original Nest Cam (sidenote: due to biometric data laws facial recognition is not available in Illinois). Aslo, that feature is only available with a Nest subscription, which will set you back at least $10/month (or $100/year if you pay up front). You only get 3 hours of video history if you don't pony up for a subscription, so this camera is really only useful if you buy in. If you want more history without a subscription, the NETGEAR Arlo Q would be a viable alternative. However, if you're willing to pay for advanced features that can streamline your experience and cut down on nuisance alerts, you can't beat the IQ.

Read review: Nest Cam IQ

Top Pick for Outdoor Camera

Nest Cam Outdoor

Top Pick Award

(11% off)
See It

Max Resolution: 1080p | Power Source: Standard Outlet
Great video quality
Smooth real-time viewing
Field leading monitoring services available
Very limited without a subscription

If your security camera needs extend to the outdoors, the Nest Cam Outdoor offers both the best quality and user experience of any of the cameras we tested. With impressively clear video, seamless live viewing streams and a 25' cable that increases placement opportunities, this camera certainly won't leave you wanting. Nest's activity zones and person alerts can also cut down on nuisance alerts, so you won't get an alert everytime a squirrel runs along the fence. You can even upgrade to the $350 Nest Cam IQ Outdoor, which uses facial recognition to only send alerts when the camera sees an unfamiliar person..

Like all Nest products, this camera is only worthwhile if you're willing to spend at least $100/year on a Nest subscription. Without the subscription, you only get 3 hours of video history and none of the advanced features that make Nest's cameras stand out. The fact that the Nest Cam Outdoor needs to be plugged in means no lapses in coverage for recharging, but also somewhat limits where you can put it. If you're looking for a less expensive, totally wireless outdoor camera the Blink XT would be a better choice. But if you want the best video quality you can get in an outdoor camera, don't mind paying for a subscription, and have a conveniently placed outlet, this is the best option around.

Read review: Nest Cam Outdoor

Nest Cameras: Should I upgrade to the IQ version?

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

Best Buy Award

(40% off)
See It

Max Resolution: 1080p | Power Source: Standard Outlet
Good Video Quality
Decent non-subscription services
Relatively narrow field of view
Real-time viewing sometimes choppy

If you're looking for good quality video at a low price, the YI1080p Home delivers on almost all fronts. As the moniker suggests the high definition video looks quite good, plenty good enough to recognize faces and make sure Fido didn't get into the leftovers. It also offers a week of 6-second long, motion activated clips stored on the cloud…for free! Sure, this doesn't guarantee you'll have a record of everything that goes on in front of the camera, but it is far more generous than the paltry 24 and 3 hours of history that Canary and Nest offer without a subscription, respectively. Plus, it does all this while generally selling for less than $50.

The major downsides of the YI 1080p Home are its relatively narrow field of view (112˚, as opposed to the average 130˚), and the fact that we experienced a good bit of lagginess when using it for real-time viewing. While both of these are drawbacks, neither makes the camera unusable. The field of view still allows for decent coverage in most situations, and even though live viewing had some jumpiness to it, we were still able to tell what was going on. If you're looking for a cheap but effective way to keep an eye on your home, we think you'll be happy with the YI 1080p Home.

Read review: YI 1080p Home

Best Buy for Outdoor Use

Blink XT

Best Buy Award

See It

Max Resolution: 720p | Power Source: 2 Standard AA Batteries
Good video quality
Poor real-time viewing
No subscription services to expand storage

Boasting a waterproof housing, totally wireless capability thanks to internal AA batteries, and some free cloud services, the $130 Blink XT is the least expensive option we've found for monitoring your front yard. The high-definition camera provides good video quality for both day and nighttime clips. Blink also offers 2 hours of free cloud video storage. You just set how long you want the camera to record for whenever it senses motion, and the most recent 2 hours of footage will always be available for watching.

Like most of the less expensive models we've tested, the Blink XT does have some issues when it comes to real-time viewing. Namely, we found that the feed tended to freeze and jump around a bit. It still provided enough good frames to see what was going on, but it certainly wasn't a streamlined viewing experience. Blink also doesn't offer any subscription services, so if that 2 hours of storage proves to be too little, there isn't any way to expand it. However, these sacrifices feel worth the cost savings compared to other outdoor models, and considering the fact that this camera is usable without paying for a subscription.

Read review: Blink XT

Top Pick for 24 Hour Monitoring

Logitech Circle 2 Wireless

Top Pick Award

(25% off)
See It

Max Resolution: 1080p | Power Source: Standard Outlet and Rechargable Battery
Great video quality
Good real time viewing
Convenient day brief time lapse feature
Very wide field of view
More fisheye distortion than other cameras

If you're dealing with incessant vandalism or vanishing lawn ornaments, it can be really nice to review everything your camera has seen in the last 24-hours quickly. That's where the Logitech Circle 2 excels. It compresses all of the activity that it's seen in the last 24 hours into a 30-second timelapse, letting you quickly and easily identify the person (or raccoon) that knocked over your garbage bins. It also has a super wide field of view, is waterproof, and has a rechargeable battery, meaning you can place it almost everywhere and get a good view of things.

The Logitech Circle 2 has very few downsides. It does have more of a fisheye effect than other cameras, so some videos do look oddly distorted. However, this really doesn't affect its usefulness at all. It also offers only a 24-hour video history without a subscription, but since you can so easily review the past 24-hours this feels like more than it actually is. Bottom line, for those that want to easily be able to monitor everything that goes on in front of the camera, the Circle 2 is a high-performing and convenient option.

Read review: Logitech Circle 2 Wireless

Great for Amazon Key Users

Amazon Cloud Cam

See It

Max Resolution: 1080p | Power Source: Standard Outlet
Great video quality
Good real time viewing
Relatively inexpensive
Works seamlessly with Amazon Key
No Scheduling
Poor non-subscription services

The new Amazon Key Service uses a smart lock to allow delivery people to open your door and place your Amazon packages inside, instead of just leaving them on the porch. The system also uses an Amazon Cloud Cam to monitor the whole process, so you can be assured nothing nefarious happened. This has led to many people wondering if the Cloud Cam is actually a good camera, or just something they'll be roped into buying if they want to use this service.

We can tell you that the Cloud Cam is a great camera, offering high-quality video, good real-time viewing, and somewhat reasonable subscription prices. Sure, it doesn't offer great services if you don't buy the subscription, and we've found the Nest cameras to have slightly better quality overall. However, if you're looking at the Amazon Key service because you've had a couple packages stolen off your porch, we don't think you should have any trepidation about the quality of the camera. While not the best, it is quite capable and high-quality.

Read review: Amazon Cloud Cam

All 11 of the cameras we tested. In the top row are (left to right) the Canary Flex  Logitech Circle (recently discontinued)  NETGEAR Arlo Pro  NETGEAR Arlo  Nest Cam Indoor  and the Samsung SmartCam HD Pro. In the bottom row are (left to right) the Nest Cam Outdoor  Canary All-in-One Security Device  YI Dome  Blink  and the NETGEAR Arlo Q.
All 11 of the cameras we tested. In the top row are (left to right) the Canary Flex, Logitech Circle (recently discontinued), NETGEAR Arlo Pro, NETGEAR Arlo, Nest Cam Indoor, and the Samsung SmartCam HD Pro. In the bottom row are (left to right) the Nest Cam Outdoor, Canary All-in-One Security Device, YI Dome, Blink, and the NETGEAR Arlo Q.

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.

Capable cameras like the Canary All-in-One can let you know what is happening in your home at all times.
Capable cameras like the Canary All-in-One can let you know what is happening in your home at all times.

Monitoring 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.

Most motion zones  like those offered by Samsung (left) are restricted to rectangular shapes. Nest's version of the technology (right) is much more customizable.
Most motion zones, like those offered by Samsung (left) are restricted to rectangular shapes. Nest's version of the technology (right) is much more customizable.

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 Blink's poor video quality doesn't help either.

The Blink camera stores up to 2 hours of video on the cloud  but does not offer any subscription service to increase that storage.
The Blink camera stores up to 2 hours of video on the cloud, but does not offer any subscription service to increase that storage.

Audio Quality

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.

What is this sorcery? I hear human but do not see it. - A cat mystified by the Nest's clear 2-way audio.
What is this sorcery? I hear human but do not see it. - A cat mystified by the Nest's clear 2-way audio.

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.

Cameras with 1080p resolution and wider lenses  like the Nest Cam Indoor (left) produce much better footage than those with 720p resolution and narrower lenses  like the YI Dome (right).
Cameras with 1080p resolution and wider lenses, like the Nest Cam Indoor (left) produce much better footage than those with 720p resolution and narrower lenses, like the YI Dome (right).

Video Quality

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.

Even high definition cameras  like the Canary Flex  often struggled with getting clear footage of motion.
Even high definition cameras, like the Canary Flex, often struggled with getting clear footage of motion.

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.

The Logitech Circle 2's night vision captures quite a bit of detail.
The Logitech Circle 2's night vision captures quite a bit of detail.

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.

In our testing the Nest Cam app was the easiest to use for browsing video histories and setting schedules.
In our testing the Nest Cam app was the easiest to use for browsing video histories and setting schedules.

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 found initial setup to be very easy on all of the cameras we tested. Each one had an easy way to get the camera talking to a smartphone  like this sync button on the NETGEAR Arlo Q.
We found initial setup to be very easy on all of the cameras we tested. Each one had an easy way to get the camera talking to a smartphone, like this sync button on the NETGEAR Arlo Q.

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.

One of the first things you see when you open the Logitech app is a button to create one of its convenient day briefs.
One of the first things you see when you open the Logitech app is a button to create one of its convenient day briefs.

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.

Whether inside or out  Nest made our favorite cameras for real time viewing.
Whether inside or out, Nest made our favorite cameras for real time viewing.

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 Nest Cam Outdoor was far and away our favorite outdoor model for real time viewing.
The Nest Cam Outdoor was far and away our favorite outdoor model for real time viewing.

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.

The Blink constantly stops and asks if you want to continue when using it for real time viewing. It did not amuse our testers.
The Blink constantly stops and asks if you want to continue when using it for real time viewing. It did not amuse our testers.

With an average score of 5 out of 10, the NETGEAR Arlo Pro offers a usable, but not great real-time viewing experience. We measured the lag time at 12 seconds, which isn't too bad. However, the video often became pixelated and sometimes froze and jumped. We could still see well enough that you could use this camera to make sure your pup is ok, but it certainly isn't the best.

Both Blink models we tested earned the lowest score of 4 out of 10 in this metric. They are actually quite good when it comes to latency, with a delay of just 5 seconds. However, the video was very choppy and got quite pixelated at times. Again, there were enough ok looking frames tha you still get a usable view of whats going on, but it's certaintly not a pleasnat experience. The stream also stops every 30 seconds to ask if you want to keep watching, which can be annoying if you're trying to figure out where Fido got off to.


Wifi security cameras are a great way to keep an eye on pets while you're at work, make sure the house is still standing when you're on vacation, or to make sure the kids made it home from school. While these cameras are not yet effective replacements for traditional, totally autonomous security systems, they can add a bit of convenience and peace of mind to your life. However, picking the right one requires researching capabilities, quality, and the types of services you get both with and without a subscription. We hope that our testing results have cleared up the confusion that can arise with these cameras.

Max Mutter and Steven Tata