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The best home security cameras for 2021

The best home security camera is the Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight Camera. What makes it special among others is that it’s a well-rounded camera that’s packed full of features and boasts performance that ensures you’ll be in the know about what’s happening at home. Competitors like Ring and Nest have more recognizable brands, but the Arlo Pro 4 has them beat on features for the price. Best of all, the company has supplemented its line with other recent additions like the Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight, Arlo Essential, and Arlo Ultra 2.

Choosing a home security camera can be a daunting task since there are a lot of things to consider. Some aren’t susceptible to power outages, thanks to their battery power and local storage, while others need careful placements around the home.

Best home security cameras at a glance:

The best home security camera: Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight Camera

Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight Camera placed outside on wall.
John Velasco / Digital Trends

Why we picked the Arlo Pro 4:

Arlo has always offered the best solution when you need multiple cameras. The Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight Camera shares many of its predecessor’s features and specs, but it doesn’t require a hub to function.  It is fully weather-sealed and ready to be used indoors or out, wired or wire-free, with a 160-degree viewing angle. The batteries can easily be swapped and charged separately, so wire-free cameras won’t suffer any downtime while charging.

Now that it’s ditched the base station that previous cameras from Arlo needed to function, the setup process is streamlined because you connect it directly to your home’s Wi-Fi router. When it comes to video quality, its 4-megapixel 1/3-inch sensor does a fantastic job of capturing sharp details with accurate colors. The performance is made better thanks to HDR and color night vision, which help to uncover details that are often lost with high-contrast scenes and at nighttime when lighting becomes challenging.

The Arlo Pro 4 is also backward compatible with the existing Arlo Pro system, so current users can continue to use their same base station and older cameras alongside the new model. When you consider the excellent camera performance, Wi-Fi direct connectivity, and smart security courtesy of Arlo Smart, its $200 starting cost makes it more attractive than previous iterations. In fact, the starting cost of the previous Arlo Pro 3 was $500, although it did come with two cameras as opposed to one.

Read our in-depth Arlo Pro 4 review

The best Google Assistant integration: Google Nest Cam Indoor/Outdoor (Battery)

Google Nest Cam (battery) attached to fridge with magnetic plate.
John Velasco / Digital Trends

Why we picked the Google Nest Cam Indoor/Outdoor (Battery):

The Nest line produces reliable products with the latest A.I. features, and its products are always strong picks for those already using Google Home. This latest battery-powered cam is excellent for DIY users who want the freedom to place the cam wherever they want — indoors or outdoors — at any angle. The cam supports 1080p video at 30 frames per second, with night vision and a 130-degree field of view.

The camera offers the ability to zoom in, use two-way audio to talk, or contact emergency services. It’s also smart enough to customize alerts based on whether it thinks it’s seen a person, pet, vehicle, or more. It’s also compatible with Google Assistant and devices like the Nest Hub Max, although you won’t find any Alexa support on this Google product. If you are placing the cam outside, you can also attach a weatherproof cable so you won’t have to worry about recharging the battery.

Out of the box and free of charge, the Nest Cam supports up to three hours of event-based battery history storage, after which you will need to clear out space. You could add a Nest Aware subscription if you don’t mind paying a monthly fee, which offers more A.I. features and much more storage for the cam.

The best Alexa integration: Blink Outdoor Cam

Blink Outdoor cam wet from the rain.

Why we picked the Blink Outdoor Cam:

The Blink Outdoor camera offers weather-resistant surveillance at HD resolution with infrared night vision. While the model is battery-powered, allowing you to place it nearly anywhere, the battery sports a run time of up to two years before needing to be recharged (although it’s still a good idea to place it in a more manageable spot like your porch or above your garage).

Blink uses motion detection with customizable motion zones to help reduce errors and includes a two-way audio feature to communicate with the cam. The Alexa compatibility works very well with devices like an Echo Show for an immediate look through the cam and also supports voice commands to arm or disarm the camera whenever you’d like.

The small downside to Blink’s affordable outdoor cam is you can’t save video natively right out of the box. Instead, you’ll either need to sign up for the Blink Subscription plan to get cloud storage options, or purchase a separate Blink Sync Module 2 hub to enable local storage.

The best outdoor security camera: Ring Spotlight Cam

Ring Spotlight Cam mounted on a wall outside.

Why we picked the Ring Spotlight Cam:

The thing that sets the Ring Spotlight Cam apart from other home security cameras is that it prioritizes crime prevention. The built-in motion detectors will immediately start recording video when they sense movement, and the camera will simultaneously shine lights to scare off any would-be intruders or criminals. You can also sound the 110-decibel siren to warn others about suspicious activity or as a warning to possible lurkers.

The camera is compatible with iOS and Android mobile devices, as well as Mac and Windows PCs. So regardless of what kind of device you have, you’ll be able to download the app and tune in anytime to see live footage of your home. No matter where you are, you can check to make sure the kids came home from school or to see if the lawn was mowed. Set-up is quick, and it includes all the tools you’ll need to get the camera situated in your home.

If you’re looking for a more affordable option than the Ring Spotlight Cam, the brand recently came out with a line of new Ring Stick Up cameras that start at $99.

Read our in-depth Ring Spotlight Cam review

The best cheap security camera: Wyze Cam v3

Wyze Cam v3 set on top of table.
John Velasco / Digital Trends
Why we picked the Wyze Cam Outdoor:

Wyze has been on a tear this year introducing a slew of smart home gadgets. From the easy-to-install Wyze Lock to the versatile Wyze Cam Outdoor, the portfolio has been growing at a rapid rate. Its latest offering is the incredible Wyze Cam v3, which like its predecessor, astounds with its unbelievable low cost of $20!

Following the same cube-shaped design as its predecessor, this year’s model benefits from a sturdier IP65 construction that allows it to work outdoors while resisting the harsh elements. It also features night vision, something that has been largely reserved for pricier models. The usefulness of color night vision is astounding since there are details you wouldn’t otherwise be able to detect from your standard black and white night vision clips.

Furthermore, the Wyze Cam v3 offers a slew of capture modes that even includes a handy time-lapse mode, various security and privacy controls, and local storage to ensure your footage stays with you. You get all of that in a security camera for just $20. Quite frankly, it sets the benchmark in what we expect out of entry-level security cameras.

Read our in-depth Wyze Cam V3 review

The best security camera for privacy: SimpliSafe SimpliCam

SimpliSafe SimpliCam placed on a mantel.

Why we picked the SimpliSafe SimpliCam:

There has been a lot of news in the last year surrounding security cameras being hacked. Sure, there are measures you can take in place to prevent such hacks, but there’s one that does a better job of maintaining your privacy. The SimpliSafe SimpliCam may seem like your ordinary indoor security camera, but it takes your privacy more seriously.

That’s because it features a privacy shutter. Not just any shutter, but an actual mechanical shutter that makes a distinctive noise when it opens and closes, as well as the ability to completely be shut closed while you’re home. It’s a useful feature if you’re paranoid about someone potentially watching on the other side.

You’ll always know when someone is watching you because of its discernible noise when the shutter opens and closes. Beyond that, the SimpliSafe SimpliCam features 720p HD video, two-way audio, 120-degree field of view, night vision, and motion detection.

The best HomeKit integration: Logitech Circle View

Logitech Circle View on an interior ledge.
John Velasco / Digital Trends

Why we picked the Logitech Circle View:

There’s no denying that there are fewer security cameras in the market that support Apple’s HomeKit. The newest one is the Logitech Circle View, which is notable for the fact that it is exclusively meant to work with HomeKit — and nothing else.

Setup and installation require an iOS device using the Home app, so there’s no need to download any extra apps. The Logitech Circle View features an assortment of privacy features to ensure it’s safe to have around inside of the home. They include things like automatic arming based on your phone’s GPS location, a dedicated button that effectively shuts off the camera, and the ability to swivel the camera completely downwards.

When it comes to safeguarding your home, the Logitech Circle View can be installed indoors or out thanks to its weatherproof body, it can see in the dark with night vision, intelligent detection to discern people, and cloud storage to your iCloud account.

Read our in-depth Logitech Circle View review

The best security camera without a subscription: Eufy SoloCam E40

Eufy SoloCam E40 at an angle and mounted.
John Velasco / Digital Trends

Why we picked the Eufy SoloCam E40:

Today’s security cameras have advanced features that are blocked off unless you subscribe to one of their subscription services. One common benefit to some of these subscription services is that they’ll store recorded events in the cloud, so you can access them at any time with your mobile devices. The beauty of the Eufy SoloCam E40 is that you don’t need to pay into a subscription service to reap some of its rewards, like cloud storage,

You’ll find an all-in-one solution with the Eufy SoloCam E40 because not only does it cover all of the basics, like crisp night vision, activity zones, and long-lasting battery life on a single charge, but you don’t have to pay a monthly fee in order to access the footage it records. That’s because it doesn’t require you to pay into a subscription service. All of your clips are stored locally and encrypted, so you can access them at any time on your smartphone.

Best of all, it’s a breeze to set up and isn’t too expensive to buy on any budget. For what you pay, it’s sweet knowing there’s no additional cost out of your pockets after buying it.

Read our in-depth Eufy SoloCam E40 review

Research and buying tips

Who installs home security cameras?

You can self-install most home security cameras. But if you want to hire a pro, opt for a home security or home surveillance professional to install your cameras. Certain brands do require a professional quote installation, such as ADT’s traditional line.

How long do home security cameras keep footage?

It depends. The amount and length of storage you get depend on factors like the specific model and whether you have a paid subscription plan or if you use the free plan. Some, like Google, have a certain amount of free storage that can fill up over time. Others keep captured footage for a period (for example, seven days), then discard it. Subscriptions generally increase the time that footage can be held by a significant amount. However, it’s always a good idea to download a clip from the cloud right away if you will be using it for evidence. Local storage, like an SD card, is generally free to use and permanent, but you have to manage it manually.

Can home security cameras be hacked?

Technically, yes. Customers have reported instances where hackers access their home security camera’s audio feed. To help protect your home security camera from hackers, use a strong non-default password, use two-factor authentication when available, secure your wireless network, and buy your home security camera new from a trusted source. You can learn more about how to protect your home security camera from hackers.

How do home security cameras work?

Most home security cameras stream video feeds using your home internet network. They use an app as an interface where you can do things like view live video feeds, communicate using two-way audio, set up motion zones, and access cloud storage (or the camera’s internal storage or SD card storage).

Do home security cameras deter crime?

Yes. The Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of North Carolina Charlotte asked burglars about their most effective deterrents. Just over 50% said the presence of outdoor security cameras was an effective deterrent (they’d seek another target if the home had security cameras outside).

Where do I place home security cameras?

The best place to put security cameras is at common entry points — the front door, back door, garage, and lower-level windows. However, you should also consider your area, your property, and any special circumstances that may require different placement. For instance, if you have a lot of expensive automobiles on your property, you may want to have an outdoor camera covering your vehicles. Or, if you live in an area where there are a lot of second-floor break-ins, you might want security cameras covering the second floor.

Do all home security cameras require a subscription?

No. A subscription is not required for all home security cameras, however, many home security cameras provide more features if you purchase the subscription plan. That could include additional A.I. features, more cloud storage options, or a bundled monitoring plan. Without the subscription plan, your features may be limited.

How do I choose a home security camera?

Consider the features you want, your budget, whether you want the camera to plug in or have a battery, and any potential extra costs (like a subscription plan). Also, the camera’s app is just as important as the camera itself. If the app is difficult to use, it runs slow, or it crashes a lot, you probably won’t be happy with the camera because you’ll have trouble using its features.

Are home security cameras legal?

In general, yes. Home security cameras are legal to place in your own home. If you’re using home security cameras in a rental property (like an Airbnb home), they are typically legal, provided you are placing them in common areas and the rental guests are aware of their presence.

However, it is not legal to use security cams to capture footage where people have the expectation of privacy. Capturing footage on your porch is fine, because it’s your yard and the street beyond it is a public area. But capturing footage of something like your neighbor’s backyard is illegal and has led to successful lawsuits. For another example, it is not legal to place a home security camera in a place like an Airbnb rental bathroom. Plus, that’s just creepy anyway.

Do home security cameras record sound?

Some can … but there’s always an option to turn sound recording off, and many models skip it altogether. That’s due to wiretapping laws, which often make it illegal to record sound on surveillance equipment. Even two-way audio communication may have limits depending on specific state rules, although it’s typically legal if the conversation isn’t being actively recorded.

What is the best brand of home security camera?

Some of the best brands include Amazon, Arlo, Nest, Kasa, Wyze, Logitech, and Blink. However, while it’s wise to buy from a trusted brand, it’s also a good idea to research the individual model (its features, app, subscription plan, etc.) before making a purchase.

How does Digital Trends test security cameras?

This is by no means an exhaustive list of home security cameras, but these are a few of our favorites that stand out for various unique reasons. Smart home cameras are at their best when they stay out of your way and offer worry-free operation and streamlined apps so that when you do need to interact with them, it doesn’t cause a headache. Good image quality is nice, but it’s not the most important feature when it comes to keeping your home safe or checking in on your kids or pets.

We look for cameras that offer a great combination of features — night vision, battery power, alerts, two-way audio, integration with other services, etc. — in determining the best ones. Obviously, we also take price into account, and there is quite a range of pricing in the current smart home camera market.

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