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The best home security cameras for 2020

After spending 2,500 hours testing smart security devices, our pick for the best home security camera is the Arlo Pro 3 because it has a wide variety of features.

The Arlo Pro 3 isn’t the only stellar camera we’ve tested. We’ve also included our pick for the camera with the best indoor security camera, the security camera with the best Alexa integration, the best outdoor security camera, and for those on a budget, the best cheap security camera.

Before reading on, be aware of all the recent controversies regarding Ring’s line of security cameras. In order to prevent unauthorized access, you’ll want to ensure you’re protected by enabling two-factor authentication.

Best home security cameras at a glance:

The best home security camera: Arlo Pro 3

Why we picked the Arlo Pro 3:

Arlo has always offered the best solution when you need multiple cameras. The Arlo Pro 3 improves on an already great system, upping video resolution to 2k. 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.

Unlike stand-alone smart cameras, Arlo’s use of a base station ensures optimized throughput with every Arlo Pro 3. This maintains a stable connection regardless of network load, and it is also responsible for the Arlo Pro 3’s excellent battery life of up to six months, depending on activity. When plugged in, the camera can be used for continuous video recording — like a traditional security camera — making it useful in a business setting, as well as in your home. (note: A continuous cloud video recording, or CVR, storage plan, sold separately, is required, and you can only watch CVR videos from the cloud. Arlo doesn’t support downloading CVR videos).

The base station also adds a 100-plus-decibel siren and allows for local backup via external USB drive. The Arlo Pro 3 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. However, cloud recording has received a serious change: Arlo no longer offers free 7-day video cloud recording for video. You now have to pay for an Arlo subscription, which saves video up to 30 days. For free recording, you will need to rely on local recording or choose another cam. It’s a disappointing change for those who didn’t want to pay a subscription, but fortunately, there are other great options.

Read our full Arlo Pro 3 review

The best indoor security camera: Nest Cam Indoor

Why we picked the Nest Cam Indoor:

Just as it did with thermostats, Nest is changing the game when it comes to home security. The new Nest Cam Indoor promises a giant leap forward in smart camera image quality. It uses a 4K image sensor to record dual 1080p frames simultaneously, combining them into one Full HD video that offers greater dynamic range than what would otherwise be possible. Dynamic range is often an issue for home security cameras that have to try to balance exposure between a bright window and an otherwise dark interior. Nest Cam Indoor lessens, but doesn’t entirely eliminate, the problem.

What’s more, users will be able to digitally zoom in up to 12 times without completely sacrificing image quality. The camera can even automatically zoom in to an area of the frame when it detects motion and will stay zoomed in on the subject as it moves across the frame. The full 130-degree wide-angle perspective is still preserved while doing this, so you won’t miss a thing. Plus, you can stand it up, attach it to a wall, use a tripod, or use the built-in magnetic base for more complex spots.

The latest Nest Aware subscription also adds 30 days of cloud video storage and the ability to create clips from your cloud videos. The subscription also includes person alerts and activity zones as well, so you can customize what the cam watches for, depending on how you use it.

The best Alexa integration: Amazon Cloud Cam Key Edition

Why we picked the Amazon Cloud Cam Key Edition:

While the original Cloud Cam from Amazon may no longer be available, you can still get the Key Edition, which includes even more features for Prime subscribers! The cam includes 1080p video, 120-degree views, night vision options, and two-way audio. The free version also includes 24-hour video storage, while a subscription increases that to 30 days and ads person detection, sensor zones, and other features.

However, the “key” feature here is compatibility with the Amazon Key program. If you have the Key smart lock, then the two devices can work together and help you get keyless entry, better remote lock options, and an option for in-home delivery if you prefer (the Key program is only available in certain cities). With or without the Key program, you can still use Alexa devices with the cam, especially screen devices that allow you to see footage without taking out your phone.

Bottom line: If you’re heavily invested in Amazon and Alexa devices, this cam will be a great fit.

The best outdoor security camera: Ring Spotlight Cam

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 it senses movement, and it 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 tell Fido to get off the couch. Set-up is quick, and the camera comes included with all the tools you’ll need to get the camera situated in your home.

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

Read our full Ring Spotlight Cam review

The best cheap security camera: Wyze Cam V2

WyzeCam hands-on review angle
Daven Mathies/Digital Trends
Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

Why we picked the Wyze Labs Wyze Cam:

Wyze Labs was founded by ex-Amazon employees who are now bringing the online retail giant’s high-volume, low-margin approach to smart home security. Their first product is the Wyze Cam, a tiny, cubical smart camera that costs about as much as two large pizzas. At that price, it could very well disrupt the industry.

As for features, it’s no surprise the Wyze Cam is not up to par with the likes of the Circle 2 and Arlo Pro 2, but it isn’t bad. It offers night vision, motion detection, and two-way audio, and includes 14 days of free cloud storage. Motion- and sound-triggered video clips are limited to 12 seconds, which may or may not be enough time to get a good look at someone breaking into your home, so we don’t recommend relying on the Wyze Cam if you need a robust security solution. However, recent firmware updates have added person detection support, and A.I. modeling to improve person detection. These updates are bringing the $20 Wyze Cam even closer to the more expensive options on this list.

As an affordable entry point into the world of smart home cameras, it’s hard to find anything that competes. We have tested nothing else that offers so much for so little.

Read our full Wyze Labs Wyze Cam V2 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 professional, you can hire a home security or home surveillance professional to install your cameras.

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, whether it supports SD card storage, and whether you have a paid subscription plan or if you use the free plan.

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 here.

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 their most effective deterrents. Just over fifty percent 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 your 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 and 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?

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. It is not legal, however, 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?

Yes. Most modern home security cameras record audio in addition to video.

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 (it’s 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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