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Wired vs. wireless security cameras: Which is right for you?

There has never been a better time to add more security options to your home because there’s so much variety available to meet your personal needs. You can choose from 1080p, 2K, and 4K resolutions, smart or dumb, and even indoor, outdoor, or both. We’re comparing the differences between wired and wireless security cameras.

Each of these options has its own pros and cons. They also typically apply to different audiences, but you can use either version that meets your specific needs. Before we start seeing which is the better option, we have to define exactly what we’re talking about.

Wired and wireless, defined

Arlo Pro 2 home security camera.

There are actually three types of security cameras to discuss: wired, wireless, and wire-free. Wired means the camera uses cords to connect to power and networking. So you don’t have to rely on Wi-Fi for these models.

Wireless typically contains two different groups. Cameras with internal batteries that don’t have an ethernet connection and solely rely on Wi-Fi are known as wire-free. On the other hand, if the security cameras connect to the internet via Wi-Fi but still have an AC cable, that camera is still considered wireless. So the actual identifier is how the camera handles network connection. Aside from a few features, both types of wireless cameras are very similar, so we’ll be including them in the same group for this comparison.

Hardware comparison

Wired security cameras are typically standard DVR-style security cameras. You’ll see them a lot in a business rather than at residential homes. However, they are a bit more complicated to install due to the extra cables and that it requires a connected base station. Companies will go through the walls to hide the cables and optimally place the cameras, which also prevents cable damage and fray.

Wireless security cameras are more common in residential areas, likely due to the ease of installation and lack of messy cables. They are pretty easy to place where the homeowner wants, especially the wire-free versions. You have to be sure you can reach them pretty easily to charge the batteries with those particular models.

The only other real issue with placing a camera in a place that’s typically easier to reach is that wireless cameras are more prone to tampering.

Verdict: Again, it comes down to the place you want to secure, but as most of our readers are general consumers, wireless cameras come out on top. The ease of installation and the clean aesthetic push them over the top.

Security

The central part of a security camera is the actual security it can provide. Evaluating this category comes down to the audio, video, and unique features that each camera type provides.

Features with both cameras can be similar. While it’s easier to find the latest, greatest, and even gimmicky features in wireless options, most exist in wired options as well. In addition, companies will show off newly updated detection features on wireless setups faster than on wired models. So you get notified of updates more frequently and reliably with wireless options.

The main security advantage of wired setups is consistency. Wired security cameras don’t rely on Wi-Fi, so their connection and video feed are far more stable than wireless setups. Wi-Fi can be unstable even with the fanciest of routers. Also, even if your router doesn’t go out completely, changes in speeds or bandwidth can affect the video quality. Having low resolution is almost as bad as not having a feed at all.

Plus, not necessarily having to connect to Wi-Fi means that wired cameras are generally less susceptible to hacking attempts.

Verdict: For general security and connectivity, wired security cameras are the way to go to maintain the best video quality and feeds. Higher-end models will also have similar features to the new and shiny wireless cameras.

Privacy

Speaking of hacking, let’s talk about security camera system privacy. Inherently, wireless cameras are more susceptible to hacking due to their reliance on Wi-Fi. Wired options can connect to the internet but it isn’t necessary in many systems.

That doesn’t mean you have to worry if you opt for the wireless route. There are plenty of options to help ease any privacy concerns. Just like any internet-enabled product, you should change the default password immediately. With a cloud-based system, if you get access to one device in the cloud, there’s a high chance you can get access to the whole system. Some systems will also allow enabling two-factor authentication, which we definitely recommend doing if it’s an option.

There are also laws to help prevent and give consequences to anyone who tries to hack or record your cameras’ feed.

Verdict: A wired camera system will be more appealing to privacy-first consumers.

Other concerns

There are a few features and drawbacks to note when comparing the two types of security cameras. Many wireless cameras have cloud recording options. Some models only have this option. Not only does this mean you have to pay for a subscription to get meaningful recording choices, but it also means that there isn’t a backup in case something happens to the Wi-Fi.

Wired cameras are constantly plugged into power and are generally continually recording — some wireless (i.e., non-wire-free) can do this as well. In that situation, the cameras are on, but their base stations have to be plugged in as well. It’s true that 24/7 recording can be a power draw, but likely not enough to create a significant difference.

One extra benefit of wireless cameras is the ability to add new cameras to the setup relatively easily. You can just mount the new camera, add it to your home system, and you’re good to go.

Conclusion

For our primary readers, we recommend wireless security cameras. For homeowners, wireless cams are generally easier to install and maintain and provide a host of continually updated features. They integrate into our smart home more efficiently, and you don’t have to worry about privacy concerns more than usual. A more prominent compound or a small business would be better served with a wired security camera that’s installed by an electrician.

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