When it comes to home security, the best solution is often the one that is easiest to use. Companies will always find new features to add to hype up their latest models, but a good smart camera built on strong core technologies doesn’t need extra bells and whistles to stand out. While we ask a lot of our tech products today, what we really want in a smart camera is something that stays out of our way, looks good enough to blend in without making our homes look like high-security prisons, and offers a painless way to interact with it.
Below are a few of our picks for the best home security cameras, each of which offers something unique to appeal to different users.
Netgear Arlo Pro 2
Why should you buy this: Robust feature set, good cloud storage options
Who’s it for: Anyone looking for a full home security solution
How much will it cost: $480 (includes two cameras and base station)
Why we picked the Netgear Arlo Pro 2:
When you need more than just a single camera, Netgear has always delivered the goods better than anyone else with its Arlo line of smart cameras. The newest Arlo Pro 2 improves on an already great system, upping video resolution to 1080p while maintaining the same seven days of free cloud storage. It is fully weather sealed and ready to be used indoors or out, wired or wire-free. 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, Netgear’s use of a base station ensures optimized throughput with every Arlo Pro 2. This maintains a stable connection regardless of network load, and it’s also responsible for the Arlo Pro 2’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. (A continuous video recording, or CVR, storage plan, sold separately, is required). The base station also adds a 100-plus-decibel siren and allows for local backup via external USB drive.
The Arlo Pro 2 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. Those customers can purchase a solo Arlo Pro 2 camera for $220. (Note: A base station is required, so new users will need to purchase the $480 multi-camera kit).
The best image quality
Nest Cam IQ
Why should you buy this: Great video quality, solid feature set
Who’s it for: Those who want the best quality, and don’t mind paying for it
How much will it cost: $300
Why we picked the Nest Cam IQ:
Just as it did with thermostats, Nest is changing the game when it comes to home security. The new Nest Cam IQ 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. The Cam IQ should really help with this.
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.
Customers who subscribe to Nest Aware cloud storage will also gain facial recognition, so the Cam IQ will be able to tell the difference between members of your family and an intruder. Unfortunately, the camera is limited to indoor use and does not have optional battery power.
The best smart home integration
Logitech Circle 2
Why should you buy this: Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit support, multitude of mounting options
Who’s it for: Smart home enthusiasts
How much will it cost: $180 (wired), $200 (wire-free)
Why we picked the Logitech Circle 2:
The Circle 2 is simply one of the most versatile home security cameras out there. With an abundance of mounts available, you can place it virtually anywhere. Mount it straight to a wall outlet for compact, cordless, always-on security or stick it right to a pane of glass with the Window Mount to keep an eye on what’s going on outside from the safety of your home.
The camera can be used in all types of weather. Logitech even offers a custom weatherproof extension cable to help with outdoor mounting. The Circle 2 is also available in a wire-free version that uses a swappable and rechargeable battery so you can minimize downtime by always keeping a spare battery ready to go.
What’s really interesting about this smart camera, though, is that it will offer both Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit integration (coming soon). Other than that, it includes the standard features of night vision, two-way audio, encrypted cloud storage, and 24 hours of free online backup.
The best ridiculously cheap security cam
Wyze Labs Wyzecam
Why should you buy this: Cheap enough to buy one for every room
Who’s it for: Anybody with even a passing fancy in smart cameras.
How much will it cost: $20 (or $30 from Amazon)
Why we picked the Wyze Labs Wyzecam:
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 Wyzecam, a tiny, cubical smart camera that costs a mere $20. At that price, it could very well disrupt the industry.
As for features, it’s no surprise that the Wyzecam 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 Wyzecam if you need a robust security solution.
Still, as an affordable entry point into the world of smart home cameras, it’s hard to find anything that competes. We have seen nothing else that offers so much for so little.
Our Wyze Labs Wyzecam hands-on review
How We Test
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.