The Best Home Security Camera
How We Found the Best Home Security Camera
31 Popular Cameras
6 Must-have Features
3 Exceptional Picks
The Best Home Security Camera
We took a look at 31 of the most popular home security cameras and, in the process, discovered that splashy features don’t actually matter if the camera isn’t also functional and easy to use. We narrowed our list to 12 standout options and did some hands-on testing for ease of use, mobile alerts, streaming quality, and two-way audio to find the best home security camera.
How We Found the Best Home Security Camera
We wanted cameras that would provide clear and reliable footage, while being dynamic in use. We narrowed the list down to 12 cameras by focusing on the six features we felt were most indispensable.
We required six key features
The best home security camera should be future-proof and feature-heavy. We wanted cameras that would provide clear and reliable footage, while being dynamic in use. We narrowed the list down to 12 cameras by focusing on the six features we felt were most indispensable.
- Resolution: A high resolution is essential for the best camera, and we set the bar at 1080p. This kind of clarity will help identify any intruder, and won’t soon be outdated.
- Field of view: The range that a camera can view should be at least 100 degrees. This helps cover a large area and eliminate the number of cameras you’ll need to purchase to cover entry points. Most of our picks have a roughly 130-degree field of view.
- Mobile alerts: Without motion notifications, a home security camera is fairly useless. It’s unlikely you’d be checking in on the app’s live feed often enough to catch an intruder or break-in as it’s happening. With mobile alerts, you’ll be notified and ready to take action immediately.
- Night vision: Cameras enabled with night vision mean they can capture video in low light conditions, and help ensure the camera is still doing its job in the dark. Without it, you may not be able to distinguish between a black cat and a suspicious shadow.
- Two-way audio: Whether it’s to tell your mailman to leave the package on the porch or to scare off a burglar, two-way audio lends a voice to your mechanical eyes and ears.
- Integration: We valued the ability to integrate your home security camera with third-party AI like Alexa and Google Assistant, other smart home tech, and home security companies. Having the flexibility to design a fuller smart home or security system down the line increases the worth of your investment in a camera.
We looked for reasonable storage standards
What good is video footage if it expires within the day? If someone was to break into your home, you’d need that video evidence to give to the police — but without cloud storage, it may expire before you have the chance to turn it in. Depending on the camera, you may have free storage for anywhere between 24 hours and 7 days. For a monthly fee, you can unlock storage plans that range from 10 days to 60 days. That subscription may also come with desktop streaming, continuous storage, and custom modes.
Ease of use and motion alerts
We timed how long it took to set up each camera and took lots of notes about the pairing process. We wanted cameras that could go from in-the-box to operational in less than 10 minutes. All of our top picks landed within a couple of minutes of that goal thanks to clear instructions and great apps. Interestingly, set-up time turned out to be a great predictor of how well the cameras themselves performed: Simpler setup correlated with better performance.
We armed each camera and danced around to trigger the motion detector. (We even clapped a little bit.) Then we timed the number of seconds it took each camera to notify us of the activity on both WiFi and cellular connections. We also played around with motion sensitivity settings and alert customization options. Cameras that let us adjust the level of sensitivity and create custom alerts (such as sending notifications upon detecting sounds or identifying a person) gave us that level of personalization important in a home security camera.
After a few days monitoring our pets and running past cameras, we found a few cameras that offer reliable footage, alerts, and integration.
Reasonable storage standards
What good is video footage if it expires within the day? If someone was to break into your home, you’d need that video evidence to give to the police — but without cloud storage, it may expire before you have the chance to turn it in. Depending on the camera, you may have free storage for anywhere between 24 hours and 7 days. We gave preference to cameras with a variety of free and paid storage options (you can review the Cloud storage options for our top picks in the guide below).
The 3 Best Home Security Camera
- Nest Cam -
- Nokia Home -
Best Multipurpose Camera
- Arlo Q -
Best for Free Video Storage
Why we chose it
When you buy a Nest Cam, you’re buying into one of the most widely supported ecosystems in the home security business. ADT and Vivint both offer direct integration with the Nest Cam, and there are a variety of DIY systems (like Scout and Abode) that work with Nest as well. The Nest app also serves as a hub for the Nest Thermostat, Smoke + CO Alarm, and the Nest Hello Doorbell. And it can control a small selection of third-party devices like Google Home, Philips Hue lights, and Rachio Smart Sprinkler. If you want to begin the journey to building a smart home, the Nest Cam is for you.
The camera is well-built and surprisingly versatile. You can set it on a shelf, use a single screw to hang it on a wall or in a corner, or mount it on metal surfaces thanks to its magnetic base. The Nest Cam is also available in an outdoor model (which will run you an extra $30), effectively making Nest a one-stop-shop for your entire home.
Easy to sync
Pairing the Nest Cam involved scanning a QR code on its backside, and that was pretty much it. Aside from the Nokia, the Nest was the only one of our top picks that didn’t encounter some sort of issue during pairing.
Points to consider
Slow to load
The Nest generally took a little longer to pull up its camera feed, which can be frustrating if you want quick access to your stream. But once it was up, we noticed fewer streaming pauses while on LTE than with our other top picks. Another nice touch? Nest’s email alerts include an image of what caused the activity — a feature we didn’t see on other cameras.
We got really tired of seeing pop-ups reminding us about the Nest Aware paid account option. Unsurprisingly, other customers have the same complaint — going as far as asking how to remove the banners on Nest’s community forum. While the pop-up can’t be removed, if you’re planning on getting cloud storage to begin with, it won’t be a problem. Nest Aware offers three levels of monthly subscription: 5-day video history for $5, a 10-day history for $10 and a 30-day history for $30. Adding other cameras will cost an extra 50% of the monthly price. Its free storage is only three hours, though, so we highly recommend a subscription.
Why we chose it
The Nokia shares features with most of our other top picks (motion sensitivity controls, two-way audio, mobile alerts, camera modes, and night vision), but our experience using those features on the Home was faster and smoother — basically flawless. We loved the Home’s live video quality. It was consistently the most reliable stream on both WiFi and LTE connections, and the cleanest to look at. The Arlo Q’s stream was a really close second but could sometimes be overly sharp.
Additional security features
Along with video surveillance, the Nokia Home monitors noise and air quality and will alert you if it senses anything wrong — push alerts arrived on our iPhone and Apple Watch within five seconds of activity. We really liked being able to adjust the sensitivity for all three of those triggers. The Canary Flex and Samsung Smartcam also had sensitivity controls, but we noticed changes more easily with the Home.
Four camera modes
Another thing we loved about the Home? The camera has four modes, allowing you to customize its activity to your needs. Active Monitoring mode is kind of like arming a home security system — you get alerts immediately when it senses activity. Baby Monitor Mode is similar, but it also brings the app to the forefront of your screen automatically so that it’s easy to peek in on your child. You can switch on a variety of lullabies and synchronized nite light sequences, too. Do Not Disturb mode continues to record activity in the cloud, but you don’t get alerts. Finally, Camera Off is exactly what it says: The camera goes completely offline.
Points to consider
Unable to mount
Given the Home’s design, we weren’t able to mount it on the wall or in corners. If you want to adjust the angle, you instead have to slide the camera around on its base — a concave circle that’s magnetized to the bottom of the camera. Certain situations took quite a bit of finagling before the Home would stay put.
No recent updates
Since Withings Home, the original manufacturer, was purchased by Nokia in 2016, it has planned and canceled upgrades, and been up for sale twice. Withings’ founder — Eric Carreel — bought the company back from Nokia in 2018, but it’s still unclear what that means for the Home Camera. The last update to the camera was in April 2018 and, unfortunately, we aren’t confident in the longevity of product support.
Why we chose it
Free video storage
Arlo Q is a great choice if you aren’t ready to subscribe to a monthly service for your security camera, but don’t want to sacrifice functionality: It offers free seven-day video history. It’s not a continuous feed, like the Nokia Home’s free 24-hour log, but it does save clips of any activity that takes place, including a buffer of a few seconds before and after the event. That’s the most free video history you’ll get from any of our top picks.
The Arlo Q is a well-built camera and is exceptional when it comes to sensing movement or sound and sending alerts to your phone or email almost instantaneously. You also don’t have to worry about your dog tripping the sensor — motion and sound sensitivity can be regulated to meet your preferences.
Points to consider
Issues with updates and lag
We experienced some hiccups while updating the firmware for Arlo Q, which required a couple of full restarts. The Arlo Q also had the second-longest lag time of all the cameras we tested. (The Netatmo Welcome was the worst at eight seconds. The Q landed at five seconds.) If not for those two minor issues, the Arlo Q would have been neck-and-neck with the Nest Cam.
Two Other Cameras You Should Consider
Not only is the Amazon Cloud Cam the cheapest camera we tested, it's also the cheapest for running a multi-cam system. It’s $120, and most of our other picks retail around $200. Outfitting your home with two Cloud Cams would only be $40 more expensive than a single camera from another brand. Plus, you won’t have to pay for that extra camera on the subscription. For $7 per month, you get seven days of cloud storage for three cameras. You can sync those with Amazon’s Alexa, too. If you aren’t too invested in the construction quality, or are unsure if you need cameras at all, Amazon’s Cloud Cam lets you test out surveillance at a low price.
That price cut came with a small sacrifice in quality: We found the plastic Cloud Cam was pretty flimsy. If you’ve got it resting on a counter, there’s a good chance your cat could swipe it off. However, the discounted price didn’t seem to affect the internal mechanics — we saw crisp live feeds similar to the Nest Cam.
The Cloud Cam app is pretty standard, and we received alerts in near record-time. Unlike the Nest, however, you can’t scroll through the stored footage (it’s not continuous). You’ll only have access to the captured motion clips — no timelapse of events leading up to and after the detected motion. However, those motion clips were nearly too frequent: The camera seemed to have peripheral vision and would alert us to motion too often — like when we’d walked behind the camera or our shadow cast on the camera’s view. If you don’t mind a few extra notifications, the Cloud Cam is great for affordably outfitting a home with a couple cameras.
The Canary Flex is a sleek, $200, pill-shaped device that doesn’t exactly look like a camera, but can be used both indoors and outdoors. You can unscrew the Flex from its wall mount with a few twists and then tote it wherever you want — as long as there’s a WiFi connection for video recording. But even that limitation goes out the window if you buy a 4G LTE base from Verizon, which comes with its own data plan. We didn’t test the LTE base, but we can attest to the Flex’s battery life capabilities. It has a rechargeable battery, so you can place it without worrying about plugging it in. After more than 18 hours, the battery was around 50 percent and still going strong. And with its 360 degree swivel base, you truly can place it anywhere. If you want a camera that has the ability to work both indoors and outdoors — or the consistency of having the same exact camera inside and outside your home — this is a solid choice.
How to Find the Right Home Security Camera for You
Research cloud storage options
For a monthly fee, you can unlock storage plans that range from 10 days to 60 days. That subscription may also come with desktop streaming, continuous storage, and custom modes.
All prices monthly. Storing footage from multiple cameras may require upgraded plans.
Reliability is key for a functioning home security camera. When we tested our 12 contenders, we grabbed screenshots on an iPhone, using both WiFi and LTE connections, to compare the overall streaming quality of each camera. We also evaluated how shaky the live feeds were during use, noting how many times we had to wait for each one to buffer to clear up a distorted feed. With this testing in mind, it’s also important to realize your WiFi signal and range will have an impact on your camera’s reliability. Before choosing a home security camera, check your internet upload speeds against the minimum required for your camera of choice to ensure they’re aligned.
A home security camera will help keep your home safe, but if you want to amp up your level of protection you may want to consider a home security system and other home automation devices. Before purchasing a home security camera, research if it integrated with home security systems or gadgets like smart thermostats, smart locks, and smart lights. If you’re interested in added more security, check out our review of the Best Home Security Systems.
Home Security Camera FAQ
How many security cameras do I need?
How many cameras you need will depends on your security goals. If you live in an apartment with one main entryway, you’ll likely only need one for your front door. If you live in a house with multiple doors and windows on your first floor, it’s worth considering additional cameras. You’ll also want to think about whether you want an indoor security camera safeguarding your home’s interior or simply to keep an eye on pets while you’re away.
What are wireless home security cameras?
While the name might imply they’re wire-free, wireless home security cameras traditionally require wired power. This means they’ll also still need to be positioned near an outlet. The reason they’re “wireless” is because they transmit footage via WiFi rather than an ethernet cable. Some wireless home security cameras are also wire-free, but this isn’t always the case. Check the fine print before committing to a wireless camera if what you really want is wire-free.
What’s the difference between an indoor security camera and an outdoor security camera?
Chances are if you purchase an indoor security camera it will not be equipped to handle the demands of outdoor surveillance. Outdoor security cameras must be able to withstand severe weather conditions and crisp night vision to see beyond the shadows and detect suspicious activity. Indoor security cameras should still have night vision, but don’t need to be built for sweltering Florida summers or freezing Minnesota winters.