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
The range of home security cameras on the market right now is dizzying. So 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.
There’s a good chance you’re already familiar with our favorite, the Nest Cam, which has earned a reliable reputation amongst the smart home industry. We found that reputation well-earned, and the Nest Cam was the most seamless and reliable of our picks, with the flexibility to fit into any home. The Nest Cam offered a polished experience and flexible placement. You can mount the Nest Cam on a wall or to anything magnetic, unlike the Nokia Home camera. Nest also has a vast catalog of other home automation and security products that you can add on and integrate, and it’s compatible with professional security systems like ADT and Vivint.
We were also impressed by the Nokia Home, which does more than any other home security camera: It doubles as an air quality sensor, a night light, and distinct modes. That’s going to be overkill for most purposes, but it’s a great addition to a child's room or nursery. We appreciated how easy it was to set up, and with the quality of video streaming and mobile alerts. Unfortunately, because Nokia has canceled its long overdue update, and the company behind the Home product is now up for sale (again), we aren’t confident in the longevity of product support.
The Arlo Q has the best free storage and use plan. If a break-in were to happen, you’d have seven days to take action and won’t be scrambling to get footage to the authorities before it disappears from your storage plan. And unlike our other picks, the Arlo Q doesn’t charge extra fees for multiple cameras. You can outfit your home or office without doubling your monthly charge. Unfortunately, we found its lag time doubled the Nest and Nokia Home.
How We Found the Best Home Security Camera
We started with a list of 31 standalone, indoor home security cameras that regularly appeared on top-10 lists from tech blogs like CNET and Engadget.
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, and the Zmodo Pivot can rotate to cover more.
- 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.
The 12 Home Security Cameras We Tested
- Amazon Cloud Cam
- Arlo Q
- Canary Flex
- D-Link Full HD 180-Degree Wi-Fi Camera
- LG Smart Security Wireless Camera
- Nest Cam
- Nest Cam IQ
- Nokia Home
- Samsung SNH-P6410BN
- SpotCam Sense
- Zmodo Pivot
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.
Top Pick Cloud Storage Plan Comparison
|Amazon Cloud Cam||
All prices monthly. Storing footage from multiple cameras may require upgraded plans.
We tested for easy of use, streaming quality, 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. The rest easily took 30 minutes or more just to get synced up — and, interestingly, set-up time turned out to be a great predictor of how well the cameras themselves performed. Simpler setup correlated with better performance.
Reliability was key. 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.
Finally, 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.
After a few days monitoring our pets and running past cameras, we found a few cameras that offer reliable footage, alerts, and integration.
Our Picks for the Best Home Security Camera
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 Nokia Home gave us a slightly more polished experience, but the Nest Cam is a seriously high-quality competitor. Pairing the camera 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 (however brief) during pairing.
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. What’s more, the Nest Cam is available in an outdoor model (which will run you an extra $30), effectively making Nest a one-stop-shop for your entire home. We tested the new indoor Nest IQ too, but found its camera and mic construction upgrades didn’t improve our experience enough to justify the extra $100. The IQ does offer a feature called Familiar Faces, allowing it to detect and alert you to faces it recognizes.
The Nest Cam’s video quality wasn’t quite as sharp as the Nokia Home or Arlo Q (a problem the Nest IQ may solve for you), but it did seem slightly more stable ... once it actually got started. The Nest generally took a little longer to pull up its camera feed. 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 did get really tired of seeing pop ups reminding us about the Nest Aware paid account option. But if you’re planning on getting cloud storage to begin with, that won’t be a problem. Nest Aware offers three levels of 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 percent of the monthly price. Its free storage is only three hours, though, so we highly recommend a subscription.
If you want a home security camera that’s incredibly easy to use and has an air quality sensor, the Nokia Home is a solid choice, offering the most polished experience of all 12 cameras that we tested.
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.
In addition to 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 with the Home it was easier to actually notice a change.
Another thing we loved about the Home? The camera has four modes. 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.
Slice a can of soda in half and you’ve got a rough idea of the size of the Home. It’s a small bookshelf camera covered in a wrap that reminded us (pleasantly) of a bamboo window shade or a fancy candle. But 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.
The Nokia’s shortcomings don’t have anything to do with the actual product functionality, but rather the company behind that product. Since Withings Home, the original manufacturer, was purchased by Nokia in 2016, it has planned and canceled upgrades, and been up for sale twice. Currently, both Samsung and Nest are interested in purchasing, but no news on the future of Withings yet.
The Arlo Q offers free seven-day video history. It’s not continuous, 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. 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.
Like Amazon’s Cloud Cam, if you upgrade to Arlo’s paid subscription, it includes support for multiple Arlo cameras. Subscriptions run $10 per month for a 30-day history, and $15 for a 60-day history. The 30-day subscription supports up to 10 cameras, and the 60-day subscription supports up to 15 cameras.
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. It’s a well-built camera that, despite having video lag, gave us instantaneous motion alerts.
We should also mention the Arlo Q Plus, the Q’s slightly upgraded, slightly more expensive ($200) sister. They’re basically the same camera, with two distinctions: The Q Plus can be powered by ethernet, and it also has an SD card slot.
We were initially excited by this — we thought the SD slot meant free, local storage. But as one of their representatives explained, the Q Plus records video locally, but only as a backup in case your internet connection goes down. The only way to access your video history with the Arlo is via a paid plan. While this wasn’t quite as cool as we’d hoped, the fact that the Arlo Q Plus can continue to record video during an internet outage (or power outage) is an admittedly nice perk that neither the Nest Cam nor the Nokia Home offers.
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.
The Canary app is on par with the Nokia Home app. We had no trouble fine-tuning motion detection sensitivity, receiving notifications, or cycling through our video history. We did, however, experience a few app crashes while trying to access the live feed. The Flex has an affordable cloud storage plan ($10 per month for a 30-day history), and that membership will unlock two-way talk.
Surveillance cameras are just the first stop on the way to a smart and secure home.
There are many ways to increase the IQ of your smart home — doorbell cams, smart hubs, thermostats, lights, remote entry, and more. You can even integrate smart features with entry sensors, alarms, and a monitored security system. Companies like Nest and Samsung SmartThings offer all these things a la carte, so you can design you own system and integrate it into one app.
Alternatively, you can purchase any equipment that is Z-Wave compatible. Z-Wave is the communication protocol for the vast majority of home security and automation products (about 450 companies currently). You can get the best selection of each home automation device from a range of brands, and sync them using that compatibility. This kind of customization gives you the freedom to expand your system at any time.