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.

Our Picks for the Best Home Security Camera

Best Overall
Nest Cam
Next
A high-quality camera that integrates with a variety of home security systems.

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.

home-security-camera-nest

Screenshot of the Nest watching our office.

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.

Best Multipurpose Camera
Nokia Home
Nokia
With a LED nite light, air quality sensors, and 24- hour time lapse, this camera does it all.

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.

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The Arlo Q’s streaming quality (left) wasn’t quite as clear as the Nokia Home's (right).

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.

Best for Free Video Storage
Arlo Q
Arlo
Great alerts, and even better free video storage.

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

Best Budget Camera
Amazon Cloud Cam
Amazon
For those who want something more casual and affordable.

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.

Best Indoor/Outdoor Camera
Canary Flex
Canary
Weatherproof and mobile, with a rechargeable battery.

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.

Our Home Security Camera Review: Summed Up

Home Security Camera
The Best
Nest Cam
Overall
Nokia Home
Multipurpose Camera
Arlo Q
For Free Video Storage