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ByLidia Davis Home Security Writer

Lidia writes about home security, home automation, and online privacy for Reviews.com. She graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

We’ve spent many, many hours researching and testing home security cameras to bring you all the information on what will work as reliable sets of eyes on your home. Taking stock of technical specifications — like two-way talk, 1080p, weather durability ratings, as well as features like — interoperability with other third-party devices and ease of use, we can confidently say our top picks deliver.

The Best Outdoor Security Cameras: Summed Up

Google Nest Cam Outdoor
Google Nest IQ Outdoor
Arlo Pro 2
Best Basic
Most Advanced Tech
Best Wireless
Price
$199
$399
$380
Weather resistance rating
IP-65
IP-66
IP-65
Free cloud storage options
Three days
Three days
Seven days
Works with:
Amazon Alexa, Google Home, IFTTT, Abode (Under current Works with Nest)
Amazon Alexa, Google Home, IFTTT, Abode (Under current Works with Nest)
Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Samsung SmartThings, IFTTT
Wireless protocols
Thread, Weave, WiFi
Thread, Weave, WiFi
WiFi
Two-way talk
Field of view
130-degrees (diagonal)
130-degrees (diagonal)
130-degrees
Free storage
Three hours
Three hours
Seven Days
Person detection/alerts
Yes (with Google Nest Aware subscription)
Yes (with Google Nest Aware subscription)
Yes (with Arlo Smart plan)
Facial recognition


The 3 Best Outdoor Security Cameras

Google Nest Cam Outdoor

Best
Basic

Google Nest Cam Outdoor
A solid outdoor camera with a trove of opportunities for interoperability.
Pros
Clear imaging
Good for home automation
Strong, yet flexible design
Cons
Slight connectivity issues
Free cloud storage options

Why we chose it

Good for (Google Nest) home automation

The other advantage to a Google Nest system is that everything is neatly stored into and controlled via one app, including your Google Nest Thermostat, security system, video doorbell camera, smart lock, and any other Google Nest-powered products. This doesn’t mean your Outdoor Cam will trip a Google Nest Secure alarm if an intruder walks by its sensor, but it will send you snippets of exactly what happened when the alarm was triggered to your email. (Note: All Google Nest Cams do this if you have a Google Nest Secure system.) Because of this feature, it might also be worth considering coordinating the placement of door and window sensors with your cameras to better capture the root of any alarm triggers.

A word on the Google Nest Merger

The Google Nest merger, integrating Nest Cams into DIY home security systems — like abode and Scout — might be a little trickier. In fact, since Works with Nest is closing down on August 31, 2019 and becoming the Works with Google Assistant network. You can keep your existing Nest account and all of its integrations if you want, but if you do merge your Nest and Google accounts, after Aug. 31, you will lose access to old Works with Nest integrations.

There are instances where you might have to operate your Google Nest Cams in a completely different app than the one you use for your home security system (like ADT, Frontpoint, Vivint, or Ring, to start). This can be a pain point or a non-issue, depending on what you can handle, but there are a few brands out there, including abode. that will let you integrate Google Nest Cams into their systems.

Clear imaging

Like all Google Nest Cams, we were impressed with the image quality. All of our top picks offer 1080p high-resolution streaming, so we were able to see everything we needed without significant obstructions to clarity, even at night. In fact, this camera streams in the same quality as its IQ counterparts (the only strikingly different features are the IQ’s 4K zoom functioning and facial recognition capabilities). So if you’re looking for all of the basic features in an outdoor security camera, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Strong (yet flexible) design

This camera is extremely simple to install and only set us back a little over 15 minutes. You simply nail the base to an outdoor wall, and the camera stays put via magnetization. We’ll admit — we were a tad wary as to how well this would hold its own in a thunderstorm, but were surprised by the strength of the magnet. This design also gives you the flexibility to easily adjust the point of view.

News Cam Outdoor mounted on beige siding

The caveat, however, is that the magnetic design might make it slightly more vulnerable to tampering. Google Nest suggests concealing the power cable or drilling a hole through your wall to wire the camera to an indoor outlet, which, in turn, might help prevent someone from successfully yanking it off the base. (We didn’t go to these lengths, but it sounds promising.)

Points to consider

Rebooting

As mentioned in our security camera review, we had some connectivity issues with this one that forced us to reconnect to our WiFi a couple different times. This isn’t a major problem, but the camera would go offline for a couple hours, subsequently costing us precious time (and footage) while we tended to the rebooting.

Free cloud storage options

In order to save video footage, you’ll have to purchase a Google Nest Aware subscription (which is priced per camera). Without it, you only have three free hours of video storage — a pretty weak buffer when compared to some competitors’ offerings. Wyze, for example, gives you two full weeks of free video storage to download. If you don’t want to pay, the likelihood you’re able to capitalize on that three-hour window could be pretty slim or nonexistent (especially if you’re busy and can’t stare at the live feed 24/7).

Google Nest Cam IQ Outdoor

Most
Advanced Tech

Google Nest Cam IQ Outdoor
An intelligent camera for a higher price.
Pros
Advanced camera
Responsive motion sensitivity
Tamper-resistant design
Cons
Expensive

Why we chose it

Advanced camera

If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line camera when it comes to technology, this is it. All Google Nest Cams offer “person alerts” with a Google Nest Aware subscription, which distinguish between animals (or the wind) and humans. This helps cut down on misleading alerts (and, perhaps, your blood pressure), but if you want to refine this functionality even further, the Google Nest IQ Cams use algorithms and 4K sensors to detect specific faces.

A back deck as seen by Google Nest IQ Outdoor

A snapshot of the Google Nest Cam IQ Outdoor’s picture quality from our tester’s backyard.

It’s also worth noting that this isn’t a feature that you can use at full will today. In fact, customers in Illinois will not have access to this feature at all. Earlier this year, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that users could sue companies that collect biometric data without explicit opt-in consent under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. Check what your state requires in the biometric arena, and a good rule of thumb might be to always let people know the camera is scanning or learning their faces.

The lens of the Google Nest Cam IQ

Responsive motion sensitivity

Our tester was impressed with how intelligently this camera responded to motion and cut down the spray of needless alerts every time the wind blew. Granted, the placement of this camera could have had something to do with the minimal amount of alerts (being in the backyard with presumably less activity than the front with people coming and going). We will say this coincides with Google Nest’s level of customizability offered when it comes to motion sensitivity — and the facial recognition even further refines the accuracy of the alerts. The Google Nest Aware subscription comes with a feature called Sightline (that might look like an overwhelming info-dump to some, although clearly not in our example below), but there is where you will find every recorded incident, even if you didn’t receive a notification. You can also set up a feature called “Activity Zones” that lets you pinpoint specific areas you want your camera to keep a close watch on.

The in-app view of Google Nest Sightline.

The in-app view of Google Nest Sightline

Tamper-resistant design

The IQ Outdoor Cam requires some hardwiring, and it isn’t connected to the base through a magnet, virtually eliminating any opportunity for an intruder to (easily) dislodge it from the wall. However, this will require a decent amount of additional installation time, but if you’re concerned about the possibility of tampering, this might be a better fit for you than the Google Nest Cam Outdoor. (You can still adjust the point of view, but it is sturdier and a tad more difficult to manipulate than the Google Nest Cam Outdoor.)

Points to consider

Expensive

We ultimately didn’t put this camera in our top picks for the best home security cameras, because we didn’t feel as though the added features really necessitated an extra $100 on the market right now. Especially when the Google Nest Cam Outdoor and Indoor stream at the same quality as their IQ counterparts. Then again, if you’re looking for cutting-edge technology, the IQ series will certainly provide.

Arlo Pro 2

Best
Wireless

Arlo Pro 2
Discreet, wire-free cameras for indoor and outdoor monitoring.
Pros
Indoor/outdoor use
Options for cloud storage
Alarm included
Cons
Required hub
Wired-only features
Image quality

Why we chose it

Indoor/outdoor use

While our tester didn’t try these outside, the Arlo Pro cameras are built for both indoor and outdoor use, and the design doesn’t overtly lend itself to one function over the other. In fact, it upholds an IP65 rating, meaning it can withstand the rain, sun, heat, and cold temperatures. This versatility means you can place one inside near valuables and one outside in front of your driveway. The real advantage lies in the lack of wires — so if you want a camera that can be more easily concealed, this might be the one.

Cloud storage options

The Arlo cameras don’t save significant cloud storage buffers for a higher price tag. In fact, you can get up to seven days worth of free storage with these cameras — giving you plenty of time to recoup footage from an incident that occurred while you were at work for several hours and away from your phone.

Alarm included

The Arlo Pro 2 comes with a 100-decibel siren built into the base, and you can establish boundaries for events that trigger it and those that don’t. You can control this remotely (if you see something on the CVR recordings), or select a number of motion or sound settings for free and customize even further with an Arlo Smart plan. The motion sensitivity levels can be adjusted on a 100-point scale — our tester tried 80/100, and even her 10-pound dog’s head movements triggered an alert. The responsiveness is promising, but if it’s too much, you can always scale it back.

Points to consider

Necessary hub

Technically speaking, the wire-free functionality isn’t all that free, as you still have to place the hub at least 300 feet away from your cameras. Depending on the size of your house, this could be a limitation.

Arlo Pro 2 security camera

Some features are saved for wire connections

it’s important to note that some of the more advanced features are reserved for indoor use with immediate access to an outlet. For example, you can only create specific “Activity Zones” if you plug the cameras into an outlet. These essentially help you narrow notifications to a specific area of interest, like a door or certain hallway. The three second “Look Back” feature is also only available for continuous recording (meaning you have to plug it into an AC power unit indoors). So if you opt to use this camera outside, you won’t have the luxury of knowing what happened three seconds before a triggered event.

Image quality

Although the camera still offers 1080p, one complaint our tester expressed was the resolution on this camera, reporting a surprisingly “grainy” quality. But if you like Arlo and want a higher-quality camera (and also have the budget), the Arlo Ultra allows for 4K digital zooming, meaning you can zoom in on an event without sacrificing image quality or squinting through graininess. It also eliminates fisheye distortion, so you can get a more accurate representation of your home or yard.

Guide to Outdoor Security Cameras

How to find the right outdoor security camera for you

Think about the areas you want to monitor

Before diving into the outdoor security camera market, you first need to choose the areas you’d like to monitor. Considering the size of these areas is also important, as you may need additional cameras to cover any sneaky, dark hideaways, or areas that might be attractive to someone who might not want to be seen. This assessment also involves a careful calculation of your budget — you want to make sure you’re maximizing coverage at a cost that suits your lifestyle, especially if the company charges extra for monthly cloud storage.

Take stock of the home security system(s) you already use

The home security space can feel a tad disjointed at times, even though marketing terms like “compatible” and “plays well with” are thrown around to satisfy the growing interest in a cohesive smart home/ecosystem. If you’re someone who scoffs at the idea of using three or more different apps to control all of the gadgets in your home, the compatibility offerings for home security cameras should be an area of interest. One place to start the search is to make note of the wireless protocols your existing home security system uses and where your smart speaker allegiances lie.

If you’re starting from scratch, decide how automated you want your home to be and whether you want all of your gadgets to work in harmony. For example, if you have a smart thermostat, lock, or smoke detector, do you want to be able to monitor/control them from a home security app and link them to certain security automations (like unlocking the door when your smoke alarm goes off)?

Go with a product that makes you feel comfortable

By this we mean search for products that claim to dedicate efforts toward keeping your information as secure as possible, as anything connected to the internet is vulnerable to hacking. Headlines of hackers peering in on users via their security cameras have been a not-so-distant reality in 2019, but they also don’t represent the everyday, as long as you follow a set of best practices when it comes to internet use. The chances someone wants your data in particular are pretty unlikely, but we still recommend looking for companies that tout added security features, like two-factor authentication and secure encryption methods as your clips and information travel between the servers (or the cloud). Google Nest, for example, offers two-factor authentication for all of its devices, a feature that can potentially make it that much harder for a hacker to overtake your account.

However, there have been concerns raised by users that indicate Google Nest’s options for two-factor authentication aren’t strong enough (like phone and email) and still just as vulnerable to an attack. But Google — which has now absorbed Nest — has “centralized” on privacy and security in recent months, so changes within the Google Nest sphere are to be expected.

Outdoor Security Cameras FAQ

Where is the best place to put a security camera?

The choice is up to you and depends on what you expect to glean from a security camera. Generally, experts have told us that entryways, areas with high traffic, or known for holding valuables (like master bedrooms) are good places to start. If you have a long driveway or hidden back door, it might also be worth considering keeping eyes on these areas to keep track of who’s entering and exiting at all times.

Do cameras deter burglars?

It’s likely, especially if they’re presented as a package deal with a home security system. In fact, the presence of an alarm system in general might deter a burglar, according to one study conducted by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

How secure are outdoor security cameras?

Again, like anything connected to the internet, there’s a possibility that your information could be subjected to unwanted eyes. Security cameras have been of particular interest this year with all of the head-turning headlines about hackers communicating threatening information through the camera. In general, you’re relatively safe as long as you:

  • Stick to established brands
  • Update your password
  • Update software
  • Make sure your network is secure
  • Use two-factor authentication

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