Having CCTV and an alarm security system is a big deterrent against burglars and unwelcome intruders. Gone are the days when putting cameras and sensors into your home meant a complicated and expensive installation. You can now set up a full smart wifi security system with little fuss – and zero drilling – within 10 minutes.
These new connected smart camera systems sync to your smartphone to provide you with eyes on your home 24/7 no matter where you are. They also record footage, spot fires, sound alarms and the best of them even recognise when it’s the family – or even the family pet.
Unlike older alarms, they’re also portable, so you can take them with you when you move home. Perfect for some plug and play peace of mind.
So what should you consider before you buy a smart home security camera? Here are the key features to look out for.
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Most systems offer indoor and outdoor devices. It’s cheaper to buy a multi-camera bundle but also easy to add new cameras to your system as and when you need. All of the video and notifications can then be accessed from one app, by multiple family members.
Most external cameras require a bit more thought on the installation. Some are battery powered but others use a power source and that means some wall fixing and drilling for power cables. Most need to be close to wifi or a wireless hub and to be hooked up out of reach of thieves too. So it’s worth thinking these logistics through before you invest.
It’s also important to check whether they’re weatherproof and think about features such as optical zoom (for close ups on detail further away), night vision and if you can set the zones that trigger recording – essential if you want to avoid passers-by on the street setting it off.
Indoor cameras tend to be portable so you can drop them anywhere you like. As such, they’re often on show and design becomes important. You’ll also want to consider if the camera has a backup battery in case of power outages.
The majority of cameras let you fire up a smartphone app and view what’s going on live at home. The best cameras record continuously but flag up footage when something happens, usually when they detect motion or sound.
Some cameras offer familiar face recognition and pet detection to avoid triggering alerts and recording when family members are home. Other systems recognise who is home by the proximity of their mobile phone. This doubles as a way of safeguarding privacy too, so the camera isn’t recording everything your family does in the house – unless, of course you want it to.
Storage is another important consideration. How much video your camera captures, the size and duration of the video stored and how long backup files are held all affect how useful your camera is. In some cases you can view continuous footage 24/7, for others only the triggered events from the past 24 hours. And it’s very common to pay a premium subscription for the more extensive video capture.
If you’re already using an Alexa, Google or Apple smart home product it’s worth checking if your camera is compatible. And if you’re considering adding to your connected home with more cameras or a smart thermostat, this should come into the equation too. However, the unfortunate truth is that the manufacturer of the best smart thermostat doesn’t necessarily make the best wifi cameras.
With all that in mind, we’ve spent the past month living with the latest and best wifi smart security cameras to find the best you can buy. We rated them for design, ease of use, quality of footage, range of features and, of course, cost. Here are our top picks.
This is a stylish and capable, portable smart camera with a wider field of view than most, with high definition video capture and extremely clear automatic night vision.
The camera arms and disarms using the proximity of your family’s smartphones to recognise when they leave and return to the house. AI-powered person detection also learns to distinguish sights, sounds and movements to more accurately spot when there’s an intruder in your home, as opposed to a pet moving around.
Home, away and night modes let you customise when the camera records or sends smartphone alerts, including whether you allow live streaming when certain users are home.
You can trigger a deliberately, infuriatingly loud siren to scare intruders from your smartphone. For added peace of mind there’s also a built-in climate monitor that keeps track of temperature, humidity and air quality to flag up if things go awry. You will have to pay extra for some premium features such as longer term video storage, desktop streaming, and two-way talk.
Video storage: Yes, £79.99 a year or £7.99 per monthBackup battery: NoSmarthome compatible: Yes (Google Home, Alexa)Two-way talk: Yes (premium users only)Field of vision: 147 degreesCamera quality: 1080p HDExtendable system: YesSiren: 90 decibel
This one is a slick looking plug-and-play indoor camera that takes minutes to set up. The motion-detecting camera captures good quality footage in full HD with 8x digital zoom. Pet detection prevents four-legged false alarms while real intruder alerts can be set to flash up on multiple smartphones, where you can view live images and rewind by 10 seconds and trigger a siren to ward off unwanted interlopers.
When you are home a privacy shutter drops in front of the camera so you can be 100 percent sure you’re not being spied on. Somfy requires a power source but a backup battery keeps it running in a power outage and there’s a fire detector too.
If you want to store photos and videos you’ll have to pay extra. For £4.99 per month, images can be kept for seven days and for an additional £3.99 you get 24/7 access to clips of up to 10 minutes each time the camera is activated.
Video storage: Yes, £4.99 per monthBackup battery: Yes (6 hours)Smarthome compatible: Yes (Apple HomeKit)Two-way talk: Yes Field of vision: 130 degreesCamera quality: 1080p HDExtendable system: YesSiren: 90 decibel
With an attractive pale gold aluminium finish, the Netatmo is one of the best looking cameras we tested. It shoots full HD and offers good quality night vision footage but the standout feature is face recognition. This identifies when you, your partner, kids or cleaner when they enter the house so you can get an alert when your kids get home. It also protects their privacy, recording video footage recorded only when a stranger enters your home.
Registering the faces you want makes an otherwise simple set up a little bit more complex, as glasses sometimes fool it. You can record footage on the 8GB microSD card supplied and upload to your Dropbox account. Plus there are no subscription fees.
Siri and Google Assistant voice commands on your smartphone will fire up the live camera and you can even type a command into Facebook messenger to access a live stream. Netatmo is smart enough to spot and alert you when your other house alarms sound too.
Video storage: Yes, (local microSD and free cloud storage via Dropbox)Backup battery: Yes (6 hours)Smarthome compatible: Yes (Apple HomeKit, Google Home)Two-way talk: NoField of vision: 130 degreesCamera quality: 1080p HDExtendable system: YesSiren: No
Netgear’s HD outdoor camera is weatherproof and can be used entirely wirelessly thanks to a rechargeable battery that claims to last six months between charges, though we didn’t get to test it long enough to find out.
It connects wirelessly to a dedicated but quite bulky hub base that sits indoors. It has a decent 60 metre range and also houses a 100db alarm that’s loud enough to wake you in the house but may not scare off an intruder outside.
The Arlo Pro 2 sends alerts when visual movement is spotted and you can set it so that sounds trigger recordings too. It offers seven days of sound and motion-triggered recordings stored in the cloud for free or you can plug in a USB drive for local storage and backup.
There’s automatic night vision and the ability to set which camera zones trigger recording – useful if you live in a house where the front door is close to street where there’s lots of movement. It’s pricier than most but the two cameras, great image quality, wireless capabilities and subscription-free video storage are all part of the cost.
Video storage: Yes (local USB drive and 7-days free cloud storage)Backup battery: Already battery poweredSmarthome compatible: Yes (Amazon Alexa)Two-way talk: YesField of vision: 130 degreesCamera quality: 1080p HDExtendable system: YesSiren: 100 decibel
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly multi-camera system, Blink is it. The system’s two totally wireless, full HD cameras are battery powered with a two year lifespan on two AA batteries.
Installation is fuss-free and you can add up to 10 cameras to the system. A bit like the Arlo Pro 2 but on a tiny scale, a separate mains powered hub module links all the cameras into your home wifi. A 4G chip in this hub means it’ll keep on working even if your home internet goes down.
For under £200, you get motion-triggered video recording with free storage, instant smartphone alerts, live streaming and a temperature sensor to help spot fires.
There are some notable omissions. For instance, because video recording is triggered by a standard motion sensor, it won’t recognise whether it’s family members, the dog or Father Christmas moving about your home. But when you throw in subscription-free video storage, there’s plenty to like here and this has serious low-cost appeal.
Video storage: Yes, free cloud storageBackup battery: Already battery poweredSmarthome compatible: Yes (Amazon Alexa)Two-way talk: NoField of vision: 110 degreesCamera quality: 1080p HDExtendable system: YesSiren: No
Even though it lives outside, this weatherproof, tamper resistant camera still boasts Nest’s winning combination of stylish looks and smart features. It detects people up to 15m away and captures any funny business in crystal clear, HD video. Top-end 12x digital zoom also lets you close in on details further away without losing clarity. There’s infrared LEDs for night vision too and a ring light that glows when the camera starts recording as an added deterrent.
Installation is a bit more involved, you’ll need a drill to install the 360-degree rotating wall mount and make a hole for the power cable to reach an indoor plug. Though you can use an outdoor socket if you buy the weatherproof cable which is sold separately.
The camera is designed to be clever enough to trigger “person alerts” and record only when necessary, spotting the difference between a branch swaying and a person coming into view. While live streamed footage is free to view day and night though these alerts and video storage comes at a premium as part of the Nest Aware subscription. It costs between £40 and £80 a year, depending on how many days of video you choose to store.
Video storage: Yes, (from £40.00 per month)Backup battery: NoSmarthome compatible: Yes (Google Home, Amazon Alexa)Two-way talk: YesField of vision: 130 degreesCamera quality: 1080p HDExtendable system: YesSiren: No
Part of the wider Hive connected home range that includes smart thermostat, light bulbs and security sensors, View has a standout, distinct design. It comes in two stylish colours white/champagne gold and black/brushed copper and can be wall mounted.
It features motion, sound and person detection and you can adjust the sensitivity so you’re not getting false alarms. When you fire up the camera you get reliable live streaming to your smartphone and video capture with 8x digital zoom and automatic night vision. You can also choose when, who and what Hive records with the privacy mode, though there’s no shutter to block the lens.
We loved the “grab and go” feature where the lightweight cube camera disconnects from its stand so you can move it anywhere you want in the house.
Hive offers a competitive 24 hours of video playback for free in the partner app though for £4.99 you can upgrade and get a 30-day camera history along with SMS alerts.
Video storage: Yes, (24 hours free, upgraded from £4.99 per month)Backup battery: NoSmarthome compatible: Yes (Google Home, Amazon Alexa)Two-way talk: YesField of vision: 130 degreesCamera quality: 1080p HDExtendable system: YesSiren: No
A slightly different kind of security, rather than catching untowards entering your house, Pawbo is primarily aimed at keeping you connected to your cat or dog. However, with live video and a 130 degrees wide-angle lens, it gives you a window into what’s going on at home when you’re not there.
A built-in speaker can relay your voice to your dog to let it know you are coming home, theoretically. There’s also a light-pointer game which you can use to entertain your pet.
Its unique feature is that up to eight users can chat to your pet at one time, and you can capture images or video easily. But there’s no alert system to let you know if Fido is barking, say. There’s also no night vision on this product but there’s an optional camera light add-on, which happily looks like a pair of cat ears.
Unsurprisingly, you don’t get motion alerts with this camera either so it won’t quite work as a full security system but if you’re looking for a pet monitor anyway, this isn’t a bad bet for some general peace of mind.
Video storage: Yes, via Google Drive and DropboxBackup battery: NoSmarthome compatible: NoTwo-way talk: YesField of vision: 130 degreesCamera quality: 720p HDExtendable system: NoSiren: No, but ringtones to attract your pet’s attention
The real stand out here for its combination of simple design, plug and play ease of use, rich feature set and price is the Canary All-in-One. It’s the cheapest portable camera in this test, is really easy to extend with additional cameras and though we didn’t really like the £79.99 for ‘premium’ features, you actually don’t really need them.
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The big caveat here is that if you have a Nest or Hive thermostat, you might want to consider those simply so that you’re connected home is controlled in one app. And if you want to up your security on a budget, the Blink 2 camera system is hard to beat.
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