Best Wireless Home Security Cameras
What Are the Best Security Cameras?
We've reviewed security cameras since 2012, spending over 105 hours in the last year alone testing each camera's quality in four categories: video, audio, ease of use and connection. We chose the Nest Cam Indoor as the best security camera overall because it has excellent video quality and is compatible with a variety of DIY smart home devices from Wink, IFTTT, Scout Alarm and more. With a long warranty and strong customer support availability, this security camera was the only one in our review to get a perfect customer support score.
The Flir FX has the best video quality overall. Flir is best known for its high-end infrared cameras, but it also offers home security cameras. The FX is one of only three cameras we tested to get a perfect score in our daytime video tests. Similarly, this camera performed admirably in night video tests.
If you want the best value in a security camera, it's difficult to find a better option that the Belkin NetCam HD+. This camera has excellent video quality, earning the only perfect score in our nighttime video quality tests. It doesn't have the best audio quality or many of the features you find in more expensive cameras, but it's affordable.
Ultimately, no home security camera is perfect, so the best camera for us may not be the best for you. We invite you to read our test experiences below and the reviews for each model to help you find the right security camera for your home.
How We Chose Security Cameras to Test
We chose indoor cameras, since inside is the best place to put your first one. Each camera we tested connects via a mobile app and Wi-Fi. We specifically focused on fixed cameras with a wide field of view, at least 80 degrees, so they can monitor an entire room from a corner.
Each security camera we tested has motion detection, notifications, and online resources such as FAQs and tutorials. Additionally, you can mount every camera on a wall or ceiling as your needs and the length of the power cable require. These standard features don't factor into our scores, but it's important to know they exist.
We chose cameras with similar pricing between $70 and $200, though cost doesn't play a role in our scores. In terms of features and quality, this is a step above budget security cameras. The cameras have 720p HD video resolution or greater and night vision, essential attributes in modern security cameras.
What We Tested
In our daylight tests, we wrote on a poster and placed it 16 feet away from the cameras to compare their video quality. We used two lighting settings: natural light with the room lights on and natural light by itself. In general, the video was better with the lights on than with natural light alone. The Flir FX and Foscam C2 had the best results with lights on. In natural, low-light conditions, the Nest Cam Indoor and the D-Link DCS-2630L were better.
Aside from overall daytime video quality, we also looked at each camera's clarity, which depends on resolution, focal length and the quality of the video sensor. Higher resolution yielded the best results in our clarity test, with 1080p cameras showing more detail than 720p models. The Flir FX, D-Link DCS-2630L and Netgear Arlo Q had the best clarity among 1080p cameras, while the Belkin NetCam HD+ was the best among 720p cameras.
Our daytime testing concluded with an evaluation of how each camera handled motion. The D-Link DCS-2630L and the Netgear Arlo Q recorded movement well, while some others had visible lag and image degradation. Internet connection can affect lag, so motion is usually worse on live video feeds. Recordings show less lag than live streams do, but it can happen.
Nighttime videos don't match the color or detail of daytime videos because they use infrared light instead of visible light. In fact, no cameras could read the poster from our daytime tests. Therefore, we evaluated the brightness of the nighttime picture instead, which was more detailed on cameras with brighter video. The top nighttime security camera was the Belkin NetCam HD+, which illuminated our room better than other models.
Our audio tests were simple: We listened for loud, clear audio. Some cameras were loud but difficult to understand. Other cameras gave us clear, quiet audio, making it harder to hear what was going on. The Foscam C2 had the best audio among the cameras we tested, with no distortion. You can use the mobile app and a built-in speaker to talk to anyone in the same room as each camera we tested except the Y-cam Indoor HDS.
Ease of Use
To test ease of use, we noted any problems we had during setup and if we contacted customer support. Cameras that quickly connected to Wi-Fi and required fewer setup steps scored well. The Samsung SmartCam HD Pro had the easiest installation. Next, we looked for intuitive mobile apps that show recordings, live streaming and basic settings on the first screen you see. The apps from Oco and D-Link were the easiest to navigate and use.
A good Wi-Fi connection is crucial to wireless security cameras, so we made this our final test. We connected each camera to our Wi-Fi network along with a video streaming service and a smartphone. If a camera's connection dropped, while the other devices and the router still worked, we deducted points accordingly.
Other Things to Consider When Buying a Security Camera
Video Storage: Local or Cloud?
There are two kinds of storage, local and cloud, neither of which have any effect on our scoring because it boils down to personal preference. The cameras with local storage use micro-SD memory cards to save video footage. This lets you access your video without subscription fees, though you might need extra memory cards or to write over older footage to keep your camera recording at all times.
Cloud storage holds more video than local storage, but there are often subscription fees, though you usually don't need a subscription to view a live feed. However, if you can't reach the company's video servers, you can't access the recordings. On the other hand, cloud storage is easier to use than local and is more likely to record everything the camera sees. The Y-cam Indoor HDS is the only camera in our review with free cloud storage.
Field of View
If you choose a camera with a very wide field of view, at least 160 degrees, you can expect to see every part of the room in front of the camera. The camera we reviewed with the widest field of view is the D-Link DCS-2630L at 180 degrees. A wide field of view, which most of the cameras we reviewed have, is anything larger than 80 degrees, and it works best if you mount the camera high in a corner that overlooks the room.
Digital zoom allows you to select part of the video and enlarge it. While this helps you get a closer look at something, the quality of a digitally enlarged video won't match that of the original. The Samsung SmartCam HD Pro has the highest digital zoom in the review at 10x.
Smart Home Platform
Before you buy, check if any home automation or DIY home security systems work with the camera. These systems can use Wi-Fi security cameras to control smart locks, thermostats and other devices in your smart home. Likewise, these devices can tell the camera to record or not, based on your personal preferences. The biggest appeal with these systems comes from using a single app to control all your smart home devices.
It’s common for consumer electronics to have a one-year warranty. Longer warranties give you more time to replace the unit if it stops working due to a manufacturing defect. The longest security camera warranty, found on both the Nest Cam and the Belkin NetCam HD+, is two years.
Contributing Reviewers: Amy Smith; Noel Case