We spent more than two months testing 15 indoor Wi-Fi home security cameras, evaluating motion and sound sensitivity, alert types and frequency, speaker and microphone sound quality, smartphone apps, storage options, placement flexibility, and image quality, and the Logitech Logi Circle is the best choice for most people. The Logitech Logi Circle camera was the easiest to set up, the most flexible to place, and the most intuitive to use of all the cameras we tested.
The Logi Circle offers smart geofencing, free-for-life 24-hour cloud storage (plus longer storage plans for a fee), and good-enough image quality (including excellent dim and dark room performance). It’s also very versatile because it can run off of AC power or a built-in battery, so you can place it somewhere temporarily if need be. It’s also the least likely to annoy you because it combines an intuitive interface with motion-detection algorithms that limit the number of nuisance alerts it sends you.
If the Logi Circle is sold out or otherwise unavailable, get the Netgear Arlo Q, which offers very good A/V and still-photo quality in bright, dim, and no light, relatively easy setup, smart and welcome geofencing alerts, unique and customizable activity zones that limit where the camera will detect motion, and free seven-day video recording and storage, all of which offset its slightly higher-than-average price.
If you’re on a tighter budget, or if two-way chatting on your Wi-Fi camera or geofencing isn’t important or necessary for you, the Blink camera costs about half as much as our other picks. It’s also the only Wi-Fi camera model we’ve come across that’s designed to run on batteries (up to two years on two rechargeable AAs), which vastly increases its placement options, and it’s the only camera with a built-in video light to illuminate pitch-dark rooms. It also delivers excellent 720p video.
The Nest Cam is also a worthy camera, but with caveats. It offers some of the best audio and video performance, works with more smart-home devices than any other camera we reviewed, and includes an easy-to-use app and decent geofencing. However, after the first 10 days, there is no free video storage. It’s basically useful only for live viewing, unless you pay for a monthly or annual subscription. Also, some of the camera’s most useful features—like motion-detection algorithms and the ability to create clips and time lapses—can only be used if you’re a paying subscriber. These features come standard on our other picks.
As a freelance writer, I’ve covered technology for more than three decades and have attended more than 40 Consumer Electronics Shows (there used to be two CES a year). I’ve written reviews, trend and marketing essays, and history pieces for more consumer, trade, and hobbyist publications, both physical and virtual, than I’d care to think about. To name a few: Playboy, Rolling Stone, Huffington Post, re/code, NBC-Universal, CNET, Popular Science, eBay, Mashable, Stuff, Ubergizmo, Tom’s Guide, Digital Trends, Laptop, Techlicious, and many others both extant and, well, un-extant. I am also an elector for the Consumer Technology Association Hall of Fame and write the inductee bios and the industry’s official history.
None of the indoor cameras reviewed in this guide will actually make your home more secure. A home security system, such as the ones The Wirecutter recommends here, or just some smart lighting, will do a better job of that. In day-to-day use, your Wi-Fi camera will be more for home monitoring than home security. A DIY Wi-Fi camera can help provide some peace of mind, let you track household activity while you’re away, and, in the event of an actual break-in, it can alert you of the situation and possibly help end it sooner and catch the criminal.
If you’re looking for a closed-circuit security camera system, this is not it. There are systems that allow you to record locally onto microSD or other options (we will be reviewing those in a separate guide soon), but this review focuses on models that automatically record and backup footage to the cloud. This way, your footage is protected even if the camera itself gets stolen. But this is where we run into some moral dilemmas.
Wi-Fi cameras—perhaps more than any tech product other than camera-equipped drones—raise privacy issues, amplified since you’ll be spying on your own family, perhaps without them knowing that you’re watching them. And unlike local-storage cameras, that footage is uploaded to the cloud storage of some corporation and subject to their privacy policies and other legalese. For some folks, this presents a highly scuzzy creepiness factor for both spy-ee and spy-er.
Buying a Wi-Fi camera should be a household decision, with placement, usage, and viewing agreed on by everyone concerned. This means deciding which camera is best for you may depend on how obvious you want it to be, and at what functions it excels, and what and when it records.
For instance, checking in on kids or pets doesn’t require a camera that continuously records, but you may want a model that lets you manually record—if the person at the other end doesn’t mind being recorded.
First, we researched more than 40 models, and after noting trends in feature sets and pricing we settled on the 15 we wanted to test ourselves.
This was not an easy choice; at various points during our testing we considered three other models. The problem is that Wi-Fi cameras are not exactly TVs—you just can’t look at the picture quality and say “that’s the best” and be done with it. There is no camera model that includes all of the best or most desirable features. Aside from having A/V capabilities, each Wi-Fi camera model offers a plethora of nuance in everything it does, and each attribute must be taken into account since there are so many variable usage situations.
These cameras have gotten a lot more capable and affordable in the years since we first reviewed and recommended the original Dropcam Pro. It’s now to the point where you can expect a decent feature set out of any competitor worth considering. We found that you should expect to pay about $150 to $220 for a camera that has all the features you’d want:
There are also a few features you may think you want, but really aren’t so crucial:
As we boiled down qualifying models, we also considered cloud recording optimal vs. local recording on a microSD card—as noted, if someone decides to steal your camera, then they’ve also stolen any incriminating footage. We also favored models that included at least some free storage so you don’t have to shell out money every month just to have a record of what happened at home that day.
And, of course, easy setup was a must. In usage, ease of navigating the app interface and its settings, as well as performance consistency, helped determine our final picks.
Here are the models we tested:
We set up all 15 cameras we managed to get our hands on across a single shelf in my New York City apartment, all pointing in the same direction—across my living room. We then set up each one to the same 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network, where possible. Each camera indicated varying signal strength so, in a couple of instances, we used either a different 2.4GHz network with a stronger signal, or a 5GHz network where allowed by the camera.
To judge video and still image quality, we placed printed signs with the name of the camera in small and large fonts as well as a printed color bar across from the cameras, then captured short videos and still photos in both wide and digital-zoomed views, zooming in as much as the camera allowed.
To test how well each camera could hear, we placed a speaker across from the cameras and played music, then listened in to each remotely. To test how well someone in the room could hear someone talking to them through the camera, we placed a recorder across them, then, using the push-to-talk capabilities of each camera’s app (where available), we recited a set speech that included letters, numbers and text, from another room. I also conducted “conversations” with my wife—even though none of these cameras are really built for true full duplex back-and-forth chatting—to test each a bit more subjectively.
Choosing a Wi-Fi camera isn’t a matter of simply identifying the “best” one, but of finding the best one for your situation. Like the other cameras we looked at, our pick, the Logitech Logi Circle, is a compromise: It may not have the best picture quality or the most advanced image recognition, but it works in a wider range of usage situations, has fewer flaws, and just has more useful features to recommend it and fewer fatal flaws than the other cameras we tested.
Logitech’s Logi Circle sets up more easily and includes more useful features and functions, and fewer annoyances, than any of the cameras we tested. It operates on a battery as well as AC, so you can place it in more locations. It also offers free 24-hour cloud storage for videos, creates a unique 30-second review of the last 24 hours of footage it has captured, remains more selective in the number of alerts it sends out, and performs better than the competition in dim light.
First, setup is ridiculously simple. Most cameras require you to first pair the camera to your smartphone before pairing the camera to your network. That first pairing usually involves connecting to the camera’s own Wi-Fi network or using a supplied QR code. But the Logitech Circle requires none of this initial camera-to-phone pairing. When you turn the Circle on and you open the Circle app on your smartphone, the two just find each other. It’s then just a matter of picking out which Wi-Fi network you want to connect to and entering its password. Next, you create an account for cloud storage by entering an email address and creating a password. No fuss, no muss.
Then there’s the Circle’s placement flexibility. Instead of a fixed base, the Circle comes in two pieces: a camera sphere and a magnetic charging ring. There’s a third mounting ring, which lets you temporarily or permanently with screws mount the Circle on a wall. Because the camera can be swiveled and tilted on its charging ring, the Circle can be pointed in more directions than most cameras that have to be mounted more carefully in just the right position.
The camera sphere also can be used away from the charging ring on its 1,600-mAh rechargeable battery; it’ll run for two hours continually (recording only when alerted) in night vision; or 3 hours, 15 minutes continually in day mode (recording only when alerted); or for 12 hours in power-saving mode, which means the camera will be off, then switched on and recording only when it detects motion.
This battery option means you can place the Circle temporarily where you think you might need it, such as a baby’s room or where a contractor may be doing some work in your home. You can also move both the camera sphere and the charging ring to another room without breaking the camera’s Wi-Fi connection. Aside from the 720p Blink, the Circle is the only Wi-Fi camera we’ve run across with this dual AC/battery flexibility.
The Circle’s app is also incredibly simple, and made simpler by a recent update. When you open the app, you get a full horizontal view of what the camera sees. Tap the menu stripes on the top left-hand corner or swipe right to get a simple icon-based menu with the Circle’s varying—and user friendly—options. On the bottom right is a camera icon to capture a still photo and, under that, a push-to-talk icon. And that’s about it; it’s the simplest Wi-Fi camera app we’ve run across. No multiple menus in different places to drill through with sub menus and sub sub menus, so new users won’t have trouble figuring it out.
Arrayed vertically along the right border are: a scrollable menu of circled, time-stamped event clip recordings; a live view button; and a yellow circle labeled Day Brief. Day Brief presents a 30-second (or so) capsule review of the important recorded events of the past 24 hours, a cool and quick way to see what happened during the day, a feature unique to the Circle.
The Circle’s slightly more expansive than average 135-degree view is a bit warped by barrel distortion, but not distractingly so. In a bright room, the Circle’s image clarity and color doesn’t compare with the Nest Cam, the Samsung SmartCam HD Pro, or the surprisingly good Foscam C2. But as the light gets dimmer, the Circle’s image stays brighter, clearer, and more colorful than those of the other models.
You will also lose a little detail when you digitally zoom in 8x when compared with the excellent image quality of the Samsung, Nest Cam, Foscam C2, and Netgear Arlo—the 72-point printed “Logitech Logi Circle” sign we had made was fuzzy, but still readable compared with sharper, more readable images from other models—but this isn’t a dealbreaker considering how infrequently you’ll need to zoom in so deeply.
Without the zoom—just a straight 135-degree view—and in standard room light, there was little qualitative difference between the Circle and the other models. That 72-point sign was clearly readable from across the room, offering enough detail to make faces clearly identifiable in most lighting conditions.
The Circle performed among the best aurally; sound came through loud and clear thanks to the Circle’s mic, and its perimeter speaker delivered messages loudly and clearly. Anyone in the room will be able to hear you’ve said something even with a TV on, and they’ll understand you as long as it’s relatively quiet. Whether the dog obeys a disembodied voice to get off the sofa depends on how smart your dog is.
Where the Circle really excels is with motion and alert selectivity: You’ll receive push alerts to your smartphone when the device detects motion or sound every minute, 15 minutes, or 30 minutes, depending on your preference. We found that setting it to send alerts every 15 minutes seemed like a good middle ground. The Circle’s scene-intuition algorithm analyzes and filters motion well enough that it alerts you only if it actually detects something it deems important. It effectively ignores everything else—such as moving shadows from a tree branch outside a window or a bug flying by the camera. The Circle will still pick up moving people and animals (most of the alerts you’ll get will be from family members and pets), so you’ll still get alerts triggered by unwanted intruders. You can also enable a recently added person-detection feature, which allows it to send alerts only when it detects a person, and skips things like dogs and cats. Best of all, it will continue to record everything, regardless of whether it issues an alert. This is an ideal approach because you’ll definitely avoid a lot of annoying false-positive notifications, and you’re also guaranteed not to miss any potentially important recordings.
We got far fewer alerts with the Circle than we did with any other model. Most other cameras that use less discriminatory motion sensing can wind up sending multiple alerts per minute when they detect an event—even if it’s a false positive. The only other model we tested with comparable scene analysis was the Netatmo Welcome, which uses facial recognition before deciding whether to send you an alert. Another new feature is the ability to create custom motion zones: From the Web portal (not the app), you can define areas of the camera’s view you want to receive alerts about. The camera will still record events in your timeline from outside the defined area, but it will send you smartphone alerts based on motion only within the custom zones.
The Circle stores recorded events and generated Day Briefs for 24 hours, but you can save each day’s brief to your phone’s camera roll using the app, or your PC if you check the Circle through your Web browser. Alternatively, you can email them to yourself. This functionality is included in the cost of the camera. In December, the company debuted a 14-day cloud storage plan for $4 per month to its Circle Safe subscription service. You can also pay $10 a month (or $100 for the year) for a 30-day storage plan, starting with a 31-day free trial; Logitech will store 31 days of footage to review older events, retroactively create Day Briefs, or download clips.
The Circle also includes Smart Location geofencing, which you can turn on or off in the menu. You can’t adjust the size or boundaries, but Circle’s alert selectivity makes up for that lack of geofencing customization—you’ll be alerted only when you really need to be alerted. Following a recent update, you can now set the Circle to recognize when you’re home, to stop alerts. If you live in a large home, however, you may want to keep the alerts coming so that you’ll know if something is happening in a distant room.
Integration with Apple’s HomeKit is coming, as is compatibility with the Logitech Harmony home control system, though the company hasn’t said when those features will be enabled.
Aside from its middling A/V performance—not bad, just not the best—the Circle is lacking some features and options that we like in other models. For instance, it doesn’t let you know when it switches from Home to Away mode (and vice versa) the way the Netgear Arlo does when you leave a geofenced area.
Other reviewers, from CNET and PCMag, also lament this lack of customizability. But the company says its Scene Intuition technology makes such adjustments unnecessary, and we agree after testing it. We think most people would rather have this function handled for them as opposed to tweaking settings themselves. Logitech’s most recent firmware updates have filled those gaps. That said, Logitech told us that the ability to tweak the settings should be coming in a future update—the company plans to update the Circle’s app and capabilities every six weeks, and we believe this claim based on Logitech’s track record. For instance, in mid-July it added smart geofencing, and in September it added extended cloud storage options. The company says the Circle is capable of many other tricks that merely need to be turned on and to have their interfaces and controls added.
There’s no facial recognition, as is found in the Netatmo Welcome, so it can’t tell the difference between a relative and an intruder. Also, we wish the camera’s 135-degree view wasn’t quite as fish-eyed as it is, although it’s not as ridiculously severe as it is on the iControl Piper.
Perhaps our biggest complaint about the Circle is its lack of manual video recording capabilities. If you see something cute or nefarious happening at home while you’re away that you want to capture for posterity or evidence, you’ll have to rely on the automatic Away mode to capture the action for you, though you can take still photos from within the app.
Considering video and audio quality, alert types, customization flexibility, and, perhaps most important, ongoing costs, the Netgear Arlo Q was our close second choice. The Logi’s ease of use, placement versatility, and lower up-front costs make it a better pick for most people, but if video quality, detection customization, and longer clip storage—including continuous recording—are more important, the Arlo is a great pick.
The Arlo is not as simple to set up as the Logitech Logi Circle, though it’s not difficult. Pairing the Arlo Q with your Wi-Fi network requires placing a QR code from the app in front of the camera to read, then a chime indicates the two are paired. Unlike other cameras, it’s easy to shift from one network to another without resetting the camera and potentially losing your clips.
The Arlo’s video and audio quality is among the best of the cameras we tested, presenting bright, sharp, and colorful 130-degree video and still images in both bright and dim light, even when 8x digital zoomed in. Night mode produced exceptionally crisp images, but they didn’t look as bright as the Logi’s. Images have only minimal warping around the edges . The Arlo’s speaker loudness ranks toward the middle of the pack, but the camera’s microphone picks up sound clearly in recordings.
Along the bottom of the screen are control icons for manual video and still photo capture, scene brightness (a feature we haven’t seen on other models), push-to-talk speaker, and speaker on/mute.
In geofencing mode, the Arlo helpfully lets you know when it’s in Home or Away mode, but sometimes its reckoning is wildly inaccurate. I left my apartment and, a block away, got a notification that it had switched to Away mode. Groovy. But half a block farther away, I was informed it was back in Home mode, before getting another notification that Arlo was back in away mode a few seconds later. This problem, which we attribute mostly to the usual GPS vagaries and hiccups, could result in you not receiving alerts when an intruder is present when you’re out but still in the neighborhood.
The Arlo also offers the most detection and sensitivity customization among the cameras we tested. You can adjust the size of its geofenced area and see that size on a map, then decide if the Arlo will detect either motion and/or sound, and you can customize its motion/sound sensitivity levels. The Arlo also lets you define multiple activity zones within its view by letting you crop a portion of the scene it has to pay any attention to, while ignoring anything outside of the defined zone.
Unfortunately, these settings are buried in multiple Byzantine menus under Mode. Perusing the online user guide is recommended. And even with sensitivity levels set low, we still got way too many motion alerts.
Finding your clips is much easier. Under Library you get a scrollable calendar timeline; a date on which there are clips available are shown in bold face. Tap the date, and you get a list of video clips.
Another unique feature is Arlo’s security. You can set the app to operate only after you let it read your fingerprint on both iOS and Android phones, which is helpful if you’re afraid your phone could fall into the wrong hands.
Arlo recently announced integration with the SmartThings system, so if you link the camera to a SmartThings hub, when the camera detects motion, it can trigger other actions through the hub, such as setting off a siren. The Arlo cameras can also be linked via the cloud to other things through IFTTT. For instance, you can create a recipe to automatically turn on a Philips Hue light if the Arlo detects motion. IFTTT integrations aren’t always reliable, but they can extend the usefulness of connected products.
One downside to the Arlo is its price—it is the most expensive of the cameras we tested. But, for the slightly higher price, you get free seven-day rolling event video capture and cloud storage, more than anyone else offers for free, so there’s no need for an added subscription. Netgear offers extended plans, including for continuous video recording (CVR), if you need one—$9.99/month or $99/year per camera for 14 days of CVR storage, $19.99/month or $199/year per camera for 30 days of CVR storage. Additional event-only plans are also available.
Among the Wi-Fi cameras we tested, the Blink is clearly the most unique and flexible. Like the Logitech Logi Circle, the Blink cameras can operate via AC or battery. But unlike the Circle, Blinks are designed to operate primarily on a battery—up to two years of “normal” operation (recording 4,000 five-second video clips per year) or up to five years with limited recording on a pair of replaceable lithium ion AA batteries. You’ll get a notification when the battery needs to be recharged or replaced.
This battery operation allows you to place Blink cameras, each a light and compact 2.75 by 2.75 by 0.75 inches, almost anywhere, even stuck unobtrusively to a wall using double-sided tape.
You’ll notice we refer to Blinks in the plural. That’s because the Blink system is designed (and priced) so you can purchase multiple cameras for inexpensive multiroom coverage. Instead of connecting each camera to Wi-Fi, Blink cameras instead are easily paired to a single Blink sync module, which means each additional camera can be cheaper. One Blink camera with a sync module is $99, but each additional Blink camera is just $70. Or, you can buy a bundle of two cameras with a sync module for $160, a three-camera set for $220—the same price as a single Netgear Arlo—or five for $340, less than the cost of two other cameras on our test list.
And it’s not like you’re getting a cheap camera. True, the Blinks shoot video only at 720p, but we found it tough to differentiate between Blink clip quality and the 1080p footage from more expensive models. Still photos, including those digitally zoomed to 4x, also are among the sharpest, brightest, and most colorful of all the models we tested.
You also get motion sensitivity adjustments (although the Blink doesn’t provide sound detection) for each camera. It lets you set the alert retrigger time up to 60 seconds, so you’re not inundated with alerts, and it lets you limit video clip length up to 10 seconds, so you can see just what you need to see.
The app and the single-camera Blink settings are easy to navigate. And there’s a single-motion Arm/Disarm detection toggle for each camera right on the app’s home screen.
What Blinks don’t have is a speaker, so no talking to people or pets in the room, and they lack night vision, which makes it significantly less useful for capturing anyone sneaking around in the dark. But what Blinks offer instead of night vision is an “illuminator”—Blinks can shine an LED light either manually or automatically when motion is detected on a dark scene at one of three brightness intensity levels. And this light, even at the lowest level, is surprisingly bright. Illuminator will ruin any surreptitious recording and alert nighttime intruders that they’re being watched or recorded, but not before the Blink captures and stores on the cloud a brightly lit and colorful clip of the perp.
Perhaps best of all, the Blink doesn’t offer ANY cloud storage subscription plans. The Blink provides free—that’s free—event clipping cloud storage, with no limit on the number of clips or storage time frame.
It may not be as fancy as the Circle or Arlo, and it lacks a speaker, but the Blink was a legitimate option for our top pick for its value alone.
Alphabet’s Nest Cam Indoor is at or near the top in video quality, zoom quality, lowlight performance, and aural performance. Its setup, its app, its alert capabilities, its consistency—all above average, among the best of all the models we tested. This is why its name is synonymous with all products of this type, and it’s also why it was our top pick for several years. But while it’s still very good, its high running costs make it difficult to recommend for anyone who isn’t already locked into the Nest smart-home ecosystem.
The Nest Cam enjoys—at the moment—the most compatibility with other smart-home devices through the Works with Nest program, which includes Philips Hue bulbs, Skybell doorbell cameras, MyQ garage door controller, and IFTTT. This may change once more Apple HomeKit devices become available, especially since Nest Cam will likely never be HomeKit compatible because it’s part of the Alphabet/Google family.
When you buy the Nest Cam, you get 10 days of 24/7 continuous video recording. After this trial period, you’re required to pay—$10/month or $100/year for Nest Aware service to store and view any recordings stored in the cloud for 10 days, $30/month or $300/year for 30 days of storage. Most other cameras offer some sort of free recording tier that continues beyond the trial period, even if limited. If you don’t subscribe to Nest Aware, you’ll only be able to look at footage from the three hours preceding an alert.
Granted, most security camera subscription costs are in about the same price range. But what’s really annoying in this case is that you have to pay $10 a month for Nest Aware simply to use many of the Nest Cam’s features that come standard on our pick and other cameras. If you want access to Nest’s “advanced algorithms” that “send you more intelligent motion and audio alerts,” or to get finer image recognition, such as person alerts (which can distinguish a moving human from an animal) or activity zones (alerts based on what happens in customized areas within the camera’s field of view), or even the basic ability to look at time lapses or create and download video clips, you’ll have to subscribe. Our top picks and most other cameras we looked at, including the Logi Circle and the Netgear Arlo, give you all of their image recognition and optimization features up front.
At one time or another during our testing process, we considered several models for our top choice, including the Canary and the Netatmo Welcome; on the budget side, top contenders with Blink were the SimpleHome Pan & Tilt and the EZViz Mini. While both of these models had something to make them worth our recommendation, both suffered near-fatal flaws.
Like the Logitech Logi Circle, the Canary is judicious with detection alerts and offers above-average video and still-photo quality. The Canary also includes three features we like: If you are notified of and then see an intruder, you can activate a 90-decibel siren (the Piper is the only other model we tested with such a siren); a unique emergency call option on the Watch Live screen lets you call your local police, fire, or medical services right from the app; and, night mode, which works like an away mode to record clips when movement is detected, except it does this even when you’re home and perhaps snug in your bed asleep, oblivious to what’s going on elsewhere in your abode. If you have a Wink smart-home hub, you can connect a Canary to it and integrate its built-in siren and sensors to your system. But the Canary is one of the largest cameras we tested, which makes it a bit more obvious and may limit where you can stash it. It also switches to night vision in light that other models continue to show in full color and doesn’t offer two-way communication. Like with the Logi Circle, you get 24 hours of free continuous video storage on a cloud server before you have to buy a subscription.
We loved the Netatmo Welcome‘s ability to recognize faces over a period of time and exclude them from any potential alert notifications, its Welcome Home notification (although I wish it also had an “away mode activated” alert as well), its ability to add on motion detection door and window detecting Tags for additional security, and its odd yet simple setup (you turn it upside down to pair it with your home Wi-Fi network) and operation. But the constant need to confirm otherwise already identified faces got a bit grating, and the camera kept defaulting to a low resolution video setting to compensate for what we figure is a shaky Wi-Fi connection (which wasn’t an issue with any other camera, and we tried it on multiple networks), with no way we could find to manually set it to 1080p. There also was no digital zoom we could locate, nor was there any push-to-talk capability.
I loved the motorized pan-and-scan capability of the inexpensive SimpleHome Pan & Tilt, one of the few P&T consumer models in the market, which lets you scan around a room rather than be limited to only what the camera is pointed at. SimpleHome P&TV also can zoom up to 18x with decent clarity, and its video and audio quality were above average. But setup required multiple frustrating pairing attempts and, even set to its lowest sensitivity level, we were peppered with numerous unnecessary alerts a minute.
The EZViz Mini also offered above-average video and audio results for its lowest Wi-Fi camera price. But its app interface presents a four-camera video even though you might only have one camera, which we found a constant annoyance, and after the first month you have to subscribe to a CloudPlay cloud clip access and storage subscription plan ($5.99 month/$59.99 year 7-day storage; $10.99 month/$109.99 year 30-day storage)—costs the Blink doesn’t have.
Like the Canary, the Piper includes a ridiculously loud siren (105 decibels!). It also lets you know the temperature and humidity. But its circular 180-degree view of a room is so extremely warped and fish-eyed that it’s virtually useless, although, thankfully, you can pinch and zoom for less warped views. Plus, you can only get alerts emailed to you—no push or text messages, it lacks geofencing, and it’s among the largest cameras on the market, limiting its placement. The Piper can also act as a Z-Wave hub, but it’s fairly limited in that respect compared with dedicated hubs like SmartThings and Wink.
Belkin’s WeMo NetCam HD provided decent video and excellent aural qualities, but setting up it was painful – it simply wouldn’t find our 2.4GHz network, it’s videos and photos were of lower quality with a brownish-yellowish tint, there is no digital zoom of any kind, and after a 30-day free trial of the company’s iSecurity+ service, you have to start paying for motion-detection notification, to automatically record video and save photos.
We liked the speed of initial connection and the video quality of the Samsung SmartCam, but its app is confusing, it required multiple passwords in a specific format, its speaker was barely audible, and we found it impossible to upgrade the camera’s firmware. The Samsung is one of the few cameras compatible with the SmartThings hub.
The surprising Foscam C2 also delivered top-notch video and audio quality and includes a microSD card slot, but it took us several attempts to successfully connect it to our network, it requires multiple passwords to access the camera and the footage, and even though we turned the motion and sound detection off, we continued to get alerts.
We had multiple D-Link cameras to test, and we could connect none of them, even after spending a half hour on the phone with their customer service people and moving the camera all around the apartment to get closer and farther away from the router and using a wired Ethernet connection. Most amazingly, the support web URL printed on the camera’s packaging doesn’t lead anywhere.
With Apple’s iOS 10, we are likely to see many cameras announce HomeKit compatibility this year and next. And as smart-home ecosystems continue to expand, we expect more compatibility to come for all cameras save, perhaps, the Nest Cam, which exists in its own universe. Like Logitech’s promised regular updates, we are told by most makers that more features and functions are pending—hopefully, there’ll be a certain amount of, let’s say, borrowing, so there is a bit more consistency of at least the types of features each camera offers (night mode and facial recognition at the top of my wish list for all cameras), so we can better judge them based on how they perform these matched functions.
We’re also looking forward to testing models we weren’t able to get our hands for this roundup, such as the Aposonic SpotCam, which also offers free-forever 24-hour recording, albeit 720p, the Oco 2, and the Myfox Security Camera, the only camera with a privacy shutter and which also offers 24/7 professional monitoring for $9.99/month, the same price some camera makers charge just to store your event clips. Just as this guide was going live, Canary announced the new Flex, an indoor/outdoor camera that drops the additional sensors of the original Canary but adds a rechargeable battery and a 4G LTE option.
In October 2016, Netgear released the $250 Arlo Pro, which improves on the original Arlo by adding a rechargeable battery, a digital infrared motion sensor, and a microphone and speaker. Netgear says the rechargeable battery will last for around four to six months, but we want to confirm that claim for ourselves. We’ve called in the Arlo Pro, and we will update this guide when we’ve finished testing.
At CES 2017, Polaroid announced its $200 Hoop security camera. The Hoop shoots video at 1080p with a 140-degree view of a room. It’s able to distinguish between people and animals, and can work with an app and push notifications to alert you if movement is detected within a designated area. We’ll check it out when it’s available later this spring.
In February 2017, D-Link released the Omna 180 Cam HD. Priced at $200, the Omna has a 180-degree wide-angle lens and Full HD 1080p resolution. It also uses a microSD card slot for storing photos and videos instead of an automatic cloud backup. You can control the camera with Apple HomeKit and the Omna smartphone app.
As noted, which camera you end up choosing is a matter of matching each one’s unique capabilities and pricing to your usage needs. There is no one-size-fits-all “best” option.
Logitech’s Logi Circle is missing some key functions but is the easiest to set up and operate and the most all-around flexible option. Netgear’s Arlo Q offers not only high-quality imaging along with longer free cloud storage, but also the deepest customization options. The Blinks provide the least expensive, but still nearly fully featured, solution for multiroom situations.
Originally published: September 23, 2016