Need to keep an eye on your abode from anywhere? Small, standalone Wi-Fi security cameras (also called IP cameras) are easy to set up, can stream video to your phone, tablet or PC, and will send you notifications if they detect motion or loud noises. Most cameras also provide night vision and automatic motion-activated recording.
We tested several of the best IP cameras on the market and rated each based on its performance, ease of use and affordability. Based on these criteria, our top pick is the Netgear Arlo Q ($220 at Amazon). We found that it had the best software, the most flexible options and the most affordable cloud-storage subscription plan of the cameras we tested.
A close runner-up is the Nest Cam ($199 at Amazon), which matches similarly excellent software with an attractive and sturdy design. [UPDATE: On March 21, 2017, vulnerabilities were found that could let attackers disable Nest Cams via Bluetooth. Nest Labs said it was working on a fix that would be available in a few days. We will update this story with further developments.]
How We Tested
We evaluate each Wi-Fi security camera's design, setup process, feature set, mobile app, video performance and overall value. In terms of design, we note each camera's aesthetics but pay particular attention to its size relative to other cameras.
We penalize a camera if it requires an excessive amount of time to set up, or suffers from a confusing setup process. We also dock points if a camera lacks important features offered by the competition, such as programmable security modes or scheduled recordings. However, this can be offset if a camera provides other unique or particularly helpful features.
We rate each camera's mobile app for its reliability and its design, and pay particular attention to the intuitiveness of the interface. We gauge performance by the camera's resolution and field of view, the reliability of remote viewing and the quality of the video (colors and detail).
Finally, we factor in whether a camera offers cloud storage for recorded video clips. Although manufacturers charge up to $30 per month for this service, cloud storage lets you access video without the hassle of removing a storage card from the camera and inserting it into your computer using an adapter. Cameras that use only local storage also run the risk of losing any recorded video if the camera itself is stolen.
Editors' Note: Are you looking for a complete home automation system? If so, fill out this quick form and our partner, BuyerZone, will connect you with home automation companies to walk you through integrated options for your home:
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