Tom's Guide Verdict
The Ecobee SmartCamera is a good home security camera that can track a person as they cross a room, and has Alexa built in.
Wide field of view
Good person tracking
Integrates well with Ecobee's home security platform
Less video storage than competitors
More expensive than other home security cameras
Why you can trust Tom's Guide
Camera resolution: 1080p
Field of view: 180 degrees
Image sensor: 5MP
Wireless: 802.11 b/g/n @ 2.4GHz, 802.11 a/n/ac @ 5GHz
Size: 4.2 x 2.3 x 1.7 inches
Works with: Alexa, Apple HomeKit
Cloud video storage: 14 days
Ecobee first made its name with some of the best smart thermostats, but now it’s branching out with the straightforwardly-named Ecobee SmartCamera. This $179 home security camera records 1080p video, has motion-tracking and person detection, and even has Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant built-in.
The SmartCamera can work in conjunction with the sensors in Ecobee’s smart thermostats, as well as the company’s remote sensors, to alert you of intruders. It’s a clever extension of the abilities already baked into the excellent Ecobee smart thermostat. By adding the SmartCamera — a very good home security camera with Alexa support — you can keep your home warm and safe at the same time. But our Ecobee SmartCamera review found that the device needs a few more refinements before it makes our list of the best home security cameras.
Ecobee SmartCamera: Price and availability
Ecobee is selling the SmartCamera by itself for $179. You can also buy it as part of a bundle:
- Total Home Comfort and Security Bundle ($499): SmartThermostat, SmartCamera, SmartSensor 2-pack, and SmartSensor for doors and windows.
- Home Security Bundle ($279): SmartCamera, SmartSensor 2-pack, and SmartSensor for doors and windows.
Additional SmartSensors for doors and windows cost $79 per two-pack, though a Sensor Coverage Bundle ($99) is a better choice, as it includes two SmartSensors and two SmartSensors for doors and windows.
Ecobee SmartCamera: Design
Ecobee’s SmartCamera is rectangular with rounded corners. The face of the camera is a glossy black, not unlike that of the Ecobee thermostat, while the rest of the case is a matte white. On the top of the camera are two touch-sensitive controls for turning off its microphones and activating Alexa.
The SmartCamera measures roughly 2.2 inches wide, 4 inches tall (without its stand), and 1.5 inches deep. It’s not as compact as Arlo’s cameras, but it’s small enough so that you’ll probably forget about it, until you hear Alexa speaking out of it.
The camera has two mounting points — one on the bottom, and one on the rear — where you can attach its conical stainless steel base. You can physically tilt the camera on its base by a few degrees vertically, which is nice, but the camera itself has a 180-degree field of view.
The base itself has a small slot where you can hook it onto a screw in a wall, much as you would a painting. The screw, as well as an anchor, is included, as is a reasonably long power cord.
Ecobee SmartCamera: Performance and video quality
The Ecobee SmartCamera records video at a resolution of 1080p, and has a 180-degree field of view —much larger than that of a lot of other home security cameras. But what’s more, the camera has a clever feature called SmartFocus, which, when it detects a person, will digitally pan and zoom to keep them in the middle of the frame.
During daylight, I found SmartFocus worked well, keeping up with me as I moved around my living room. However, it has a maximum effective range of about 14 feet, so SmartFocus won’t be as effective in larger rooms.
You can also manually pan and zoom the camera in the Ecobee app; the on-screen controls were very responsive, and the camera moved within half a second. Digital zoom isn’t as good as optical zoom — things get a bit splotchier — but it was good enough so that I could make out my dog, who was about 20 feet from the camera.
Other features in the SmartCamera include person detection, so the camera won’t be triggered by your dog wandering around. And, while the camera is not water-resistant, you can point it out a window and enable Window Mode, which disables the camera’s infrared lights to eliminate reflections at night. You can also create activity zones, as well as adjust the motion sensitivity of the camera.
I was generally pleased with the quality of the SmartCamera’s video. While not as crisp as what we've seen from Arlo's cameras, daytime footage was sharp and colorful, and I could easily make out the features of a person (me) as he walked across the room.
Nighttime video was a bit blotchier, but it was still easy to make out my features, and the camera was still able to easily track me as I walked around a room.
The maximum length of any captured video is 2 minutes, which should be enough time to identify any intruder, but other cameras, such as the Arlo Q, can record video for up to 5 minutes. What’s more, you can also customize the length of Arlo’s recordings.
Ecobee SmartCamera: Security features
One of the best features of the Ecobee smart thermostat is a wireless temperature and occupancy SmartSensor; place this sensor in a room that takes a while to cool or warm up, and you can program the Ecobee to keep the AC or heat on until the remote sensor gets to the desired temperature, but only if it detects a person in the room.
With Ecobee Haven, the company is expanding the functionality of these sensors to alert the system if they detect a person while you’re away. In addition, the company is introducing door/window sensors that have a 3-year battery life and an 80-foot range. Both types of sensors can be paired either with the Ecobee thermostat or the SmartCamera, though the sensors can’t be used to trigger the SmartCamera to start recording.
One of the key features of Ecobee Haven system, which includes the Ecobee SmartCamera, is called Autopilot, which can automatically arm and disarm your system based on your or one of your family members’ phones; you can create up to 15 accounts for family members.
Within the Ecobee app, there are three modes: Arm Away, which sends your motion and entry alerts from all devices; Arm Stay, which only sends you alerts from door and window sensors; and Disarm. You can customize from which sensors you receive alerts — including the SmartCamera and SmartThermostat — and manually switch between the three modes, but there’s no way to create a schedule for when the system changes modes.
Keep in mind that Ecobee’s system will only send an alert to your phone; there are no plans to add professional monitoring, nor is there a button within Ecobee’s app that can connect you to emergency services.
Ecobee SmartCamera: Video storage fees
Ecobee is offering two video storage plans: The Essential plan includes Home monitoring + Autopilot video storage for one device for $5/month, while the Extended plan lets you store video from an unlimited number of devices for $10/month. Both plans only store videos for 14 days. And, you don’t get the Autopilot feature unless you subscribe, so you have to manually turn your system on or off.
The Extended plan looks to be a good, but not great deal. Most other home security cameras offer at least 30 days of storage when you sign up for a subscription. However, none offer as low prices for as many cameras. For example, the Arlo Premier Plan for up to five cameras costs $10 per month. So if you want to create a mini surveillance state around your house, Ecobee’s Extended plan could be the way to go.
- Arlo vs. Nest vs. Ring: Who has the best security camera storage plan?
Ecobee SmartCamera: Smart home compatibility
Similar to Ecobee’s current and past-generation smart thermostats, the Ecobee SmartCamera has Alexa built in, so you can directly interact with Amazon’s voice assistant. As with the thermostats, it’s useful for extending Alexa into a room where you don’t necessarily want a smart speaker, but it shouldn’t be used as a primary entertainment device.
When you trigger Alexa, four blue lights illuminate on the front of the SmartCamera. Alexa was as responsive as on other devices I’ve used, and supports features such as drop-in. During my testing, the SmartCamera did not support music playback from Spotify and other streaming sources, but a representative said that feature would be available soon after launch.
Currently, the Ecobee Haven works with Alexa and HomeKit, so you can arm and disarm the system using your voice. Ecobee says that Google Assistant and SmartThings support is coming soon.
Ecobee SmartCamera: Verdict
If you’re trying to create a smart home security system, having a home security camera is a must, and Ecobee gets it mostly right here. The Ecobee SmartCamera records good footage, its digital pan-and-zoom worked well, and it can distinguish between people and pets. Its cloud-storage fees are reasonable, too.
However, its $179 price is high for a home security camera. Our favorite home security camera, the Arlo Q, is $50 less, and while I like the SmartCamera’s tracking tech, I’m not convinced after my Ecobee SmartCamera review that having Alexa built in is worth the premium. And, while I like the integration with Ecobee’s other products, I wish I didn’t have to pay a subscription fee just to get the system to turn on and off automatically.
Ecobee’s first foray into home security cameras is largely a successful one. If you already have an Ecobee smart thermostat, adding the SmartCamera is a good way to start building a home security system.
Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.