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. We found that it had the best software, the most flexible options and the most affordable cloud-storage subscription plan of the home security cameras we tested. Our best value is the EZViz Mini O 1080p ($59); as its name suggests, it streams 1080p video that was good in daylight, and it picked up audio well. You can also choose between having video stored on a microSD card or in the cloud.
Latest News & Updates (September 2018)
- TP-Link's Kasa Cam Outdoor ($139) has a resolution of 1080p, 2-way audio, custom motion zones, works with Alexa and Google Home, and comes with two days of free video storage, which is one of the more competitive free storage options among security cameras. Stay tuned for our full review.
- The Echo Show, Echo Spot, Fire TV and Alexa-enabled Fire tablets can now display the most recent videos recorded by August, Arlo, Logitech, and Ring devices, as well as Amazon's Cloud Cam. Previously, you could only view events as they were happening, but with this update, users can now view the last recorded event from those cameras. To activate this feature, say “Alexa, show the latest event from [camera name].”
With its top-notch video quality, excellent motion detection, flexible scheduling and intuitive user interface, the Netgear Arlo Q would be a contender as our best security camera even without its very generous basic cloud-subscription plan. That plan gives you the past week's recordings at no cost for the lifetime of the unit (although higher tiers aren't free), and more than justifies the unit's relatively high price. The Arlo Q is the Wi-Fi security camera to beat.
This budget Wi-Fi camera offers 1080p video that's pretty good in day and night settings. EZViz's app also lets you set a schedule for when the camera turns on and off, and lets you set motion sensitivity as well as zones—a feature typically found only on more expensive cameras. The Mini O 1080p has a microSD card slot, so you can save videos locally. If you don't buy cloud storage (which starts at $5.99/month for 7 days of storage), your options are limited to the live camera feed, push notifications with a snapshot and having your device settings saved to the cloud (rather than only locally). You can also control the camera using Alexa and Google Assistant.
The Nest Cam Indoor is the third generation of the celebrated Dropcam, and bumps up its predecessors' video quality to 1080p. It's easy to set up and, thanks to its magnetic, swiveling base, can be installed almost anywhere indoors. The video looks sharp; night vision is clear; the camera can be used as an intercom; and it interacts with the Nest Thermostat and the Nest Protect smoke detector, as well as numerous third-party smart home devices. But to really make use of the camera's features, you'll have to shell out $10 or more per month for the Nest Aware program, which gives you access to cloud storage and much more.
Netgear's new Wi-Fi camera works both inside and outdoors, and is powered either by a battery or a power cord. Like its older sibling the Arlo Q, the Pro has motion detection, night vision and an intercom function, but like the original Arlo, it's weatherproof, has 720p video resolution with a 130-degree field of view, and needs a base station to operate. You'll also get Netgear's generous cloud-subscription plan, which offers 7 days' worth of footage for free.
In addition to a sharp 1080p camera, this camera has two powerful floodlights that turn on when motion is detected. Plus, Ring's app has a neighborhood watch feature, which lets you see what's happening in your hood, and Ring's cloud storage plans—$30/year—is very competitive.
The sleek-looking Canary has environmental sensors that monitor heat, humidity and air quality. It also includes an intercom, a very loud siren that should scare off any intruder, and a geofencing feature that automatically turns on motion detection when the user leaves the house. The Canary can also interact with Wink smart-home devices. The 1080p video looks crisp and clear, the sound quality is excellent, and the mobile app is intuitive.
The Netatmo Welcome is a small, unobtrusive stand-alone security camera with a killer feature: facial recognition that works remarkably well. It quickly learns the faces and names of everyone in a household, and creates personalized user profiles for each of them so that they all can keep track of who's coming and going. The Welcome's mobile app and desktop interface both need refinement, but the actual camera is a solid effort.
How We Test Security Cameras
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 an extra fee 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.