Rent or own, we all want to know our homes are secure while we’re gone. That used to mean signing on with a professional—and pricey—security service like ADT. But the boom in wireless security cameras is putting home surveillance into our own hands.
These close cousins of webcams require minimal installation and offer flexible setups and a range of security features. Indeed, the offers vary widely by camera, and navigating them all gets more daunting as this category grows ever more crowded. To help you find the best security camera for your needs, we’ve outlined the key features to consider and tested six of the newest, most high-profile models.
Whether you’re looking for an easy way to check on your kids and pets, or a full-service sentinel to monitor for intruders, we’ll help find the right product for your needs.
What to look for when shopping
Most home security cameras perform the same basic functions—they detect an event, record the event, and send you an alert—but they don’t all perform them the same way. And some cameras have special features that go beyond those basics. Here are some common features you’ll encounter while shopping and why they’re important (we’ve listed them in alphabetical order). In each of the reviews that follow this buyers’ guide, we’ll discuss how each camera delivers on these features.
Alerts: Home security cameras push notifications to your smartphone when they detect events. Without watching the live feed all day, this is the only way to keep tabs on your home in relative real time. Depending on the camera, it may send text alerts when it detects motion, sound, a face (known or unrecognized), or all three. Some can send alerts to multiple people, usually anyone else in the household using that product’s app; others will send emails in addition to text messages as a failsafe in the event you can’t access your mobile device.
Battery backup: Power outages happen, and clever burglars cut electricity before breaking into your home. When that happens, your camera goes dark and, if there’s a crime taking place, you lose all forensic evidence. For this reason, some cameras can also run for a short time on battery power. It’s a feature worth looking for.
Cloud recording: Many manufacturers offer cloud storage plans with their camera. With one of these, your recorded video is sent to a remote server and stored for a predetermined time— usually anywhere from 24 hours to a week—and then deleted to make space for new videos. Though sometimes free, these cloud plans usually require a monthly subscription, but are worth it both for their convenience and if you want a surveillance record during a vacation or other extended time away from home.
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