You don't have to look far into the future to see a time when all houses come equipped with home security cameras. Tech companies have been pushing hard to innovate in the connected home CCTV camera space. Big investments by the likes of Google-owned Nest, Amazon’s Blink, and up-and-coming security company Ring have made home security cameras more prominent.
In a nutshell, these cameras record both the inside and the outside of your home, and save the footage somewhere (it might be in the cloud, it might be in the device itself, depending which one you buy). Often, they also connect with your smartphone so you can stream live everything that's going on at home, wherever you are in the internet-connected world.
So what kind of product do you need? I've spent time reviewing the best home security camerason the market. Here's what I found...
1. Nest Cam Indoor Wired
Why we like it: A beautiful camera with brilliant quality video and a very easy setup
The new version of the Nest Cam isa nice bit of kit. For starters, it looks beautiful:the all-white design andblack camera face are seriously spacey (if eerily reminiscent of the AI in 2001: A Space Odyssey). It's far from the horrid metal CCTV box that you might call to mind when you imagine a home security camera. Even better, Nest have slashed the price taking this device from nearly £300 to less than £100.
Fundamentally, the Nest camera sits wherever you put it and records what it sees, saving the last five days of footage to the cloud. The wide face of the camera gives you an impressive field of vision, and the picture you get is of good quality (you can change the resolution; the better it gets, the more data you'll use to save it to the cloud.) To see that footage, you can use an app on your phone or a browser link on your computer.
So far so normal. Things start to get really interesting with the Nest's facialrecognition system. If the camera detects a face it doesn’t recognise, it will send a notification and picture to your phone, allowing you to give that person the once over.If it's someone getting up to no good,the camera will follow their movements and save the timestamp, so you can easily find it in the future.And, of course, you can phone 999 while they're still in your house.
The system is smart enough to remember faces it has seen before so you don’t need to keep approving family and friends every time they enter the living room. The downside to all this is that you do have to pay a subscription fee for this service.
There’s a few other cool features in the camera itself such as an automatic zoom which tracks moving objects if it detects an intruder.
In general, I found the video footage captured by Nest to be almost perfect when viewingit on other devices. There's less than a second of lag between someone performing an action and you seeing/hearing it on the screen. That’s also the case in night vision mode which, I noticed, caused some of the other cameras to slow down.
I tried the indoor model of the Nest but the outdoor one is largely the same in terms of quality. There's also an waterproof outdoor version which is a fair bit more expensive (£159, John Lewis) and a battery powered option which you can stick anywhere you like (£179.99, John Lewis) they're largely the same in terms of camera quality, though the latter will offer the facial recognition capabilities without need for a subscription.
Nest have smashed it out of the park with this brilliant little camera, which offers a premium design, tonnes of functionality, and great smart home integration.
2. Hive View
Why we like it:Beautiful looking, easy to set up, and works like a dream
If I liked the look of the Nest, then Ilovethe Hive View's design – surely the most aesthetically pleasing camera on this list. The handsome glossy black cube, magnetically affixed to a brushed metal stand (mine came in a lovely rose-gold but you can also get it in silver) strikes the perfect balance between good-looking and subtle enough to not draw attention to itself.
One handy feature of the design is that you can take the main camera cube off the stand and pop it anywhere you want. With an hour of battery life, you should get enough live viewing to keep an eye on the kids while they play in the garden.
Fortunately,the design is just one part of the Hive View's appeal. It is also, frankly, a very good home security camera.
The picture is sharp and clear and I noticed very little lag between my actions and the image displayed on the app. I'd certainly say it's one of the better cameras in terms of video quality.
The app itself gives you access to a similar set of functions as the Nest. You can set a schedule for it to be on the lookout for people, detect faces and sounds, and, of course, watch the footage live through your phone. It's all very seamless and easy. The only real difference from Nest's features is that you don't get Google Assistant and the camera doesn't zoom in to faces when it spots them.
There's your explanation as to why Nest's camera costs £80 more. Honestly, if those two extra features don't excite you, I'd say save your money and go with the Hive.
One of the bonuses of the Hive View is that you can build aneco-system with the rest of Hive's products.If you've got one of Hive's thermostats, for example, you could set it to turn your heating up when the camera detects you entering the room.
A lot of smart cameras can be programmed to do things like this, but few make things as simpleas Hive have done within their app, and I salute them for that. Tech is supposed to make our lives easier and Hive's ecosystem lives up to that. It's all the function with no frustration.
3. Ring Spotlight Cam Battery
Why we like it: A big, outdoor light that comes with a great camera built-in
The Spotlight Cam Battery has a delightfully literal name. It’s a battery powered camera that also works as a spotlight.
Unlike the Hive and Nest, this is designed to be mounted on a wall outdoors – although there's nothing to stop you from using it indoors. It feels a bit cheap to hold, but once it’s up on the wall no one will notice.
Once again you're recording and uploadingto the cloud just like the previous two products on the list. The added wrinkle is that this one will shine a strong LED spotlight when it detects movement, just like a good, old-fashioned security light. That light might be enough to put off intruders; it could also be handy if you live in an area with poor street lighting and just need some light to help you find your way to the front door in the evening.
The video quality of the built-in camera is great and the battery should last ages. (If you're worried about it running out you can buy a solar panelto keep it juiced up even longer.)
I found the sensor for the light to be reasonable, if not perfect.Still, the intercom function, which allows youto speak to anyone in the vicinity of the camera via your smartphoneand them to speak back to you, works well.
Switching between night vision and regular vision isn’t seamless. Mine got stuck on night vision for about a minute after I turned on the light. Still, the night vision is very good, so you can still see everything you need to.
My othercriticism is of the Ring app, which is a bit user unfriendly. Ring throws a lot of options at you and they’re not always as well sign-posted as they could be. The app works fine,it’s just that you may need to consult a few online guides to help you through the process.
4. BT Smart Camera
Why we like it:The price
At the cheaper end of the smart security camera market, I wasn’t expecting big things from the BT Smart Camera. It's very light and plasticky, a far cry from the likes of Nest and Hive.
And yet, whileit’s true that the BT Smart Camera’s capabilities pale in comparison to some of the pricier options, for those looking for a cheap way to keep an eye on the kids in the playroom or the dog while they’re out, this isnot a bad option by any means.
It’s worth saying that set up is… tricky. After downloading BT’s app and setting up your account you’re ordered to connect to WiFi, a process which takes quite a while. It took me a couple of goes to make it work.
When I eventually got into the camera controls, I was reasonably impressed. The camera quality isn’t half bad, there’s a solid night-vision mode, and all the app controls are fairly self-explanatory. You’ve got two-way audio, you can play melodies just to let the person being viewed know they’re being watched, and you can choose to record video clips or pictures and save them to your smart device on a whim.
Speaking of recordings,BT are decidedly generous with their cloud-based storage. You get 30 days of free recordings saved to the cloud from whenever the camera detects motion, allowing you to pull whatever you want. Or you can slot in an SD card and save everything (until you run out of space, obviously) In addition, you get notifications sent to your mobile whenever motion is detected and you can manually record videos to your camera reel from there.
There are a few downsides. Even with the aforementioned SD card, continuous recording isn’t possible unless you do it manually. More seriously, the app can be glitchy. It signed me out of my account every time I closed it,forcing me to try to remember my password every time; not the situation you want to be in when your home is being burgled.
I’d also note that I’ve seen other users online complaining that the motion capture isn’t great. Personally, I had no problems on this front.
Overall, I thought BT’s effort is reasonably solid, despite the budget price. Ideal for those who are wanting a souped up nanny-cam but maybe not ideal for those seriously thinking about home security.
5. Arlo Pro 3
Why we like it: A solid notification system alerts you to any intruders in your house no matter what’s happening
One of the biggest issues I had with the last iteration of the Arlo Pro was that it only began recording when it detected movement. Not ideal if you wanted a live feed or needed to scroll back through the history of your recordings. I'm happy to say this has been rectified with this new version, which records all the time.
Like the Nest Cam it intelligently recognises moving objects and adjusts its frame to focus on and follow those objects, so if you are being burgled, you can keep the miscreant in the frame.
It will record clips when it views movement (and a few seconds before so you get the full view of what happened)and you can view these for a week before they're deleted.You can extend the amount of days you get by purchasing a subscription, but I don't think most people will need that option.
The second important thing to say is that the Arlo Pro 3 has got rid of its ear-piercing in-built alarm, which is a little bit of a shame, but I'm far as I'm concerned it is balanced out by the newly installed floodlight which turns on when the camera is filming at night. It's also a much better camera than on the last one, recording in 2K high definition quality, and it even records in colour at night.
The Arlo app, from which you control the camera and the alarm, is by far the most intuitive of all the products I reviewed. You can use the app to set up a schedule so the alarm won’t triggerwhen you’re at home, for example. The app can also sendyou notifications and emails with screenshots and video clips when it detects motion.
Admittedly, setting up the Arlo Pro 3 is a faff, involving a box that connects to your router via an ethernet cable. However, get past that fiddly start and you find this is a pretty decent home security camera.
The other noteworthy things about the Pro 3 is that it's designed for outdoor as well as indoor use, so it’ll work come rain or shine. It also has a USB slot so you can record your footage directly onto there, which saves you having to deal with the cloud storage system explained above.
6. Ring Video Doorbell 3
Why we like it:A doorbell that doubles as a home security camera
Arguably the most important area of your house to keep track of is your front door. If someone is going to break in, chances are they'll try the front doorfirst. This is your chance to catch them in the act. And obviously it's useful if you have guests over too.
Very simply, the person at the door presses the button. You'll get a notification to your phone (you can also get a Ring Chime WiFi extender if you want a doorbell noise too.) The camera then streams a video-link to your phone (or Amazon Echo Show, if you have one of those) – and since it works as an intercom, you can then have a chat with the person at the door if you so wish. Useful if, for example, it's the postman and you're out. You can instruct him or her where to leave the goods.
In addition, just like most of the other security cameras, you can stream from the doorbell if you want to check what's happening on the street at any time.
If you think you’re getting a standard sized doorbell, prepare for a shock. This bad boy is large: about five inches tall and two and a half inches across. It also comes with two face plates so you can have a plain black doorbell or a silver one. Either way, it works well enough and has the best two-way audio of any device on here.
It also comes with the rest of the usual stuff:motion detection, night vision and weather resistance. On this latest model you can also set up motion zones so if it tracks any motion in a specific place, you'll get an alert.
I noticed that setup wasn’t quite as easy as the other Ring device and it struggled to connect to my WiFi. But once I did get it up and running, I was impressed.
7. Swann Wi-Fi Indoor HD Security Camera
Why we like it: It’s the easiest to set up of any camera on this list
Last time I reviewed a Swann camera I described it as decidedly middle of the road. Not great, not terrible, but with a really easy setup process (and trust me, that really is a killer feature when it comes to smart cameras.) This newer version is much the same, to be frank.
You just download the app, find the camera, and connect it to WiFi. And away you go.
From there, Swann is pretty barebones, though there’s a few new features on the new model that do bear talking about though. The camera is no longer battery powered, coming with a nice little microUSB charging port. It has a couple of new features which the previous model was lacking. These include heat, motion, sound and facial detection for accurate alerts, a wider viewing angle, and microphones for two way conversation.
Ultimately though, buy the Swann for convenience and ease of use. It's for people who just want a quick, simple security solution without spending big bucks. It’s not the flashiest tool in the shed, but it’s reliable and gets all the basics right.
Worth noting: you can also get an outdoor version (£130.99, Amazon) which is essentially the same but with a variety added features. This one has a motion-sensor and switches on a light and siren which might be a good deterrent to intruders, plus it’s obviously waterproof and has a longer cable. Otherwise, same concept, same app, still just as easy to setup.
8. Blink Outdoor Security System
Like the Arlo Pro 3, the Blink system also comes with a sync module that connects to WiFi rather than using an ethernet cable to attach to your router, making things a bit easier. They're powered by AA batteries which can apparently last two years. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I wasn't able to put that claim to the test.
In terms of downsides, the app isn’t greatandsound quality is pretty diabolical. It struggled to pick me up when I was talking at normal volume only about 1.5 metres from the device.
On the plus side, they have night vision, a decent quality cameraandcan be used outdoors. There's also a nice floodlight mount which you can buy either with the camera (£124.98) or separately (£34.99) which the camera fits into. When it detects movement, the 700 lumen LED lights will turn on. Handy for catching potential burglars in the act.
9. Netatmo Welcome
Netatmo Welcome has a lovely design: a super premium-looking metallic cylinder about six inches tall that comes in a lovely dusty gold colour.
The main focus of the Netatmo Welcome is that it recognises faces so it can detect when an intruder is in your house, versus when it’s a member of your family. But itisn’t very good at it. Not only does it struggle to spot faces in the first place,when it does, it’s pretty bad at recognising familiar ones. This means you get a deluge of notifications showing you clips of your family, asking if these are intruders.
The accompanying app is also massively prone to glitches, freezing, and crashing, and seems to havea cheeky habit of pretending to be working by showing old footage as ‘live’. The field of vision is poor too.
10. Somfy One+
Setup for this one is ridiculous, asking you to hold a QR code in front of the camera until it can work out your internet settings from that. It’d be fine if it worked, but it doesn’t. Ittook me at least 10attempts before the camera could see the QR code.
Once it did, the camera itself was… fine. There’s everything you’d expect, plus a built-in alarm.There’s a privacy setting so you can close the shutter from your phone whenever you want.
But beyond that I just had problems. The switch from daylight to night visiontook about five minutes (though it worked fine switching from night to day.) The motion detector is bad. I was performing the macarena in front of the camera for about two minutes before it even noticed I was there.
Given the price, this one should have been better.
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Frequently asked questions about smart home security cameras
What should I look for in a CCTV camera?
Smart home security cameras have to be able to identify visitors and send alerts in order keep your home safe when you are away. Most smart home cameras now link up to an app, like the Nest or Ring app, to monitor your home when you are on the move.
Key features that set apart the best home security cameras include night vision, notification alerts, plenty of storage (either locally or in the cloud) for your recorded footage, and microphones to give out voice commands.
Others will have audio capability, particularly useful for indoor security cameras listening in for unusual noise. Some advanced cameras also have facial recognition features at a premium price, like the Nest IQ.
Several CCTV cameras can be integrated into your smart home, linking up with tech such as Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. Get a device with a screen such as a Google Home Hub or Amazon Echo Show and it will be able to display a certain camera on command or even show who is at the door immediately as they press the doorbell.
What is the power source for a wireless security camera?
One major decision when it comes to buying your home security camera system will be its power source.
If the camera is battery powered you can place it pretty much anywhere with no wires, removing and recharging the battery when it runs low, which is normally prompted through its app. Obviously the advantage is that these can be placed anywhere very easily, but the downside is that if it’s easy for you to remove the camera to change the battery, it’ll probably be easy for intruders to remove it too.
Alternatively, lots of smart security cameras have a wired power source instead of a battery. This means you will have to find a suitable spot to set them up and link the camera to a power source. These usually require professional installation and are generally more reliable but obviously they can’t be moved around your home as and where you need them.
Even those home security cameras which are plugged in a socket are wireless in one sense. The vast majority of smart CCTV systems link up to your smartphone via a specific app over Wi-Fi to share live streams of the footage.
What's the difference between indoor and outdoor CCTV cameras?
The other major decision when picking a home security camera is whether you need an indoor or outdoor camera. Outdoor cameras will often be built to be more durable and able to survive rain, frost, or damp. The downside of outdoor cameras is that they’re usually mains powered and require professional installation.
Outdoor cameras often come with a set of screws and mounts so you can set them up. Models from the likes of Arlo come with options for several mounts to choose how you want to set up your camera.
Indoor security cameras are generally a lot easier to set up butmuch less rugged. They’re fine for putting on your desk but generally they’re more of a novelty and less a serious CCTV solution.
How much should I pay?
This can really depend on how large the area you want to monitor is. The average home might need multiple cameras to cover the whole thing which could quickly add up to hundreds of pounds.
However, if you’re just looking for something to keep an eye on your front door and see if you have any visitors while you’re out, you can get some really decent options for around £200. Generally indoor cameras are a lot cheaper than outdoor cameras (because waterproofing costs a fortune) so if you get creative by placing indoor cameras by windows, for example, you could save yourself some money.
Which security camera takes the best quality footage?
Smart security cameras do tend to be vary a little in terms of footage quality, in similar increments to televisions. On the cheaper end of the market you'll tend to find the HD Ready ones at 720p. They give you 921,600 pixels (the tiny dots used to make up an image.) Then there's the Full HD 1080p which give you over two million pixels. There are a few very pricey options out there which record in 4K but honestly? If you're looking at the footage through a phone, you won't notice much difference. Allow me to demonstrate:
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