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Ever wished that you had eyes in the back of your head? We've tested close to 30 home security cameras over the last 6 years with the top 11 in this current review. In the most recent iteration of our review, we bought and tested the 11 best models in a side-by-side comparative analysis. We looked at every aspect of these devices, from recorded AV quality to the details of the subscription services supporting the cameras. With the information from these tests provided below, you can quickly and effectively parse the market for the perfect camera for your needs and budget.
The home security device market is expansive, and doing research can be time-consuming. We're here to bring you focused and in-depth information so you can find the right device to protect your loved ones and property. For your convenience, we offer complete testing and reviews for smoke detectors and smart locks along with home security cameras.
Editor's Note: This review was updated on April 18, 2022, to help provide more information on our extensive testing process and details of testing results.
There are no other cameras on the market that offer the overall high-level performance of the Wyze Cam v3. The v3 has great recorded audio and video quality, good monitoring capabilities, an easy-to-navigate app, and sophisticated alert settings to make the events you want to capture easy to monitor when they happen. More than just offering users a top-tier product, the v3 is among the most affordable cameras on the market. In addition to a rock bottom price for the hardware, Wyze adds a free subscription service for live monitoring and data storage. However, more features and storage are available for a fee if you need them. Moreover, the data stored in the cloud has a redundant backup in an in-camera SD card that rolls through data by erasing the oldest data as needed to make room for the newest.
The Wyze Cam v3 is such a good device that we have a hard time thinking of any reason why someone would pick another camera. That being said, the device is not without some shortcomings. For instance, it lacks features like a redundant power source (it must be plugged in), facial recognition alerts (not as useful as they sound), and an alert setting for contacting local emergency services in case of smoke, carbon monoxide, or a break-in. Also, the camera does not pan — thus, its field of vision is locked in at 130 degrees. However, we don't see these limitations as huge problems since the camera does everything else so well, and it offers users unparalleled savings both upfront and in the long term. All told, this home security camera can't be beat at any price.
The upmarket Google Nest Cam has superb live video quality supported by a fantastic onboard microphone and speaker. An unusual element of note is the familiar face feature that allows you to save individuals' faces and have the camera notify you when they are detected. Other specifications that we like are the redundant battery/plug-in power source, the high-resolution night vision, and the reasonably well laid out app. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of the Nest is the ease with which it fits into Google's Smart Home system.
While the Nest Cam is a top-performing camera, it falls short where cost is concerned because it is priced much higher than comparable devices. Included in this cost assessment is the subscription required to gain access to many of the features that make this camera competitive. For example, glass breaking alerts, emergency service notifications, and smoke and carbon monoxide detection. Also, the night vision lacks color (though we don't think that's a huge deal). The camera is also larger and more conspicuous than its competitors which could be a pro or con depending on your situation. All that said, we acknowledge that some will find the upfront and long-term costs of the Nest worth the money if they are using Google's Smart Home platform, or they just have to have its specialized features like the familiar face alert.
The Wyze Cam Pan v2 offers users an unmatched field of view with its 360º horizontal rotating base and 93º vertical panning lens — stationary, it covers 120 degrees. The camera also boasts a motion-tracking feature that shadows moving objects to maximize observation time. In addition to these unique design features are its dual data storage options (both in the cloud and locally with an SD card) and quality color night vision. And, of course, Wyze packs its cameras with a host of specialized alerts for humans, pets, and vehicles while allowing free and unlimited live monitoring on your smart device.
If we were forced to lodge a couple of complaints about the Cam Pan v2, it would be that the camera is not rated for outdoor use — inside only, folks. Also, the Cam Pan v2 has to be plugged in because it lacks a backup battery option. Despite these limitations, the free subscription service for data storage and quality audio and video easily off-sets these limitations when the camera is used in the appropriate context. That said, if you want to monitor what's going on outside, you can always set the camera up on a window sill looking out.
Senior Research Analyst Austin Palmer, review editor Matt Spencer, and author Nick Miley worked together to update our home security camera review with a complete product overhaul. This trio has well over a decade of combined experience testing home electronics such as electric mowers, microwaves, and electric scooters.
Nick brings analytical techniques honed in university laboratories scouring the literature, setting-up testing protocols, recording and analyzing data, and writing peer-reviewed journal articles about the results. Austin has thousands of hours of hands-on testing experience working with products ranging from gaming keyboards to 3D printers and is now overseeing Gear Lab's testing facility. Austin's acumen for understanding the finer details that often make big differences in consumer satisfaction is well-recognized in the industry. Finally, Matt, the newest member on the team, brings a passion for the technology sector, attention to detail, and an eagerness to get his hands dirty out in the field and in the lab.
In this most recent update of the home security camera review, we researched dozens of cameras — reading reviews and promotional material and thoroughly documenting the products — before thoughtfully selecting 11 of the market's leading models for in-house, hands-on testing. Before settling on our metric and testing regime, we poured over the details of these machines. Our testing regime required dozens of hours of side-by-side comparative analyses to tease out the most pertinent information so that you can easily select the best camera to meet your needs and budget.
What good is testing products if you don't have a useful way of sharing the data for others to use? As such, the question we ask ourselves before each product review is why do people want to buy (in this case) home security cameras? An equally important question that we ask ourselves is, what specifically should we test to ensure that people's expectations for their purchases are satisfied? The answers to these questions are broken up into metrics or categories of analysis. For home security cameras, these metrics are Recorded Video Quality, Monitoring Performance, and Ease of Use. Each metric is weighted (35%, 35%, 30%, respectively) so that the sum of possible points adds up to 100. Within each of these metrics are submetrics that are either tests or analyses that are comparative in nature
We see value as the balance between the cost and performance of a given product relative to the other products in the class. Oftentimes, high price and performance correlate strongly, meaning you have to spend more to get the best products. Other times, one product will have average performance but is much less expensive than its competition — we often single out these products as cost-effective buys. However, it is truly rare and remarkable when one of the best performing, highest quality products is also one of the least expensive. Such is the case with the Wyze Cam v3. This camera checks every box for high performance, the hardware is among the lowest cost in the class, and Wyze offers a free base subscription that is very generous in what it allows the user to do and how much data it allows them to store.
Recorded Video Quality
Recorded video quality is a critical metric for security cameras because it looks at, as the name implies, the quality of the recordings made by the camera and stored either remotely in the cloud or locally on the device's memory or in an SD card plugged into the device. More specifically, this metric evaluates downloaded video both in day and night light conditions and the cameras' field of view — audio is addressed in the following "monitoring performance" metric. The Ring Stick Up Battery security camera tops the class in video quality with its leading color renderings, crips details, stellar night vision, and balanced (130 degrees) field of view. However, the Wyze Cam v3 and the Google Nest are close seconds, with the latter besting the Stick Up in low light video quality.
The recorded video assessments are made using a side-by-side comparison of videos showing the same events. Most often, we have someone walk through the field of view or, in the case of night vision, we have them stand at about 10 feet distance and hold up a whiteboard displaying the cameras' name. As we have said, the Ring Stick Up had the best color renderings and the subjects captured were displayed with sharp borders and clear facial features. However, objects at a distance were very crisp, too, with details easily distinguished, making identifying specific individuals, pets, and vehicles quite easy.
The Wyze Cam v3 and the YI 1080p were right on the heels of the Stick Up for this metric. As far as night vision is concerned, the Google Nest topped the charts, showing that color night vision isn't as important as it may seem at first blush. The Nest's recorded nighttime video was nice and bright. Facial features and other details such as lettering were very clear. By comparison, the Stick Up had a grainy video in low light. In contrast, the Cam v3 had some washed-out/overexposed surfaces though the two still performed at a high level with fine details readily distinguishable.
The recorded video metric also looks at the cameras' field of view. A camera's field of view is simply the angle or degrees of horizontal coverage that the camera's lens can see. This isn't as important as it may seem, as most cameras fall into a sweet spot of around 120 degrees. However, the Wyze Cam Pan v2 eliminates any concerns as its 120-degree field of view is augmented by a 360-degree rotating base and a lens that moves up and down 93 degrees. Other models such as the Arlo Ultra 2 and the Arlo Pro 4 have an adjustable field of view in their settings that can narrow or expand the view depending on the camera location and the monitoring area.
While the recorded video quality metric focuses on stored video, the monitoring performance metric hones in on the cameras' real-time video quality, including latency between actual events and their appearance on screen, smoothness of the feed, and sound quality. The sound analysis looks at how well audio and video sync and how faithful the audio is to the original sound. The sound analysis also includes the quality of the cameras' onboard speaker. Finally, some cameras do not allow users to maintain a live feed indefinitely. We don't like that and rate the cameras accordingly. The Google Nest and the Ring Stick Up stood out for the rest of the class in this assessment with nearly perfect ratings.
Both the Google Nest and the Ring Stick Up had a latency of less than one second and silky smooth video. However, both have slightly off audio, with the Stick Up's audio sounding tinnier the farther away the sound is from the microphone. The YI 1080p Home had similar results; however, its overall assessment in this metric was hurt by its onboard speaker's poor sound quality and the lack of an alarm. Conversely, the Stick Up's and the Nest's onboard speakers are top-notch though the latter lacks an alarm feature. While we're on the subject of alarms, about half of the cameras in our review don't have them. Of the cameras that do, only two — the Ring Indoor and the Arlo Pro 4 — are set to produce sound at a volume that will reliably alert the user or deter an intruder.
The Ring Stick Up had stellar results in both assessments regarding the sound picked up by the camera and produced by its speaker (i.e., when you're talking through the speaker). Its speaker has clear, high-volume audio, and its mic picks up voices well with no background effects, though the sound is a tiny bit echoey at times. Both the Wyze Cam v3 and the Cam Pan v2 did well in the sound quality assessment while the Nest has the loudest and clearest sounding on-camera speaker.
Ease of Use
The ease of use metric is a favorite of ours because, like you, we want the products we buy to make our lives easier. As such, we pay close attention to problem areas like app navigation and settings, hardware set-up and mounting, data storage, and subscriptions. Three cameras are standouts on account of their overall performance in this assessment — the Arlo Ultra 2 Wireless, Wyze Cam v3, and Wyze Cam Pan v2.
The Wyze Cam v3 and Wyze Cam Pan v2 performed identically in this assessment because they use the same intuitive, feature-packed app, and both have cloud data storage backed up by an onboard SD card. Moreover, they both have a free base subscription that provides most of what you want from such a service, like 14-day rolling data storage (meaning that on day 15, day one will be erased) and access to all their alerts. The Wyze camera alerts include a suite of customizable notifications for people, pets, vehicles, general motion, and smoke and carbon monoxide when the cameras are used inside. Finally, both Wyze cameras have easy-to-set-up bases and the v3 is easy to mount to a wall (hardware included).
The Arlo Ultra 2 Wireless has similar functionality with a couple of added alert features to the mix. Namely, the Ultra allows you to set up package detection, so you don't have to worry about porch pirates getting to your order before you do. The app has a preview setting that generates an animated notification on your smart device depicting the type of alert. This last feature can save you a lot of time by showing you the subject of the alert without having to watch the whole clip — think falling leaves on a windy day. Finally, the Google Nest stands out in the group for having facial recognition alerts, while the YI 1080p Home stands out for its loud noise notifications (think of a baby crying or a window breaking). It should be noted that the Nest's facial recognition requires some work to set up as you have to first take the person's picture to use as a reference.
This best-in-class review of home security cameras has covered every feature, setting, and use of these devices. We conducted hands-on, side-by-side testing of the cameras' live monitoring, recorded video, and ease of use. The results of our research and testing have been laid out above in an easy-to-digest format so that you can pick the right camera for your needs. So, instead of adding camera research to your worries, we've taken on the burden for you so you can skip right to monitoring what you love and value the most.
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