Smart cameras are running home security companies like ADT out of business. Brinks’ home security division went bust a couple of years ago, and it all stands to reason — home security cameras are to subscription-based security systems what HBO GO is to cable. Plus, there’s no need to shell out a lot for something that you only use one percent of the time. The new generation of smart cameras are perfect for a modern smart home. The only question left is: which one is right for your home?
The Most Important Features To Look For
Most of today’s home security cameras have a lot in common. Motion sensors, night vision, two-way talk and a companion app that allows you to, at any time, get a live feed of what’s happening in front of the camera are all standard baseline features. When it comes to differences, there are four main things to consider:
• Smart home compatibility: If you already own smart home devices, you’ll want a home security camera that plays well with them. An Alexa-only camera is likely a bad fit for your Google-based smart home no matter how cheap or capable is.
• Ecosystem: You also want to consider the smart camera manufacturer you're buying from, be it Nest, Ring, Arlo or others, because these manufacturers design their cameras so work really well together and they're intuitive to control. Also, it makes financial sense when it comes to subscription plans because, if you have multiple smart cameras from the same manufacturer, you can often get a better deal.
• Subscription: Most smart home cameras require a monthly or annual subscription fee to get their more advanced features like facial recognition, person alerts, the ability to share clips and to access recordings stored in the cloud. You likely won’t need a subscription to see what’s going on live, but factor in the cost if you require more than that.
• Price: When it comes to the basics, affordable options like the Wyze Cam v3 will have you covered with features like 24/7 live feed, two-way talk, night vision, motion alerts. More expensive cameras can offer better app experiences or advanced (but niche) functionality. Generally, a cheaper camera will work just fine, especially to start.
• Wired or Battery: Some security cameras are battery-powered, giving you more freedom in where they are placed, at the cost of having to remember to charge them. Depending on your situation, the tradeoff might be worth it.
Here’s the rundown of our favorite families of home security cameras, and the models available to suit various needs . Remember, just because a camera is expensive doesn’t necessarily make it immediately better. A lot of the more expensive options are only worth buying if you know you’ll use it a lot and you’re willing to pay a reoccurring subscription fee.
Nest's ecosystem of smart home cameras is the best option for people who have built a smart home around Google Assistant and/or have other Nest smart home devices (such as a video doorbells, smart speaker or smart thermostat). This is because Google owns Nest and designed all these devices to work seamlessly together. In 2021, Google released updated and redesigned versions of its Nest cameras, antiquating its old "IQ" line and introducing its first-ever battery-powered camera.
Subscription: You don't need a subscription to Nest Aware, but it does give you more cloud storage as well as give some Nest cameras more abilities (such as the ability to identify faces) and intelligent alerts. A subscription starts at $5/month.
Amazon bought Ring in 2019, meaning that it owns two smart home camera manufacturers (including Blink). While both Ring and Blink smart home cameras work well with Alexa and actually have a lot of the same capabilities, there are a few advantages to buying into Ring. It makes a wider selection of smart home cameras (both wired and battery-powered) and they work better with Ring's vast ecosystem of other smart home devices; so if you're building a pretty serious DIY system, with video doorbells and smart locks, Ring is your better bet.
Subscription: Without a subscription plan, it's pretty very similar to Blink, as you really only get motion-activated push notifications and live video streaming — but no recordings. Ring offers two different cloud storage subscription options, a Protect Basic ($3/month) and Protect Plus ($10/month).
Arlo specializes in battery-powered smart home cameras, which makes them different because you can place each camera anyway throughout the house. Most of Arlo's smart home cameras are sold as "systems" (meaning several cameras) and require a smart home hub (or base station) to work, but Arlo does sell some standalone cameras that connect directly to Wi-Fi. The main advantage of a system with a smart home hub is that it allows you to save more photos and videos without a cloud-based subscription. Most of Arlo's camera systems are compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, but it does sell one — the Arlo Ultra 2 — that works with Apple's HomeKit.
Subscription: Arlo offers 7-day cloud storage for free, but you can subscribe to Arlo Secure subscription plan (starting at $3/month for a single camera or $10/month for unlimited cameras) and that will enable smart features and alerts, as well as get you unlimited video cloud storage for 30 days.
The Blink ecosystem of smart home cameras is designed to work best with an Amazon Alexa smart home; Amazon bought Blink in 2017, afterall. The cameras are generally a better value than Ring's (also owned by Amazon) smart home cameras, with the Blink Mini going for $35 (or less). The reason why you'd buy into Blink's ecosystem rather than Ring's, in addition to cost, is that Blink's cameras are not totally dependent on cloud-based storage; you can buy a base station, such as the Blink Sync Module 2, to provide local storage for up to 10 Blink cameras.
Subscription: Without a subscription plan, you only get motion-activated notifications and live video streaming — but no recordings. There are two subscription plans to choose from. The "basic" plan costs $3/month (or $30/year) for 60 days of rolling video storage for a single camera. A "plus" plan costs $10/month (or $100/year) does the same thing for unlimited cameras; it also gets you extended warranty coverage.
Wyze now has an entire ecosystem of smart home devices that includes everything from video doorbells to DIY security systems, smart lights to smart plugs, but it's still best known for its line of smart home cameras. They're incredibly affordable and work with most smart home ecosystems (including Alexa and Google Assistant). Additionally, the company's Wyze Cam Pan is one of the few smart home cameras that you can control and pan (via the Wyze) so you can get an alternate viewing angle.
Subscription: Every Wyze smart home camera comes with free 14-day cloud storage for 12-second event videos. A subscription to Cam Plus($1.25/month per camera) gets you a bunch of advanced features, such as unlimited video length (as opposed to 12-seconds) and motion-detection alerts for people, pets and vehicles.
Anker's smart home division, Eufy, makes a number of different smart home camera systems under the "EufyCam" name. They are similar to Arlo's offerings in that they are battery-powered systems and require a base station (or hub) for local storage, but there are few important differences. EufyCams generally have a better battery life (which can last up to one year) and are compatible with Apple's HomeKit, as well as Alexa and Google Assistant, which is a rarity among smart home cameras. They also deliver more features without a subscription. The downside, generally, is they lack the same video resolution, field-of-view and high-end features (like color night vision).
Subscription: You don't absolutely need a cloud service subscription as each wireless system comes with a local storage hub (which takes a microSD card) that can store several months worth of recordings. A subscription, starting at $3/month per camera, gets you 30-days of rolling cloud storage.