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Investing in one of the best smart home security systems is a fantastic way to secure peace of mind for you and your loved ones. Besides acting as a potential deterrent, these systems are a great way to keep an eye on your children or pets when you're outside of arms reach.
When you're looking to set up a home security system that integrates seamlessly into your smart home, there are a number of factors to consider. You'll want to think about where your camera is being placed, whether it needs to act as an indoor or outdoor camera, or perhaps both. Also, if you're intending to keep extensive recordings of your home or office, you'll need to potentially consider paying a recurring fee for cloud storage.
If you're setting up your first smart home, make sure to check out our introduction to the connected home.
Wide angle lens
Cloud storage is a recurring cost
Formerly called "Dropcam," the Nest Cam is a pretty little gadget meant to deter would-be intruders from doing all the bad things intruders do. It features 24/7 live video streaming (HD) to your phone or tablet, motion and sound alerts, night vision, digital zoom, two-way audio, and easy setup. It also features one of the strongest designs we’ve seen from a security cam, with a magnetic base, pivoting stand and a sleek appearance that’s just plain cool.
While the Nest Cam packs enough functionality into the core product, you may be tempted to spring for one of Nest’s subscription packages. Most smart home security solutions skip the fees (because, honestly, no one wants to pay fees), but Nest Aware certainly has its selling points. For $10/month or $100/year, you’ll get cloud storage of your video streams for up to 10 days. That time limit increases to 30 days with the $30/month, $300/year packages. Nest Aware also gives you alert summaries, downloadable clips, and time-lapse functionality, among other features.
But maybe the biggest selling point for the Nest Cam is its compatibility with Nest’s other smart home products: the Learning Thermostat and the Protect Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Detector. As a family, these products offer an impressive array of possibilities.
Requires a hub
This Arlo Pro system comes with a central receiver and one HD security camera to cover your home from whatever angle you set it at. The 100 percent wire-free system connects via Wi-Fi networks and allows for higher levels of versatility when setting it up, so you don’t have to awkwardly wire the system through the wall. The camera itself takes super sharp HD video and can be placed inside or outside since the enclosure is fully waterproof. The quick-charging battery lasts super long, so you can set it and forget, for at least a little while, and there’s two-way audio via the phone app that lets you listen to the audio the camera is picking up or talk back through to the other side.
The wide-angle lens takes up to 130 degrees of visuals to make sure you don’t miss anything important, whether you’re using it to monitor your house while you’re not home or to check outside while you are. It includes night vision for recording any time of day or night, and it offers local USB-accessed storage for videos, as well as seven full days of HD videos stored in the cloud. There’s even a super loud alarm you can trigger to try to scare off would-be intruders. The whole system links up with smart home devices for voice controls and the Arlo even supports live streaming.
Clear 2-way audio
Works seamlessly with other Amazon products
No sound detection
Some features require a subscription
With integrated Alexa voice commands leading the way, Amazon’s Cloud Cam indoor security system is a fantastic choice for smartly protecting the inside of your home. Full of features including 24/7 monitoring, 1080p Full HD video recording with night vision, two-way audio via built-in microphone and speaker, and 24-hour video playback all standard right out of the box, Amazon’s move into home security is as functional as it is attractive. The Cloud Cam also comes with a 30-day free trial, so buyers can upgrade to an additional plan for increased storage or intelligent alerts.
Sharp 1080p video
Recording video requires a cloud subscription
Designed for either inside or outside surveillance, the Ring Stick Up Cam is a smart choice in more ways than one. As an Amazon product, you bet it’s compatible with Alexa. Want to see what’s happening in front of the camera right now? Just ask Alexa. The camera also connects to the Echo Show, Echo Spot, Fire TV or Fire Tablet for all kinds of monitoring options.
Installing the camera is very easy and usually takes less than 10 minutes. Once activated, users can set up three motion zones for monitoring. Any motion in those zones sends an immediate notification to the user’s phone, tablet, or computer. If danger is afoot, a remote-activated siren will let intruders know they’re being watched (which is usually a pretty effective deterrent).
The Ring Camera is equipped with night vision and 150-degree horizontal and 85-degree vertical field of view, so you can see what’s happening at all hours of the day and night. The 1080p video is top-notch, providing a crisp picture of inside or outside activity. If installed outside, the camera can stand up to rain, snow, or sunshine. Note that it is a wired camera, so it does require a connection to a standard power outlet, microUSB port, or Ethernet.
Customizable motion detection
No cloud storage subscription required
No audio detection
If you’re looking for a good, versatile security camera on a budget, the Vimtag P1 Wireless Security Camera is your best bet. Coming in at less than $100, the Vimtag P1 offers up HD video recording, 4x digital zoom, remote live streaming, two-way voice, motion detection, and night vision. This means it could be used for home and business security, baby monitoring, pet watching, nanny check-ins and more.
When it comes to design, the Vimtag looks somewhat like a black-and-white egg on a stand, but it’s designed that way to offer complete 360-degree coverage of whatever room it is in. This means it can rotate both horizontally and vertically, so if you place it in the center of a room, you can move the camera to see any part of the room. And you can choose what angle you want to see from the iOS or Android smartphone app, giving you peace of mind when you’re not at home. If you need coverage for more than one room, you can also buy additional Vimtag cameras and use all of them in tandem.
One final note: Keep in mind that you need to purchase an SD card for storing HD video. There are lots of good SD card choices, but we’d recommend a 64GB or 128GB card.
No storage charges or subscriptions
No on-demand recording
Only records for about a minute when motion is detected
If you’re looking for a great budget security camera, but want to gradually add additional cameras over time, take a look at Blink’s home security system. These are affordable units that run on AA batteries, meaning they don’t need any wires and can be placed anywhere you can think of around the house.
When it comes to features, Blink’s cameras check all the boxes (and the units even look like small white boxes). Blink cameras offer 720p HD video capture, motion detection (which will record a short clip when triggered), instant push notifications that are sent to your phone with video attached, as well as a live viewing mode that you can access from your phone.
This is all nice, but even nicer is that there are no monthly fees. Oh, and Blink’s system is integrated with the Amazon Echo smart home products, so you can say “Alexa, ask Blink to arm my home system” or “Alexa, ask Blink when was the last motion clip?”
"Being a new home owner I just wanted to have that peace of mind that every was okay when I left the house. You can easily adjust the settings so that you are only getting important notifications when the camera detects movement, a person, or a fire alarm." — David Engler, Senior Growth & Content Strategy Manager
Excellent 4K image
Often when we think of 4K resolution, it’s in reference to televisions or computer monitors. In the case of the Arlo Ultra, 4K has an entirely new use case and that’s with smart home security. With 4K video quality, there’s a whole new world opening for smart home security. The Arlo makes it easier to zoom in and see the details on someone’s face that might be missed in 1080p. The unit itself can also rotate up to 180 degrees to provide a panoramic view of any room or yard.
The unit is weatherproof so this camera is good for both indoors or outdoors use. Set it up at home and with night vision, you’ll get 24/7 home security. A motion-activated spotlight and loud sirens can scare away any intruders. The siren can be triggered remotely so the Arlo is an ideal choice for those who travel or work away from home often.
You can get real-time alerts on your phone via the downloadable Arlo app. Every alert provides an instant choice to ignore or alert the authorities.
Excellent image quality
App is a bit buggy
The Ring floodlight camera can record perfectly at night via two super bright, motion-activated LED floodlights. This has an added benefit of washing the scene with plenty of light for high-quality video, while simultaneously giving you the potential to scare off intruders with the sudden appearance of floodlights. There’s also a 110-decibel alarm for scaring people off audibly. There are ultra wide-angle motion sensors to activate camera recording alongside those floodlights, which will detect motion in objects, even incorporating face recognition.
It’s weather-resistant, so you can install it outside, and the motion detections will also offer you notifications on the synced up smartphone app. There’s infrared recording to go with the floodlights just in case you want to record more incognito at night. The camera records a full 140 degrees of wide-angle view, so you can capture even the biggest yards, and all of the above motion-activated features can be controlled via the mobile app on cue. It’s the best of all worlds.
Free cloud storage
A bit pricey
Slow pan and tilt
The iSmartAlarm takes a modular approach to home security, sort of like Samsung’s SmartThings. The system features a variety of switches, sensors, cameras and remote tags that can be bundled together or bought separately according to your needs. The system as a whole is self-monitored and self-controlled, and this is perhaps its greatest strength and its greatest weakness.
At the heart of the iSmartAlarm is the CubeOne hub, which coordinates the activities of all the different sensors and switches. It’s easy to set up and necessary if you want a highly thorough, home-wide security system. This DIY approach allows you to, in a sense, customize your home security. There are capabilities for SMS and push notifications, break-in detection, and real-time monitoring through the associated App. There are also no monthly fees or contracts to sign, and the network can be expanded to control a near-unlimited number of sensors.
The biggest drawback, however, is that the system does not automatically contact police or emergency services. (Hence, the “self-monitoring” format.) The iCamera, which can be bought individually is buggy and a bit of a hassle to set up, and you may experience some difficulties connecting it to the CubeOne.
Still, iSmartAlarm is a decent option for securing your entire home with smart tech. There are a variety of packages for the iSmartAlarm system, (You can also buy individual sensors, switches, and cameras.)
If you're looking to keep an eye on your house indoors, the Nest Cam Indoor is the way to go. But if money is no object and you need a camera you can place outside, the Arlo Ultra is the clear winner.
Our experts haven't had a chance to set up any of these cameras in their own homes just yet, but once they do, they'll be running a series of tests to help you decide which one is best for you. They'll be looking at camera fidelity, recording and storage options as well as weighing differences in subscription services where applicable. They'll also be paying attention to how easy each model is to set up and install.
Dave Engler is Lifewire's resident SEO and audience expert, but more importantly, a husband and homeowner who understands the opportunity cost associated with peace of mind. Personally he uses a Wyze camera in his home.
Ecosystem - Before exploring the features of a home security system, check out what other offerings the company has in its lineup to help protect your home. When you begin assembling your security system, you’ll want to make sure that all features you want out of the security system can be purchased, either included with the system or as an extra module. These may include motion sensors, outdoor floodlights, magnet latches, and more.
Monthly fees - Some security systems will require a monthly charge to store your data or keep your home monitored. While these monthly subscriptions can add another dimension to your home safety, they aren’t always affordable for those looking to stay protected on a budget. Make sure the features provided by the monthly subscription (like home monitoring or SMS alerts) are worth the subscription cost to you.
Reputation - If you’re installing video cameras into your home and trusting your front door lock to a company, be sure that you’re familiar with the brand. Home security is one area where you don’t want to risk putting your family’s safety into unknown hands.