The internet of things extends to all manner of home devices now – smart fridges whose contents you can check on your way home, iKettles that function via voice recognition, locks that can be activated with a swipe of your phone. Monitoring and protecting your home is the most important thing of all, so we’ve rounded up the best wireless security cameras available to help you do just that.
Thanks to huge improvements in home WiFi and the almost universal adoption of smartphones, you can now install a high quality, app controlled, noise and motion sensitive wireless security camera at home in just a few clicks.
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Once up and running, the latest WiFi security cameras from Nest, Hive and Netgear Arlo can remotely alert you to unusual activity at home via smartphone alert, SMS or even email. They can be linked with other ‘smart’ home products – if motion is detected outside you can turn lights on inside, for instance. But there’s so much more to the latest cameras than just hi-tech CCTV.
Combined with a smartphone app, you can set up alerts, view multiple cameras, record clips, make sure the cleaner actually moved the rug before mopping, check your teenager met curfew or keep an eye (and ear) on your baby’s room.
How we test our wireless security cameras
Chris Haslam is one of the leading technology journalists in the UK, with two decades of experience. He has installed all of the leading wireless security cameras in his own home, and tested them out over weeks and months, getting the whole family involved – including the dog! This is key, as many cameras have pet modes, so he’s been able to give them a truly thorough reviews.
Chris has set up hundreds of smart home products over the years, so he is an excellent judge of how easy – or tricky – these products are to install. And as a former Ideal Home staff member, he knows which cameras will truly work for you, day to day.
What is the best wireless security camera in 2019?
Chris rates the Ring Video Doorbell as the best wireless security camera in 2019. The Logitech Circle 2 is our top budget wireless security camera.
Best wireless security cameras
1. Ring Video Doorbell – best for never missing your post
Small, stylish and clever, the Ring Cam door bell has A 720p wide-angle, motion sensing camera with night vision that connects to your home Wi-Fi and alerts you – via smartphone app – if someone presses the bell or walks up to the house. Installation is a joy, with screwdriver, drill bit, wall plugs and screws included, plus simple instructions whether you’re wiring to the mains or using the built-in battery.
While weird at first, being able to chat to the person at the door using two-way microphones is brilliantly useful if you’re not at home (no more missed parcels, as you can just ask the postman to deliver to next door). Image can be grainy, especially in the evening – the Ring Doorbell 2, £179, has sharper 1080p – but it’s more than good enough for everyday use.
Our only gripe: if you want a record of who comes to the door – rather than just being alerted when they press the button – you will need the basic £2.50 per month/£24 per year subscription (up to £8 per month/£80 per year for multiple camera management), and you will need a wireless plug-in Chime (£29 each) if you want to hear the doorbell inside without your phone.
Ideal Home’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
2. Logitech Circle 2 (wireless) – best budget wireless security camera
More known for computer accessories, Logitech have designed a brilliant little WiFi security camera stuffed with clever features. Available as wired (£129.99) or wireless it can be used indoor and out, has super quality 1080p HD resolution, night vision, sweeping 180° field-of-view and rechargeable six month battery life.
It’s also quick to set up, has a really well-designed app and two really smart mounts (both £34.99). One lets you plug the camera direct into a plug socket, and the other is a window mount that secures your camera on a pane of glass, so it can look out from inside your home.
It’s a breeze to install, the app takes only minutes to master and you get 24hrs of cloud recording for free, as well as the ability to watch back an entire day’s activity in a 30-second time-lapse video (trust me, it’s great fun). There’s also a smart location feature that stops recording when it knows you’ve arrived home (using your phone’s GPS).
Subscription is reasonable, with 14-day’s video recording for £2.99 or the top-tier, £7.99 for 31-days that includes the ability to create motion zones and set up specific alerts. And if you still want more, it is Apple Siri, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa enabled so you can control it, and other smart devices around the home, just by talking.
Ideal Home’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
3. Nest Cam IQ – best for smart homes
The most technologically advanced wifi camera I’ve played with, IQ boasts exceptional 1080p Full HD image quality and the ability to zoom in without pixelating images. You can watch brilliant time-lapse videos of your day, set it to record specific parts of a room (such as just the door) and enjoy the added security of face recognition.
Most of these features are only accessible if you subscribe to Nest Aware (from £8 per month/£80 per year) and, ironically, if you don’t pay the extra the IQ is overpriced. But this is a very impressive camera, and thanks to the 4K sensor it can zoom in beautifully; using ‘Supersight’ it can zoom in on any face when you’re out and send you an alert. Fast moving faces can be blurred, but thankfully the recording continues in the background, so you can go back and identify the person.
If you subscribe to Nest Aware, face recognition is almost flawless and more reliable than the Netatmo. You can also customise alerts, and only record specific zones. If you’ve had Nest products before you’ll appreciate how easy they are to install, use and work together, and if money is no object you’ll want to upgrade to the IQ. It’s clearly the future, but for now, that costs extra.
Ideal Home’s rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
4. Netatmo Welcome – best for parents with teenagers
The standout feature on this cute cylindrical design is the ability to identify faces, not just react to noise and motion. As a result, you can be told precisely when the kids get in from school, whether they’ve come back with ‘new’ friends and even text you when the cleaner shows up. And unlike Nest, face recognition comes as standard.
The face detection technology isn’t flawless but it is reliable once it sees a face a few times; for instance, you would need to identify yourself with and without glasses via the app. You can set the camera to only record strange faces, so you don’t feel spied upon once you’re all home.
Full HD 1080p video quality is great even in low light and thanks to the 8GB MicroSD card included you can store a week’s worth of content without the need for cloud subscription. It’s a reliable system with features unavailable elsewhere, and the design is stylish, but unless you have a shelf or sideboard in a very prominent position in the hallway or living room, finding the perfect location for it to track faces accurately is tricky. A wall mount would earn this camera a test-winning five stars.
Ideal Home’s rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Buy now: Netatmo Welcome, from £142, Amazon
5. Nest Hello doorbell – best for discrete security
Like the excellent Ring Video Doorbell, Google’s new Nest Hello will help you avoid missed deliveries, deter unwanted visitors and give yourself a grace period if the doorbell goes while you’re otherwise engaged.
But unlike Ring, the Hello has constant 24-7 recording as well as face and object recognition, so it works as a full-on security camera, not just a doorbell.
It’s a beautifully designed product – as you approach the door the a light ring pulses willing you to press it, but installation requires wiring through an existing doorbell chime. It can be as simple as swapping a couple of cables and screwing in a backplate, but if you don’t have an existing wired doorbell you’ll need a chime and transformer installing that will need an electrician.
Nest offers installation (for £100 extra), but this doesn’t cover all eventualities, so check before you buy.
As with all Nest products the app is beautifully designed and easy to configure, so you’ll have no issues once the Hello is installed. When the doorbell does get pressed you can get an alert on your phone, via the chime or on a Google Home smart speaker.
I experienced some delays of up to 30-seconds between button press and phone alert, which is enough to put off a busy courier, but on the whole the experience was smooth, and I appreciated the ability to send a notification if was out or couldn’t answer, such as “We’ll be right there” or “No one can come to the door” or just talk through the built-in microphone.
Without the monthly subscription you can get a snapshot image from the camera when it is triggered, but upgrade to Nest Aware (£4 per month) and the camera streams continually to the Cloud so you can watch the whole day back in glorious HD. I warn you, it’s weirdly addictive watching your street’s daily activity in fast forward!
It’s a slick product that will only continue to get better, but the faff of installation, and added cost means many people will opt for the Ring Video Doorbell, just for the convenience.
Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Buy now: Nest Hello doorbell, £199, Currys
6. Hive View Outdoor – best for gardens
The Hive View is the best-looking indoor camera available (see above), so it’s no surprise that the outdoor version is also suitably attractive. It sports the same cube design (66 x 66 x 66mm) and looks stylish and unobtrusive. It lacks the designer stand and colour options however, and is only available in white.
Installation requires a mains connection and is a simple enough job if you have a long enough drill-bit and are confident at DIY, but annoyingly you can’t use an existing mains cable – from an old security light for instance – as the camera uses a specific Micro USB cable. You do get screwdriver, 7.4m mains cable and all fittings to help get the job done though.
Once installed the camera has a reliably high quality image – I expect nothing less these days – and the app has been significantly upgraded since the last time I tested, with push alerts, easy notifications and sound detection, which will alert you when the View Outdoor hears loud sounds, such as breaking glass or noisy burglars.
You can adjust the sensitivity so you’re not troubled unnecessarily, but this is the most trigger happy camera on test, so make sure you adjust the camera’s sensitivity and ask it to only track people to reduce the false alarms.
All the Hive smart home kit – from thermostats to lighting and security sensors – can now all be controlled form the same app, so you can improve home security by turning lights on in the house if the outdoor sensor trips. Subscription is also more affordable than many, costing £3.99 a month, which gives you the chance to download and view images for 30-days. And it’s worth remembering, you can view back 24-hrs of footage as standard.
Ideal Home’s rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
7. Canary Flex HD – best for indoor and out
While the Hive View tends to get all the designer plaudits, I actually think the Canary Flex is one of the best looking, and certainly the most versatile camera available. The dinky pill-shaped camera is understated but stylish and good looking enough – and built tough enough – for use inside and out.
It’s completely weatherproof can survive rain, snow and temperatures anywhere between -20° to 45°C, but doesn’t have the rugged look of most outdoor designs. It can also be used wired and wireless, so if you wish, you can move it from its permanent (mains) location to cover a different area of the house or garden.
I’m not totally sure when this would be useful – maybe if you need a baby monitor for guests? But it’s good to know the video camera can work for up to two months without the need for charging. If it’s a busy area the camera battery my only last a week though.
Naturally you don’t have to plug it into the mains – great if cables haven’t been run to the garden for instance – meaning you can cover more of your property, just remember to recharge when the app prompts you.
With a 116° wide-angle lens recording in Full HD, video image quality is excellent, and with automatic night vision even if you’re covering a pitch black garden it’ll keep a close eye on proceedings. I enjoyed watch the foxes in my garden, until they started to leave unwanted parcels on the doormat!
Mounting the camera is extremely easy thanks to the magnetic bracket that can adjust viewing angle through 360-degrees. The box even come with screw and rawl-plug for mounting the bracket. If you’re worried about someone simply stealing the camera, firstly mount it out of reach (obviously!) but you can also buy a fixed mount for extra security, or even a stake mount for hiding it in a plant pot or shrubbery.
The app makes setup and managing alerts very easy – you can adjust the sensitivity and range of the camera, but as so often some key features aren’t available unless you sign up for a subscription. Spend £7.99 per month (£79 per year) and you can watch your videos for up to 30 days (free service is 24-hours) and you can also streaming from your computer’s desktop and use two-way talk. I think two-way talk should be standard however!
Ideal Home’s rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Buy now: Canary Flex HD, £173, Amazon
8. Netgear Arlo – best for completely wireless coverage
Arlo is rare in being a completely wireless, battery powered system that can be used inside and outdoors, down to temperatures of -10°C. Each camera comes with a superb battery life of up to six months, but after that you will need to replace the batteries (4x Lithium CR12, around £8 each).
We reviewed the two-camera bundle, which comes with a hub that connects to you Wi-Fi and can manage up to five Arlo cameras (15 if you use cloud services) and you get seven days of recordings for free. Set up using the companion app (iOS, Android) is painless, as is camera installation, thanks to the magnetic mounting brackets that make it easy to cover tight angles.
At 110° the field of view isn’t vast, but you can pan and zoom via the app and, despite being only 720, image clarity was excellent. It also lacks the ability to choose ‘recording zones’ so the camera’s whole field of vision is used, but you can reduce the sensitivity to prevent alerts from pets.
There’s also no noise detection but, in our experience, this just reduces unnecessary alerts. Easy to expand, Netgear also offers the Arlo Pro (from £299), which includes a 100dB alarm, Arlo Baby monitor (£269) and various other smart cameras that can be linked to the same hub and app.
Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
9. Somfy Outdoor Camera – best for all-in-one security
Another feature-packed security camera with built-in alarm, the Somfy’s angular design is an acquired taste, and it’s huge compared to the Canary Flex or Hive Outdoor. It’s not ugly, but it certainly won’t blend into the background, which might actually be the idea.
It’s IP54 rated meaning you can leave it outside all year round even if temperatures get below -20°C or up to a scorching 50°C.
The camera has great quality Full HD images with HDR (high dynamic range), a 130-degree field of view, 8x zoom function and a night vision range of up to eight metres. It can also be set up to know when you (or your family) comes home and disarms the alarm, which is handy because at 110dB it is very, very loud!
It has a lot of the features of the indoor all-in-one system the Somfy One (which it’s also compatible with, for whole-house coverage), including the ability to cover the lens to reassure your guests that you’re not spying on them! You can also set the shutter to only be open when you’re not home, or only when the alarm system is activated. The Outdoor Camera can work alongside other Somfy products
While mains powered, unlike most similar cameras you can either plug it into a mains socket, swap an old light and use the existing mains power, or ingeniously, it can piggyback on an existing security light and share power, and even turn the light into a motion controlled light and become part of the security system.
One concern I have with ‘smart’ alarm systems is the risk of waking me (and the neighbours) unnecessarily in the middle of the night. Thankfully if the camera detects motion – and you can choose what time of day it is activated – you get an alert on your phone and the option to view the live feed. You can then choose to ignore, speak to the intruder via the built-in mic, or set of the siren.
Video clips are 10-seconds long and you can watch these clips for 24-hours, but as I’ve come to expect, if you want continuous recording and access for a week you’ll need to subscribe for £3.99 per month.
Ideal Home’s rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Buy now: Somfy Outdoor Camera, £259, Amazon
10. Blink XT – best multiple camera system
A crowdfunding success story, Blink were recently bought by Amazon. The company offers super-value battery-powered security cameras and no subscription fees. XT is the second generation and despite the compact size can be used indoors and out and takes two AA batteries that will last up to two years; it comes with Amazon Alexa voice control and IFTTT (If This Then That) smart home compatibility.
Unlike the rest on test, Blink needs a separate hub to work (this comes with the camera) that connects wirelessly to your Wi-Fi and manages the camera’s settings.
It takes an extra plug socket up but can control 10 cameras and even add a siren module (£49.99) for enhanced security. While not as polished as the Nest or Hive ecosystems, the camera is discrete, well designed and the app has lots of settings to tinker with, including a practical weekly calendar that lets you set times for the camera to be on/off.
Image quality is good enough, but not spectacular, especially with the live-view, but the fact that it records and saves video clips without the need for a monthly subscription is refreshing, plus you can easily share them on social media. With plans to expand the Blink product line to include devices like a camera doorbell, it is one of the most affordable, and potentially expandable, ways to boost your home’s security.
Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
11. Hive View – best for home security with style
Designed by the hugely respected Yves Behar, Hive View is a stylish little camera. You can choose from black and brushed copper or white and champagne gold – it doesn’t exactly scream CCTV!
It can be mounted just about anywhere and the dinky 56mm cube can even be removed and used remotely for up to an hour. I had no issues with set up and adjusting settings is straightforward. It took a while to get the sensitivity levels on the alerts right, but it’s worth persevering to avoid false alarms.
You can choose to ignore pets and just focus on people, and you get 24 hours of cloud recording for free, so you can look back over the day’s events without subscription. If however you have a particularly amusing pet you can upgrade for £3.99 per month and download any hilarious clips.
Likewise, you can also save clips of your house being burgled, or your partner stealing your chocolate, and they’re stored on the cloud for 30-days.
Since we last reviewed the Hive the app has had a complete overhaul. The camera is now compatible with the other products in the Hive range – you can improve home security by turning lights on in the house if the sensor is activated – and the app now comes with all the usefulpush alerts, motion notifications and sound detection we would expect.
Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Why do I need a wireless security camera?
From a security point of view, you can now catch an intruder and – thanks to high definition cameras with night vision – have evidence for the police, while also being able to call 999 instead of simply scaring the baddies off with an old-fashioned alarm.
Wireless security cameras are useful if you need to keep an eye on both the young or elderly. The smartest wifi cameras can now recognise faces and alert you when a specific person gets home – from school, for instance. Just being able to log on and check that an elderly relative is home safe, or that their carer has been in, can offer genuine peace of mind.
Doorbell cameras are also helping us to cope with our insatiable appetite for online shopping. Receiving an instant message when someone comes to the front door and being able to talk to the courier through your smartphone will diminish the need to waste time collecting parcels in the post office.
And then there’s Fido to think of, stuck at home all day with only the sofa to chew on. With a new WiFi camera, you can watch your pets in action, and if you choose a model with a built-in microphone you can even yell at them to get off the sofa.
How much should I spend on a wireless security camera?
At the cheapest end of the market you’ll find plenty of WiFi cameras costing around £70-100, but the flagship brands such as Nest, Hive and Logitech can cost between £150-300 per camera. These generally have the best image quality and most useful features.
Logitech, Netgear and Blink, to name just three, also sell multiple camera bundles which can help reduce costs, but if you want to cover your house – front and back doors, in the living room, office and nursery, maybe the garage – you will need to budget at least £600.
The great thing about smart home kits is that, unlike the old fashioned wired CCTV systems, being wireless means you can simply add on components as and when you like.
What are the key features of a wireless security camera?
- Motion sensors – If someone walks in front of your WiFi camera it will instantly start recording and send an alert to your smartphone. With more advanced wireless security cameras you can choose where in a room (and how far from the lens) it senses motion
- Noise sensors – Like motion, these listen for extremes in sound before alerting you, such as breaking glass. This isn’t available on all wireless security cameras.
- HD Camera – The vast majority of WiFi security cameras offer 720p HD resolution, which is perfectly acceptable for most needs, but cameras with 1080p HD will have sharper images and smoother video.
- Lens – Look for the widest possible lens angle to ensure your security camera covers as much of the room as possible. Most are around 120-150° but some 180° models are available. By the end of the year we expect to see 360° cameras that can view an entire rom from one point.
- Outdoor use – The majority of WiFi cameras are designed for indoor use, but brands have started to develop all-weather designs with long lasting batteries that can be mounted on the outside of buildings and offer another layer of home security. As with traditional security systems, just having a camera can be deterrent enough to the opportunistic burglar.
- Night Vision – An essential if you’re using the camera outside, with infrared LEDs they can pick out surprising levels of detail, even in (almost) pitch black.
- 2-Way Communication – With built-in microphone and speakers these wireless security cameras allow you to talk – or shout – via your smartphone. Essential if you’re installing it by the front door and want to chat with any visitors.
- Smartphone App – All ‘smart’ gadgets come with an app that gives you total control and quick access to the live camera and alerts. The best brands also offer compatibility with other devices – Nest, for instance, has thermostats, smoke alarms and other cameras, plus cross-brand compatibility with smart lighting and locks.
- Power – Mains powered wireless security cameras can often have more sophisticated features as battery life isn’t an issue, but you will have to hide more cables. Battery operated cameras are increasingly popular as you can install them anywhere. Some can last for years, but it’s more typical for them to last a few weeks, so you’ll need to remember to charge them (the app will warn you when it’s time).
What other questions do I need to ask about WiFi cameras?
- Do I need voice-control? Some WiFi security cameras now work using voice-control systems, so you can simply say “set the alarm” or “is the front door locked?” If you’ve invested in Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant enabled products, it’s a nice feature that will only improve as time goes on.
- Is my Wi-Fi good enough? If you have a large house your security cameras may struggle to connect to the WiFi, especially if mounted outside. If you suffer from regular drop-outs in coverage it might be wise to buy a WiFi extender from a brand like TP-Link.
- How many wireless security cameras do I need? To cover every inch of your home you’ll need at least four cameras, but that’s not always necessary. A single well-located camera in the hallway will capture everyone coming in the front door.
- Will it really stop a burglar? If synched to a siren your wireless security camera will definitely spook unwanted visitors, but being mainly silent they’re better at catching intruders in the act. Outdoor and doorbell cameras are especially good at identifying opportunistic villains before they act.
- Should I stick to one brand of smart home kit? Sadly, there’s still not one universal language allowing smart lights, cameras, thermostats and fridges to all work happily together, which makes the argument for choosing one brand stronger, particularly as they can all be controlled using just one app. Apple users might want to look for HomeKit compatible products that, regardless of brand, can all be accessed through the Home app on their iPhone.
- What about my family’s privacy? There have been stories in the news about computer hackers being able to access your smart home products, and watch you through your cameras, but in reality, as with anything involving the internet, if you choose a decent password, have anti-virus software and use common sense when opening attachments on e-mail you shouldn’t be at risk. If you or your family are concerned about being recorded at home you can set up many smart WiFi cameras to turn off at those times you’re at home, some come with lens covers to guarantee nobody can record you, while others use your phone’s GPS to track your locations and turn off when you get home.
- What about wireless security camera subscription services? Although all the WiFi security cameras we’ve tested come with some free features – and a certain amount of memory for video and pictures, either saved on SD cards or in the cloud – to get the best features you generally have to pay extra. Costing from £2.99 to £7.99 per month, these subscription services allow you to save between 14 and 31 days’ worth of video, meaning you never miss an important alert. Subscriptions can also upgrade the camera, adding extra features such as face recognition, as well as offering discounts on other ‘smart’ product. Paying extra might be a good investment if you’re creating a dedicated home security system, but for casual use you might be better to stick with the standard features or choosing a brand like Blink or Netatmo who don’t charge extra.