We've reviewed the best wireless security cameras and doorbell cameras for the home and outdoors
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.
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.
Best wireless security cameras
1. 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
2. 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
3. Netgear Arlo – best for inside and outdoors
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
4. 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
Buy now: Ring Video Doorbell, £123.99, Amazon
5. Blink XT – best security camera on a budget
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
6. 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. Upgrading costs £4.99 for up to two cameras, and that gets 30-days video storage. It’s much cheaper than Nest, but you don’t get as many features.
Disappointingly, alerts come via text notification, when a little image is so much more useful as you instantly know if something is actually wrong. At the time of testing Hive View wasn’t compatible with the other Hive smart home products, including lights and security fobs. We’ve been assured this is coming soon, which should improve the camera’s functionality.
Ideal Home’s rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
7. Logitech Circle 2 (wireless) – best for flexibility
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
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.