The best home security cameras for 2020

Erika Rawes

Video doorbells have generated a ton of interest from people because of their ability to keep tabs on what’s going on near your front door. But what about the rest of the home?

A home security camera can be a strong deterrent for would-be criminals. It’s a convenient way of keeping an eye on your home when you’re away. You can also use a security camera to monitor your driveway without looking outside.

Choosing a home security camera can be a daunting task since there are a lot of things to consider, including video quality, recording capabilities, and connectivity features. Researching your options carefully and comparing products will help you find the right home security camera for your needs.

Best home security cameras at a glance:

The best home security camera: Arlo Pro 3

Netgear Arlo Pro 3

Why we picked the Arlo Pro 3:

$499 from Abt Electronics

Arlo has always offered the best solution when you need multiple cameras. The Arlo Pro 3 improves on an already great system, upping video resolution to 2k. It is fully weather-sealed and ready to be used indoors or out, wired or wire-free, with a 160-degree viewing angle. The batteries can easily be swapped and charged separately, so wire-free cameras won’t suffer any downtime while charging.

Unlike stand-alone smart cameras, Arlo’s use of a base station ensures optimized throughput with every Arlo Pro 3. This maintains a stable connection regardless of network load, and it is also responsible for the Arlo Pro 3’s excellent battery life of up to six months, depending on activity. When plugged in, the camera can be used for continuous video recording — like a traditional security camera — making it useful in a business setting, as well as in your home. (note: A continuous cloud video recording, or CVR, storage plan, sold separately, is required, and you can only watch CVR videos from the cloud. Arlo doesn’t support downloading CVR videos).

The base station also adds a 100-plus-decibel siren and allows for local backup via external USB drive. The Arlo Pro 3 is also backward compatible with the existing Arlo Pro system, so current users can continue to use their same base station and older cameras alongside the new model. However, cloud recording has received a serious change: Arlo no longer offers free 7-day video cloud recording for video. You now have to pay for an Arlo subscription, which saves video up to 30 days. For free recording, you will need to rely on local recording or choose another cam. It’s a disappointing change for those who didn’t want to pay a subscription, but fortunately, there are other great options.

Read our full Arlo Pro 3 review

The best indoor security camera: Nest Cam Indoor

Why we picked the Nest Cam Indoor:

$499 from Abt Electronics

Just as it did with thermostats, Nest is changing the game when it comes to home security. The new Nest Cam Indoor promises a giant leap forward in smart camera image quality. It uses a 4K image sensor to record dual 1080p frames simultaneously, combining them into one Full HD video that offers greater dynamic range than what would otherwise be possible. Dynamic range is often an issue for home security cameras that have to try to balance exposure between a bright window and an otherwise dark interior. Nest Cam Indoor lessens, but doesn’t entirely eliminate, the problem.

What’s more, users will be able to digitally zoom in up to 12 times without completely sacrificing image quality. The camera can even automatically zoom in to an area of the frame when it detects motion and will stay zoomed in on the subject as it moves across the frame. The full 130-degree wide-angle perspective is still preserved while doing this, so you won’t miss a thing. Plus, you can stand it up, attach it to a wall, use a tripod, or use the built-in magnetic base for more complex spots.

The latest Nest Aware subscription also adds 30 days of cloud video storage and the ability to create clips from your cloud videos. The subscription also includes person alerts and activity zones as well, so you can customize what the cam watches for, depending on how you use it.

The best Alexa integration: Blink XT2

Why we picked the Blink XT2:

$499 from Abt Electronics

Versatile enough to work as either an indoor or outdoor camera, combined with superb Alexa integration, it’s no surprise that the Blink XT2 is our choice for this category. With support for Alexa, you can view live streams, as well as arming and disarming your system, all from the comfort of your smart television or smart display.

Beyond that, it is designed to withstand the elements if you intend to make it an outdoor camera. There’s also very little to worry about in terms of battery life with this compact-sized camera, seeing that it’s rated for upwards of around 2 years. And finally, it can be perched on just about anything — including a tree branch if you’re inclined to get wider coverage of your home!

Indoors, it’s still a reliable camera that’s ready to capture footage once motion is detected. Don’t want to receive redundant notifications? Well then, you can establish activity zones to minimize false alerts.

Bottom line: If you’re heavily invested in Amazon and Alexa devices, this cam will be a great fit.

The best outdoor security camera: Ring Spotlight Cam

Why we picked the Ring Spotlight Cam:

$499 from Abt Electronics

The thing that sets the Ring Spotlight Cam apart from other home security cameras is that it prioritizes crime prevention. The built-in motion detectors will immediately start recording video when they sense movement, and the camera will simultaneously shine lights to scare off any would-be intruders or criminals. You can also sound the 110-decibel siren to warn others about suspicious activity or as a warning to possible lurkers.

The camera is compatible with iOS and Android mobile devices, as well as Mac and Windows PCs. So regardless of what kind of device you have, you’ll be able to download the app and tune in anytime to see live footage of your home. No matter where you are, you can check to make sure the kids came home from school or to see if the lawn was mowed. Set-up is quick, and it includes all the tools you’ll need to get the camera situated in your home.

If you’re looking for a more affordable option, Ring recently came out with a line of new

$499 from Abt Electronics

that start at $99.

Read our full Ring Spotlight Cam review

The best cheap security camera: Wyze Cam V2

WyzeCam hands-on review angle

Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

Why we picked the Wyze Labs Wyze Cam:

$499 from Abt Electronics

Wyze Labs was founded by ex-Amazon employees who are now bringing the online retail giant’s high-volume, low-margin approach to smart home security. Their first product is the Wyze Cam: A tiny, cubical smart camera that costs about as much as two large pizzas. At that price, it could very well disrupt the industry.

As for features, it’s no surprise the Wyze Cam is not up to par with the likes of the Circle 2 and Arlo Pro 2, but it isn’t bad. It offers night vision, motion detection, and two-way audio, and includes 14 days of free cloud storage. Motion- and sound-triggered video clips are limited to 12 seconds, which may or may not be enough time to get a good look at someone breaking into your home, so we don’t recommend relying on the Wyze Cam if you need a robust security solution. However, recent firmware updates have added person detection support, and A.I. modeling to improve person detection. These updates are bringing the $20 Wyze Cam even closer to the more expensive options on this list.

As an affordable entry point into the world of smart home cameras, it’s hard to find anything that competes. We have tested nothing else that offers so much for so little.

Read our full Wyze Labs Wyze Cam V2 review

The best security camera for privacy: SimpliSafe SimpliCam

Why we picked the SimpliSafe SimpliCam:

$499 from Abt Electronics

There’s been a lot of news the last year surrounding security cameras being hacked. Sure, there are measures you can take in place to prevent such hacks, but there’s one that does a better job at maintaining your privacy. The SimpliSafe SimpliCam may seem like your ordinary indoor security camera, but it takes your privacy more seriously.

That’s because it features a privacy shutter. Not just any shutter, but an actual mechanical shutter that makes a distinctive noise when it opens and closes, as well as the ability to completely be shut closed while you’re home. It’s a useful feature if you’re paranoid about someone potentially watching on the other side.

You’ll always know when someone is watching you because of its discernible noise when the shutter opens and closes. Beyond that, it features 720p HD video, two-way audio, 120-degree field of view, night vision, and motion detection.

Research and buying tips

Who installs home security cameras?

You can self-install most home security cameras. But, if you want to hire a pro, you can hire a home security or home surveillance professional to install your cameras.

How long do home security cameras keep footage?

It depends. The amount and length of storage you get depend on factors like the specific model, whether it supports SD card storage, and whether you have a paid subscription plan or if you use the free plan.

Can home security cameras be hacked?

Technically, yes. Customers have reported instances where hackers access their home security camera’s audio feed. To help protect your home security camera from hackers, use a strong non-default password, use two-factor authentication when available, secure your wireless network, and buy your home security camera new from a trusted source. You can learn more about how to protect your home security camera from hackers here.

How do home security cameras work?

Most home security cameras stream video feeds using your home internet network. They use an app as an interface where you can do things like view live video feeds, communicate using two-way audio, set up motion zones, and access cloud storage (or the camera’s internal storage or SD card storage).

Do home security cameras deter crime?

Yes. The Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of North Carolina Charlotte asked burglars their most effective deterrents. Just over fifty percent said the presence of outdoor security cameras was an effective deterrent (they’d seek another target if the home had security cameras outside).

Where do I place home security cameras?

The best place to put security cameras is at common entry points — the front door, back door, garage, and lower level windows. However, you should also consider your area, your property, and any special circumstances that may require different placement. For instance, if you have a lot of expensive automobiles on your property, you may want to have an outdoor camera covering your vehicles. Or, if you live in an area where there are a lot of second-floor break-ins, you might want security cameras covering your second floor.

Do all home security cameras require a subscription?

No. A subscription is not required for all home security cameras, however, many home security cameras provide more features if you purchase the subscription plan and without the subscription plan, your features may be limited.

How do I choose a home security camera?

Consider the features you want, your budget, whether you want the camera to plug in or have a battery, and any potential extra costs (like a subscription plan). Also, the camera’s app is just as important as the camera itself. If the app is difficult to use, it runs slow, or it crashes a lot, you probably won’t be happy with the camera because you’ll have trouble using its features.

Are home security cameras legal?

Yes. Home security cameras are legal to place in your own home. If you’re using home security cameras in a rental property (like an Airbnb home), they are typically legal provided you are placing them in common areas, and the rental guests are aware of their presence. It is not legal, however, to place a home security camera in a place like an Airbnb rental bathroom. Plus, that’s just creepy anyway.

Do home security cameras record sound?

Yes. Most modern home security cameras record audio in addition to video.

What is the best brand of home security camera?

Some of the best brands include Amazon, Arlo, Nest, Kasa, Wyze, Logitech, and Blink. However, while it’s wise to buy from a trusted brand, it’s also a good idea to research the individual model (it’s features, app, subscription plan, etc.) before making a purchase.

How does Digital Trends test security cameras?

This is by no means an exhaustive list of home security cameras, but these are a few of our favorites that stand out for various unique reasons. Smart home cameras are at their best when they stay out of your way and offer worry-free operation and streamlined apps so that when you do need to interact with them, it doesn’t cause a headache. Good image quality is nice, but it’s not the most important feature when it comes to keeping your home safe or checking in on your kids or pets.

We look for cameras that offer a great combination of features — night vision, battery power, alerts, two-way audio, integration with other services, etc. — in determining the best ones. Obviously, we also take price into account, and there is quite a range of pricing in the current smart home camera market.