10 best security cameras that give you ultimate peace of mind at home

Forget complicated systems, a new breed of plug-and-play devices can now stand guard

David Phelan@davidphelan2009
Tuesday 27 April 2021 09:54
<p>No need for walls peppered with holes – these cameras are suitable for rented homes, too</p>

No need for walls peppered with holes – these cameras are suitable for rented homes, too

Keeping track of your home when you’re not there is simple with a home security camera in or outside your property.

Connected cameras mean you can tune in to what’s going on in your house from wherever you are, whether that’s another country or another room. You can log in on your phone, tablet or computer to see what’s going on, and the latest cameras can alert you if there’s a surprise presence, or tell you that your pets are in the bedroom again (despite the explicit warning you gave them before you went out).

We looked for cameras with speakers and microphones on them, so you tell your dog, or an intruder, to beat it. Facial recognition is a further plus, so you know your child is home from school or if the dog walker has arrived. There are even some that have alarms to scare the heck out of an unwanted visitor, say.

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Some use monthly subscriptions to add extra features, or, for Apple users, HomeKit secure video saves footage to your iCloud account, thus avoiding a further charge. There are indoor and outdoor cameras so you can tailor your system to your home.

We tested the cameras for ease of installation and set up, and whether or not you need a professional to help with either. Then we checked how reliable they were and if the notifications were useful (or just infuriating, because the system spotted a tree blowing, for instance).

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

The best security cameras in 2021

  • Best for indoor security: Google Nest cam IQ indoor: £249, Argos.co.uk
  • Best for wireless security: Swann wire-free 1080p security camera: £89, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for picture quality: Arlo ultra: £294.95, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for outdoor security: Google Nest cam IQ outdoor: £329, Argos.co.uk
  • Best for subscription-free security: Netatmo smart indoor security camera and siren: £139, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for style: Hive view: £132, Currys.co.uk
  • Best for those on a budget: Ring stick up cam: £89, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for ease of installation: Canary flex: £189, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for user interface: Google Nest cam indoor: £129.99, Johnlewis.com
  • Best for battery life: Kami outdoor battery camera: £79.99, Kamistore.eu

Google Nest cam IQ indoor

Best for: Indoor security

Video storage: Yes, subscription applies

Smarthome compatible: Yes

Two-way talk: Yes

Field of vision: 130 degrees

Camera quality: Up to 1080p HD

Extendable system: Yes

Siren: No

Google Nest’s range of cameras is exemplary, with their snappy design and excellent lenses and sensors ensuring high-quality footage. But that’s not why this is the best buy. The operating system is superbly easy to use, with a simple set-up process and features that just work effortlessly. The camera on this model is high resolution and capable of recording in 4K. It only streams content in HD, but the extra resolution means it can zoom in automatically when it sees movement, so you can see enough to detail for it to be useful. It works with your smartphone to automatically turn on and off as you leave home and return. 

If you subscribe to Nest aware, the camera also offers facial recognition, so a notification can name who it sees, if it’s a familiar face. Subscription prices have dropped recently, covering multiple Google Nest cameras in the same home. It now costs £5 a month for 30 days of event video history, or £10 a month for 60 days of event history plus 10 days of continuous video.

Swann wire-free 1080p security camera

Best for: Wireless security

Video storage: Yes, seven days online included

Smarthome compatible: Yes

Two-way talk: Yes

Field of vision: 180 degrees

Camera quality: Up to 1080p HD

Extendable system: Yes

Siren: No

This camera is battery powered so it’s especially easy to install, with the charge lasting for a couple of months and a solar-powered charger also available separately. It’s a neat device and has decent build quality and a strong magnetic mount – it’s waterproof so it works indoors and out. It’s easy to use and works well thanks to its wide-angle view. But it stands out for its very good level of storage service: clips are stored online free for seven days, along with face detection for up to 10 faces, again for free. 

You can subscribe for £4.95 a month to extend this to 60 days, where extra features like vehicle recognition are added. Swann has a huge range of cameras so you can build as big or as small a system as is required.

Arlo ultra

Best for: Picture quality

Video storage: Yes

Smarthome compatible: Yes

Two-way talk: Yes

Field of vision: 180 degrees

Camera quality: 4K, 1080p HD

Extendable system: Yes

Siren: Yes

The Arlo ultra is one of the most advanced systems around thanks to a 4K camera that can stream content at the resolution it’s capturing it. Unlike many systems, you can also save content locally thanks to the microSD memory card slot (cards sold separately). To stream locally saved data, though, you have to be on the same network as the camera. It’s easy to install the Arlo and to add extra cameras to your setup, though the price mounts as you do: a three-camera kit costs around £900. The camera can work outside, too, as it’s weather-proof. 

Like the Swann camera above, it attaches magnetically and is battery powered. There’s also a bright, built-in spotlight, which is motion-activated, to deliver colour video at night. As with other cameras here, a subscription is needed to make the most of it, though the first year’s service is included in the cost of the machine.

Google Nest cam IQ outdoor

Best for: Outdoor security

Video storage: Yes

Smarthome compatible: Yes

Two-way talk: Yes

Field of vision: 130 degrees

Camera quality: 1080p HD

Extendable system: Yes

Siren: No

Like the indoor IQ model, the outdoor camera from Google Nest is attractive, effective and simple to set up, with the same excellent app and software that is intuitive and enjoyable. As with the other, you can zone what it sees, so it only sends notifications if it recognises movement in your drive, say, rather than the road beyond. For all the features you need to subscribe to Nest aware for £5 or £10 a month. The sensor is 4K resolution though and, like the indoor model, it transmits in HD and uses the extra resolution to zoom in intelligently. On the app you can filter out movement, sounds or talking, for instance, and just focus on people.

Netatmo smart indoor security camera and siren

Best for: Subscription-free security

Video storage: Yes

Smarthome compatible: Yes

Two-way talk: No

Field of vision: 130 degrees

Camera quality: 1080p HD

Extendable system: Yes

Siren: Yes

This is one of the best-looking cameras: a small column of gold aluminium with an elegant design. It comes with a separate siren – you can also choose to add extra sensors to make this a full security system. Unlike some cameras, there are no ongoing fees to Netatmo. You can either save footage to the memory card supplied or save videos online if you have a personal Dropbox, say. 

As well as alerting you if an intruder is spotted (the siren, at 110 decibels, is loud) it can use its facial-recognition feature to send you a message when the kids get home from school, for instance. You can also buy the camera part of this setup as a standalone device for £169.99.

Hive view

Best for: Style

Video storage: Yes

Smarthome compatible: Yes

Two-way talk: Yes

Field of vision: 130 degrees

Camera quality: 1080p HD

Extendable system: Yes

Siren: No

The Hive view looks pretty slick and comes in two colourways: black and copper or white and champagne. Its great looks come from the fact it’s been designed by Yves Béhar. The cube contains the camera and can be removed from the stand if you prefer, though only for an hour as that’s how long the battery inside lasts when it’s been disconnected. It works with other Hive products like the company’s thermostat and lights, all controlled from the same app. As well as spotting movement, it can detect sounds and proved smart and capable. Video is stored online for 24 hours – a £3.99 monthly subscription lets you store more and for longer periods.

Ring stick up cam

Best for: Those on a budget

Video storage: Yes

Smarthome compatible: Yes

Two-way talk: Yes

Field of vision: 110 degrees

Camera quality: 1080p HD

Extendable system: Yes

Siren: Yes

This battery-powered camera, now in its third-generation model, comes from great security company Ring. It is simple and effective. It even has a spirit level so you can make sure it’s sitting straight. A mains version is also available (with a slightly wider field of vision), but the battery can last a little over a month between charges. Because it’s weather-resistant, you can use it indoors or out. As with other cameras, a subscription is needed for access to its full functionality.

Canary flex

Best for: Ease of installation

Video storage: No

Smarthome compatible: Yes

Two-way talk: Yes

Field of vision: 116 degrees

Camera quality: 1080p HD

Extendable system: Yes

Siren: No

Like several of the cameras here, the flex is easily installed as its battery means there’s no need for a mains connection, though you can connect it to the power if you wish. It’s straightforward to set up and image quality is good, though not a match for some of the other cameras we tested. Two-way talk is only possible with a premium subscription that costs £79 a year. The magnetic base lets you attach the camera in a variety of positions, so it’s easy to point it precisely. It works outdoors and in and comes in black or white finishes.

Google Nest cam indoor

Best for: User interface

Video storage: No

Smarthome compatible: Yes

Two-way talk: Yes

Field of vision: 130 degrees

Camera quality: Up to 1080p HD

Extendable system: Yes

Siren: No

Google Nest also makes cameras which are less potent than its top-flight IQ models but are still excellent and have the same brilliant operating system, though the advanced camera sensor and facial recognition options of the more expensive models are missing. Even so, it’s smart enough to tell the difference between movement and a person, for instance (a Nest aware subscription is needed for this and other features – without the subscription you are restricted to seeing the last three hours of activity in the app). 

It also has a microphone that can listen for sounds such as glass breaking. The magnetic base makes the cam versatile in terms of indoor placement, and the set up is as simple as on other models.

Kami outdoor battery camera

Best for: Battery life

Video storage: Yes

Smarthome compatible: Yes

Two-way talk: Yes

Field of vision: 140 degrees

Camera quality: 1080p HD

Extendable system: Yes

Siren: No

Like other battery-powered models, this camera is simple to install, and although the battery needs to be recharged, it should work for three to six months at a time. A microSD card slot means you can store content locally, or via the internet thanks to Kami Cloud, which costs from £5 a month and saves seven days’ history. Although this camera lacks many of the advanced features of its rivals, the price is sweet.

The verdict: Home security cameras

The Google nest cam IQ indoor is the ultimate home security camera, but it’s not cheap, especially when you add in the cost of the excellent Nest aware subscription. 

But the brand does make cheaper models, like the Google Nest cam indoor, and an outdoor version of the same. The Swann wire-free 1080p security camera and Kami outdoor battery camera are both more basic but offer real value.

Home security cameras FAQs

What are the key features I need to look out for?

Once you’ve worked out exactly what you want your camera for, you can assess whether you need a high-resolution model, for instance. If you want night vision then most products can oblige, but only one or two have night vision in colour, which is usually achieved by having a light attached to the camera. You may want something unmissable, to deter intruders, or unobtrusive, if it’s for an indoor room.

Facial recognition is a nice extra – the Nest cam IQ indoor, for instance, can send you a message naming who has just arrived at the house, if it recognises them. This is less alarming than a message saying “intruder spotted in the hallway”, for instance. Expect to pay a subscription for extra features like this.

How important is full HD?

A basic camera may suit if you just want to check on the dog, but a higher-resolution image could be useful in the event of an intrusion, should you want to share the footage with the police.

Do I need one that has a paid subscription?

If all you want to do is check in, then no – but in most cases it’s useful to be able to see what happened yesterday. The Nest app is simple to use and can help you confirm when that flower pot was last seen, for instance. Most companies offer short-term as well as long-term subscriptions, so only signing up for the two weeks you’re away on holiday is an affordable expense.

Is it best to record online or save footage to the device?

Both have their value. The benefit of offline is that if a burglar steals the camera, or breaks it, the footage is safe in a remote server.

Will my dog set the camera off?

Almost certainly, yes. Like many alarm systems, you can restrict which parts of the room or garden you want to receive alerts about, but dogs are resourceful.

Why is a connected security camera important?

Most cameras come with an app and this is crucial if you want to be able to see live transmissions – arguably this is the most informative thing about the camera, as it can tell you in real time that you left a window open or that your neighbour is watering your plants as you asked them to. (It’s polite to tell your neighbour where the camera is and that they will be filmed.)

Can a connected camera be hacked?

It can, and there have been examples of some of the biggest camera companies falling victim to this. Google Nest, for instance, now has two-factor authentication to enhance security, meaning to access what the camera sees you need to enter a code sent to your phone by text.

How good does my internet need to be?

This is a good point. If you have more than one camera and they are high definition, there are two factors to consider. First, if you have a set data allowance, it can hit that ceiling quite quickly. Four HD cameras led to several gigabytes of data traffic in just a few days of our testing. Second, most of us know what the download speed of our internet is, but, for cameras, the upload speed is crucial, too. Too slow and you’ll be waiting for the app to show you what’s going on, or the footage could be jerky.

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