Home security is one of those things that many people don’t think about until they have a problem (or until the house next door has a problem). Older surveillance systems were complicated and pricey, but nowadays there are a variety of solutions that are both affordable and easy to use — in a matter of minutes you can be monitoring any part of your house inside or out. These modern surveillance systems link with mobile apps so you can see exactly what the camera sees even when you’re away from home.
There are a few things to consider before selecting a video camera system. First, decide if you want to monitor the inside of your home or the outside, or both. Some cameras can be set up in either location, but others are only for indoor use. Consider the field of view — the wider the angle the more you’ll be able to see — and the quality of the image. Also think about where you plan to use the camera: will it be near an electric outlet or do you need a battery-operated unit? And keep in mind some systems require a monthly fee for long-term storage.
Whether you are buying a camera for security purposes, or just because you want to keep an eye on your dog (or your teenagers!) while you are away from home, we’ve rounded up five great options on the market now.
1. Arlo Pro 2
Netgear just released this newest entry to its Arlo product line in early October. The kit comes with two waterproof, high-definition cameras that can be used indoors or outdoors, plugged in or powered by the included rechargeable batteries. Not only does it look better without unsightly cables running to the cameras, but it also means you can easily move them from one spot to another. In a matter of minutes I set up the app, synced the cameras, and was looking at crisp video from both cameras with a 130-degree field of view and night vision. The cameras have speakers, microphones, and motion sensors. The system keeps the past seven days of recordings from up to five cameras in the cloud for free, or you can purchased upgraded plans or add a USB drive for local storage. Arlo Pro 2 now works with Amazon Alexa for live monitoring from the Echo Show and TVs connected with FireTV.
2. Ring Video Doorbell 2
As we prepare that most wonderful time of the year when many of us get packages delivered daily, this video doorbell makes it easy to see exactly who is at your door — and to make sure those packages aren’t being swiped! This latest version from Ring has a removable, rechargeable battery pack, or you can wire it to your existing doorbell. The app’s adjustable motion sensor allows you focus on specific areas within range of the camera. Whenever someone triggers that motion sensor or presses the doorbell, you’ll get an alert and can see, hear, and speak to the person right through the app. Of course you can also check the high-definition camera at any time without an alert. The system comes with 30 days of video recording for free; after that you’ll need to pay. There are two faceplates, a matte bronze and satin nickel, and Ring will replace your doorbell if it’s ever stolen. Note: I tested the system with the added Chime Pro, which is both a Wi-Fi extender and indoor chime so your Ring truly functions as a doorbell.
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Nest is known for making a variety of smart home products and its indoor camera is one of the most popular. The sleek black unit has a magnetic base so it can be stuck on your fridge (ingenious!). Of course you can also just leave it on a counter or mount it on the wall. The pivoting stand made it easy for me to find just the right angle for recording. The camera needs to be plugged in — either to an electrical outlet or USB — which means it can record continuously, 24/7, since there is no risk of battery drain. The video is really clear and even picks up good images at night in a dark room, and you can zoom in for a closer view. The microphone and speaker are also clear, whether you are telling your dog to get off the sofa or trying to scare an intruder, and I like that it chimes before the remote voice is audible. Extend the trial subscription of Nest Aware to keep 30 days of footage stored in the cloud and add features such as Sightline, which makes it easy to quickly search through video, and the ability to save and share video clips. Nest is compatible with the brand’s other devices such as the Nest Learning Thermostat and Nest Protect.
Canary’s high definition camera is a plug-in unit that provides a really wide 147-degree view with automatic night vision. And here’s something really cool: it has what’s called “HomeHealth” technology that monitors air quality, temperature, and humidity so you can see that data and video in the app. With the touch of a button you can also activate a 90-decibel siren or connect directly to local emergency services. Use the app to play back recorded activity, tag specific types of motions, bookmark events on a timeline, and more. The unit keeps video in the cloud for one day, but if you add a paid membership that extends to 30 days and adds additional services like two-way talk and desktop streaming.
5. Skybell HD Wi-Fi Video Doorbell
This is a hard-wired doorbell and while not difficult to install, it does take a bit more time than plug-and-play. When the button is pushed, your existing doorbell will ring like normal and you’ll also get an alert on your phone (as will any other users you enable) so you can have a two-way conversation with the person at the door. The camera has a 180-degree field of view and full color night vision reaching 15 feet. There’s also a motion sensor to detect visitors even if they don’t push the button. Skybell does not charge a monthly fee; videos are accessible from the cloud for seven days and you always have the option to save them to your mobile device to keep them indefinitely. Skybell works with a variety of other smart technology including Amazon Alexa and Echo and Nest Protect. It comes in bronze and silver, and Skybell will replace it if it’s ever stolen.
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