Best outdoor wireless security cameras 2021: battery-powered peace of mind

Get eyes on your perimeter without drilling too deep into your walls with the best wireless cameras

(Image credit: Arlo)

Roll up for the best wireless outdoor security cameras that money can buy right now: let T3 be your guide to this most essential piece of smart home kit, ready to spot unwelcome visitors as soon as they set foot on your property.

The best wireless outdoor security cameras can keep eyes on gardens, porches, paths and plenty more besides – anything that's outdoors in fact. These devices will automatically grab video when movement is detected, storing the footage somewhere safe and alerting you to the movement.

The top models of the moment are even able to tell the difference between human beings and everything else, including cats and cars, so you only get alerted when it's important. As soon as you install a wireless camera, you've got extra peace of mind right away.

Now traditionally, getting security cameras up and running can be a major hit in terms of both your money and your time, but the wireless outdoor cameras that are on the market at the moment are affordable and straightforward to use. What's more, you don't have any cables to deal with.

There is a downside to this cable-free operation though, which is battery life. Make sure you check how long your outdoor camera is going to last between recharges or battery swaps before making your purchase.

How to choose a wireless outdoor security camera

Look first to that battery, and take any stated durations with a pinch of salt. They're usually theoretical maximums. To save power, wireless cams tend to stay static for the most part, only really firing up when they detect motion or you opt to use live view; the more they're active, the shorter that battery life will be.

By the same count, you'll want to point them somewhere they're not likely to capture false positives too often. Pointing one directly at your front door might seem like a good idea, but if there's a lot of regular foot traffic, or if the camera can spy you through the windows, you'll get a lot of activations and a lot of unnecessary alerts. Of course, pointing them somewhere nobody goes is a bit pointless, so find the right balance for you. Motion zones, which can block off detection in certain areas of the picture, aren't common in wireless cameras because such processing is battery intensive, so careful placement is more important than it might otherwise be.

We'd also suggest choosing a wireless security camera on the basis of convenience. How easy is it to juice back up? Some require the unit itself to be plugged in to recharge, some have bespoke replaceable batteries, some take off-the-shelf cells. A quick-swap battery is a must if you're installing on your eaves, so you don't need to make two trips up a ladder to keep it running. 

And don't forget the sensor. The ideal is something which is equally good in bright light and low light, something that can cope with the occasional reflection, and which has a wide angle on it to cover the most ground. Too wide and you might find recorded footage gets somewhat distorted, but this isn't about movie-quality imagery: it's about capturing what's happened efficiently.

T3's best wireless outdoor security camera pick

Arlo Essential Spotlight best outdoor wireless security camerasT3 Award

(Image credit: Arlo)

1. Arlo Essential Spotlight Cam

A wireless outdoor security camera that's hard to beat

Reasons to buy
+Solid 1080p picture+6-month battery life+Colour night vision

For an overall combination of... well... just about everything, the Arlo Essential Spotlight camera is our pick as the best outdoor wireless security camera of the moment. It's reliable, it's compact, it has excellent battery life, and it comes from a brand that you can trust.

You don't need a smart hub to get this up and running. Take it out of the box, connect it up to your Wi-Fi, and you're ready to go. The accompanying phone app will be ready and waiting to let you know if anything suspicious is spotted, and you can tune in at any time to the live 1080p feed.

As the name of the camera suggests, there's a spotlight attached to this particular camera: that should help illuminate whatever it is you're trying to get a look at (and perhaps scare a few burglars off), though there's still colour night vision here that works well even when the spotlight isn't activated.

The other contenders

Best wireless outdoor security cameras: Arlo Pro 3T3 Award

(Image credit: Arlo)

2. Arlo Pro 3

The perfect mix of security, smarts and style

Reasons to buy
+Excellent QHD image+Great viewing angle+Quality motion detection and smarts

• Read our full Arlo Pro 3 review

The T3 Award-winning Arlo Pro 3 tops our overall list of best security cameras, and it fully deserves its place at the top here. The only real downside is its price, which is certainly on the steep end; individual cameras are quite pricey in themselves, and you'll need to spend extra on a pack including the central hub to get going in the first place.

Outside of the expense, though, it's just about ideal. The sensor captures QHD HDR video with a rather useful 160-degree viewing angle, and its night vision capabilities are tremendous, with colour night vision adding a splash of chromatic brilliance to what would otherwise be black and white footage. 

Each camera gets its own surprisingly bright spotlight and a siren, likely enough deterrent in itself to spook intruders, and if you catch someone in the act (or just want to greet someone at your front door) two-way talk is included too. There's great motion detection which can distinguish between humans, animals, and vehicles – it's a feature bonanza.

Bonus points to the design, too: the app, the cameras, and even the hub are brilliantly constructed, befitting the slightly premium price. 

Best wireless outdoor security cameras: best 4K wireless outdoor security camera

As you up the resolution of a sensor, you up the potential of your security camera. The more pixels that camera can capture, the more detail will be included in the final footage; that could be the difference between filming a blurry blob and being able to positively identify a face.

Not all high-res cameras are created equal. Many cameras lean heavily on interpolation, where they blend side-by-side pixels together, to be able to falsely claim a resolution far higher than their sensor can actually manage. It might look great from afar, but zoom in and you'll see a smeary mess. If you're really looking for resolution it's out there – our pick being the shining example of the best you can get – just be careful not to always trust the numbers.

T3's best 4K wireless outdoor security camera pick

Best wireless outdoor security cameras: Arlo Ultra 4KT3 Award

(Image credit: Arlo)

3. Arlo Ultra 4K

Ultra expensive, but probably worth the extra cash

Reasons to buy
+Incredible sensor+Top-level speed+Brilliant app
Reasons to avoid
-Wallet-rinsingly expensive

The Arlo Ultra 4K does look a whole lot like the Pro 3, but it hits your wallet a whole lot harder, particularly given that you'll need to opt for Arlo's higher-tier subscription if you want to keep 4K recordings in the cloud. Unless you're prepared to make a big investment in your security system, you're likely to skip over it.

But that money gets you something special. When you come to use it, the difference between this and its 2K cousin is obvious: it's super fast, both in pulling up a live view and in starting up two-way talk, and yes, there's a big resolution bump. You won't necessarily get movie-quality 4K (we absolutely suspect there's interpolation in action, because things get smeary up close) but this is just about the best picture you can get from a security camera today. It's colourful and sensitive, keeping daylight vision going far beyond many other cameras and doing a great job with its colour night vision facility too.

It's also highly configurable, with Arlo's app giving you access to angle control on the lens right up to a full 180-degree fish eye, and offering up sensible alerts – the Arlo Ultra 4K can distinguish humans from animals, and even pick out packages if it's pointed at your doorstep.

Best wireless outdoor security cameras: best budget wireless outdoor security camera

Cutting corners on price doesn't necessarily mean cutting corners on your security. Invest in a set of cheaper cameras and you're likely to be able to get many more for your money, increasing the amount of your home's perimeter you can cover even if they do have a narrower field of vision or, as generally seems to be the case, lower-end sensors. 

There are a lot (and we mean a lot) of budget cameras weaselling their way into stores like Amazon, but going with a no-name brand means putting a lot of trust into something that, well, we wouldn't trust as far as we could throw it. If you're picking something on the low end, make sure it's something you're confident in – and consider whether a wired cam might actually be a better option, given they can often be a bit cheaper than those with batteries.

T3's best budget outdoor security camera pick

Best wireless outdoor security cameras: Blink XT2T3 Award

(Image credit: Blink)

Compact, waterproof, and long lasting protection

Reasons to buy
+Extremely small+Incredible battery life+Packed with features

Blink is a brand recently acquired by Amazon, operating independently from its Ring security line, and the cameras couldn't be more different; where Ring's cameras tend to be on the more chunky end, Blink goes for a thinner, boxier approach. The XT2 is super convenient, pulling a stated two years from a single pair of AA batteries, and with a camera-and-hub set starting at a fraction of the price of much of the competition, it's cheap enough to consider a large network of coverage – particularly given that Blink's indoor cameras can be found under £40/$40, and the Sync Module can cope with up to 10 cameras at once.

This doesn't skimp on the features, either. Although the sensor only gives a 110-degree view, it's a 1080p number with surprising quality to it, and there's an infrared sensor built in for instant motion detection. Cloud storage is free, too – a very nice extra if you're concerned about running costs. 

You can do two-way talk, pull up a live view via Alexa, and even set up motion zones in the app – all very useful, and impressive given the price.

Best wireless outdoor security cameras: best outdoor camera for Alexa devices

Fumbling with an app when you want to see what's happening outside is not something many of us would consider to be a pleasurable experience. But as our smart homes grow, we've got better ways to o things: namely, pulling up security camera footage on the screen of an Echo Show, or piping it straight to our TVs via a Fire TV device. 

It's like being a combination of super villain and night watchman. You can sit in your lair (or dank control room) and call up your camera whenever you desire, keeping tabs on all of your outdoor happenings without leaving your chair. Whether you cackle maniacally as you do so is entirely up to you, though we do recommend it.

T3's best outdoor wireless security camera for Alexa devices pick

Best wireless outdoor security cameras: Ring Spotlight Cam BatteryT3 Award

(Image credit: Amazon)

5. Ring Spotlight Cam Battery

A bright and brilliant camera for dry areas

Reasons to buy
+Good image+Quick view through Echo Show+Motion zones
Reasons to avoid
-Not waterproof

Ring is best known for its video doorbells, but the Amazon subsidiary has spun that expertise into making a mean security camera too. The wireless version of the Spotlight Cam doesn't miss any crucial features; it can see in the dark just fine (particularly if you're blazing that spotlight) it has motion detection and two-way talk, and its 1080p sensor is very decent if not world-beating in terms of resolution. 

You might not be able to get away with just one Spotlight Cam patrolling your perimeter, although its 140-degree range of vision is pretty decent, and it's not the absolute cheapest device in the world. But if you're all bought into the Alexa ecosystem there's a lot of convenience in its ability to show you what's happening on a Fire TV device or Echo Show with one Alexa voice command. There's also adjustable motion zones to cut down on false positives, and it takes battery packs for quick replacement.

One slight downside is that this isn't waterproof, so you'll need to fit it in your eaves or under a porch if you want it to last.

Best wireless outdoor security cameras: most weatherproof outdoor camera 

The last thing you want is your security cameras going down in heavy weather. Realistically, if the spot you want to mount your camera gets battered by the elements often, something like the Ring Spotlight Cam above is not going to do you a lot of good.

You need something able to take a beating, and cheap enough to replace should the worst happen. Obviously we don't recommend buying a camera that you expect to break, but it's going to sting a lot less if you don't have to shell out too much. 

T3's weatherproof wireless outdoor camera pick

Best wireless outdoor security cameras: Kami Wire-Free Outdoor CameraT3 Award

(Image credit: Kami)

6. Kami Wire-Free Outdoor Camera

Chunky it may be, but this isn't letting the rain in

Reasons to buy
+Off-the-shelf batteries+Good waterproofing+Very cheap
Reasons to avoid
-Sometimes wobbly motion detection

Fully waterproof, with a solid sensor and quality night vision, the Kami Outdoor Camera is a decent option as long as you're not looking for something inconspicuous: it's certainly a chunky boy.

Much of that size is due to the fact that Kami's camera takes swappable off-the-shelf 18650 batteries – the kind used in power tools and vape pens – though that means it's quick to recharge, and finding replacement cells is easy enough. 

In our full Kami Wire-Free Outdoor Camera review, we did notice a few issues with false positives and even the occasional false negative, and it can be a bit tight-fisted with the cloud storage if you don't opt for a subscription, but you won't be disappointed with the footage in general.

Alex Cox
Alex Cox

T3 magazine's own Gadget Guru is a 25-year veteran of the tech writing wars, and has the scars to prove it.