Off-licenses, corner shops, and security-minded folks have all been using simple, multi-camera DIY home monitoring systems for years. In the world of smart home control, these wired systems – with questionable video quality, recorded direct to DVR – now seem decidedly old school. If you use one of those, it’s time to welcome in the new generation...
Following the success of indoor Wi-Fi cameras such as Netatmo Welcome, Nest Cam and Canary, the smart camera is venturing outside for some all-weather home control. But when it comes to keeping the baddies at bay, can you really rely on a wireless motion detector and app? We installed the latest smart security cameras to find out.
01: Nest Cam Outdoor - One for the beautiful looks
Nest’s IP65-rated all-weather camera delivers superb wide-angle 1080p image quality, reliable noise and motion detection, plus seamless integration with the excellent app. Build quality is also beautiful – check out that magnetic mounting bracket! Our only gripe is with installation: screws, cable tidies and mounting plates are included, but the wall-mounted power adapter and cable are hard to hide. There’s three hours of free cloud storage a day, but, rather cheekily, you get better image quality and enhanced motion detection if you subscribe to Nest Aware (from £8 per month).
02: Netatmo Presence - One for busy areas
This is the first Wi-Fi security camera with the capacity to distinguish between people, cars and animals, so false alarms are minimised and the built-in floodlight won’t waste effort on feral foxes. Yes it’s expensive, and the camera’s 100-degree angle isn’t brilliant, but the 1080p Full HD video is. A built-in micro SD slot negates the need for subscription services. Does it work? Yes! The app is slick, time-lapse footage is addictive and, even on a busy terraced street, once we customised the viewing zone the security light only came on when a real person approached our front door.
Price: £250 | Buy Netatmo Presence
03: One for an easy life - Arlo Wire-Free
This smart home monitoring kit is, as its name suggests, wire-free, with each camera boasting a quoted six-month battery life. What’s more, these 1080 x 720p HD motion detection weatherproof cameras are happy working in temperatures from -9 to 50°C. Two cameras are supplied (the system can handle up to 15) and each has a powerful magnet and concave back with ball-mounting plate for effortless adjustment. Video quality at night is excellent, and the two-way mic is handy for chatting to delivery drivers. The offer of free cloud storage for seven days is generous.
Price: £280 | Buy Arlo Wire-Free
04: Swann Smart-Series HD - One for decent coverage
This hybrid security system comprises four wired, Full HD 1080p, weather resistant cameras with night-vision and motion detection. There’s also an eight-channel DVR hub with 2TB hard drive. It’s ZigBee compatible, so you can control Nest, Philips Hue and Yale devices, as well as the SwannOne series of motion sensors, alarms and indoor cameras, from one app. Great in principle, but the kit - complete with 80m of thick white cabling - is irritating to install. The hub is also bulky and the app, while comprehensive, verges on the abject. At least the image quality is good.
Price: £530 | Buy Swann Smart-Series HD
05: Ring Stick Up Cam - One for serial shoppers
At 720p the camera isn’t pin-sharp. However, there are plenty of other reasons to rate this camera: the rechargeable 5,200mAh battery (offering six to 12 months of use), the two-way communication function, extensive IFTTT smart compatibility and cheap (£24.95 a year) cloud services. It’s easy to adjust the sensitivity and range of motion detection, but we struggled to capture a clear image of a passing face. As such, it’s best used as a superb front door camera, especially if you buy the plug-in Ring Chime (£24), turning it into an automatic doorbell and camera.
Price: £159 | Buy Ring Stick Up Cam
06: Motorola Focus 73 - One for visual deterrence
With its metal design and motorised pan/tilt camera, the Focus 73 wouldn’t look out of place in a casino, but don’t bet your house on its ability to spot the bad guy. Wi-Fi stability was so patchy we had to switch to an ethernet cable to test all of the features. Plus, any video clip recording requires a subscription (from £2.99 a month), as without it you have to manually record if you want to capture evidence. The 180-degree pan view is fun but slow to operate via the app, and motion detection is too slow — especially at night — to capture meaningful detail unless the subject is standing still.
Price: £130 | Buy Motorola Focus 73