You don’t have to look far into the future to see a day when all houses come equipped with the best outdoor security cameras system.
In the modern day, with our rampant internet usage, we’ve become surprisingly lackadaisical in our approach to home and property security. Just think how much information you give away when you do a simple online grocery order: your name, your address, the kind of things you buy, what times you’ll be around (and, by extension, what times you’ll be out). You might even give instructions on how to get into your building.
Startling, isn’t it? We’ve gone from an age when people left the lights on at home while away on holiday to deter burglars, to a world in which we happily fill out forms that advertise our absence.
Still, if technology has made us vulnerable, then it can also make us secure. Tech companies have been pushing hard to innovate in the connected home CCTV camera space thus been advancing themselves to develop the best outdoor security cameras system.
Big investments by the likes of Google-owned Nest, Amazon’s Blink, and up-and-coming security company Ring have made the best outdoor security cameras more prominent.
In a nutshell, these cameras can record both the inside and the outside of your home, and save the footage somewhere (it might be in the cloud, it might be in the device itself, depending which one you buy). Often, they also connect with your smartphone so you can stream live everything that’s going at your home, wherever you are in the internet-connected world.
What kind of security camera do you need? I’ve spent time reviewing the options on the market. Here’s what I found, starting with the 7 best of the best outdoor security cameras.
Also read: The Best Home Safes
1. Nest Cam IQ
A beautiful camera with brilliant quality video and a very easy setup helped it to top the list of the best outdoor security cameras.
The Nest IQ is a seriously impressive piece of technology. For starters, it looks beautiful: the all-white design and black camera face are seriously spacey (if eerily reminiscent of the AI in 2001: A Space Odyssey). It’s far from the horrid metal CCTV box that you might call to mind when you imagine a home with the best outdoor security cameras.
Fundamentally, the Nest camera sits wherever you put it and records what it sees, saving the last five days of footage to the cloud. The wide face of the camera gives you an impressive field of vision, and the picture you get is of good quality (you can change the resolution; the better it gets, the more data you’ll use to save it to the cloud.) To see that footage, you can use an app on your phone or a browser link on your computer.
So far so normal. Things start to get really interesting with the Nest’s facial recognition system. If the camera detects a face it doesn’t recognise, it will send a notification and picture to your phone, allowing you to give that person the once over. If it’s someone getting up to no good, the camera will follow their movements and save the timestamp, so you can easily find it in the future. And, of course, you can phone 999 while they’re still in your house.
The system is smart enough to remember faces it has seen before so you don’t need to keep approving family and friends every time they enter the living room.
There are few other cool features in the camera itself such as an automatic zoom which tracks moving objects if it detects an intruder; a handy intercom function that allows the device to act as a smart doorbell (although it doesn’t have a chime or button – for that you’ll need the Nest Hello doorbell); and, since Alphabet owns Nest, the camera carries Google Assistant.
It would be easy to roll your eyes at this last point, but it means you can ask your home security camera for the weather forecast – or whatever Google search takes your fancy – and a speaker within the unit will reply. It also means that if you actually saw a burglar riffle through your home, you could quickly record a message to him or her through your smartphone, and the Nest would play it aloud. Which, you imagine, would be enough to send even the most committed career criminal scampering empty-handed down the road.
In general, I found the video footage captured by Nest to be almost perfect when viewing it on other devices. There’s less than a second of lag between someone performing an action and you seeing/hearing it on the screen. That’s also the case in night vision mode which, I noticed, caused some of the other cameras to slow down.
I tried the indoor model of the Nest but the outdoor one is largely the same in terms of quality. The only real difference is that the outdoor version doesn’t have Google Assistant, but that probably makes sense – who wants to go outside to ask Google Assistant for news updates?
Nest have smashed it out of the park with this brilliant little camera, which offers a premium design, tonnes of functionality, and great smart home integration. All these features of the Nest contribute it to be in the best outdoor security cameras.
2. Hive View
This is one of the best outdoor security cameras because it’s beautiful looking, easy to set up, and works like a dream
The Hive View is a really nice looking device which will fit perfectly to be in the list of the best outdoor security cameras system.
If I liked the look of the Nest, then I love the Hive View’s design – surely the most aesthetically pleasing camera on this list. The handsome glossy black cube, magnetically affixed to a brushed metal stand strikes the perfect balance between good-looking and subtle enough to not draw attention to itself.
One handy feature of the design is that you can take the main camera cube off the stand and pop it anywhere you want. With an hour of battery life, you should get enough live viewing to keep an eye on the kids while they play in the garden.
Fortunately, the design is just one part of the Hive View’s appeal. It is also, frankly, a very good home security camera.
The picture is sharp and clear and I noticed very little lag between my actions and the image displayed on the app. I’d certainly say it’s one of the better cameras in terms of video quality.
The app itself gives you access to a similar set of functions as the Nest. You can set a schedule for it to be on the lookout for people, detect faces and sounds, and, of course, watch the footage live through your phone. It’s all very seamless and easy. The only real difference from Nest’s features is that you don’t get Google Assistant and the camera doesn’t zoom in to faces when it spots them.
There’s your explanation as to why the Nest’s camera costs more. Honestly, if those two extra features don’t excite you, I’d say save your money and go with the Hive.
One of the bonuses of the Hive View is that you can build an eco-system with the rest of Hive’s products. If you’ve got one of Hive’s thermostats, for example, you could set it to turn your heating up when the camera detects you entering the room.
A lot of smart cameras can be programmed to do things like this, but few make things as simple as Hive has done within their app. These features available in the camera makes them the best outdoor security cameras. Tech is supposed to make our lives easier and the Hive’s ecosystem lives up to that. It’s all the function with no frustration.
3. Ring Spotlight Cam Battery
A big, outdoor light that comes with a great camera built-in makes it the best outdoor security cameras system.
The Spotlight Cam Battery has a delightfully literal name. It’s a battery powered camera that also works as a spotlight.
Unlike the Hive and Nest, this is designed to be mounted on a wall outdoors – although there’s nothing to stop you from using it indoors. It feels a bit cheap to hold, but once it’s up on the wall no one will notice.
Once again you’re recording and uploading with one of the best outdoor security cameras to the cloud just like the previous two products on the list you can consider this. The added wrinkle is that this one will shine a strong LED spotlight when it detects movement, just like a good, old-fashioned security light. That light might be enough to put off intruders; it could also be handy if you live in an area with poor street lighting and just need some light to help you find your way to the front door in the evening.
The video quality of the built-in camera great and the battery should last ages. (If you’re worried about it running out you can buy a solar panel to keep it juiced up even longer.)
I found the sensor for the light to be reasonable, if not perfect. Still, the intercom function, which allows you to speak to anyone in the vicinity of the camera via your smartphone and them to speak back to you, works well.
Switching between night vision and regular vision isn’t seamless. Mine got stuck on night vision for about a minute after I turned on the light. Still, the night vision is very good, so you can still see everything you need to.
4. Arlo Pro 2
A solid notification system alerts you to any intruders in your house no matter what’s happening and this very feature of the camera helped to gain a spot on the best outdoor security cameras system in the Arlo Pro 2.
The first and most important thing to say about the Arlo Pro 2 is that unlike the other cameras I’ve written about, it only records when it detects movement, though you can use the app to view a live feed too (although this is buried deep in the app and not particularly easy to find.)
It will record clips when it views movement (and a few seconds before so you get the full view of what happened) and you can view these for a week before they’re deleted. You can extend the number of days you get by purchasing a subscription, but I don’t think most people will need that option.
The second important thing to say is that the Arlo Pro 2 has a surprisingly ear-piercing in-built alarm, so it functions as a home alarm system as well as a security camera. That differentiates it from the products I’ve already written and helped in part to explain its price.
The Arlo app, from which you control the camera and the alarm, is by far the most intuitive of all the products I mentioned. You can use the app to set up a schedule so the alarm won’t trigger when you’re at home, for example. The app can also send you notifications and emails with screenshots and video clips when it detects motion.
Setting up the Arlo Pro 2 is a faff, involving a white box that connects to your router via an ethernet cable. However, get past that fiddly start and you find this is a pretty decent home security camera.
In terms of camera quality, the footage is medium to good. The field of vision isn’t the best out there but it’s not terrible, and their picture resolution is decent – although there’s a lag of about five seconds.
The one time where lag does become a bit of a problem is between detecting and recording movement. Because the Pro 2 doesn’t do continuous video recording, it takes a second for the camera to actually turn on when it detects motion. If a nefarious criminal was fast enough, they could get past the camera before it had time to record them.
The other noteworthy things about the Pro 2 are that unlike the Q Plus (the other Arlo model which I’m going to discuss in just a second), it is designed for outdoor as well as indoor use, so it’ll work come rain or shine. It also has a USB slot so you can record your footage directly onto there, which saves you having to deal with the cloud storage system explained above.
5. Ring Video Doorbell 2
A doorbell that doubles security of the home with video.
Arguably the most important area of your house to keep track of is your front door. If someone is going to break in, chances are they’ll try the front door first. This is your chance to catch them in the act. And obviously, it’s useful if you have guests over too.
Very simply, the person at the door presses the button. You’ll get a notification to your phone (you can also get a Ring Chime WiFi extender if you want a doorbell noise too.) The camera then streams a video-link to your phone (or Amazon Echo Show, if you have one of those) – and since it works as an intercom, you can then have a chat with the person at the door if you so wish. Useful if, for example, it’s the postman and you’re out. You can instruct him or her where to leave the goods.
In addition, just like most of the other best outdoor security cameras, you can stream from the doorbell if you want to check what’s going out on the street at any time.
If you think you’re getting a standardly sized doorbell, prepare for a shock. This bad boy is large: about five inches tall and two and a half inches across. It also comes with two face plates so you can have a plain black doorbell or a silver one. Either way, it works well enough and has the best two-way audio of any device on here.
It also comes with the rest of the usual stuff: motion detection, night vision and weather resistance.
I noticed that setup wasn’t quite as easy as the other Ring device and it struggled to connect to my WiFi. But once I did get it up and running, I was impressed.
6. Swann Smart Security Camera
It’s the easiest to set up of any camera on this list
The Swann will always hold a special place in my heart for being the easiest of all the best outdoor security cameras I tested to set up. You just download the app, find the camera, and connect it to WiFi. And away you go.
From there, Swann is pretty barebones. There’s no alarm, no intercom, and the field of vision is not quite as large as some of the other devices – but it’s not terrible either. Swann does well enough.
It’s battery powered but it will work either indoors or outdoors, records motion and alerts you when it detects movement; comes with a magnetic wall mount, and is capable of watching live video continuously. The quality is fine. I don’t massively care for the design but nor do I loathe it. Same goes for the app – decidedly fine.
Buy the Swann for convenience and ease of use. It’s for people who just want a quick, simple security solution without spending big bucks. It’s not the flashiest tool in the shed, but it’s reliable and gets all the basics right.