The optional Nest Aware subscription (starting at $6 a month) gives you the ability to choose between event-based recording or capturing everything 24/7, as well as customizable Activity Zones and person detection, which helps cut down on nuisance alerts. The Nest Cam Outdoor has a weatherproof cord and plug, as well as a convenient mounting system that allows you to aim the device in any direction.
However, the power cord limits placement options to areas within reach of an outlet, and if you have an internet data cap, you may have issues with nonstop recording. If you’re more interested in checking on your kids or spotting packages than in keeping an eye out for prowlers, the Carlo Pro 2 is also a great choice.
And for a fee, you can add 24/7 recording (although you then need to plug the camera in) or person, animal, vehicle, and package detection plus more cloud-based video storage. To make those images clear, it has an 8-megapixel 4K sensor, HDR (high dynamic range), and 12x digital zoom.
Over the past 15 years, I’ve had my hands on everything from remotes and security cameras to AV receivers and smart light switches. I’ve also written other articles for The New York Times, as well as for Wired, Woman’s Day, Men’s Health, and USA Today, among others.
A Wi-Fi surveillance camera on your front porch, over your garage, or attached to your back deck can give you a peek at what’s really going on outdoors. If the camera captures video of something while you’re away, it can send you a smartphone alert and save the footage for later viewing.
Video: Rachel Percolate mounted our test group of outdoor Wi-Fi cameras to a board outside the house so that we could point them at the same spot and expose them all to the same lighting conditions and New England weather. The exceptions were cameras that were integrated into outdoor lighting fixtures, which I had installed on the porch by a licensed electrician (who happens to be my husband).
If you’re looking to put a camera in a spot that doesn’t get a good Wi-Fi signal, consider upgrading your router or adding an extender or repeater. Several of the cameras we tested offered the option to use battery power, but we have yet to find the perfect battery-powered one: Such models we’ve reviewed so far either record very short clips, leave giant gaps in between those short clips, or require charging on a regular basis.
We downloaded each camera’s app to an iPhone 7, an iPad, and a Nokia 3.1 running Android 9 Pie, when possible. The cameras spent weeks guarding our front door, alerting us to friends, family members, delivery people, and even our milkman.
Wire cutter takes security and privacy issues seriously and investigates as much as possible how the companies whose products we recommend deal with customer data. During our testing, we read each of the privacy policies for our picks, specifically looking for sections that strayed from what we consider to be “standard” in the category.
If so, what data, and for what purpose (including location, tracking, marketing, or any other purpose)? Yes, but only with permission and only with approved partners (such as a home security service provider). NoYes, but only with permission and only with approved partners (such as a home security service provider). Does this device offer tamper alerts in case of theft or power outage? YesNoYesDoes this device record and share location data? NoNoNoWirecutter long-term tests all of its picks, including keeping track of app, firmware, and policy updates, as well as hardware and software incidents. Should any privacy or security issues be found with any of the models we’ve selected, we’ll report that here and, if needed, update or alter our recommendations.
Its recording options allow you to capture 1080p HD video straight to cloud-based storage 24/7 or only when it detects motion. It also integrates with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so you can view cameras from a variety of smart screens.
Without it, you don’t get the person-detection feature, customizable Activity Zones (which let you monitor designated areas within the camera’s field of view), or any recordings. And Activity Zones are a nice perk, especially if you’re looking to monitor a specific corner of the yard, a doorway, or even garbage cans.
For $6 per month (or $60 per year), Nest Aware lets the camera record activity whenever motion is detected and stores clips for up to 30 days. If you opt for Nest Aware Plus, you can record everything 24/7, so you never miss a minute of action; for $12 per month (or $120 per year), this plan stores 24/7 footage for 10 days and event video history for 60.
We should note that the camera would occasionally downgrade the picture quality based on available bandwidth, which could fluctuate throughout the day. Nest includes the option to set the bandwidth to low, medium, or high, but that may defeat the purpose of having a 1080p camera.
The Nest Cam Outdoor also comes with clips to make the installation clean and more difficult to swipe off the side of a house. Even though it doesn’t have the widest operating temperature range (-4 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit), this model is one of the few cameras on our list that come with a truly weatherproof cord and plug.
The Nest app can distinguish between a person and unimportant motion such as birds flying or branches waving. Although the Google Home app does have more interesting options, such as Familiar Face and Package Left, those filters don’t work with this particular camera ; they are designed for the and.
We also found it easier to schedule the camera through the Nest app; this is a nice feature, as it prevents you from getting hundreds of alerts while you mow the lawn. It still works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, but it can no longer use that support to trigger lights or appliances.
When the Carlo Pro 2 detects motion (or sound), it can send smartphone notifications or emails, turn on a siren built into the indoor Base Station, record video clips, or do nothing. In our tests, the geofencing feature accurately recognized when we left the zone or returned, and it armed and disarmed the system accordingly.
When plugged into an outlet, the device adds the Look Back feature, which includes the three seconds before motion actually starts. If an event continues beyond the chosen length, another recording should start after a short “reset” period, which will leave a small gap in between the clips.
According to Carlo, this reset is to keep the camera from creating lengthy clips where nothing happens and to conserve battery life. The Base Station also has a USB port for storing recordings on an external hard drive, a nice supplement to the free cloud storage and a more secure approach than systems that record to a micros card in the camera itself: Because the storage is tucked away safely indoors, if someone steals your camera, they won’t get your video, too.
Carlo claims that you should be able to get four to six months out of a fully charged battery depending on the settings, usage, and surrounding temperature. After one full month, the camera that saw less action was still running at 80%, whereas the one pointed at a busy street was standing strong at 60%.
The home screen provides a view of each connected camera, along with Wi-Fi strength, battery life, and alarm status. The Google Nest Cam IQ Outdoor streams 1080p video with the same subscription model and app options as the original Nest Cam Outdoor, but it adds more-detailed person detection, a brighter image, an automatic close-up tracking feature (which follows a person around the viewing area), better audio, a stronger mount, and a wider operating temperature range (-40 to 113 degrees Fahrenheit).
It’s also more tamperproof than any of our other picks, but that added security makes for a trickier installation process, and it typically costs more than twice the price of the Nest Cam Outdoor. If you’re wondering who or what is at the edge of your property, the 12x digital zoom allows you to take a closer look at a subject up to 50 feet away.
For instance, if someone is walking on the edge of your lawn, the camera automatically zooms in on the subject and follows them as they move toward your house or anywhere else within the field of view. The high resolution of the image sensor ensures that the zoomed-in subjects aren’t pixelated, which happens a lot when other, lower-resolution cameras zoom in.
The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor’s close-up tracking feature zooms in and follows action as it happens. After a while, the camera learns to identify those people and then sends smartphone alerts with that info when they show up at your home.
We think this feature (which requires a Nest Aware subscription) is more worthwhile outdoors, where you are more likely to want to distinguish expected visitors from random strangers. Unlike our top pick, the Google Nest Cam IQ Outdoor camera doesn’t have a weatherproof cord.
If you don’t like the idea of drilling those types of holes, Nest sells an optional Weatherproof Power Adapter. For one, when you create a Ring account, Neighbors automatically appears in your app (though there are ways to adjust your personal settings and hide notifications).
We also had problems with Ring’s procedures for handling a leak of customer login credentials, an unfortunate but also not uncommon occurrence for a technology company. Ring has recently made two-factor authentication mandatory, as well as added the ability to manage authorized devices and third-party accounts, end-to-end encryption, and other security enhancements (all these are found in the Control Center as well).
We’re also planning to check out the Carlo Pro 4, a $200 wire-free camera with 2K video, a 160-degree viewing angle, an integrated spotlight, and the ability to connect directly to Wi-Fi (without the need for a hub). The $200 camera delivers 1080p video and includes person detection plus support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, with Apple HomeKit expected to follow.
TP-Link has announced the Kasey Cam Outdoor (KC420WS), which captures 2K video, supports 24/7 recording, and provides color night vision, local and cloud storage, and integrates with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. And unlike other Carlo models, the Essentials' battery is not removable; you’ll need to charge the entire unit.
The Carlo Pro 3 Floodlight Camera blasts a bright 2,000 lumens (3,000 if you want to hardware it), and in our tests its daytime 2K video was stellar. All three models are still better than the pricey Carlo Ultra, which we found to have awful night-vision performance, poor battery life, and a tendency to miss far too many motion triggers.
It certainly performed better than the Kali Wire-Free Outdoor Camera, which left huge gaps in between clips, had audio issues (on two different units), and lacks motion-sensitivity controls. Although the Blue by ADT Wireless Outdoor Camera has great battery life, we just can’t recommend a $200 camera that doesn’t offer the ability to zoom video and can’t withstand outdoor temperatures below 14 degrees Fahrenheit.
TP-Link’s Kasey Cam Outdoor (KC200) provides 1080p images and a 130-degree field of view that could rival the offerings of some of our top picks. The Netatmo Presence includes IFTTT, Google, and HomeKit support and has the ability to differentiate between people, animals, and cars.
But grainy night vision, limited installation possibilities, and a hefty price tag took it out of the running for a top spot. When we first reviewed the Waze Cam Outdoor, cloud recordings were limited to 12 seconds and only every 5 minutes, as long as there is motion.
She hopes her neighbors read this bio because it would explain why she always has four video doorbells running simultaneously outside her home.