How We Tested
Hi, I’m Rachel Murphy, Reviewed’s smart home staff writer. I live in a smart home that’s full of smart home devices like cameras, plugs, speakers, and a smart oven. During my tenure at Reviewed, I’ve tested smart mini projectors, smart water leak detectors, and other gadgets that can be controlled remotely or via smart assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit. I spent about six months testing eight popular smart WiFi video doorbells to find out which one reigns supreme, and I conducted a major update of our smart doorbell testing previously completed by Susie Ochs and Ben Keough.
To find the best smart outdoor security cameras, we originally researched the market and purchased and tested eight cameras from the top brands. After a few new options emerged on the market and some older models were discontinued, we retested our winners and pitted them against four new cameras to see if any new contenders could oust the current winners.
I installed each around my house, making notes about the installation procedures, in-app setup process, and reliability. Testing included several weeks of regular use, evaluating video quality, audio quality, responsiveness, and network reliability, and app usability on a numerical scale.
A big trick with security cameras is getting the notifications dialed in, so you’re alerted to the things you want to know about without being bombarded with notifications every time a bird flies by. So I tested the sensitivity controls for each camera, if they support motion zones, and how quickly they alerted me to people and noise.
I also installed the mobile apps on both an iPhone XR and a Samsung Tab S6 to determine if the app experience was identical across platforms, and I tested how quickly each app began the live stream.
What You Should Know About Smart Outdoor Security Cameras
It may sound ironic, but even your security camera needs security. So, what should you look for? Features like two-factor authentication, end-to-end encryption, and the option for local storage are all things to consider before investing in a smart outdoor security camera setup.
Another thing to consider is how your videos are used and stored. With most of these cameras, you can turn them on and off from the app to control when they’re recording and uploading video to the cloud. Whichever cloud you’re accessing and storing videos in should be secure. We like that Logitech’s Circle View camera, like others on our list, use end-to-end encryption for storing videos, meaning that only the user and anyone the user shares video with can see it.
And, finally, make sure you create a strong password that’s unique to your outdoor security camera’s app. Data breaches feel like the norm as of late, making it all the more important not to reuse passwords across multiple websites and apps.
Paid Subscription Plans
A paid subscription plan is fairly common with almost any smart home security gadget like a smart doorbell, and a smart outdoor security camera is no different. Think of home security as a continual investment rather than a one-time deal. If you want access to the best features like continuous surveillance and special detection alerts for people, cars, animals, and packages, all features that are available on the Nest IQ Cam Outdoor and Arlo Pro 4, then subscribing to a paid plan is the way to go.
Some cameras, like our best value pick, the Wyze Cam Outdoor, offer 14 days of free rolling cloud storage, but also offer a paid plan that enhances what the camera can do, like differentiate between people and other general motion.
It’s best to consider your own needs and concerns when selecting a paid plan. For example, Ring cameras require a paid subscription to save and share videos, which is a useful feature that’s worth paying for.
Installing Outdoor Security Cameras
When considering which smart security camera to buy, consider your current setup. A wire-free camera with a rechargeable battery is a convenient way to go, as most cameras should only need to be recharged once or twice a year, like our best overall pick, the Arlo Pro 4.
However, some cameras, like the Arlo Essential XL Spotlight Camera do not have a removable battery. That means you’ll have to take the entire camera down to charge it. It’s not a make or break, but it’s something to be aware if you like the appearance of having security cameras up at all times.
Another option is a wired camera like our best upgrade pick, the Google Nest IQ Cam Outdoor, or the Logitech Circle View, which only works with Apple products. With this setup, we recommend having electrical outlets in the soffits of your roofline for an easy connection so you can avoid running cords all along the outside of your home.
Other Smart Outdoor Security Cameras We Tested
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Checking our work.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.