Delve into DIY security with these connected cameras
Whether you're serious about security or simply want to spy on a mischievous pet, these clever cameras are vying for a spot in your home.
DIY security gives you greater flexibility over your connected home, allowing you to setup each gadget as you see fit and avoid subscription-based services that lock you into a contract. Still, the install-yourself systems vary widely. The all-in-one units typically come with a built-in camera while the accessory-based kits tend to offer them a la carte, as an optional add-on after your initial purchase.
The related apps differ too. Some have live streaming, while others only record a clip when they detect motion. Some have local storage options, while others save footage to a cloud server. And some offer free cloud storage, while others charge a fee. Scroll through our list of reviewed security cameras to learn more about the variety of DIY options available.
Archos Smart Home Starter Pack
Archos' $250 (£200 in the UK, Australian availability not yet announced) Smart Home Starter Pack has an Android tablet-hub, various motion and temperature sensors, and two small, battery-powered cameras. The cameras were pretty disappointing. I like that you can easily angle the cameras on their magnetic bases, but they don't offer live streaming. Instead, they record when motion is detected or if you expressly ask them to record. Read CNET's full review of the Archos Smart Home Starter Pack.
Belkin NetCam HD+ Wi-Fi Camera
Belkin's $130 (£130 in the UK, and AU$170 in Australia) NetCam HD+ Wi-Fi Camera is solid DIY camera entry-point. You have to pay $10 a month to store clips and, annoyingly, to receive push notifications. It also doesn't deliver Dropcam Pro-level optics or have the Samsung SmartCam HD Pro's local storage option. Still, you can control it from the WeMo app alongside Belkin's other home automation products. Read CNET's full review of the Belkin NetCam HD+ Wi-Fi Camera.
BOT Home Automation Doorbot
The $200 (available internationally for about £120, AU$215) Doorbot is a smart doorbell that captures live video footage whenever someone buzzes your front door. Get a push notification when someone's at your door and access the app to see who's there. You can also use the two-way talk feature to chat with them without having to open your door. Unfortunately, the video quality wasn't great, yielding consistently streaky, pixelated images. Read CNET's full review of the BOT Home Automation Doorbot.
The $200 (£200 in the UK, not available in Australia) Dropcam Pro's crisp 1080p videos and sturdy build make it a leader among DIY security cameras. Receive sound and motion alerts on the related app and access the live feed 24/7. There's no local storage option and its Cloud Video Recording (CVR) fees start at $10 per month or $99 per year for 7 days of saved footage. Nest recently bought Dropcam and Dropcam recently announced an API Beta Program, so expect a lot more from this successful startup-turned-Nest-property. Read CNET's full review of the Dropcam Pro.
Icontrol Networks Piper
Piper is a $200 (also available in Europe for €150) security module with a camera, a siren, and a whole bunch of sensors that detect everything from ambient light to motion. Track what's going on via live streaming and receive alerts when something's amiss. Piper stores up to 1,000 video clips on its cloud server for free -- there's no local storage option, but there's also no monthly fee. Read CNET's full review of the Icontrol Networks Piper.
iSmartAlarm's $200 base system has sensors, sirens, keychain tags, and a hub. (Currently available only in the US and Canada, but the company has said it has plans to branch out. Pricing converts to about £120, or AU$215.) Add on $150 and you get its camera too. Fortunately, there's no additional monthly fee attached to this camera. Unfortunately, the camera was very finicky. Up to 15 percent of routers don't work well with it and even if you do get it set up, it doesn't have a built-in motion sensor -- a definite oversight when you consider the competition. Read CNET's full review of the iSmartAlarm.
Manything, iOS app
Manything is a free iOS app that turns your old iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch into an instant security camera. It definitely isn't as complete of as solution as regular DIY cameras, but it still has a ton of handy features. You can use it for live monitoring and to receive alerts when motion is detected. It even has an option for customizing "motion zones" so you can pick and choose the parts of your home that you want to watch more closely. And, it will employ your phone's flashlight to "see" in the dark. Read CNET's full review of the Manything iOS app.
Oplink Security TripleShield
Oplink's $350 TripleShield package (available only in North America) includes all of the usual security kit suspects, plus a couple of night-vision-capable cameras. If the alarm is triggered, the system will automatically record video and send it to your phone. The related app is well-designed, too, allowing you to view live footage on a split screen or one camera at a time. We weren't thrilled with the fees, though. The compulsory $20 monthly fee increases by $5 every time you add an additional camera to your setup. Read CNET's full review of the Oplink Security TripleShield.
Samsung SmartCam HD Pro
Samsung's $190 (available in the UK for £160; not yet available in Australia, but converts to about AU$200) SmartCam HD Pro has a full list of features, ranging from motion and sound detection and alerts to optional SD card video storage. If local storage is at the top of your must-have list, this is a solid indoor security camera. If not, I'd stick with the slightly more expensive Dropcam Pro. Its superior video quality and build make it tough to beat at this price point. Read CNET's full review of the Samsung SmartCam HD Pro.
Viper's $230 Starter Kit (not available in the UK; available in Australia, converts to about AU$245) comes with a hub, a motion detector, and a door and window sensor. The Viper Android or iOS app alerts you to what's going on at home and lets you loop in the brand's car-related products. Spend an additional $150 and you can tack on a camera and motion detector accessory. The battery-powered camera has an adhesive backing that's easy to install and delivers decent video quality, but you have to pay a $10 monthly fee for live streaming. Read CNET's full review of Viper Home.