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Best Facial Recognition Security Cameras for 2022

Take a look at the facial recognition cameras we've tested recently to see which models are the best for your home.

Home security cameras have gotten increasingly affordable. At the same time, they're becoming more sophisticated and feature-rich. One of the most significant upgrades to home security cameras and video doorbells has been the rise of available object and facial recognition. In short, artificial intelligence built into cameras -- even ones costing well under a hundred bucks -- can now reliably tell the difference between packages, animals, vehicles and people. What's more, the most advanced and reliable face recognition camera options can distinguish between your friends, neighbors and family members, learning their faces and alerting you accordingly when one of them approaches your door.

Facial recognition software can be hit or miss, based on a variety of factors, from lighting to changing hairstyles and wearing glasses one day but not the next. However, artificial intelligence is advancing every day, and the more face data enters the system, the better the facial recognition technology will be.

One thing we know for sure is that this feature is becoming increasingly popular in our devices. It's not just in home security cameras, but we also find it on our phones and helping to automate airport check-ins. As law enforcement becomes more invested in facial recognition technology, it's already raising serious questions about surveillance technology, privacy and civil rights across the board. It's also bringing calls for governmental regulation.

While the rise of facial recognition technology and video monitoring both raise important ethical questions -- questions that you may answer differently from your neighbor -- these devices are available to purchase and install in your home. So, let's take a look at the facial recognition cameras we've tested recently to see which models are the best and to help you determine if one would work for you.

Wyze

The Wyze Cam v3 has been out for a few years, but it remains one of our favorite cameras simply for its value proposition: It offers great performance and features for an impressive $30. But the v3 didn't always have facial recognition. In fact, it was only in May 2022 that Wyze rolled out the feature for a handful of its most popular devices. Essentially, you can pay $4 a month (or $40 a year) to get facial recognition, smart alerts, cloud storage and professional monitoring available at all hours. Add the fact that you can use the camera indoors or out, and you've got an incredible package for a bargain barrel price.

Read our review of the Wyze Cam v3.

 

Chris Monroe/CNET

Google's Nest Doorbell with battery launched in 2021 with a solid set of features and a reasonable $180 price tag. Without any monthly fee, you get person, vehicle and package alerts, and a few hours of rolling storage. But add in the $6/month Nest Aware subscription and you'll get cloud storage and facial recognition thrown into the mix.

The Nest Doorbell (battery) doesn't have much of a downside: sure, the $6-a-month fee is pricier than competitors' (such as Wyze's), and the 3:4 aspect ratio and 145-degree field of view don't give you quite the same expansive view of your entryway as some other video doorbells on the market. But if you're looking for video doorbells that offer facial recognition, smart alerts and impressive all-around performance, you can't go wrong with the Nest Doorbell (battery).

Read the Nest Doorbell (battery) review.

 

Chris Monroe/CNET

OK, this is a bit of a stretch, but mobile security devices are becoming more and more prevalent, whether you're thinking about pan-and-tilt cameras, swiveling smart displays, flying security drones or in the case of Amazon Astro, home robots.

While Amazon Astro remains in its invite-only phase, it's a fascinating device with a lot of potential as a home security measure. In my testing, its facial recognition features worked admirably -- reliably distinguishing between known visitors and strangers. And it can treat those two groups differently, following and recording some and not others.

Once more, this raises important questions about the ethics and legality of recording visitors inside your home (don't worry; you can tell Astro to stay out of the bathroom). But it also means security devices with facial recognition capabilities don't simply have to respond with a personalized alert; they can respond in much more robust ways. And Amazon Astro leads the industry in this regard.

Read our Amazon Astro review.

 

Other facial recognition cameras we've tested

Here's a recap of the facial recognition cameras we've installed and tested recently.

Recommended above: 

Worth considering, but not as good as the top picks above:

  • Nest Doorbell (wired): The erstwhile Nest Hello is a solid video doorbell with slightly dated specs. Its price and older specs leave it behind the Nest Doorbell (battery).
  • Nest Cam (indoor, wired): Google's $100 indoor camera offers all the smarts of its battery-powered video doorbell -- and for Google Assistant-driven homes, it may be one of the best options on the market. But it's still pricier than Wyze's super-affordable Cam v3.
  • Nest Cam (battery): It's got all the smarts of the Nest Doorbell, but simply can't match Wyze's value.
  • Netatmo Welcome: Netatmo's Welcome indoor camera did a fair job detecting faces, but the feature ultimately wasn't quite as reliable as we'd like. 
  • Wisenet SmartCam N1: The $150 SmartCam N1 smart security camera and app did a good job detecting faces, and it comes with a built-in microSD card slot for local storage, but the $60 Tend Secure Lynx performs just as well for much less. 

Not recommended:

  • Honeywell Smart Home Security: Unreliable performance, including its facial recognition tech, seriously hurts this all-in-one system's appeal.
  • Tend Secure Lynx Pro: While the indoor-outdoor Lynx Pro is technically the high-end version of the indoor-only Lynx, its improved specs didn't translate to better facial recognition.

Note that the recommendations above were at the time of testing, and could change based on later software updates. We'll periodically update this list as such changes warrant.

Facial Recognition Cameras Compared

Our Picks Wyze Cam (2020) Nest Doorbell (w/ battery) Amazon Astro
Price $36 $180 $1,000 - $1,450
Resolution Full HD 1920 x 1080p 960 x 1280 1080p periscope camera
Field of View 130 degrees 145 degrees 132 degrees diagonal
Setup Moveable, indoor/outdoor Battery-powered Mobile, indoor only
Extra Features Live streaming, motion detection, night vision, weather resistance, integration with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant Live streaming, two-way talk, smart alerts, facial recognition, integration with Google Assistant 5MP bezel camera, a 10-inch HD touchscreen display with 1,280 x 800-pixel resolution, video chat and voice command functionality, navigation technology
Review Score 8.5 8 ---

How we tested security cameras

Evaluating home security cameras and video doorbells is complicated and takes days or even weeks of hands-on testing. If you want to read more about how we do it, check out our article on the testing procedures.

Facial recognition technology adds an extra wrinkle to the testing process, though. When setting up a camera with a facial recognition function, you create profiles of individual people, by either taking their picture in real time and adding it, or using an existing photo that you have of them. From there, the face recognition camera should be able to distinguish human faces from every other type of motion activity and single out the ones it recognizes from your database of familiar faces. When it's working optimally, you will get an alert that says the camera saw "Chris," "Molly" or whoever's in your database.

There are many cases where you might use this function, but some common ones include getting an alert when your kids get home from school, or if a dog walker or a family caregiver shows up. It creates peace of mind when you're expecting someone to show up and you want an automated alert telling you they've arrived (especially when you aren't home to greet them). 

But it also helps in security scenarios, since the camera is essentially distinguishing between faces it recognizes and those it doesn't. That way, if your camera sends you an alert that it saw someone on your front porch or walking into your house, but you don't recognize them, you can more quickly send the information to police officers in the event of an actual break-in or theft, instead of having to sift through dozens of generic motion alerts to find the activity.

Viewing the facial recognition feature inside the SmartCam app.

Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

The best way to test these cameras is to create a database, which is what I do when I test a camera with facial recognition (see the screenshots above). I add people to my database and let the camera do the rest. It's best to give these cameras at least a few days, because some improve significantly, even over a short period of time, as they see faces at different angles.

Then it's a matter of doing an analysis of how well the camera actually recognized faces. How often did it correctly identify my face versus someone else's face? How did it do when approached at different angles and changes to hairstyles and clothing accessories? Was the camera able to detect faces at all? Some occasionally struggle to detect any faces, even ones that claim to have facial recognition, and instead mark the activity as a basic motion alert (ahem, Tend Secure Lynx Pro). 

The future of facial recognition

Amazon's doorbell and security camera company, Ring, filed two patents related to facial recognition in 2018. The patents suggest that future developed Ring products might be able to automatically detect and identify faces from "most wanted" lists or a watch list and automatically send notifications to law enforcement officers. Here's an excerpt from one of the patent filings:

A video may be analyzed by an A/V recording and communication device that recorded the video (and/or by one or more backend servers) to determine whether the video contains a known criminal (e.g., convicted felon, sex offender, person on a "most wanted" list, etc.) or a suspicious person. Some of the present embodiments may automatically submit such video streams to the law enforcement agencies.

"Amazon is dreaming of a dangerous future," ACLU attorney Jacob Snow said in a blog post.

"The history of discriminatory government surveillance makes clear that face surveillance will disproportionately harm people already targeted by the government and subjected to racial profiling and abuse -- immigrants, people of color, and the formerly incarcerated," Snow added. 

Right now, Ring cameras don't offer facial recognition at all. Models that do, such as the Nest Doorbell, are only designed to identify a person you add to your list of "familiar faces." They won't draw from a law enforcement list to determine if a convicted felon is nearby -- or reach out to law enforcement if they spot a face that could match someone in a database. 

While we know of no ethical breaches associated with these cameras on the market right now, the reality is we have no way to verify how the biometric data is used. Even if we give the companies involved the benefit of the doubt regarding their analytics and data usage policies, those policies could change at any time. And when you consider that Ring is owned by Amazon and Nest is owned by Google, the potential for a Big Brother scenario is readily apparent.

We'll continue to keep an eye on home security cameras, doorbells and other devices with built-in facial recognition tech, to follow along with any changes in industry trends -- and to see if any new models come close to matching the smarts of Nest's Doorbell buzzer. 

Read more: Ring's Police Problem Never Went Away. Here's What You Still Need to Know

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