Buying a Wireless Security Camera? Here's What You Need to Know
Here are five things to consider before you go shopping for new security tech.
Alina BradfordCNET Contributor
Alina Bradford has been writing how-tos, tech articles and more for almost two decades. She currently writes for CNET's Smart Home Section, MTVNews' tech section and for Live Science's reference section. Follow her on Twitter.
One of the best things about wireless security cameras, obviously, is that they don't have any of the hassle that comes with wired cameras. Often, installation is a simple DIY project for those with a ladder and a drill, while wired systems typically need to be installed by a professional and can be a massive pain. And with security technology ever improving, you can now find wireless smart cameras that are just as good as wired options.
Wireless security cameras also give home owners the freedom to install them anywhere and from a multitude of angles, so you can protect your property without any restrictions. Many wireless security cameras on the market today are packed with a range of security features, from motion tracking to color night vision to backup batteries. And some of the pricier models even have things like two-way audio, facial recognition and compatibility with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit.
So, interested in getting a wireless security camera? Here are some things to think about before you break open your wallet.
How does it get its power?
Wireless security cameras have their own power supply, so even during a power outage, they can still keep tabs on your property. One of the biggest disadvantages, though, is that you need to manually change the batteries or charge them periodically. A camera with a rechargeable battery pack is usually a better choice because you won't need to buy batteries.
Also check the battery life. Some cameras can run for days or months without a recharge, but how much they record will affect that. Some cameras only start recording when they detect movement, which extends the battery life.
Watch this: How to buy the right security camera for you
What's the video resolution?
What's the point of having a security camera if you can't tell what's going on in the recording? This is where choosing a camera with good resolution comes in. The higher the resolution number, the better.
Here's an idea of what you should be looking for. One of the best wireless cameras on the market, the Arlo Pro 4, boasts 2K resolution and full-color night vision. The Logitech Circle 2, another great option that can come wireless, also has 1080p HD live streaming for crystal-clear picture and night vision.
How's the field of view?
This is another important feature to look for. The larger the field of view, the more the camera can see, basically. Cameras with a 120- to 130-degree field of view are pretty much standard, but you can find some that have even wider field of views, like the Arlo Pro 4 with its 160-degree field of view
Does it have useful perks?
Some cameras offer little extras that make them particularly useful. Here are some features to look for:
Free cloud storage
The ability to link with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit or Google Assistant
Color night vision
32 outdoor security cameras that take home security seriously
Security cameras can do much more than just sit there and record your yard in case of a burglary. Here are some extra uses for them that may bump up your camera tally.
See who's at the door
Connect your wireless security cameras to a voice-controlled smart assistant and you'll be able to use them as a video doorbell camera. When the camera is linked to Google Assistant or Alexa, you can see who's at your door, unlock your smart door lock with your phone and let visitors in without getting up.
To connect Alexa with your security system, use the manufacturer's companion app or website to link the two. If you have trouble, be sure the camera is connected to the same Wi-Fi network that your Alexa uses. Then speak your device wake word to the Echo or other Alexa device and say, for example, "Alexa, show the [camera name] camera on television."
On the Home screen, tap the "+" button in the upper left corner
Click Set up device > Have something already set up?
Scroll down the list or search for your security system. Select it when you find it.
Once it's done pairing, your device is now linked.
You can also use a wireless security camera as a nanny cam. Most traditional baby monitors only transmit sounds from the monitor to your handset, giving you only a partial idea of how your kid is doing. With motion detection and night vision, some smart security cameras are a great replacement for baby monitors.
Using cameras to watch your kids doesn't have to end when your child grows out of diapers. You can use them to:
Make sure your toddler isn't up to no good.
Watch your teen's shenanigans when you're at work.
Ensure that your latchkey kid is actually doing homework.
Hands-on testing is core to our evaluations of any home security products. In short, when it comes to security cameras, we pay special attention to resolution, night vision and latency, extra features, general performance and overall value. We evaluate all of these elements in a real home environment over the course of a week. If you want to read more about our review process, check out our in-depth article on how we test home security cameras and video doorbells.