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Canary Flex review: This is what a smart security camera looks like

Canary's versatile Flex redefines what a home security camera can do.

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Megan Wollerton
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Megan Wollerton

Senior Writer/Editor

Megan Wollerton has covered technology for CNET since 2013. Before that, she wrote for NBC's Dvice.com (now SyFy). Megan has a master's degree from the University of Louisville and a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College, both in international relations. She is a board member of the Louisville chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. When Megan isn't writing, she's planning far-flung adventures.

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Canary's $199/£159 Flex definitely lives up to its name. Not only is this rechargeable, battery-powered indoor/outdoor security camera portable, its strong magnetic base and swiveling body design make it extremely easy to find the right viewing angle. The app is smartly designed, too, with an activity log of motion-related video clips and auto-adjusting Home and Away security modes tied to your phone's location.

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8.2

Canary Flex

The Good

Canary's $199/£159 Flex installs fast, it's well designed and its app is easy to navigate. It's also a highly versatile camera that can watch over your house from pretty much anywhere.

The Bad

The Flex is limited to 720p HD live streaming, it has a smaller 116-degree field of view and it currently only works with Wink for smart home integrations.

The Bottom Line

The Canary Flex isn't perfect, but its adaptability, simple app interface and excellent design make it a great choice for anyone who needs a lot of flexibility in their home security setup.

You are limited to 720p video for live streaming, and the Flex currently only works with Wink on the smart home compatibility side of things. But Canary says it's working on an IFTTT channel and, in future hardware, integrations with HomeKit, Apple's Siri-based smart home platform.

Factor in the Flex's many optional accessories, including a Verizon 4G LTE mount, and there are few standalone DIY security cameras that offer so many potential use cases. Look no further than the Canary Flex for an HD live streaming device that's truly flexible.

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Meet the Flex

The Flex is Canary's second security camera, following a successful Indiegogo campaign for its inaugural all-in-one indoor security system back in 2013. But the home security market has changed quite a bit since then. Yes, indoor high-definition live streaming cameras are still important, but many companies are introducing models that can go from your living room to your backyard with minimal effort. Enter: the Canary Flex.

Take a look at what the Flex can do versus the $200/£159 Logi Circle and the $250/£300 Netgear Arlo Pro:

Comparing rechargeable security cameras:


Canary FlexLogi CircleNetgear Arlo Pro
Price $199/£159$200/£159$250/£300
Color finish Black, whiteBlack, whiteWhite
Type Indoor/outdoorIndoor onlyIndoor/outdoor
Power source Rechargeable battery, power adapterRechargeable battery, power adapterRechargeable battery, power adapter
Resolution 720p HD1080p HD720p HD
Expected battery life Two months3 hours (12 hours in power save mode)Six months
Field of view 116-degree viewing angle135-degree viewing angle130-degree viewing angle
Live streaming YesYesYes
Continuous recording NoNoNo
Cloud storage Free 24-hour event-based video history (Optional 30-day event-based video history for $10 per month)Free 24-hour event-based video history (Optional 14- or 31-day event-based video history for $4 or $10 per month)Free 7-day event-based video history (Optional 30- or 60-day event-based video history for $10 or $15 per month)
Local storage NoNoNo
Mobile app Yes, Android and iPhoneYes, Android and iPhoneYes, Android and iPhone
Web app NoYesYes
Night vision YesYesYes
Alerts MotionMotion (Person alerts with Circle Safe Premium subscription)Motion and audio
Activity zones NoYesNo
Two-way audio Yes, but Canary hasn't activated the feature yetYesYes
Operating temperature range -4 to 113 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 to 40 degrees Celsius) 32 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (0 to 40 degrees Celsius)-4 to 113 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 to 40 degrees Celsius)
Third-party integrations WinkNoIFTTT, Samsung SmartThings

Given that the Logi Circle is indoor-only, has a short battery life and doesn't work with any smart home products from other manufacturers, it really can't compete with Canary's Flex or Netgear's Arlo Pro. But, the competition gets a lot closer when you look at the Flex and the Arlo Pro.

The Arlo Pro promises a longer battery life of "up to six months" compared with the Flex's two-month charge (Logi's lasted about four hours). After about a week of testing, the Netgear Arlo Pro's battery indicator still shows a full charge, while the Canary Flex is showing a slightly diminished battery around the 80 to 90 percent mark.

Netgear's rechargeable indoor/outdoor camera also has a wider viewing angle and offers seven days of free cloud storage (as opposed to the Flex's 24 hours). You'll also get a web app with Netgear's camera, as well as integrations with IFTTT and Samsung SmartThings. The Flex's third-party integrations currently include Wink, although the team is working on potential IFTTT and Apple HomeKit support.

Ultimately, I prefer the Flex's app interface and its fast hub-free setup -- the Arlo Pro requires the installation of a rather large hub that you connect to your router during initial configuration. The hub does have a built-in 100-decibel siren, but that might not make a difference if your router is located in your basement or some other out-of-the-way location in your house.

Netgear sells its Arlo Pro cameras in one or multiunit kits with the hub (since this is a required accessory). The one camera kit costs $250 -- 50 bucks more than a standalone Canary Flex or Logi Circle.

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Canary's Flex in day and night vision modes.

Screenshots by CNET
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Select "Watch Live" to view your video feed.

Screenshot by CNET

One flexible Canary

In addition to its easy hub-free installation, the Canary Flex is also very simple to use. To preserve battery power, you have to press the "Watch Live" button on the home page to see the live video feed.

This is also where you can check the quality of your Wi-Fi connection and view the status of your rechargeable battery. You can also sign up to receive notifications when your battery is getting low, as well as when it's fully charged.

Select "View Timeline" on the bottom of the same page to pull up a time stamped list with video clips of any activity detected by the Flex's built-in sensors.

All of this worked very well, with only slight lag times and the occasional grainy image, likely due to a temporarily spotty Wi-Fi connection.

But my favorite Flex feature relates to its auto-adjusting security modes. Canary's software taps into your location using your cellular signal, Wi-Fi and GPS info. After you enter the address where your Flex is located, the app will automatically switch among Home and Away modes for you.

You can also customize these modes manually and program Night mode separately based on your sleep schedule.

Basically, when it notices the whole family is away from home, the app should automatically switch to Away mode. That's when you'll receive activity-based alerts. And when the software believes someone is home, you can choose how you'd like to receive alerts.

It's easy to extend access to other family members, too. Simply select "Settings," "Members" and "Add a member." Enter in their name and email address and they'll get a message asking them to accept the invite, download the app and create their own account (which will link with your account and give them access to your Flex camera). The Flex's security modes worked well for me throughout testing and provided a layer of security beyond typical DIY cameras.

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The verdict

If you're looking for a live streaming HD security camera with a ton of installation freedom, I'd highly recommend the $199/£159 Canary Flex. This versatile camera is just as comfortable sitting on a living room table connected to a power adapter as it is mounted to your backyard fence, relying on rechargeable battery power.

The $250/£300 Netgear Arlo Pro is a reasonable alternative, but it costs more without adding much value. And, if you're just planning to keep your camera inside connected to a charger, you might also consider the $199 Nest Cam Indoor since it offers a lot of the same features as Flex, but bumps the resolution up to 1080p HD.

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8.2

Canary Flex

Score Breakdown

Features 7Usability 8Design 10Performance 8