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Smart Home

Three rechargeable security cameras fight it out to the death

It's a three-way battle among the Logi Circle, the Canary Flex and the Netgear Arlo Pro -- and only one camera can win.

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For the past few years, home security manufacturers have focused on making direct competitors to the Nest Cam (£128.99 at Amazon.co.uk) Indoor. A security camera with 1080p high-definition live streaming and an approachable app interface, the Nest Cam is still our top pick for a simple, standalone do-it-yourself indoor home monitoring device.

But the paradigm is shifting away from cameras that do just one thing really well to models that offer customers unprecedented versatility through new features. Rechargeable batteries are one such example. The $200/£159 Logi Circle, the $199/£159 Canary Flex and the $250/£300 Netgear Arlo Pro are all equipped with rechargeable batteries, but they're quite different cameras. We compared them side by side (by side) to see which one we like best.

Design

While all of these cameras look pretty good, the Canary Flex has a definite design edge over the Logi Circle and the Netgear Arlo Pro. Not only is the camera coated in a weatherproofed matte finish for outdoor use, Canary clearly thought a lot about how design factors in to overall usability.

The Flex comes with a base accessory that you can set on a table or other flat surface. But you can also mount the back to a wall for a more permanent installation. But the best part is that the base and the bottom of the camera are magnetic. That means you can simple snap the Flex into its mount and rotate it to any angle you want.

The Flex isn't the first camera to offer a magnetic base, but the shape of the camera and the strength of its magnet allows you to get the optimal angle without worrying about durability. Canary's Flex also has a magnetic charger, which makes it very simple to attach and detach.

Features

It's really important to think about what you want out of a security camera before you buy. Fortunately, more and more models are offering a ton of features so your choice isn't quite so fraught. But that can also make it a bit more confusing to sift through the various options to find what matters most to you.

Here are some key differences between the Circle, the Flex and the Arlo Pro:

Comparing rechargeable security cameras:

Logi Circle Canary Flex Netgear Arlo Pro
Price $200/£159 $199/£159 $250/£300
Color finish Black, white Black, white White
Type Indoor only Indoor/outdoor Indoor/outdoor
Power source Rechargeable battery, power adapter Rechargeable battery, power adapter Rechargeable battery, power adapter
Resolution 1080p HD 720p HD 720p HD
Expected battery life 3 hours (12 hours in power save mode) Two months Six months
Field of view 135-degree viewing angle 116-degree viewing angle 130-degree viewing angle
Live streaming Yes Yes Yes
Continuous recording No No No
Cloud storage Free 24-hour event-based video history (Optional 14- or 31-day event-based video history for $4 or $10 per month) Free 24-hour event-based video history (Optional 30-day event-based video history for $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 No No No
Mobile app Yes, Android and iPhone Yes, Android and iPhone Yes, Android and iPhone
Web app Yes No Yes
Night vision Yes Yes Yes
Alerts Motion (Person alerts with Circle Safe Premium subscription) Motion Motion and audio
Activity zones Yes No No
Two-way audio Yes Yes, but Canary hasn't activated the feature yet Yes
Operating temperature range 32 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (0 to 40 degrees Celsius) -4 to 113 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 to 40 degrees Celsius) -4 to 113 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 to 40 degrees Celsius)
Third-party integrations No Wink IFTTT, Samsung SmartThings

Netgear offers an impressive 7 days of free cloud storage.

Screenshot by CNET

The Circle has 1080p live streaming and a mostly functional feature called "Person detection" that will alert you when it thinks it sees a person pass in front of its field of view. But, the Flex and especially the Arlo Pro offer more options.

Both the Flex and the Arlo Pro are indoor/outdoor cameras, meaning they're supposed to be able to deal with the elements -- dust, rain, snow -- pretty much whatever comes their way. They also have longer expected battery lives than the Circle, which lasts for up to 12 hours max (and that's in power-save mode, which limits features and reduces the streaming resolution). The Arlo Pro is particularly impressive with an expected battery life of up to six months.

After testing the Flex and the Arlo Pro for about a week, the Flex was showing a slightly diminished battery in the 80 to 90 percent range. The Arlo Pro's battery indicator was still showing a full charge.

The Arlo Pro also offers seven days of free event-based cloud storage; the Circle and the Flex limit their free option to just 24 hours. Netgear's rechargeable cam also currently works with IFTTT and Samsung's SmartThings platform, so you have more potential smart home integrations than with the Circle or the Flex.

That makes the Arlo Pro the best model in terms of features.

Price

The main issue with the Arlo Pro is price. At $250/£300, it's 50 bucks pricier than either the $200/£159 Logi Circle or the $199/£159 Canary Flex. That may not be a big deal to you, particularly if you really want the extra days of free cloud storage, the longer expected battery life or integration with IFTTT and SmartThings.

Just ask yourself if you need these additional features before you go ahead with an Arlo Pro purchase, because the Canary Flex still offers a lot of great features for less.

Who's the winner?

The Canary Flex.

Not only is the Flex a solid live streaming camera, it also offers a lot more than your typical monitoring device. We were particularly impressed by its smart magnetic design and competitive price. The Netgear Arlo Pro is also a very good option, although it doesn't offer the same value as the Flex.