Now that the world is so full of uncertainty, you might consider buying a wireless security camera. They’re cheaper and easier-to-use than ever, and some even have mind-bending features like facial recognition. There are also about a million options to choose from. But worry not. Gizmodo is here to help.
Just a few years ago, wireless security cameras were essentially ugly, repackaged nanny cams with questionable resolution. That’s no longer the case. Leading brands like Nest now offer minimalist design, 4K-capable sensors, and artificial intelligence. But you might actually find that the best home security camera is not necessarily the best one for you and your needs. At least, that’s what we found when we tested a collection of the latest models on the market.
The cameras in our test pool included the Nest Cam IQ Indoor (and the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor), the Lighthouse, the Logitech Circle 2, the Canary, the Amazon Cloud Cam, the Honeywell Lyric C2, and the Guardzilla 360. These cameras range in price from $120 to $350, and many of them offer very comparable features. The Nest Cam IQ and the Lighthouse are the smartest (and most expensive) cameras in the mix, thanks to their artificially intelligent computer vision features. Meanwhile, the Logitech Circle 2, the Canary, and the Amazon Cloud Cam are all full-featured, mid-range security cameras that will appeal to a broad number of consumers. The Honeywell Lyric C2 and the Guardzilla 360 are sort of outliers, and as you’ll see, that doesn’t help them compete with the rest of the contenders.
To figure out what set some apart from the pack, though, we conducted three battles: quality, design, and artificial intelligence.
Any security camera worth buying better have great image quality. Otherwise, how are you going to identify the burglar?! But what’s crazy and exciting about the brave new world of wireless cameras is that almost all of them offer HD resolution—typically 1080p. (The Guardzilla doesn’t advertise its exact resolution, though it appears to be lower than that of the other cameras.) Others—namely the $300 Nest Cam IQ—feature a still camera that can capture 4K images too. But for our purposes, we’re looking at video resolution, which is essentially comparable on all models.
What really separates the best cameras from the worst is software. All of these cameras work with smartphone apps that enable you to see what they’re seeing in real time. The apps for the $230 Guardzilla app and (to a lesser extent) the $170 Honeywell Lyric C2 app are awful, so we eliminated those camera right away. Meanwhile, the $120 Amazon Cloud Cam we tested got hung up in a maddening set-up process that led to many minutes on the phone with Amazon support. We never got that first camera to work—maybe it was defective—but a second model that the company sent us did. This calls into question some quality control issues on Amazon’s part, and frankly, you don’t want to second-guess whether your security camera is going to work on any given day. So it seems like something is wrong with the Cloud Cam, and we eliminated that one, too.
The rest of the cameras and their apps are all very decent. One rises above the rest, however, because it offered free features that required a paid subscription on other cameras. That would be the $180 Logitech Circle 2, and it’s very handy Day Digest feature. With one tap, you can compile a time lapse video of all the movement the camera sees in a 24-hour period, and you can do so for free. That’s a high-quality value for sure.
Winner: Logitech Circle 2
Much like in the quality category, distinguishing between the various camera designs is a tough challenge. Almost all of them look the same. For good reason, too. A subtle white housing on the camera typically ensures that it blends in with its background, so you’re not cluttering up your counter or tipping-off a robber that they’re being watched.
The one big exception to this rule is the $170 Canary cam. While it’s otherwise a very capable security camera—one that even offers an air quality monitor and a very loud siren—the Canary just looks weird. Both the white and the black models actually stand out when you put them in your home and might even lead people to investigate their unusual form factor. The Canary works great, but for the purposes of this battle, we had to eliminate it.
That leaves us with three similar white cameras: the Nest Cam IQ, the Lighthouse, and the Circle 2. The Lighthouse is a little wacky-looking, but it features some AI features that we’ll talk more about in a second. Meanwhile, the Nest Cam IQ and its outdoor counterpart (which costs $350) are handsome and sturdy pieces of hardware. However, the indoor model won’t work outdoors, and the outdoor model isn’t really designed for easy indoor use. The Circle 2, however, is waterproof and designed to be mounted in a wide range of environments. For its versatility and ease of use, the Logitech Circle 2 wins this battle, too.
Winner: Logitech Circle 2
This is the future. You obviously don’t want to spend your life staring at a security camera feed, waiting to see an intruder start pocketing your belongings. That’s why most wireless security cameras come with motion detectors that can alert you when something is moving on your property when it shouldn’t be. Thanks to recent advances in artificial intelligence, though, some cameras can actually tell you what or even who is moving.
All three of our top contenders offer some sort of computer vision. The Logitech Circle 2 also has two handy features: Person Recognition (it recognizes a person but can’t distinguish between faces) and Motion Zones (you can specify an area, like a dog’s food bowl, and get an alert when there’s motion). That’s more or less where the smarts stop on the terrifically affordable Circle 2.
Which brings us to the Nest Cam IQ and the Lighthouse. Both of these models can recognize individual faces and offer tailored alerts based on who the camera sees. That means you could get an alert when your kids come home. Generally speaking, however, the more advanced features will require you to pay for a subscription security service, like Nest Aware or Lighthouse AI. But the Lighthouse camera distinguishes itself by offering more features for free and better features under the subscription service. In addition to basic facial recognition, which the Nest Cam IQ offers, the Lighthouse AI can tell the difference between adults and kids, or humans and animals. You can also get AI-powered security alerts with the Lighthouse. That means, for instance, you’d get a special alert when your kids come home with a stranger.
If you want the most advanced features and the most storage options, you’ll have to pay for a subscription service with any of these cameras. While the Lighthouse offers free facial recognition for family members and trusted guests, the cooler and more advanced features still cost money—as does storage. Yet despite the cost, no other camera can really compare to what Lighthouse is offering in the smarts department. The Nest Cam IQ comes close, but it’s still not quite as slick. Because of this, the Lighthouse wins the battle for the most artificially intelligent home security camera.
Like we said up top, the best security camera for the most people probably isn’t the very best security camera. The smartest camera on the block might just be too clever, and costly, for your every day security needs. So if you want the most for your money, buy the Logitech Circle 2. It’s waterproof. It’s easy to use. It’s sleek. It’s a fantastic all-around wireless security camera.
If you want more than that and you have some money to spend, check out the Nest Cam IQ and the Lighthouse. People with other Nest products will appreciate how the Nest Cam IQ integrates with their existing ecosystem. Meanwhile, futurists will be blown away by the Lighthouse. It’s tall and sort of bulky, but it’s smart as hell.
Winner: Logitech Circle 2