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Buying a wireless security camera? Read this first

CNET logo CNET 11/20/2021 Alina Bradford
The Arlo Pro 4 is a fantastic device and our favorite wireless cam of the year. Arlo © Provided by CNET The Arlo Pro 4 is a fantastic device and our favorite wireless cam of the year. Arlo

There are plenty of excellent battery-powered security cameras available if you're ready to amp up your home security. And why wouldn't you? These security cameras bring a lot of perks. 

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.

© Arlo

So, interested in getting a wireless security camera? Here are some things to think about before you break open your wallet. 

More on security cameras: Here's our rundown of the best cheap security cameras, the best indoor security cameras and the best outdoor security cameras

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.

Read more: Here's what you need to know about security outages and how to plan ahead

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. 

The battery-powered Circle 2 is a solid camera with night vision, two-way talk and weather resistance. Logitech © Provided by CNET The battery-powered Circle 2 is a solid camera with night vision, two-way talk and weather resistance. Logitech

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:

  • Magnetic bases
  • Pivoting stands
  • Motion tracking
  • Free cloud storage
  • Backup batteries
  • SD card
  • Two-way audio
  • The ability to link with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit or Google Assistant
  • Livestreaming
  • Mobile apps
  • Color night vision
  • Facial recognition 
  • Professional monitoring 

32 outdoor security cameras that take home security seriously

Ring has a new Stick Up Cam, the $100 Stick Up Cam Plug-In. This model has to be connected to its power adapter to work, but there's also a battery-powered version of this camera. The camera was easy to install and the app is simple to navigate, but Ring still charges an optional, but arguably necessary, monthly fee for access to a database of saved motion-related video clips.

Ring has a new Stick Up Cam, the $100 Stick Up Cam Plug-In. This model has to be connected to its power adapter to work, but there's also a battery-powered version of this camera. The camera was easy to install and the app is simple to navigate, but Ring still charges an optional, but arguably necessary, monthly fee for access to a database of saved motion-related video clips.
© Provided by CNET

How many cameras do you need?

Before you shop, you're going to need to know how many security cameras you'll need. Read up on the best places to install home security cameras to get a better sense of what you'll need to purchase.

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."

To connect your security system to Google Assistant:

  • Open the Google Home app on your phone
  • 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. 

Read more: How to use Alexa commands with your home security camera

Nanny cam

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:

Need help deciding which camera to get? Here are the best home security cameras of 2021 and the best home security systems of 2021

More guides for making your home safe and secure

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