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How to buy the best wireless security camera

By Hannah Walsh

A good wireless security camera will give you peace of mind when you’re away from home. Our expert guide will help you buy the best for your needs and budget.

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The best wireless security cameras will let you know that everything is well at home while you’re out – whether you want to ensure your house is secure or just see how the cat is coping without you. They can also detect motion in the house and record footage of any intruder, while more advanced cameras include facial recognition and two-way audio. See below for the key things to look for when buying a smart home security camera.

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What makes a good wireless security camera?

The most important aspect of a wireless security camera is the quality of the footage. All wireless security cameras support at least 720p resolution (1,280x720 pixels), with some devices recording with a resolution of 1080p (1,920x1,080 pixels). A higher resolution will generally mean a better quality of footage – although 720p is usually clear enough to make out faces.

Types of storage: cloud-based vs internal storage

One of the decisions you’ll need to make is whether you’d prefer a camera with cloud-based or internal storage.

Cloud-based

Online cloud storage allows you to store your recordings remotely online, and access them over the web. Most wireless security cameras use a cloud-based storage system, but the level of free storage varies and some offer none at all. Check out how much free storage is on offer, as extra cloud storage can cost as much as £9.99 a month.

Pros: Easy to access and share your recordings from any device. Cloud storage also means you don’t need to worry about losing an SD card, and will still have footage if your device is stolen.

Cons: There are some privacy concerns around cloud-based storage, as your data is transmitted and held online.

Internal storage

Some wireless security cameras will store your footage on an SD card rather than in the cloud.

Pros: Recorded footage doesn’t leave the device. It’s also free, and you can record a reasonable amount of footage before an SD card reaches capacity.

Cons: If your house is burgled and someone steals your device, they will have access to the recorded footage.

What features do I need?

Night vision: a good wireless security camera will seamlessly switch between day and night modes, and should be able to pick out the same level of detail even in low light. For night vision most devices use either LED lights or infrared, or a combination of the two.

Motion detection: wireless security cameras with this feature will trigger recording when motion is detected. Some will send an alert to the app on your phone or via email. One handy feature to look out for is the ability to set up a schedule so that motion alerts are enabled only when you know you will be out of the house.

Audio recording: if you want to hear what’s going on in your house – whether it’s a knock at the door or the dog barking while you’re out – then look for a wireless security camera with one-way audio recording. If you would like to be able to communicate with the people or animals in your home, for example telling your children to get on with their homework or telling the dog to get off the sofa, then two-way audio recording is the feature to pick.

User-friendly app or online site: A clear user interface will make it easier to live-stream footage or view recordings. Before buying your wireless security camera, check whether all app features - such as setting a schedule or sharing footage - come as standard, or if you will need to pay extra to unlock the full functionality.

What additional features should I consider?

Facial recognition: this is a relatively rare feature among wireless security cameras and, in the cameras we've tried, it’s also a little hit and miss. Facial recognition is designed to let you know when your family members are in or out of the house, and alerts will allow you to check whether your children have arrived home safely.

Other things to consider

Mains or battery powered: most wireless security cameras are plugged into the mains, with a handful of these offering some back-up battery time in case of power failures. A battery-powered model makes it easier to position the device, as it doesn’t need to be near to a power source, but it does mean paying for replacement batteries.

Indoor or outdoor use: wireless security cameras are generally designed for use within the home, and there are only a handful that are weatherproof like a CCTV system.

App compatibility: most wireless security camera apps will be compatible with both iOS and Android, but check that the app will work with the version you have.

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