How to buy the best wireless security camera
By Ryan Shaw
A good wireless security camera will give you peace of mind when you’re not at home. Our expert guide will help you buy the best for your needs.
The best wireless security cameras will let you know that all is well at home when you’re out, whether you want to ensure it's secure or just see how the cat is coping without you. They can also detect motion in your home and record footage of an intruder, while more advanced cameras include facial recognition and two-way audio.
Regardless of the security camera type you're looking for, the most important aspect of a wireless security camera is the quality of the footage. All wireless security cameras support at least 720p resolution (1,280 x 720 pixels), and some record in 1080p (1,920 x 1,080 pixels). A higher resolution will generally mean higher-quality footage, although 720p is usually clear enough to make out faces.
So, while the best security cameras can record in high resolution and are simple to use, bottom-of-the-heap models suffer from poor-quality video, sub-standard app interface and cheap build quality. See below for the key things to look for when buying a smart home security camera.
Just want to see reviews of high-quality wireless security cameras? to discover which models we recommend, visit our Best Buy wireless security cameras.
Buying the best wireless security camera for you
Before you buy a new one, take a look at our interactive choosing tool below. This will help you decide between the different camera types available, and see the key advantages and disadvantages of each.
What type of wireless security camera should you buy?
One of the key 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 you'll still have footage even 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. This means the recorded footage is stored locally on a memory card, with no ongoing costs.
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.
How much should you spend on a wireless security camera?
Wireless security cameras can start from as little as £30 for a budget model, and up to £200 or more for a high-end model with all the bells and whistles. The average price for a Best Buy wireless security camera is £140 but, if you’re a savvy shopper, you can still find a recommended security camera for less than £100.
What do you get if you pay for a more expensive security camera? High-quality footage regardless of day or night, ease of use, local and cloud storage, plus first-class data security and privacy settings. Some even include ongoing subscription costs, so it’s worth weighing up all the costs before making your purchase.
What makes a good wireless security camera?
Here are the features to look out for to ensure you choose the best wireless security camera:
- 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'll be out of your home.
- 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.
- 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 – 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, to tell your children to get on with their homework or the dog to get off the sofa, two-way audio recording is what you need.
- 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.
Other wireless security camera features 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 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.
- Controlling your camera via a smart hub As more household items become internet-connected – such as light bulbs, fridges and thermostats – a smart home hub provides a centralised way to control them all. These hubs allow you to turn gadgets on or off with a swipe of your finger via a mobile app. For example, one camera we have tested – the Samsung SmartCam SNH-P6410 – is compatible with the Samsung SmartThings Hub.
- 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.
Privacy issues with wireless security cameras
As with any internet-connected device, data privacy and security are of the utmost importance. While the camera may record first-class-quality video, the camera isn’t fit for purpose if it has weak security settings and is vulnerable to attack.
For more information on the risks of a connected home, read our guide to the internet of things and security.
So how can you stop hackers and other nefarious users from finding your camera(s) on the internet and watching you? Follow our simple tips below to keep the your cameras safe from prying eyes:
- Update you camera’s firmware Most wireless security cameras feature firmware that can be upgraded by you. If a vulnerability or attack vector has been identified by the manufacturer, often it will release a firmware update to remedy the issue. You can update the camera’s fimware via the admin settings and it’s worth periodically checking the camera manufacturer’s website to see if there are any applicable updates.
- Rename the default login details Your camera’s default admin and password details can be easily found online. Taking the simple step of changing your login details will help keep a novice hacker at bay.
- Password-protect your cameras Some wireless security cameras don’t have password protection enabled by default. After the initial set-up, go back to the admin settings and create a strong password, and change it periodically.
- Use wireless encryption You should only join your camera to wireless networks that support WPA2 encryption. This means that communications between your router and camera are encrypted so people can’t view what your camera sees via the internet.