The best smart indoor security cameras to protect your home

The best smart indoor security cameras to protect your home

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The Best Smart Indoor Security Cameras of 2017

— Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from USA TODAY’s newsroom and any business incentives.

Over the past few years, security cameras have come a long way from their direct-to-VHS origins. Today’s security cameras are smarter, using motion detection to tell when something unusual is happening and WiFi connections to send you phone alerts. Many also back up clips to the cloud, so even if a thief steals your camera, you still have the evidence you need. There are other benefits to these smarter cameras: two-way communication, built-in sirens, and even integration with third-party security services can be found in some models.

But not all smart security cameras have the features you need, and some do a better job of implementing them than others. Then there are costs to consider—both the up-front purchase price and the ongoing cost of a subscription service. That’s where we come in.

Over the course of several weeks, we tested nine of the most popular smart indoor security cameras on the market. Through everyday use and controlled tests, we checked for image quality, reliability, customizability, and features, then analyzed how much they’ll cost you over the long term. When all our testing and analysis was complete, it was clear that Logitech’s Logi Circle is the best indoor cam to get.

If you’re looking for outdoor security cameras or cameras that act as video baby monitors, check out those respective roundups. And if you’d like to see our other top picks for indoor cams, keep reading below.

Best Overall: Logitech Logi Circle

There’s no perfect smart indoor security camera, but in our testing the Logi Circle came closest. In particular, we loved its incredibly simple setup process, minimalist but powerful app, and the fact that it has a built-in battery, so it can be temporarily placed anywhere in your home. On top of that, it has very good image quality in most circumstances, an extra-wide lens, and offers 24 hours of free cloud backup.

The Logi Circle also did the best job of all when it came to sending intelligent alerts. It didn’t spam us with notifications whenever a bird chirped or one of our dogs wandered by, focusing instead on people and unusual events. Live streaming started quickly and rarely lagged, and scrolling through our timeline of auto-captured clips was painless. It’s also easy to capture snapshots and download clips if you want to share them with friends, family, or law enforcement. You can even create a “Daily Brief,” condensing all of the day’s events into a sped-up montage video.

There are some downsides, naturally. The app revels in minimalism but sometimes goes too far, sacrificing in-depth scheduling and motion sensitivity options you get on other models. Our test unit also required absolute darkness to switch into night vision mode, which sometimes left it struggling with muddy color video while other cameras cruised along in crisp black and white. If you want sharp nighttime footage, make sure you turn off all the lights before you head to bed.

Where to Buy:

  • $129.99 at Amazon

Best Value: Yi Dome Camera 720p

Yi made a name for itself with affordable yet high-quality action cameras, but it also makes a variety of home security products. The $60 Dome Cam is one of its best values, and the best smart indoor security camera you can buy if you have less than $100 to spend. Despite a price tag that’s less than half of most cameras we tested, it offers more features and better image quality than many of them.

The Dome Cam is one of two models we tested that can pan and tilt via remote control. You simply open the app and use the on-screen directional pad to tilt it up and down, left to right. The camera can spin 345 degrees horizontally and tilt 115 degrees, which more than makes up for the lens’s slightly narrow 112-degree field of view. It’s also the only camera we tested that will lock onto subjects and track them as they walk around. It’s a little creepy, but useful if you want to document a thief’s movements or figure out how your dog keeps getting up on the kitchen counter.

Setup is mostly painless, and image quality is very good considering it’s only 720p. In addition to 7 days of free cloud storage, you get a microSD card slot for local backups. We also liked the two-way speaker, which is much louder and clearer than most rivals. The Yi app provides plenty of in-depth customization, but isn’t as simple or nice to use as Logi’s; it’s fine for techies, but your aunt might find it confusing.

Where to Buy:

  • $59.99 at Amazon

Foscam R2

The Foscam R2 is functionally very similar to the Yi Dome Cam, with a few key differences. First, it requires a wired connection for setup. It’s not immediately clear why that’s necessary for a camera that works over WiFi, but there you are. While the setup is more onerous than most, it’s not super complicated—we got it up and running within 15 minutes, with only a couple missteps. Second, while the R2 can pan and tilt, it doesn’t have the subject tracking functionality of the cheaper Yi. Third, it’s 1080p, while the Yi is limited to 720p. (However, Yi also makes a 1080p Dome Cam that’s quite a bit cheaper than the Foscam R2.)

Almost everything we liked about the Yi Dome Cam is here, so if the Yi’s are out of stock and you like the sound of its features, this is a good backup pick. The apps are nearly identical and equally usable. The R2’s image quality is very good at 1080p, and the onboard speaker is nice and loud. The cloud storage options aren’t quite as generous as Yi’s, however, which is another reason it’s not one of our top picks.

Where to Buy:

  • $79.99 at Amazon

Nest Cam

We loved Nest’s outdoor security camera, so it came as a bit of a surprise that the Nest Cam Indoor lagged so far behind in our testing. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it: It produces very good video and offers great two-way audio, it’s well-built, easy to set up, and the app is among the best in the business. It just doesn’t stand out among these cameras like the outdoor version did among its rivals.

The Logi Circle, Foscam R2, and D-Link Omna all shoot sharper clips. Logi’s app is even easier to use than Nest’s sleek, but aging, software. It took longer to start streaming than several other cameras. And while others offer at least a day of free cloud backups, Nest doesn’t offer any cloud storage without a subscription plan. The list of near misses goes on and on. If you’re already invested in the Nest ecosystem, by all means, go ahead and grab a few of these. (Especially if you’ve already bought into a Nest Aware subscription.) But if you’re not, there are better values out there.

Where to Buy:

  • $189.00 at Amazon
  • $199.00 at Home Depot
  • $199.99 at Best Buy
  • $199.00 at Walmart

Netgear Arlo Q

Like the Nest Cam, Netgear’s Arlo suffered in the move indoors. Once again, it was simply outpaced by cheaper, more capable rivals like the Logi Circle and Yi Dome Cam. The app took a surprisingly long time to start streaming, and had more of a delay than most other cameras we tested; sometimes the stream would lag more than a minute behind real-world events. It’s worth mentioning that we tested these cameras on a weak WiFi network, but all were tested under the same circumstances. While others coped with the conditions, the Arlo Q stumbled.

But it’s not all bad. The Arlo Q is well made, with a physical design much like the Nest Cam Indoor’s. Setup is simple, and the app—while far from being as intuitive as Logi’s or Nest’s—has lots of options for those who like to really tweak their setup. Perhaps the best thing about the Arlo Q is that Netgear offers a full week of cloud backups for free. That makes it a pretty good bargain—as long as you have a good router and internet connection, anyway.

Where to Buy:

  • $149.99 at Amazon
  • $177.90 at Home Depot
  • $151.99 at Best Buy
  • $199.99 at Walmart

Canary All-in-One Home Security System

Canary’s flagship security camera is pretty (it reminded us of the monolith from 2001) and the app is good-looking, too. The camera also houses a very loud siren, which is a great feature if you need to scare off an intruder or play a prank on your family. (Just kidding! Don’t do this. It’s really loud.) The device starts streaming quickly and image quality is good, if not great. It’s also very good at recognizing when you’re home and when you’re not, putting the camera in the right mode based on that info. There are other neat customizations, like a feature that auto-populates local emergency phone numbers so you can dial with one click. Still, the app is short on options—you can’t customize much at all—and the camera is missing features common on other devices, like two-way audio. Given the relatively high asking price, there are simply better options.

Where to Buy:

  • $159.99 at Amazon
  • $199.00 at Home Depot
  • $159.99 at Best Buy

Blink Camera System

Blink gets a lot of love from the DIY security crowd, and it’s easy to see why. Its cameras are small, they run for years on readily available lithium AA batteries, and they’re relatively affordable. (You can get three cameras and a sync module for a fraction more than most cameras in this list go for alone.) That means you can put them just about anywhere in your house without worry, or so you’d think.

Unfortunately in our experience, setup was a pain, the Blink app was an ugly, buggy mess, and live streaming took forever to start, often failing entirely. (Get used to seeing “System is busy, please wait.”) If you don’t care about live streaming and just want motion-triggered clips, the experience is better. Despite its 720p resolution, the Blink Indoor Camera produces very nice footage, and you get free cloud storage for up to 1,440 five-second clips. The clips are easy to retrieve, download, and share, too.

Where to Buy:

  • $99.00 at Amazon
  • $160.65 at Walmart

D-Link Omna 180 Cam HD

The D-Link Omna 180 Cam HD is the only Apple HomeKit-enabled indoor security camera in this roundup, and as a camera it’s the best we tested. The lens is phenomenally wide at a full 180 degrees, and razor sharp edge to edge. Compared to a camera like the Blink Cam, which offers a mere 110 degrees, it’s almost like getting two cameras for the price of one. Footage from the Omna 180 looks just as good at night as it does in daylight, too. The camera is easy to get running, thanks to HomeKit’s simple setup process, and the app is pretty straightforward.

There’s just one big hitch: notifications. To put it simply, once they’re activated, there’s no way to stop them aside from manually shutting them off. There’s no notification scheduling, no snoozing, no nothing. They’re just on or off. That wouldn’t be so bad if there was a convenient on/off toggle, but no such thing exists; the option is buried deep in a submenu of a submenu, which makes it a chore to enable and disable. When you add in the fact that the Omna HD only works on iOS and that it’s the only camera we tested that doesn’t offer some sort of cloud storage option (all videos are saved to a microSD card instead), you’ve got a recipe for a camera not many people will want to buy, despite the awesome optics.

Where to Buy:

  • $199.95 at Apple Store

LG Smart Security Wireless Camera

Unless you’re already an ADT Canopy customer, we see little reason to consider the LG Smart Security Wireless Camera. As a camera, it’s mediocre. The companion app takes forever to start and is a pain to use. And as a smart home hub, it’s yet another ecosystem that doesn’t work with many of the most popular third-party devices (in this case, only Z-Wave products are compatible). Even if you don’t mind those limitations, it’s also the most expensive camera we tested by a fair margin. That said, if you do subscribe to ADT Canopy, this camera offers features the competition can’t match, including automated emergency response when an alarm is triggered.
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