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If the smart indoor camera is the foundation of a good home security system, the smart outdoor camera is a great next step. Setting one up will allow you to capture would-be thieves the moment they get onto your property, which gives you more options to be proactive before they enter your home.
A smart outdoor security camera will also give you the ability to check your front stoop for packages, or see who’s at the front door before deciding whether or not to open it. You can also set them up to keep an eye on specific parts of your house, like your basement door, or side basement window, that aren’t being monitored by an indoor security camera.
One of the best parts about the smart outdoor cameras in this guide is that they’re made by companies that produce a lot of security hardware, so you may be able to integrate the one you get into a larger system, and manage it all through a single app. The days of stringing cables all over your backyard, or making holes to keep them underground or inside your home are over.
In many cases you can set these cameras up within 15 minutes once you’ve decided where to put it. Just make sure to have a WiFi network that’s strong enough to reach the cameras; if your connection is spotty, we have some recommendations on how to improve it here.
What You Need to Know Before Buying a Smart Outdoor Security Camera
There are many factors to consider when choosing the right smart outdoor security camera for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.
Resolution: The most important technical spec of a smart outdoor camera is its resolution. The higher the resolution, the clearer the picture. You’ll want the best-looking video possible in case of a break-in, because it’s the piece of evidence you’re going to review, and possibly turn over to the police. All of the cameras on this list capture video in HD (either 720P or 1080P), so you’ll get a very high-quality recording of any suspicious activity.
Smart-home integration: All smart outdoor security cameras have the ability to send you alerts when they sense motion, and send a live video feed to your smartphone, tablet, or computer at all times. But many also integrate with smart-home platforms like Amazon’s Alexa, allowing you to arm or disarm the camera with just your voice.
Durability: You’re going to keep these cameras outside, so they need to be designed to withstand the elements without getting damaged. The durability of technology is measured on the IP (Ingress Protection) scale, which tells you how susceptible it is to dust and water. Any rating above an IP64 means the gadget is capable of being exposed to rainstorms without the risk of serious damage. All of the cameras on this list have a higher IP rating than that, though, so they shouldn’t fail due to inclement weather.
Power source: There’s a good chance you have more outlets available inside your home than outside, so we made sure to pick a lot of outdoor cameras that have rechargeable batteries with a long life. In some cases, the smart outdoor security camera comes in a battery or cabled version. Using a battery-powered camera does mean you’ll have to recharge it once or twice a year, but it’s worth the minor inconvenience since it allows you to place your camera anywhere on your property.
Subscriptions: Some smart outdoor security cameras require you to pay a monthly or annual subscription fee to store video clips in the cloud, so you can view them later. Video clips are taken each time the camera senses motion. You’ll always have the option to save a video clip to your phone if you catch the notification on your phone when motion is detected without paying the fee. A subscription allows you to review clips if you miss that notification.
1. Yi Outdoor Security Camera
YI’s Outdoor Security Camera is a solid entry point if you’re just getting your system up and running. It has a maximum resolution of 1080P, which means you’ll get a crisp, full HD picture, night mode so it can monitor your home in the dark, and a two-way microphone system that allows you to communicate with intruders.
Strangely, YI’s Outdoor Security Camera captures video at 20 frames per second rather than 30 or 60, which means it’ll be choppier than footage from the other cameras on this list. It’s also the only camera that need to be plugged in at all times instead of running on a battery.
This security camera earned an IP65 rating, and can operate between temperatures of 122 and -5 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can monitor video from this security camera through an app on your smartphone (iOS or Android), or set it up to work with Amazon’s Alexa to watch a live feed on your Fire TV, Echo Show, or Fire Tablet.
You’ll get a notification on your phone each time YI’s Outdoor Security Camera detects motion, but it won’t store clips in the cloud without a subscription, which costs $9.99 per month ($99 per year) for 15 days worth of clips, or $19.99 per month ($199 per year) for 30 days worth of clips.
There’s also the option to pop in a MicroSD card and have the camera record locally to that instead, which is a significantly better value.
The storage flexibility and 1080p recording make YI’s Outdoor Security Camera absolutely worth considering, as long as you have a place to plug it in.
Pros: Full HD video capture, local storage option.
Cons: Needs to be connected to a power source, 20fps video capture.
2. Blink XT2
With the XT2, Blink brought its battery-powered cameras into the great outdoors.
The camera captures video at 1080P, has an infrared night mode, two-way microphone system, and blue LED to signal it’s on and armed. It’s also the only camera to run on two AA batteries, which the company says can last up to two years before being replaced.
These are impressive features for a camera that’s only 2.8 x 2.8 x 1.4 inches in size; its compact design makes it easy to place the XT2 in little corners that prospective burglars wouldn’t notice.
You can monitor live video from the XT2 on your smartphone (iOS or Android), or Amazon Alexa-enabled gear. It’ll send you a notification when it detects motion, and will store clips in the cloud at no cost. The catch is that these clips cap out at 12 seconds, and there’s no way to extend them.
Although this camera is battery powered, you will need to plug its Sync hub into an outlet, which is required for the camera to get connected to your WiFi network. The hub doesn’t need to be connected directly into your router, but keeping it close will result in the best performance.
If you want your outdoor security camera to look subtle, and don’t want to worry about paying a monthly fee for cloud storage or changing batteries, Blink’s XT2 is the right choice.
Pros: Free cloud storage, compact, up to two years of battery life.
Cons: Storage comes with some caveats, requires a hub.
3. Ring Stick Up Cam
Ring made a name for itself by releasing the first mainstream smart security doorbell, but the company’s outdoor security camera uses the same technology to monitor other parts of your property.
It captures video in 1080P, has a night vision mode, two-way microphone system, IPX5 durability rating, and is available in three power configurations: battery (which we recommend), plug in (requires an outlet), and solar (comes bundled with a panel). If you get multiple Ring Stick Up cameras, you aren’t committed to choosing one style, so you can mix and match.
Staying within the Ring ecosystem does mean you’re committed to using hardware from a single company, but the upside is you can monitor your entire home from a single app (iOS and Android). You can also monitor a live video feed from your Alexa-enabled device.
The one drawback to Ring’s Stick Up Cam (and all of its hardware) is that you need to pay a monthly or annual fee to get video clips stored in the cloud. The camera will alert you when motion is detected, so you can review the situation in real-time, but if you miss it, it’s gone.
A basic Ring protect plan costs $3 per month ($30 annually), which will get you access to 60 days worth of video clips from one device, and a feature called “snapshot capture,” which shows you pictures taken by the camera throughout your day.
The company also offers a pro plan that costs $10 per month ($100 annually) for 60 days worth of video clips from all of your devices, an extended warranty on all devices, 10% off select Ring products, and 24/7 professional monitoring.
If you want to set up a robust home security system, and don’t mind subscribing to a Ring Protect plan for cloud storage, Ring’s Stick Up Cam is hard to beat.
Pros: Multiple power configurations, can be integrated into a larger security system.
Cons: Monthly subscription fee required for storing clips.
4. eufyCam 2C
If you want to set up a more robust security system that comes in one box, the eufyCam 2C delivers.
This kit comes with two cameras that capture video in 1080P, have a spotlight to illuminate objects in the dark in addition to a night mode, IP67 durability rating, 180-day battery life and two-way microphone system. It also includes the company’s HomeBase 2, a hub that connects the cameras to the internet, and stores up to three months of video clips on a 16GB (gigabyte) storage card.
Eufy says they’re going to allow you to expand the storage via a USB flash drive in a future software update.
All of the cameras in this guide are smart, but the ones in this kit can do more than show you a live video feed on your smartphone (iOS or Android) or Alexa-enabled device.
Each one has AI built in to identify humans to focus and sharpen its clarity. You can also set “detection zones” to avoid getting motion alerts every time a car drives down your street. The spotlight on the camera allows it to capture color video when the sun goes down instead of black and white footage from the infrared camera.
The Eufy 2C 2-Camera Kit is a great fit for people who want to monitor the front and back of their home in one shot, and are seriously invested in getting the best quality video at night. The only downside is that eufy hasn’t delivered on its promise of expandable storage, which remains to be seen.
Pros: No subscription fee, built-in spotlight, color correction, security.
Cons: USB storage expansion is only a promise.
5. Arlo Pro 3
Arlo’s Pro 3 security system is a luxe option, and the way to go if you want to professional grade protection.
This kit includes two cameras that capture video in 2K, which is higher than 1080P, and HDR (high dynamic range), for more accurate color capturing.
It has a two-way microphone, built-in spotlight and night mode, IP65 durability rating, and can be powered by a battery that the company says lasts between three and six months per charge. It can also be charged via an optional solar panel.
Its lower-than-average battery life is largely mitigated by the fact that you can attach a magnetic charger to the bottom of the camera instead of dislodging a battery. Charging this way is easy enough that it won’t be a bother to do seasonally.
Each of the cameras in this kit is equipped with a siren, which can be set to go off when motion or sound is detected when it’s armed to spook intruders.
This kit also comes with Arlo’s Smart Hub, which works similarly to the one eufy bundles with its camera. The hub can store video locally on a MicroSD card or flash drive, so you don’t have to pay a monthly subscription fee to review video clips. It’s also what connects the cameras to your WiFi network, which allows you to monitor them on your smartphone (iOS or Android), or Alexa or Google Home smart-home hub.
Arlo’s Pro 3 are worth checking out based on their extremely high-resolution video capture alone, but the extra features push it over the edge. If you have a lot of property to protect, and want to take zero chances protecting it, this is the play.
Pros: Better-than-HD video capture with HDR, spotlight and siren, magnetic charging.
Cons: Lower battery life.