• Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight

  • Nest Cam IQ Outdoor

  • Wyze Cam Outdoor

  • How We Tested

  • What You Should Know About Smart Outdoor Security Cameras

  • Other Smart Outdoor Security Cameras We Tested

  • More Articles You Might Enjoy

Our Favorite Smart Outdoor Security Cameras of 2020

  1. Best Overall

    Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight

    Pros

    • Reliable

    • Works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant

    • Clear day and night view

    Cons

    • Two-way talk could be louder

    Skip to the full review below
  2. Best Value

    Wyze Cam Outdoor

    Pros

    • Good value

    • Accurate smart alerts

    • Easy to use

    Cons

    • App can be slow sometimes

    Skip to the full review below
Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight camera
Credit: Reviewed / Rachel Murphy

The Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight camera performed beautifully in all of our tests.

Best Overall
Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight

Touting a 160-degree viewing angle and 2K video with high-def resolution, Arlo’s Pro 4 offers a wider range of view and higher video quality than the Nest Cam Outdoor, our previous No. 1 pick, and is our new recommendation for the best outdoor smart security camera.

Arlo’s video quality is just as clear at night as it is during the day thanks to the camera’s color night vision output. It also has a built-in spotlight that illuminates when motion is detected and a smart siren that can be triggered remotely or automatically.

We found the installation process to be fairly uncomplicated, though a 2.4 GHz WiFi connection is required for setup. (Here’s a quick tip: If you use a dual-band mesh WiFi router like Eero, which is how we tested this camera, I found it’s best to unplug all of the beacons and then connect the camera to WiFi to avoid any connection issues.)

There are no wires to fiddle with, as this camera includes a mount that can easily be screwed in on the exterior of your home. Before you place it, we suggest giving it a good charge right out of the box using the included magnetic charging cable. Arlo says the removable battery can last up to six months on a single charge.

The camera easily connects to smart assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and it can be used with IFTTT. Previous Arlo outdoor cameras required a base station, but the Pro 4 doesn’t need a hub or any extras to get to work.

A subscription to Arlo’s Smart Plan (starting at $2.99/month) is the best way to get the most out of the Arlo Pro 4. Included in Arlo’s paid plans are 30-day video history; 2K cloud recording; activity zones; advanced object detection for people, cars, and packages; and other useful features you’ll want access to.

The only gripe we have with the Pro 4 camera is the two-way talk audio isn’t as loud as it could be. If you’re within three to five feet, you can hear it well, but any farther away and it’s hard to make out what the other person is saying. But that’s a minor grumble about the Pro 4, which offers just about everything a reliable home security camera should.

Read our full review of the Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight Camera

Pros

  • Reliable

  • Works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant

  • Clear day and night view

Cons

  • Two-way talk could be louder

Nest Cam IQ Outdoor
Credit: Reviewed / Rachel Murphy

The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is the priciest of the bunch, but it excels in almost every area.

Best Upgrade
Nest Cam IQ Outdoor

If you’re on the market for a premium security camera with all of the bells and whistles, the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is the one to buy, so long as you have a nearby outlet to plug it in to. It’s the most expensive camera we’ve tested (double the price of our best overall winner and the original Nest Cam Outdoor, mind you) but for anyone who is serious about home security, the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor could be a worthy investment.

It records in 1080p HD video using 4K sensors and HDR to bring you some of the cleanest and sharpest video we’ve seen yet, including at night. Like the Arlo Pro 4, the Nest Cam IQ uses close-up tracking when motion is detected and automatically zooms in for a better look at who or what is in view. The Pro 4 and Nest IQ are the only cameras we tested with this type of tracking and it’s a very useful feature to help you quickly get a better look.

However, like Ring and Arlo smart cameras, a paid subscription is worth it to get the most out of the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor and access intelligent features like person and package detection, facial recognition, and sound detection—most of which the original Nest Outdoor Cam cannot do. Google’s smart home brand, Nest, offers two subscription tiers: Nest Aware ($6/month or $60/yearly for all devices and 30 days of event video history) and Nest Aware Plus ($12/month or $120/yearly for all devices and 10 days of continuous recording).

This was also the fastest camera we tested when it comes to viewing the live stream, and we like how each alert offers a preview image or video to quickly glance and see what’s going on. We found the notifications to be mostly accurate, but on occasion the Nest IQ Cam Outdoor mistook sounds from passing cars and nearby lawn mowers as people talking outside. We were easily able to integrate the camera with Google Assistant and pull up the view on a Google-enabled smart display, but it’s important to note that this camera isn’t compatible with Amazon Alexa or Apple HomeKit.

Overall, the Nest IQ Cam Outdoor is a more robust camera than the original Nest Cam Outdoor, offering better video quality, features, and a user experience that may be worth the splurge for your home security setup. It’s best for anyone with an existing Google Nest setup, but if you rely on Alexa to control your smart home, we’d recommend our No. 1 pick, the Arlo Pro 4.

Pros

  • Amazing video quality

  • Sturdy

  • Reliable

Cons

  • Wired only

Related content

Wyze Cam Outdoor
Credit: Reviewed / Rachel Murphy

Wyze’s outdoor camera is full of smarts and offers a lot of value for the money.

Best Value
Wyze Cam Outdoor

Wyze is known for its affordable smart home gadgets, including the Wyze Cam Outdoor, which takes the cake as our new best value outdoor smart security camera. It works well, sends timely alerts, and offers many of the same features as more expensive cameras, but at a fraction of the cost.

Running on two 2,600 mAh integrated rechargeable batteries, Wyze's Outdoor Cam is completely wire-free and claims a battery life of three to six months for normal use (about 10-20 events per day). The outdoor camera is smart enough to differentiate between people and animals, though package detection is not included like it is with the Arlo Pro 4. On occasion, the app took longer to load than other cameras, but overall we didn’t have many issues accessing the live stream, and the alerts were sent within seconds of detecting motion. Wyze delivers 1080p video that’s easy on the eyes and two way-talk functionality, like many more expensive cameras offer.

A base station is required to use the camera, but it’s included with your purchase, so there are no additional products to buy. Wyze's outdoor camera also supports offline video recording using a MicroSD card if your internet is out or the base station becomes disconnected, which really enhances this camera’s value (especially if you travel with any regularity and want some peace of mind).

Up to three additional cameras can be added to the base station, allowing you to outfit the exterior of your home with a total of four smart security cameras—at less than the cost of one Arlo Pro 4.

In short, Wyze’s Outdoor Cam is a reliable security camera that shows clear video (including color night vision), puts out good audio quality, and is overall easy to use. While it doesn’t offer as many features as some of the others we’ve tested, the camera offers a lot of value given the price and doesn’t require a subscription to access up to 14 days of rolling cloud storage.

Pros

  • Good value

  • Accurate smart alerts

  • Easy to use

Cons

  • App can be slow sometimes

How We Tested

The Testers

Hi, I’m Rachel Murphy, Reviewed’s smart home staff writer. I live in a smart home that’s full of smart home devices like cameras, plugs, speakers, and a smart oven. During my tenure at Reviewed, I’ve tested smart mini projectors, smart water leak detectors, and other gadgets that can be controlled remotely or via smart assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit. I spent about six months testing eight popular smart WiFi video doorbells to find out which one reigns supreme, and I conducted a major update of our smart doorbell testing previously completed by Susie Ochs and Ben Keough.

The Tests

To find the best smart outdoor security cameras, we originally researched the market and purchased and tested eight cameras from the top brands. After a few new options emerged on the market and some older models were discontinued, we retested our winners and pitted them against four new cameras to see if any new contenders could oust the current winners.

I installed each around my house, making notes about the installation procedures, in-app setup process, and reliability. Testing included several weeks of regular use, evaluating video quality, audio quality, responsiveness, and network reliability, and app usability on a numerical scale.

A big trick with security cameras is getting the notifications dialed in, so you're alerted to the things you want to know about without being bombarded with notifications every time a bird flies by. So I tested the sensitivity controls for each camera, if they support motion zones, and how quickly they alerted me to people and noise.

I also installed the mobile apps on both an iPhone XR and a Samsung Tab S6 to determine if the app experience was identical across platforms, and I tested how quickly each app began the live stream.

What You Should Know About Smart Outdoor Security Cameras

Privacy

It may sound ironic, but even your security camera needs security. So, what should you look for? Features like two-factor authentication, end-to-end encryption, and the option for local storage are all things to consider before investing in a smart outdoor security camera setup.

Arlo's cameras impressed us the most in terms of user privacy settings, going beyond two-factor authentication and requiring access approval for any new device. Two-factor authentication, which sends a code to your mobile device to verify it’s really you, is available on most smart cameras and absolutely something to activate. That way, if someone tries to hack into your account, you will receive an alert and can quickly take care of the problem.

Another thing to consider is how your videos are used and stored. With most of these cameras, you can turn them on and off from the app to control when they're recording and uploading video to the cloud. Whichever cloud you’re accessing and storing videos in should be secure. We like that Logitech's Circle View camera, like others on our list, use end-to-end encryption for storing videos, meaning that only the user and anyone the user shares video with can see it.

And, finally, make sure you create a strong password that’s unique to your outdoor security camera’s app. Data breaches feel like the norm as of late, making it all the more important not to reuse passwords across multiple websites and apps.

Paid Subscription Plans

A paid subscription plan is fairly common with almost any smart home security gadget like a smart doorbell, and a smart outdoor security camera is no different. Think of home security as a continual investment rather than a one-time deal. If you want access to the best features like continuous surveillance and special detection alerts for people, cars, animals, and packages, all features that are available on the Nest IQ Cam Outdoor and Arlo Pro 4, then subscribing to a paid plan is the way to go.

Some cameras, like our best value pick, the Wyze Cam Outdoor, offer 14 days of free rolling cloud storage, but also offer a paid plan that enhances what the camera can do, like differentiate between people and other general motion.

It’s best to consider your own needs and concerns when selecting a paid plan. For example, Ring cameras require a paid subscription to save and share videos, which is a useful feature that’s worth paying for.

Installing Outdoor Security Cameras

When considering which smart security camera to buy, consider your current setup. A wire-free camera with a rechargeable battery is a convenient way to go, as most cameras should only need to be recharged once or twice a year, like our best overall pick, the Arlo Pro 4.

However, some cameras, like the Arlo Essential XL Spotlight Camera do not have a removable battery. That means you’ll have to take the entire camera down to charge it. It’s not a make or break, but it’s something to be aware if you like the appearance of having security cameras up at all times.

Another option is a wired camera like our best upgrade pick, the Google Nest IQ Cam Outdoor, or the Logitech Circle View, which only works with Apple products. With this setup, we recommend having electrical outlets in the soffits of your roofline for an easy connection so you can avoid running cords all along the outside of your home.


Other Smart Outdoor Security Cameras We Tested

Nest Cam Outdoor

The Nest Cam Outdoor is our previous pick for the best smart outdoor security camera you can buy, but Arlo's Pro 4 Spotlight Cam offers more smart features and better video quality. But, the Nest Cam Outdoor is still a great choice for home security, as long as you don't mind being tethered to an outlet. It's easy to install since all you need to do is plug it into a nearby electrical outlet. That said, it's definitely a case of getting what you pay for because the Nest Cam Outdoor is also one of the most expensive options we tested. A subscription to the awesome Nest Aware cloud storage service starts at $6 per month (or $60 for an annual subscription. Alternatively, the Nest Aware Plus plan includes 60 days of video history and 10 days of non-stop video recordings for $12 per month (or $120 for an annual subscription).

Nest Aware totally makes this camera. It adds tons of super useful features, including notifications that differentiate between people and pets; customizable motion detection activity zones that prevent areas with frequent, benign motion from triggering alerts; and the ability to create clips that you can share with family, friends, or law enforcement. Coolest of all, it adds a video history feature that records to the cloud 24/7. With a fast enough connection, you can scrub through the remote footage like it’s on a local DVR. It’s absolutely magical.

Nest’s app is also the most user-friendly and functional of all those we tested. Streaming starts up quickly, navigation is fluid and natural, and the settings menu is broken up into sections that actually make sense. The video itself is the highest quality you can get from a smart security camera system, with 1080p video recording and excellent night vision.

Pros

  • User-friendly app

  • Customizable activity zones

  • Create, save, and share video clips

Cons

  • Plugs into an outlet

Arlo Essential XL Spotlight

The Arlo Essential XL Spotlight tested almost just as well as our best overall pick, the Arlo Pro 4, but there are a few minor differences between the two that make the Pro 4 a more attractive choice.

The Arlo Essential camera offers 1080p video, which looks great both day and night, but the Pro 4 touts a bit higher resolution at 2K. The Pro 4 also features a larger field of view (160 degrees vs 130 degrees). We also like that the Pro 4 is shorter and more petite than the Arlo Essential XL camera, making it easier to work with and place. The differences are minor but if you want the very best, the Pro 4 is your best bet.

Both cameras come with a built-in siren, adjustable spotlight, and the setup was very easy. The Essential XL camera claims to have a one-year battery life but, unlike the Pro 4, the battery isn’t removable, so you have to take the entire camera down to charge it.

If you’re on the fence between the Essential XL and the Pro 4, we say go for the Pro 4. While Arlo’s Essential XL Spotlight performed just fine in our tests, the Pro 4 offers more bang for your buck.

Pros

  • Works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant

  • Up to one year of battery life

Cons

  • Not as compact as the Arlo Pro 4

  • No removable battery

Ring Stick Up Cam Battery

Ring's Stick Up Cam Battery can be used indoors and outside, making it a versatile option for your home security setup. While just about all of the cameras offered an easy setup, Ring’s was among the simplest and automatically added itself to my Amazon Alexa speaker once it joined the same WiFi network.

Unlike Nest and Logitech, this camera runs on batteries and is completely wire-free. (It also comes in solar and plug-in versions). Ring's Stick Up Camera didn't give us any troubles and provided us with timely notifications over both WiFi and cellular, and the audio quality was fairly loud and responsive, too.

Most security cameras offer a paid subscription to access the best features and Ring is no different. Ring Protect offers two plans: Basic ($3/month or $30/year for 60-day video history, sharing, and more) or Plus ($10/month or $100/year all of the same features as Basic plus extended warranties, discounts on Ring products, and more).

Ring’s Stick Up Cam Battery is a great option for anyone who exclusively uses Amazon Alexa, as this camera doesn’t integrate with Google Assistant, or other Ring security products like Ring doorbells.

Pros

  • Easy setup

  • Works with Amazon Alexa

  • Good video and audio quality

Cons

  • Nothing we could find

Ring Spotlight Cam Battery

Ring's Spotlight Cam is for people who want their outdoor camera to put the emphasis on security and want to integrate with other Ring products. It's got a motion-sensitive light that can let passersby know they're being watched, as well as help you find your way from the car to the front door at night. The built-in siren is plenty loud, and the two-way audio was the loudest and clearest of any camera we tested.

Plus, Ring's app includes a Neighbors feature that lets Ring owners in your neighborhood share and comment on each other's footage. The feed even includes news from local sources about crime and police activity. Neighbors is also available as a separate app from Ring, so you can use it on your mobile device even if you don't have a camera.

Ring's app requires two taps to get to the live view, and the settings are disorganized, requiring a little too much tapping around to find all the features. Still, the video quality is great, especially at night thanks to the built-in light, and Ring's community features can tip you off to problems like a rash of car break-ins or package thefts in your area before they affect you. While it doesn't offer free cloud storage, Ring's fees are very reasonable at $3/month or $30/year.

Pros

  • Motion-activated light

  • Built-in siren

  • Two-way audio

Cons

  • App settings are disorganized

Logitech Circle View

Logitech’s Circle View camera is the only one of the bunch that exclusively works with Apple HomeKit and can only be used with iOS operating systems. We set this camera up on iPhone XR and were quickly able to add it to Apple’s Home app. Most security cameras are wire-free these days, but the Circle View camera comes with a cord and needs to be plugged into a nearby outlet to use.

Logitech’s Circle View camera offers a larger field of view than our best overall pick, and at 1080p resolution (the gold standard anymore), the view looks good. Since it’s Apple-only, the camera doesn’t integrate with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, which is a bummer. But you can ask Siri things like “show me the Circle View camera” and the stream appears almost immediately, which is a nice touch if you’re all in on HomeKit-compatible products.

A Home Hub, like a fourth-gen Apple TV or HomePod, is needed to record and save video, which is an extra cost to consider unless you already gave one of these at home.

This camera isn’t for everybody since it can only be paired with HomeKit. However, if Siri is your preferred smart assistant, then Logitech’s Circle View security camera will fit right into any Apple ecosystem.

Pros

  • Quick setup

  • Great for iOS devices

  • Timely alerts

Cons

  • HomeKit-only

  • Hub required for video recording

Zmodo 720p Indoor/Outdoor WiFi Camera

Zmodo's 720p Indoor/Outdoor WiFi camera is a steal—but you sacrifice features for the low price.

First of all, this camera has no audio support. It shoots silent videos, and there's no two-way audio or siren to chase away intruders. At 720p, the video is adequate, but its 81-degree field of view is downright bad, whereas its competition ranges from 110 to 140. Setup was clunky too, taking two tries and a lot of waiting for the 2.4GHz camera to connect to my network.

The Zmodo app lets you draw precise motion zones to cut down on unwanted alerts, and you can save alert clips for 36 hours on the free plan, downloading them to your device if you need to save them longer. Cloud plans offer seven days of continuous storage for $5/month or $50/year.

Pros

  • Less expensive than similar models

Cons

  • Lack of features

  • Difficult setup

  • Poor video quality

avoid
Canary Flex

On the surface, the Canary Flex has a lot going for it. For instance, both the camera and the Canary app are slickly designed. The former has a stylish, soft-touch black finish and has the friendly, rounded pill shape of a lot of Bluetooth speakers, while the app shares a lot of Apple’s design language.

Unfortunately, as a wire-free security camera, it has significant shortcomings. For one thing, the battery is supposed to last up to two months, but in our experience, it's highly variable, perhaps due to weak WiFi signal strength. In comparison, the Arlo Pro can go for up to six months on a charge and exhibited no issues during our testing. Worse, several of the Canary Flex's best features simply don’t work, and there’s a speaker on the camera, but it's not enabled unless you subscribe to Canary's membership for $99 per year. Video quality isn't a strong point, either; it's fine in daylight but truly atrocious at night.

Pros

  • Sleek design

Cons

  • Poor night vision

  • Poor battery life

  • Audio only works with a paid subscription

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Meet the testers

Ben Keough

Ben Keough

Contributor

@ben_keough

Ben is an experienced industry journalist who formerly served as Senior Editor of News and Features at Reviewed. He now contributes as a freelance writer and editor. Most recently hailing from the vast wilds of the American southwest, he is an avid photographer who is deeply disturbed by the lack of wide open landscapes in Boston.

See all of Ben Keough's reviews
Susie Ochs

Susie Ochs

Contributor

@https://twitter.com/reviewed/

Susie Ochs is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.

See all of Susie Ochs's reviews
Rachel Murphy

Rachel Murphy

Staff Writer

@rachel_murphy

Rachel Murphy covers smart home for Reviewed. She holds a journalism degree from the University of Central Florida. Previously, she worked as a freelance writer for several major outlets and as an associate editorial producer for ABC News' Good Morning America.

See all of Rachel Murphy's reviews

Checking our work.

We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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