Best Security Camera System: Complete Reviews with Comparisons
Security cameras are becoming ubiquitous. From private CCTV for personal surveillance to public systems that cover entire cities, cameras are a great lookout tool for potential threats.
On the bright side, the statistics indicate that property crime in the US has been on the decline in the past two decades. Security cameras are probably one of the reasons behind the positive drop. But you shouldn’t let your guard down just yet.
It’s better to be safe than sorry and installing a camera security system is one of the easiest ways to ensure peace of mind.
The following write-up helps you choose the best security camera system for your home or small business.
Also check out the Buyer’s Guide and FAQs to have a better understanding of the key features to look for.
Arlo Pro 2 – Wireless Home Security Camera System
YI 4pc Home Camera, 1080p Wireless IP Security Surveillance System
All in one with Monitor Wireless Security Camera System
Firstrend 8CH 1080P Wireless NVR System)
SMONET 1080P 8 Channel Video Security System
Best Security Camera System Reviews
1. Arlo Pro 2
The Arlo Pro 2 has all the bells and whistles you might want from a security camera system. It’s compact, easy to install, and completely wireless. The Pro 2 is safe to use outdoors and supports up to 6 cameras. Superior features are not cheap, but you probably don’t want to skimp on security.
This particular package comes with 3 cameras and a recorder unit. The cameras record in 1080p for optimal sharpness and details. They also feature 850nm LEDs and an IR cut-off filter to provide night vision. The Pro 2 cameras are battery-powered but you can also hook them up to a power outlet.
Or, get the Arlo solar panel to give the outdoor cameras extra juice and continuous recording. If you install the cameras indoors, there’s the benefit of a 3-second look back which allows you to preview the recording 3 seconds prior to the triggered event. You also have the option to highlight specific areas for sound and motion alerts.
Besides video, the Arlo Pro 2 also records 2-way audio and integrates with your smart home. You can connect the system to Amazon Fire TV, Alexa, Echo, or Google Assistant. Arlo works with Samsung SmartThings and IFTTTT as well.
The system comes with a smartphone app which you can use to customize the camera features. There are options to set specific zones and people detection alerts. The emergency responder contact comes as an optional feature, but the first month is free of charge.
Finally, the Arlo Pro 2 sports a 100-decibel smart siren that can be triggered by motion, sound, or remotely.
What’s to like about the Arlo Pro 2
It’s great that you can hook up the camera system to the IoT and get live views. Arlo delivers high-quality recordings and provides free cloud storage for 7 days’ worth of recordings. The system is highly customizable and don’t forget that this camera is easy to set up, even if you are not tech-savvy.
What’s not to like about the Arlo Pro 2
The cameras are weatherproof and suitable for outdoor use, but they are also battery operated. As a result, you would have to factor in the battery changes, unless you get the Arlo solar panel. In addition, some of the smart features only work for indoor installations.
- checkIoT integration
- checkCustomizable features
- check100-decibel siren
- checkEasy to install
- checkSmartphone app
- Upper price range
2. YI Security Surveillance System
The affordable YI security surveillance solution is up to par with other more expensive brands. Furthermore, the cameras are easy to reposition if need be.
This system comes with 4 wireless 1080p cameras. Each camera records at 1080p at 15 fps. It is equipped with an F 2.0 wide-angle lens and eight 940nm IR LEDs that trigger automatically in low light.
Besides great video, you also get the option to record and transmit audio via Wi-Fi, regardless of your location. When it comes to storing the recordings, YI provides unlimited cloud storage. There is also an option to insert a 32GB SD card in the cameras and save the recordings locally.
This security camera system doesn’t fall short on activity alerts either. It sports cutting-edge motion and baby-crying detection. You’ll receive a smartphone notification via the YI Home App (Mac or PC). Plus, you have the option to share the camera with up to 5 people, who can view them all at once.
The app is also great for previewing and zooming into the recorded or live video. And the built-in gyroscope allows you to have a wide-field view by panning your phone.
What’s to like about the YI Security Surveillance System
The YI system delivers an optimal balance of price, features, and ease of use. The unlimited cloud storage is a nice addition since it allows you to save money on SD cards. Plus, you don’t have to keep the cameras installed in one place, which provides some additional versatility. And the night vision recording in 1080p is surprisingly good.
What’s not to like about the YI Security Surveillance System
Unlike some other models, this camera system is designed for indoor use only and doesn’t work on battery. This means the installation might be a little more involved.
- checkUnlimited cloud storage
- checkUsable night vision
- Indoor use only
3. Cromorc All-in-One Security Camera System
As its name suggests, the Cromorc is an integrated camera system that can be great for homes or small businesses. This model comes with four separate cameras, a network video recorder (NVR) with a 10-inch display, and 1TB of storage. You can get the system in other configurations as well.
The Cromorc cameras are built to last and withstand various weather conditions. They come in a metal housing and sport an array of infra-red LEDs with an automatic cut filter. The night vision works up to 65 feet.
The cameras capture crisp 1080p video which is wirelessly transmitted to the NVR, which is equipped with two wireless antennas and a built-in router. Without obstacles, the Wi-Fi range is up to 1,000 feet, which drops to 100 feet if there’s a separating wall. But the NVR’s repeater technology may boost the range for a short period of time if the signal is dropped temporarily.
The built-in 10-inch display allows you to preview the cameras as soon as you pair them. There’s also a dedicated smartphone app to put all the controls at your fingertips.
What’s to like about the Cromorc All-in-One Security Camera System
Build quality and wireless features are some of the best characteristics of the Cromorc system. The cameras are easy to install and can be wall or ceiling mounted. On top of that, this model is reasonably priced for a 4-camera all-in-one security system that doesn’t come with any upsell.
What’s not to like about the Cromorc All-in-One Security Camera System
There is very little not to like about Cromorc except the cameras don’t record audio or offer PTZ functions.
- check10-inch display
- checkNetwork video recorder with built-in router
- checkMetal camera housing
- checkEasy to set up
- No audio recording
- Non-PTZ cameras
4. Firstrend Security Camera System
Looking to get a good wireless security system on a limited budget? Your search may end with the Firstrend.
This Firstrend security camera system package comes with 4 cameras and an NVR unit. But there are 6 other options to choose from, including up to 8 cameras and an HDD.
The Firstrend cameras feature the recognizable bullet housing and record at 960p. Six IR LEDs are built in for night vision capabilities, which work up to 65 feet. The cameras also have an IP66 weatherproof rating. They’re not wide-angle cameras as the viewing angle is only 72°.
The network video recorder is a highlight. It offers 8-channel support, so you can add 4 more cameras to this system as configured. The NVR receives video from the 960p cameras (supports up to 1080p) and has an internal SATA interface which is capable of supporting up to a 4TB hard drive.
The system setup is plain sailing. You connect everything to power and plug a mouse to the NVR. Hook up a display (TV or Monitor) and plug in a network cable to your router and the NVR WAN port. You also get a free app that works with smartphones, tablets, and PCs.
What’s to like about the Firstrend Security Camera System
The Firstrend is among the best affordable security camera systems. It delivers good video quality and decent night vision capabilities. The NVR features two wireless antennas to ensure optimal Wi-Fi and it’s expandable and 1080p-ready.
What’s not to like about the Firstrend Security Camera System
This is a base model that’s cheap for a reason. It doesn’t have a pre-installed HDD, which might make you antsy to upgrade. Alternately, you can always go for a better equipped Firstrend system from the jump.
- checkReliable and highly configurable NVR
- checkIP66 weatherproof rating
- checkExpandable up to 8 cameras
- Doesn’t include an HDD as configured
5. Smonet Security Camera System
Smonet is one of the newer players in the camera security industry. What matters more for this discussion is a security camera system that comes at a great price.
This system features four cameras (¼-inch color CMOS sensor). Each camera can record HD video in 1280 x 960p resolution. The lenses range from 3.6mm to 4mm and they are shipped in random. It would have been nice if you were able to specify the lens, but the difference is likely negligible.
The Smonet system comes with an 8-channel NVR that supports up to 960p video. As configured, it has a 1TB HDD and a 3520D processor. The NVR has embedded Linux and supports iOS, Windows, and Android for remote view.
The receiver works with most standard networking protocols, so you won’t have any problems hooking up your router. The video is transmitted at 2.4GHz and you might get a 3 second delay. The system provides options to preview, record, and view the footage live.
IP PRO and ESeecloud are two apps that work with the Smonet wireless surveillance system. You need to register as a new user and put in the device ID to view the cameras via Wi-Fi or mobile network. There is also a CMS system for a Mac or PC, but you’d have to get in touch with the company about the software.
What’s to like about the Smonet Security Camera System
All in all, the Smonet is a well-rounded security camera system. The NVR allows you to add more cameras and comes with a built-in hard drive. The image quality stands up well to the competition, even when compared to some more expensive systems. Besides the 4-camera surveillance, there are also options to add a display and more storage capacity.
What’s not to like about the Smonet Security Camera System
At this price point, you would be hard-pressed to find a better system, but there are some points of improvement. The 3-second delay could be annoying (though all wireless surveillance systems come with a delay). In addition, Smonet could benefit from better smart device integration.
- check1TB hard drive included
- checkGreat video quality
- checkEasy to install
- 3-second delay
- Remote viewing could be better
Certain features need to be accounted for if you want to get the best security camera system for your home or business. Take a closer look at the following guide for more details about what to look for.
Security camera systems can be divided into several categories, depending on their design, features, and intended use. (Note: The following categorization assumes that traditional systems come with an NVR or DVR.)
Their characteristic shape is an intruder deterrent by itself. Bullet cameras are easy to install both outdoors and indoors. They have a small lip at the top to reduce glare and provide extra weather protection. Bullet cameras usually come in sets of two or more since most of them have a fixed field of view.
Dome cameras are more discrete. They are often installed on ceilings, but it’s not uncommon to find them outside on a building wall. These cameras have a wide field of view and they are harder to vandalize.
Outdoor and Indoor
The basic difference between these types is in the camera quality and there are models that can work both inside and outside. Weather resistance is crucial if you go for an outdoor model. It is advisable to pick out a camera that has an IP66 or IP67 rating to ensure optimal durability.
PTZ Security Cameras
PTZ stands for Pan, Tilt, Zoom. These cameras provide an extended range of motion for professional surveillance. They are mostly used by large businesses and, unsurprisingly, reality shows. They are controlled via a joystick and some have the option to automatically track a point of interest.
Specialized CCTV Cameras
Thermal and ANPR/LPR cameras have a special purpose. If you’ve ever wondered what recorded your plate when you receive a speeding ticket in the mail, it’s probably an ANPR. On the other hand, thermal cameras record heat sources in harsh or extreme low light environments that aren’t suitable for optical cameras.
There are contemporary CCTV cameras that offer IoT integration and other smart features. Some of them can be voice controlled and there is the option to preview the video remotely via an app.
In general, these cameras work well with all the popular virtual assistants. For traditional systems, you can easily hook up the NVR to your TV or monitor via cable.
Field of View
The camera type and lens determine the field of view. For example, dome cameras usually have a wider field of view compared to bullet cameras. And if you are ready to splurge on PTZ cameras, you might get 360° full coverage.
For most homes and small businesses, it may not be necessary to go that far. There are systems like the YI Security Surveillance which offer wide-angle lenses and a viewing angle of more than 110°.
When it comes to resolution, 1080p is pretty much the standard. There are lower HD resolutions like 960p or 720P as well. The difference in image quality is usually insignificant in broad daylight and under well-lit conditions.
Turn on the night/IR mode and they’re all going to be out of focus and grainy anyway. This, of course, depends on factors other than the resolution. There are also 4K CCTV cameras, but a single camera may cost as much as an entire 1080p system.
Like the 1080p resolution, motion detection has become standard for security camera systems. However, this feature can easily be triggered by unimportant events like nosy dogs or blowing trees.
To avoid overloading the system with unnecessary footage, it’s better to get a camera with PIR sensors. They are triggered by heat and in most cases more accurate than motion sensors.
How to Install Security Cameras?
Planning is the key to security camera installation. You need to take a look at the layout of your house and consider where to place the cameras (they shouldn’t be within easy reach). The cameras need to face away from direct light sources or reflective surfaces.
Checking the Wi-Fi signal is important if you’re installing wireless cameras. If they’re not battery powered, make sure there’s a power source nearby or invest in extension cords. You can connect a camera to the recorder before you screw it in to check the field of view and connection.
How to Hide Security Camera Wires Outside?
The simplest and quickest way to hide the wires is to paint over them. You can also use cord covers or special tubes that won’t look out of place on the side of your house.
There’s always the option to fully conceal the wires by running them in-wall, but this might require some professional help. There are two reasons to hide the wire: to hide that you have a surveillance camera in the first place and to prevent someone from easily disabling your camera by cutting the cord.
How to Wire Security Cameras?
Since this write-up only features wireless camera systems, the answer focuses on setting up this particular type. Locating your power sources is crucial if you don’t get a battery-operated camera.
And it’s advisable to follow the instructions and set up the receiver first, then pair it with cameras to see if everything works. Once you have the power source ready, you can connect it to the camera and affix the camera. Make sure none of the cables are loose and conceal them if you wish.
How do Wireless Security Cameras Work?
Simply put, wireless cameras transmit video and sometimes audio signal to a receiver, which may also be a recording device like an NVR. The signal can be transmitted wirelessly and the storage can be physical or cloud based.
How to Power Wireless Cameras?
Powering the cameras depends on the type of camera. Things are pretty straightforward with battery-powered cameras. And there are models like the Arlo Pro 2 which can be hooked up to a solar charger.
Nevertheless, most wireless security cameras are electric. This means that you may need extension cords if you’re to install the camera outside. If you pick up a PoE wired camera, there are fewer cables since these cameras transmit the signal and receive power via ethernet.
The goal of this write-up is to help you choose the best security camera system your office or home, and the hope here is that it has succeeded. Can you go wrong with any of the systems above? Not at all, but now is a good time to revisit one of them that might be superior to the others.
The Arlo Pro 2 offers exceptional connectivity, it is completely wireless, and it can be safely used indoors and outdoors. The company also offers an option to add a solar unit for powering any of the Arlo Pro 2 cameras that you install outside.
However, if the Pro 2’s premium price is a bit too much, you might want to shift your focus to the Cromorc system. It’s an all-in-one system that includes capable cameras and an NVR that’s equipped with a 10-inch display.