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Consumer Reports: Best Outdoor Security Cameras of 2022

These cameras keep watch over your property through rain, sleet, and snow
Arlo
/ Source: Consumer Reports

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Video doorbells are great for keeping an eye on the entrance to your home, but what about your backyard? Or your driveway? For those, you need outdoor security cameras.

They’re weatherproof, and most run on rechargeable batteries, allowing you to mount them almost anywhere, even to a tree (provided it’s still in range of your home’s WiFi). If you have floodlights in these areas, you could even take advantage of their steady stream of power and install specialized floodlight security cameras.

Most cameras save footage to the cloud, but some let you save it locally on an SD card or a USB drive. Either way, the cameras use rolling storage, where the oldest footage is deleted to make room for new footage when there is no free space.

The smart features you’ll find on any given camera vary, but many of them send you smartphone alerts when they “see” things of interest, such as people, cars, animals, and packages. Other common features include: voice control via digital assistants, such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant; two-way audio, for speaking to visitors via your smartphone or digital assistant; and the ability to silence motion alerts at certain times of day, say, during the day while you work from home.

In our tests, we assess the smart features in each outdoor security camera, plus the video quality (including how well night vision works) and how quickly you get an alert when the camera detects motion. And though privacy outside your home might not be as big a concern as what goes on inside your home, we still score models on how well they protect your data.

“Even outdoor cameras pose privacy and security concerns,” says Justin Brookman, CR’s director of technology policy. “Depending on where the cameras are positioned, they can reveal a lot about you, such as when you tend to leave and come home, and with whom. A hacker could potentially use that information to determine when would be a good time to break into a home, or at least snatch some packages.”

Below you’ll find details on the five best outdoor security cameras from our tests, listed in alphabetical order. They’re made by Arlo, Eufy, and Ring. All feature two-way audio and voice control via Amazon Alexa. Here are other features you’ll find in some of these models.

  • Monitoring zones: This feature allows you to highlight areas of the camera’s field of view, such as a driveway, to monitor for movement—or ignore when there is movement, such as a busy street.
  • Person, package, vehicle, and/or animal detection: The camera can detect their presence in its field of view and record footage.
  • Geofencing: This feature uses your phone’s location so that the camera will record and/or send alerts only when you’re away from home.
  • e911: You’ll find e911 in the camera’s smartphone app. With it, you can call your home’s local 911 dispatcher directly if there is an emergency. That could save valuable time if you’re away from home, because usually you’d be connected to the 911 dispatcher closest to where you’re calling from. In that case, you’d need to be put through to your local police department so that you can ask them to check on your property.

For more on outdoor cameras, see our complete wireless security camera ratings and guide to the best floodlight security cameras. Interested in indoor security cameras or video doorbells, too? Check out CR’s free home security camera buying guide.

5 Best Outdoor Security Cameras

Arlo Essential Wireless Security Camera

Free video storage: None

Optional subscription costs: Through an Arlo Secure plan, you can get 30 days of cloud video storage for $3 per month for one camera or $10 per month for unlimited cameras; 30-day storage with in-app emergency response buttons costs $15 per month for unlimited cameras; 24/7 continuous video recording costs $10 per month per camera for 14 days and $20 per month per camera for 30 days.

CR’s take: The Arlo Essential Wireless Security Camera is a fantastic security camera, receiving strong ratings in our tests for video quality and data security. It performs quite well in our response time test, earning a Very Good rating, but its data privacy could be better. This model gives you a built-in spotlight that allows for color night vision, a rechargeable battery, a siren, and voice control (via Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit/Siri, and Google Assistant), and it connects directly to WiFi (unlike its siblings below, which use base stations).

With an Arlo Secure subscription, you can get 30 days of cloud video storage for motion-triggered video clips, as well as monitoring zones; person, package, vehicle, and animal detection; and emergency response buttons in the Arlo app, which allow you to request police, fire, or medical services with just a tap. The company offers subscriptions for 24/7 continuous video recording, too. If you don’t want to pay a monthly fee for video storage, you can use an Arlo Smart Hub, $100 (sold separately), to save footage on a USB drive instead. The hub is also required for Apple HomeKit/Siri to work.

Arlo Pro 2

Free video storage: Seven days of cloud storage, or more via a USB drive

Optional subscription costs: Through an Arlo Secure plan, you can get 30 days of cloud video storage for $3 per month for one camera or $10 per month for unlimited cameras; 30-day storage with in-app emergency response buttons costs $15 per month for unlimited cameras; 24/7 continuous video recording costs $10 per month per camera for 14 days and $20 per month per camera for 30 days.

CR’s take: The Arlo Pro 2 offers superb video quality, and Arlo cameras are the only models in our ratings with Excellent Smart IQ ratings, which means they offer a wide array of smart features compared with the competition, including a siren, voice control (via Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit/Siri, and Google Assistant), a rechargeable battery, and a rolling seven days of free storage for motion- and audio-triggered video clips (a perk that the other Arlo cameras in our ratings lack). The Pro 2 also receives a great score for data security, in part because of Arlo’s very secure authentication system, but its data privacy is mediocre because of the company’s vague privacy policies.

With an Arlo Secure subscription, you can get more video storage, as well as monitoring zones; person, package, vehicle, and animal detection; and emergency response buttons in the Arlo app. The company offers subscriptions for 24/7 continuous video recording, too. If you don’t want to pay a monthly fee for video storage, you can connect a USB drive to the base station and store footage there instead.

Arlo Pro 3

Free video storage: Yes, via a USB drive

Optional subscription costs: Through an Arlo Secure plan, you can get 30 days of cloud video storage for $3 per month for one camera or $10 per month for unlimited cameras; 30-day storage with in-app emergency response buttons costs $15 per month for unlimited cameras; 24/7 continuous video recording costs $10 per month per camera for 14 days and $20 per month per camera for 30 days.

CR’s take: The Arlo Pro 3 is another terrific camera that performs just as well as its predecessor, the Arlo Pro 2, receiving identical performance ratings in our tests and offering many of the same features. So what’s different about the Pro 3? It costs about $100 more and includes a built-in spotlight that allows for color night vision footage, a siren in the camera itself (instead of in the base station that goes inside your home), a wide 160-degree field of view, and a higher-resolution 2K HDR (high dynamic range) image sensor. Just as with the Arlo Pro 2, an Arlo Secure subscription gets you 30 days of cloud video storage for motion-triggered video clips, as well as monitoring zones; person, package, vehicle, and animal detection; and emergency response buttons in the Arlo app. The company offers subscriptions for 24/7 continuous video recording, too. If you don’t want to pay a monthly fee for video storage, you can connect a USB drive to the base station and store footage there instead.

Eufy Solo Cam S40

Free video storage: Yes, using 8 gigabytes of built-in memory

Optional subscription costs: Through a Eufy cloud storage plan, you can get 30 days of cloud storage for one camera for $3 per month or 30 days of storage for up to 10 cameras for $10 per month.

CR’s take: The Eufy Solo Cam S40 is the first security camera CR has tested with a built-in solar panel to recharge its battery. In our tests, it offers superb video quality and data security, and it receives a Very Good rating for its response time. The camera doesn’t offer great data privacy, though, which is common among these devices. It features monitoring zones; person alerts; voice control via Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant; a built-in siren; color night vision, thanks to its built-in spotlight; and 8GB of memory to store footage locally.

Ring Stick Up Cam (Battery)

Free video storage: None

Optional subscription costs: Through a Ring Protect plan, you get 60 days of cloud video storage for one camera for $3 per month (or $30 per year) or 60 days for unlimited cameras for $10 per month (or $100 per year).

CR’s take: For a more affordable camera compared with the models above, consider the third-generation Ring Stick Up Cam (Battery). At $100, this camera works both indoors and outdoors, and gives you monitoring zones and voice control via Amazon Alexa. In our tests, this Ring camera receives strong scores for video quality and response time (how long it takes the camera to send alerts when motion is detected). We also found that Ring does a good job of keeping your data secure, but its data privacy is lacking, in part because Ring doesn’t clearly state how long it retains your data and when it deletes the data. If you subscribe to a Ring Protect video storage plan, you’ll get photo snapshots between recordings in the Ring app and person detection.

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