We test 20 internet-enabled smartcams, and rate them for:
- image quality, and
- ease of use.
On this page, you'll find:
With an internet smartcam you can monitor your home from anywhere in the world using a web browser or mobile app.
Internet-enabled cameras are also known as IP (internet protocol) cameras, or Wi-Fi smartcams. They’ve been been around for years, but they’ve never really caught on with the average home user because they were generally too costly and difficult to set up. But times have changed, and some of the latest crop are almost cheap enough to buy with pocket change. But are they now easy enough to use that average householder can set one up successfully? We've found ease of set-up has vastly improved.
- Wi-Fi smartcams have become much less expensive to buy and easier to set up.
- One inexpensive camera on test is also the best performer.
Why a smartcam?
Wi-Fi smartcams look a little like ordinary webcams
, but they can connect wirelessly to your router and via your router to the internet. Because they’re small, relatively unobtrusive and work over your household wireless network connection, they can be placed almost anywhere in the home.
Most cameras on test offer night vision and motion-detection capability, particularly useful for security monitoring. Some record footage onto flash or external storage, while others save images and video in the cloud (internet-based remote storage). If, for example, the camera detects movement, it automatically takes and sends still pictures and/or video (usually 30 seconds or less). It can then send you an automatic SMS text message or email alert. You can access this immediately from a remote location via a computer, smartphone or tablet.
We looked at indoor cameras, but some brands also have outdoor models in their line-up, along with wired-in cameras you can fix permanently in position. Outdoor cameras will often have a dome covering or weather shield and be designed for all-weather use.
How we test
We set up each camera in a room with controlled lighting conditions to simulate normal daylight (indoor) viewing and also low-light conditions for night vision testing. We test each camera for ease of set-up and use, and image quality (both still pictures and video in daylight and low-light conditions), and also compare their features. We use default settings where possible. Some cameras provide a lot more customisation than others.
- Image quality Snapshots are taken of a test subject from a distance of four metres and of a calibration chart (including text, lines and tints) from a distance of 0.5m. The images are taken in both ambient (normal indoor) lighting and low-light conditions. The quality of the images are compared and scored.
- Ease of use assessment covers set-up, installation and use of the hardware and any related software, including remote connection, plus any assistance offered (wizards, documentation, help files and so on). We look at whether the device supports WPS and if it can be installed with a Wi-Fi connection only or if a wired (ethernet) connection is necessary. We also look at remote access, storage and security.
- Web access – whether the camera is accessible via web browser remotely from an external site (not on the same network).
- PC support – is there a PC software program provided to access/use the camera?
- Mobile access – is there a smartphone/tablet app to access/use the camera (iOS/Android).
- Storage considerations include:
- FTP – can the device be configured to store the recorded videos/ images on an FTP site?
- Memory card – does the device have memory card storage for recordings?
- PC storage from app or browser – can you save and store pictures/video using the PC program or via an internet browser?
- App storage on smartphone/tablet (Android / iOS) – can you save and store pictures/video using the camera’s mobile app?
- Scheduled snapshots, recording, notification.
- Motion detection, including scheduled detection. Can you set time slots when the motion detection is active, such as when the home is unoccupied?
- Sensitivity – can you adjust the sensitivity of the motion detection?
- Email and SMS/MMS alerts – can you set it to send email/SMS/MMS alerts when motion is detected? Can you automatically attach a recorded image to the alert?
CHOICE applies the following interpretation to the scores achieved in our tests. When we describe a result as "excellent", "poor" etc, it usually relates directly to a numerical score in that range.
- 0 - 24 Very poor
- 25 - 45 Poor
- 46 - 54 Borderline
- 55 - 69 OK
- 70 - 79 Good
- 80 - 89 Very good
- 90 - 100 Excellent