You don't need to pay a monthly fee; you get 7 days of free video storage in the cloud. The video and sound quality are good, and users love the ability to easily reposition cameras using their magnetic mounts.
Some users report glitches like clips not always recorded when motion is detected and some WiFi network setup and connection issues. That said, WiFi is quirky and these kinds of problems can and do crop up with most other security systems as well.
A great value since it features completely free video cloud storage and very long-life camera batteries. Some users complimented the compatibility with home automation like IFTTT.
The lack of configurability is frustrating; you can't set up detection zones or schedule motion detection alerts at different times during the week. There are also complaints about WiFi router compatibility and delayed recording.
Users like the all-in-one form factor and both the video and sound quality. The Auto mode that switches the system on when you leave the house with smartphone in hand is also popular.
Some users are frustrated that the siren doesn't go off automatically when motion is detected; you need to trigger that manually from your smartphone. No free cloud storage option.
Picture and sound quality are excellent, and this is the only security system able to record video locally to an SD memory card.
The unusual shape might draw attention to itself in a robbery. Some users complain the siren isn't loud enough, and sometimes triggered false alarms due to overly sensitive motion detector.
Smart alarms have revolutionized the way we protect our homes, our families, and our belongings. Unlike standard home alarms that use door and window sensors to detect intruders, smart alarms utilize a network of cameras, microphones, sirens, and sensors to keep tabs on all you deem valuable. But that’s not what makes them smart.
The “smart” element comes with the connectivity of these systems – because these products connect to the internet. When a sensor is triggered, smart alarms automatically record video and save the files. Many broadcast live to your phone in real time. This lets you check up on the home base while you’re away, and you can review footage later in case of a break-in. You control all of this via an app that pairs with the smart alarm system, using it to monitor your camera feeds, activate sirens, set up unique detection areas, and even speak to intruders through the alarm’s speakers.
To learn more about smart alarms and how to effectively use them, as well as see some of our favorites, peruse our comprehensive buying guide below.
Number: Depending on the size of your home and property, you might need one camera or several. If you own a smaller residence with only a few entry points and valuables, a two-camera unit will probably suffice. If your home is larger or you own multiple vehicles, consider adding more.
Type: Consider the types of cameras companies offer, too. Some are rated for indoor use only, and while these are simple in design and might fit with your interior décor, they won’t stand up to weather and can be easily removed due to the magnetic mounts. If you plan to install cameras outside, make sure to choose units rated for that use.
Rechargeable batteries are extremely common in the smart alarm system market because they provide power for up to two years and eliminate the need for cumbersome wires. Keep your eye out for battery ratings when researching smart alarm systems because some units use non-rechargeable lithium (CR123) or AA batteries. These are slightly less convenient, but they can still provide reliable power for years unless your security camera is recording 24/7. And solar-powered cameras are considerably rarer but available if you look hard enough.
Resolution: An extra set of eyes is invaluable when it comes to keeping your home safe, but if the footage is blurry, you won’t be able to discern key details like the identity of the intruder. Thankfully, most cameras on the market today record in 720p or 1080p HD.
Angle: Resolution is extremely important, but it isn’t everything. Pay attention to the viewing angle of the cameras, too, because it can range from a relatively narrow 110° to a full 360° with a dome camera. Depending on where you install the camera, this could make the difference between identifying a burglar and not.
Other features: In addition, check any night vision capabilities, if that is important to you, and the clarity of the microphone.
Security camera footage has to be stored somewhere, and some systems record directly to an SD card or USB drive, but higher-end units save files to the cloud. The amount of storage and the price you pay for it varies greatly. Some packages are free until you reach a certain data level, some have paid tiers, and others require a monthly subscription. Consider the price of storage as you shop because you might find a great deal on a camera only to discover that the cloud storage is expensive.
Certain smart alarms only record and save footage when the sensors are triggered, while some record 24/7. Keep this in mind when shopping because this can eat up internet bandwidth or cause issues with slow connections.
Select smart alarms don’t require WiFi to save footage, relying instead on cellular data plans to send clips to the cloud. This might increase your monthly bill, but it’s more reliable in the case of a power outage.
Nearly all smart alarms have companion apps these days, but they’re not all created equal. Basic options display alerts when a motion sensor is triggered and allow you to activate sirens remotely. Others are comprehensive. Our favorites allow users to view footage in real time, communicate using two-way audio, customize detection zones in high-risk areas of the home, and contact emergency responders right from their phone’s lock screen.
Like homes, smart alarms are becoming increasingly clever in the ways in which they integrate with other devices, specifically smart home products. Services like IFTTT, Samsung SmartThings, Alexa, Fire TV, and Google Assistant enable homeowners to interact with their dwellings with voice commands, and our favorite security systems fit right in. With the right product, you can say, “Alexa, show garage camera,” and the display will pop up on your television.
Full-featured and intuitive
The Arlo Pro has all the features you’d expect from a high-end smart alarm, including three rechargeable cameras, night vision, two-way audio, and seven days of free cloud storage. Best of all, the alerts, detection zones, and emergency response settings are customizable through the Arlo app.
Smart alarm systems range from basic, single-camera units to multi-camera packages with included cloud storage and extensive personalization. Here’s what you can expect in the different price brackets.
Inexpensive: The least you can expect to pay for a smart alarm is between $50 and 75. At this price point, you’ll find single-camera options with a motion sensor, siren, and entry-level storage.
Mid-range: For around $150 to $200, you’ll find systems with two to four cameras, included cloud storage, hearty battery systems, and clever home automation integration. Mid-range smart alarms are sufficient for most homes, offering multipoint protection at a fair price.
Expensive: For buyers with large houses, the price goes up to $400 or more. You get a lot for the money, though, including a fleet of durable, theft-resistant cameras, expanded cloud storage, two-way audio, and customizable detection zones and alerts.
Most smart home alarms rely on WiFi to save footage to the cloud. WiFi signals can be unstable, causing issues with clips not recording or being low quality. Check your WiFi signal strength with a speed test before troubleshooting the cameras.
Economical peace of mind
Blink offers an expandable home security system that won’t break the bank. Featuring up to ten cameras with included cloud storage, this smart system can cover all of your high-risk entry points and seamlessly integrate with home automation products. The cameras themselves are discreet and boast a battery life of two years.
The smart alarm system market is growing larger by the day, particularly as our devices become more closely connected. One honorable mention that didn’t make our list is the EZVIZ Indoor Security Camera. This is an inexpensive option that still provides two cameras, and the EZVIZ records footage directly to the cloud. However, you’ll have to pay for it after the one-month free trial. It also boasts two-way audio and smart home integration. Another unit that caught our eye is the Smonet Home Security System, which supports up to eight cameras. It’s packed with features, but know that each camera requires a wired power source.
Q. Will my pet set off my motion detector?
A. Generally speaking, modern motion sensors won’t be set off by dogs or cats that weigh less than 40 pounds. The sensors calculate mass, speed, and movement patterns and can often distinguish between the movements of a human and an animal. Sensors with different settings are available, but in general, your pet won’t set off your alarm.
Q. How easy is it for someone to steal my smart alarm camera?
A. It depends on the camera and mount system used. Indoor cameras should not be used outside because they use simple magnetic mounting mechanisms to keep the camera in place and are very easy to pull off. Outdoor mounts are screwed in place. This doesn’t make them impossible to steal, but it does make it harder, especially considering that the thief would be recorded while doing so. As always, having a backup security system is recommended.
Q. I want to mount my camera inside looking out a window. Will the motion detector still work?
A. It likely won’t. Motion detectors use passive infrared sensors to detect changes in their field of view – essentially measuring a heat profile – and these sensors are unable to “see” through multi-pane modern glass. Older plate glass windows allow more infrared energy to pass through them, but overall, motion sensors are unreliable when looking through glass.
Canary All-in-One Security Camera
The most common feedback about Canary is related to its cloud subscription policy, which drives users to pay more for video storage than they want. If you choose this system, be prepared for an ongoing monthly fee. And be ready to become your own police force, since the alarm won't sound automatically.
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