Looking for the best IP camera? This guide will help you look for the best security cameras connected over Internet Protocol - and find them at the best price.
Old-school security networks involved running co-axial cables, and probably wired electricity, around the site being secured and – at least in the movies – a dejected old man haplessly watching numerous screens through a night shift.
Coax is very much the past in the video world though, and our homes and offices are connected with internet protocol over ethernet and wi-fi so why not use that to carry security video as well as streaming services? It brings all the same advantages, too, like the ability to remotely connect to the cameras and live view from anywhere.
IP also creates a lot of possibilities when setting up cameras, either for a business or as part of a smart home. That means you need to think about video in terms of ‘live view’ (what you can see by logging into the camera via an app or hub device), ‘events’ (moments that camera’s motion or sound sensors are activated and a short clip is recorded) and 24/7 video history. The latter two might be stored locally or on the cloud; the later will almost inevitably come with a subscription fee and means you need decent bandwidth (if your Netflix looks OK, you should be fine).
IP cameras can be wireless and battery powered or they can connect via the mains (which saves a lot of maintenance), and cable internet. The latter sometimes allow for ‘PoE’ – standing for Power Over Ethernet – a single cable which also carries current and saves a bit of install fuss.
Best IP camera in 2021
Google’s Nest system is a great example of a system which uses IP in a very different way to traditional CCTV, eliminating any need for on-site video storage. Instead you can see the live video via the Nest app on your phone (iOS or Android) wherever you are, and it’s a good app with configurable sound and motion alerts. Any storage, however, requires a cloud subscription. Google offer these in two teirs, ‘Aware’ (events) and ‘Aware Plus’ (24/7 history and events), but with neither the camera only really offers live view. We loved DIY installation via the magnetic mount, but looking back realized that cable needed to be completely out of reach or the camera wasn’t secure.
If you’re looking for something a little more traditional, with the advantages of modern IP, then an NVR is the way to go. A Network Video Recorder with an internal hard drive can connect to a display (HDMI or VGA) for viewing live video – though it can also be seen using an app. Any recording is kept on the NVR (no cloud subscription) and the Reolink can be expanded to up to 12TB of storage (it comes with 2) and another four cameras. We also liked the fact the system was H.265 capable so the included 2TB drive isn’t filled straight away and because its wired it keeps the hackers away.
The Ring system offers a lot of choice in terms of cameras but, since its parent company is Amazon, support for Google Assistant or Apple HomeKit don’t seem high on the priority list. Nevertheless that is a route many people have chosen and Amazon do have a lot of great deals, so we can recommend it for plenty of people. The Spotlight camera is the middle of the outdoor range, between the ‘Stick Up’ outdoor model (no lights) and the quite pricey Ring Floodlight Cam, all of which are worth investigating. This seems a great option for those who appreciate a light coming on to ward off burglars or just light their way to the car in the dark.
Since Internet Protocol can go anywhere, so can CCTV cameras, and that means (just like the cameras in our pockes) they are no longer tied down by wires of any kind. Perfect for temporary locations, like building sites, camping, or off-grid homes. Installation requires sourcing a Nano SIM (signing up for a data plan of some kind) but you need not worry about dubious signal strength; full quality will be recorded to the MicroSD on site (32GB is included). At night the system runs from the battery which is topped up by the solar panel. We enjoyed the power of controlling the device via app from miles away!
The Solo Pan and Tilt is a very accessibly priced camera that is smart enough to distinguish pets from people and keep its eye on a moving object, pretty impressive given the price bracket. It also sports a discrete MicroSD card for subscription-free recording (very neatly designed into the back of the ‘eyeball’). It doesn’t seem to lack any of the handy features like 2-way talk that bigger brands aggressively promote, but – unlike Nest – Eufy have managed to include compatibility with Apple’s HomeKit, putting it right to the top of the list of indoor cameras for those building a system via that platform.
The S21 is a very versatile IP66 weatherproof camera which offers a powerful addition to both a wired or wi-fi setup, can be connected to via X-Sense’s app without a monthly fee, and includes on board storage in the form of a MicroSD card slot. There is a siren onboard too, should you need to scare folk off, or a 2-way chat facility for more constrictive discussion through the app. It even boasts compatibility with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa though, sadly, not HomeKit. It might lack some of the elegance that premium brands bring, but it more than competes on features.
Other useful buying guides:
Best outdoor security cameras in 2021
The best body cameras for personal security