Home is where the heart is. It also happens to be where your valuables, car, and family reside, making your property a prime target for criminals. Installing a smart home security system protects what you hold dear by sending live motion updates, camera feeds, and entryway statuses directly to your phone. This makes it easy to catch an unwanted presence and alert authorities. If you go away often or can’t check your phone, a home monitoring service subscription automatically alerts emergency services if an intrusion is detected.
While the FBI reports that the number of household burglaries are decreasing every year in the US, the average dollar value per offense has been on the rise, with an average of $2,661 in stolen items per burglary. Compare that with the cost of the equipment below, which averages around $200. That’s a relatively small price to pay to save you major heartache down the line, with a home security system helping you attain proof of a robbery at the bare minimum. In a perfect world, all of your combined security hardware will stop intruders in their tracks, deterring a criminal attempt entirely.
Today’s smart home security systems range from outdoor cameras to monitor who’s on your front doorstep to comprehensive systems with multiple cameras, sensors, and keypads. There’s no longer a need to sign up for expensive professional monitoring contracts—most of these systems offer free DIY setup, which you can access from your phone, as well as optional contract-free professional monitoring subscription plans that start as low as a few dollars a month.
Check out quick info below on the top five home security systems, then scroll deeper for helpful buying info and more in-depth reviews of these models.
How to Select the Right System for Your Home
The first thing to consider if you’re in the market for a home security system is whether you want professional monitoring or a DIY self-monitoring kit. With professional monitoring, if the system senses an intruder, you’ll get a notification such as a call or text message, and if you don’t respond with a safe word, the monitoring company will call authorities for you. This is helpful if you’re not always available to check your phone if you’re away on vacation or at work. Meanwhile, DIY systems put you in control, similarly alerting you through your phone and allowing you to call authorities if necessary.
Despite these operation differences, most of today’s home security systems follow a hybrid model that offers both types of coverage. Either use the free DIY method or, at any time, opt into a no-contract professional monitoring subscription plan. These plans also often offer more cloud storage for video and other perks like two-way audio capabilities. Whether you go with DIY or pro monitoring, you’ll be able to set up these options yourself, since most are wireless without the need for permanent installation.
You should also consider how much of your home you’d like to monitor before you buy. For outdoor property surveillance, you’ll need cameras that can withstand the elements. Or you can customize a complete home surveillance kit with the right amount of cameras, sensors, and other accessories to not only monitor for intruders but also for fire, water, freezing pipes, and other emergencies while you’re away. If you simply want to view your front doorstep to check on visitors or packages, consider one of these video doorbells.
Finally, keep in mind that this DIY security tech is still fairly new and may come with its own additional security risks. One report examined many cameras, including Google’s Nest, and revealed that it’s possible for hackers to know when you are home through camera’s data amount (though no incidents of this nature have been reported). In addition, another student researcher found that many systems (including Ring, Nest, SimpliSafe, and other manufacturers) do not properly remove active user accounts. So, for example, even though one user may remove another from their account, that removal may never be processed on the other user’s device, so they could still have access to the camera and data.
How We Tested
After extensively researching consumer feedback, expert reviews, and internet forums, I created a pool of the most promising home security products. I then evaluated components based on their features and performance. Packing my bags, I took a trip to my parents’ suburban house for a week. This testing environment offered lively animal-filled woods in the backyard with the front facing a busy avenue, ideal for gauging just how prone a device is to false alerts.
I set up and installed whole-home monitoring systems, doorbell cameras, outdoor cameras, and indoor cameras. Then I set them off during the day and night by walking and running past them, noting reaction times, range, and accuracy. Below are some of the things I took into account when judging each system:
I set up any camera-equipped devices on the same 5GHz Wi-Fi band for maximum performance. I then used them in daylight and nighttime environments to track motion and compared captured clips and images. A higher megapixel count is better for making out details like identifying features—think a tattoo or license plate—in the event of an emergency, but this isn’t the sole factor to a good image. Brightness, viewing angle, and night vision are all important, as they make up overall picture quality.
Motion Detection Range
Whether it’s a sensor catching some slight movement or a doorbell camera watching someone stumble into view, you want your system to have a wide motion-detection range to be safe. I walked past motion-tracking devices, threw items past sensors, and crouched down to steal packages in order to test sensitivity, accuracy, and performance.
Notification Alert Time
Warning time is a huge consideration—in an emergency, seconds are crucial, and you want a system that gives you prompt peace of mind. I tested to see how long it took for an event trigger to send a notification to my phone and gauged how quickly security monitoring services called. For phone notification speed, 0-3 seconds is fast, 4-7 is middling, and anything over 10 is painfully slow.
Time To Load Live View
You want a camera that doesn’t need to spend seconds processing footage. I looked at the amount of time it takes to open up and process a live view from an event trigger, testing it over both Wi-Fi and 4G LTE cellular data.
Person & Zone Detection Accuracy
For devices with configurable zones and detection, I looked for event accuracy. While I’d rather see every event than miss some, smart AI can cut down on accidental triggers and better inform you in real-time. For example, if you live in an area of heavy traffic or are in the woods with animals, you might notice deer movement or light reflections from passing cars.
—BEST HOME MONITORING—
Ring Alarm 5-Piece Kit
Contents: 2 contact sensors, 1 motion sensor, 1 keypad, 1 range extender, 1 base station | Motion sensor range: 25 ft | Notification alert time: 1.9 seconds
Ring allows you to customize your own system—anything from a five-piece base kit up to safe-house-level surveillance. The starter kit we received included a base station, a keypad, entry sensors, a Z-Wave range extender, and a motion sensor, but Ring’s offerings certainly don’t end there. Packages go up to 14 pieces, and you can build them to your liking with additional discrete components—say, a panic button or a climate sensor to check for smoke, CO, water, or temperature threats. It’s easy to configure coverage against both intruders and the elements.
Ring’s alarm kit is specifically designed to be simple to set up and use. DIY installation is a breeze, with no wiring or other tools required. Just plug in the base station, place the adhesive sensors where you want them, and download the compatible Ring app. You can use the keypad to call for help or set the alarm or use the app. While Ring doesn’t require a multi-year contract like some other professional home security companies, you will have to subscribe to get access to professional monitoring. The standard “Plus” plan ($10/month) monitors 24/7 and will call you with alerts when sensors are triggered. If you don’t provide the safe word, it will dispatch police.
In my testing, just an inch of movement separating the contact sensors on our doors or windows tipped off the system immediately. Forceful gusts of wind didn’t set off the alarm, but deliberately creaking open a door or pulling on a window did. The motion sensor wasn’t as impressive. Placed in a kitchen without any obstructions, its narrow field of view reached 25 feet back to see motion on our deck and windows. Approaching the sensor directly from the sides never triggered the alarm, and I was able to walk directly under it without fear. However, the field of view covered all the windows and the back door that I concerned myself with, recognizing my arms as they reached through. When any sensor is triggered while the system is armed, the base lights up red in an emergency and plays a loud siren. I set off the alarm three times, in the morning, afternoon, and night and received a call after 55 seconds on average. It was faster than the Slomin’s alarm monitoring service my parents have used over the years, but not as snappy as other options.
The affordable base system is an excellent starting point into the world of home security, and you can expand it for greater control over your home in the future. Ring integrates with smart locks, its signature video doorbells, and garages to cover all areas of your property. If you have an Alexa speaker, you can use it for hands-free control, and Alexa Guard will send alerts to your phone while you’re away. Ring’s system also integrates with plenty of other third-party smart home devices (other than IFTTT and Apple HomeKit), though it functions best with other Ring devices.
—BEST HOME MONITORING ON A BUDGET—
Wyze Home Monitoring System
Contents: 2 contact sensors, 1 motion sensor, 1 keypad, 1 base station | Motion sensor range: 35 ft | Notification alert time: 3 seconds
If Ring’s privacy controversies over the years have rubbed you the wrong way, or you’re simply looking for the best budget monitoring kit, the Wyze Home Monitoring System offers just as easy of a setup process with a better monitoring service response time. That service comes free for six months with the hardware and is just $5 per month afterward. You wouldn’t know this was the more affordable option with the quick seven-second alarm-trigger-to-call response time average compared to the 55-second average of the pricier $10 per month Ring subscription.
While I wasn’t crazy about Wyze’s cheap keypad that lacks dedicated fire, medical, and police buttons like the Ring Alarm keypad, that was the only complaint I really had during testing. The Wyze motion sensor’s wider field of view caught me from 35 feet away as well as the sides, sending notifications to my phone within three seconds of triggering an alert. I was able to sneak my 6-foot-1, 285-pound frame under the Ring’s narrow motion sensor from the side and underneath. The contact sensors were just as responsive as Ring’s and were even harder to tamper with as Ring’s battery covers can slide off with ease. Unlike options by Amazon or Google, the Wyze system will also integrate into any smart home ecosystem, so you don’t necessarily have to choose between Alexa or Google Assistant.
Unfortunately because it’s a budget system, the battery power backup time is much shorter than the Ring system, and there’s no cellular signal if your Internet goes out like with our top pick. While you can skirt around this with an uninterruptible power supply, the separate purchase still leaves too much to chance.
—BEST DOORBELL CAMERA—
Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2
Camera resolution: 1,536p | Motion sensor range: 20 ft | Notification alert time: 3 seconds
If you’re not looking for a complete indoor security system like the Ring Alarm, then the latest Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 outdoor camera system is the highest quality option to monitor your front door’s surroundings. It’s simple to set up by wiring into your existing doorbell power line and following Ring’s app instructions to connect the device to your router. If you don’t have a transformer running to your front door and aren’t keen on installing a new line, Ring offers the Video Doorbell 4 ($199.99), which has a rechargeable battery that lasts somewhere between one to three months, and it only takes a few hours to charge back up.
The Pro 2 system corrects many minor limitations from the Pro—namely, the field of view is now wider, Ring bumped the resolution up to 1536p for clearer images, 3D motion cuts down on false alarms, and the brand’s bird’s-eye-view motion tracking creates GPS paths of visitors in the corner of your captures. Like many video doorbells, the Pro 2 is equipped with two-way audio to communicate with any guests, and it integrates with an Alexa smart home. You can use quick replies and directly see who’s at your door using an Echo Show device.
The Ring Pro 2’s responsive, wide 160-degree field of view triggered notifications the second just half of my body entered its vision. Its alerts are snappy at an average of two seconds, sending notifications complete with a clear screenshot of my attempt to retract my arm from the camera’s line of sight. Other than wanting to see who’s at the door, many people buy a doorbell camera to protect their packages. Whether I stole a plastic envelope or large box, the Ring caught everything in 1536P. But where the Video Doorbell Pro 2 really shines is clip processing, allowing you to access live view and motion replays near instantaneously. If there are no events, the snapshot time-lapse feature fills in the gaps of no activity.
It’s also much better than Ring’s previous outdoor cameras (like the Spotlight) at recognizing people; the occasional falling branch will no longer trigger an event. You can specify zones, but I didn’t really notice a timing difference, and the Ring captures always started on the utmost edge of the camera’s view even when I drew narrower limits. One of the coolest exclusive Ring features is Alexa Greetings, which welcomed me to the door with instructions and the option to leave a message. Unfortunately, Ring doesn’t play nice with Google’s Hub if that’s your video assistant of choice.
—BEST VIDEO DOORBELL FOR GOOGLE SMART HOMES—
Google Nest Hello
Camera resolution: 1,600p x 1,200p | Motion sensor range: 20 ft | Notification alert time: 4.1 seconds
The Google Nest Hello was a close second choice for our favorite video doorbell with its 10-degree wider field of view, smart face detection, and continuous ten days of cloud recording, all of which the Ring model lacks. The $12-per-month Nest Aware Plus subscription allows for advanced AI capabilities, like announcing who’s at the door by name and package drop offs. The interface is slick in both the app and alerts effortlessly integrate into your Google device ecosystem.
Unfortunately, Google implemented a notification cool down feature to limit alerts. While smart in theory, it caused a 19-second average of tracking blindspots from camera to phone alerts. Not only was this slow, I was able to steal a package by waiting on the side of my house for someone to trigger an initial alert. The motion of a person leaving the house left me time to grab a package without sending an alert to my phone. While this is worrisome, it’s highly unlikely that a robber would be cognizant of this or even be able to position themselves to pull off a crime without triggering an event first.
While there’s plenty of infrared lighting built-in for improved night vision, it wasn’t as crisp as the Ring’s camera when trying to make out identifying features. But if you only want to monitor coming and goings of your home’s front porch, are already in the Google ecosystem, and are looking to save some money over our top pick, you may be better off opting for Nest Hello.
—BEST OUTDOOR CAMERA—
Eufy Floodlight Cam Pro 2
Camera resolution: 2,160p | Motion sensor range: 37 ft | Notification alert time: 1.9 seconds
While doorbell cameras cover just a sliver of your property, outdoor cameras can mount so that they cover more general spaces like the entire front, back, or side of your home. Resistant against the elements with high ingress-protection ratings, these cameras capture all movement come rain or shine. If you have an existing floodlight or wiring for one, Eufy’s new Floodlight Cam Pro 2 connects with ease and provides a larger coverage area and superior trigger range than rivals.
The Floodlight Cam Pro 2 edged out the Ring Pro Floodlight’s performance in our head-to-head testing thanks to an exclusive 360-degree view, brighter light production, and flawless 2K resolution image quality. As a general outdoor camera, Eufy excelled over something like the Arlo Pro 3 because it’s hardwired, offers a larger coverage area, and has a superior 37-foot trigger range. Unlike Ring or Arlo, there are no subscription costs; right out of the box, you have access to advanced features and storage.
During both day and night the Floodlight Cam Pro 2’s 2K camera picked up identifying details like my face and the Roman numeral tattoos on my shoulders. Within three seconds, I received notifications on both LTE and Wi-Fi. At night, the bright 3,000-lumen light diffused over a wide and large area for a clean, colorful image in the dark. My favorite feature during testing was the panoramic control option, though. The camera rotates to create a 360-degree image of your property, allowing you to tap on the area you want to see to focus the live view immediately. If you’re not actively surveying your yard, the AI-optimized camera moves to track visitors and center them in frame. The AI is smart enough to cut down on accidental motion events like animals, tree branches, and light reflections from passing cars but sometimes focused on a less important detail like an animal instead of a person.
—BEST WIRELESS OUTDOOR CAM—
Arlo Pro 3
Camera resolution: 2,160p | Motion sensor range: 17 ft | Notification alert time: 3.7 seconds
If you don’t feel like setting up a junction box or hardwiring a floodlight, the Arlo Pro 3 is a high-performance wireless alternative that’s as weather-resistant and has just as good resolution. Its spotlight is nowhere near as bright, and it doesn’t offer 360-degree views, but it’s effortless to set up, with more placement flexibility.
There’s a magnetic mount and arm mount for helping you find the perfect view. While I wasn’t able to test this in extreme conditions, the Arlo Pro 3 cameras are UV- and weather-resistant. I was impressed with the sharpness retained by the 12x zoom; you can clearly make out faces and the HDR enhancements give you a true hair or outfit color tone. I was baffled by the inability to customize a motion zone, but as it turns out that’s part of the Arlo smart subscription starting from $3 a month for a single camera. This adds a ton of useful features like zone control, trigger identification (human, animal or packages), and cloud recording.
You’ll have to take it down to recharge it and pay for that subscription to access essential detection features, which makes the Floodlight Cam Pro 2 even more enticing. But you’ll find that the built-in siren, spotlights, and color night vision enhanced by HDR make for the best battery-powered outdoor camera.
—BEST INDOOR CAMERA—
Eufy Solo IndoorCam P24
Camera resolution: 2160p | Motion sensor range: 28 ft | Notification alert time: 2.1 seconds
For just $50, Eufy’s P24 indoor camera offers many of the same advanced monitoring features as more expensive competitors, including motion and human detection, mobile alerts, customizable activity zones, two-way audio, and integration to your preferred smart home system. Then it adds a pivoting 360-degree camera that can track motion throughout a room and massively expand coverage areas. Eufy offers all of this without any subscription required, but you will need to separately purchase a MircoSD card to provide internal storage. We recommend the Samsung EVO 64GB ($10.99) for its high speeds and storage capacity that can hold up to ten hours of 2K video clips.
Your placement options are limited, as the camera must be next to a power outlet unlike its pricier wireless sibling the EufyCam 2 Pro, which can be anywhere with a stable Wi-Fi signal. On the bright side, you don’t have to deal with the hassle of a rechargeable battery. Once your camera is setup, the P24’s value is immediately apparent—its wide rotating field of view ensures nothing escapes its focus. Whether I ran, crawled, or walked, the camera’s AI was scarily accurate, snapping to my position with minimal jankiness reflected in captures. Its 2K resolution made out details like my shirt’s floral pattern and brand logo from 20 feet away. I found the time to trigger an alert was on the faster end of the testing pool, 2.6 seconds over Wi-Fi and 3.4 over 4G LTE.
Though it doesn’t have color night vision, and its 2K resolution is cut in half down to 1080p in Apple’s HomeKit, the image quality is surprisingly clear and pixel-free in the dark. I never saw an artifact whether on Wi-Fi or LTE, even from two states away.
—BEST SMART LOCK—
Type: Complete deadbolt | ANSI Rating: Grade 1 (highest for a lock) | Mechanical key: Yes | Wi-Fi: 2.4GHz | Power: 4 AA alkaline batteries | Battery life: 6 months, usage dependent
With a Grade 1 rating from the American National Standards Institute, Schlage’s Encode is a tech and engineering masterpiece backed by the highest possible rating for locks. Its solid metal housings and reinforced deadbolt can withstand up to 250,000 cycles and ten door strikes with a hammer for maximum resistance against force. The fact that the Encode packs tons of fancy features in an easy-to-use application is just icing on the cake.
Using the Schlage Home app makes start up, management, and monitoring of your smart lock simple. There’s no need for an external hub or bridge like a majority of competitors, and the app integrates nicely with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. One benefit for Amazon households is Amazon Key support. If you connect a Ring camera to the lock, you can have packages dropped off directly into your home. Outside of this, you have your standard smart lock features like door lock status, remote lock and unlock, as well as shareable digital keys for guests or workers.
—BEST CONVERSION SMART LOCK—
August Home Smart Lock Pro
Type: Uses existing deadbolt | Mechanical key: Yes, uses existing key | Bluetooth: Yes | Wi-Fi: Yes, with included Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz) bridge | Z-Wave: Yes | Power: 2 AA alkaline batteries | Battery life: 3 months, depending on usage
If you want to use your existing deadbolt, the August Home Smart Lock Pro works with your current hardware to leave it intact. You can use the same physical keys you currently own and be up and running with smart assistant support in minutes. Installation only requires a screwdriver and a bit of willpower. Its small size and included Door Sense sensor add tons of functionality without taking up space.
Other than being able to access lock functions remotely over Wi-Fi or data, Bluetooth capabilities will auto unlock the door when you arrive home and lock when you’re away autonomously. In short, the Smart Lock Pro with Connect should fit the needs of just about any homeowner or apartment renter. It has a broad mechanical and digital range of compatibility and an easy-to-use app.