We get so many questions on what security camera to buy that we have put the answers into Wi-Fi Security Cameras 101.
Wi-Fi Security Cameras 101 discusses the main differences and issues for the DIY (Do it Yourself) market and does not refer to professionally installed DVR multi-camera or wired systems.
Wi-Fi Security Cameras 101
Why do you need Wi-Fi security cameras?
If you answer is to stop criminals breaking in – well, forget it. What you need is a professionally installed, integrated, wired, security system with motion sensors on windows and doors, loud alarms, multiple cameras, spot/floodlights, battery backup and preferably back-to-base monitoring.
And you won’t find that advice at any DIY security camera manufacturer. Instead, publicity will extoll the virtues of ‘crystal-clear’ vision (not), night vision (definitely not), two-way talk (absolutely not) and peace of mind (just as useful as taking a Bex [ aspirin–phenacetin–caffeine] and a cuppa).
While some systems are undoubtedly better and moving towards a semblance of a security ecosystem that may stop a bumbling amateur, drug-crazed, casual thief – none are fully there yet.
At best a Wi-Fi camera system will give you a motion/noise alert (push notification to your phone), take a few second video clip, and by the time you can do anything about it the thief has broken in, stolen and fled.
No, Wi-Fi security cameras are suitable for baby monitors (unless hacked like Ring), checking on your pet’s activities and if you are lucky, providing a visual deterrent.
So here are a few things you need to know.
Wi-Fi or Base Station hub
The majority are Wi-Fi connected – that means it requires a good Wi-Fi signal from your router. The pro is easy setup, but the con is that your Wi-Fi network may be the Achilles heel. Whatever you do, don’t overtax the Wi-Fi with too many cameras or devices.
In theory, 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi can go 100 metres line-of-sight but in practice drops off as it passes through walls, doors, floors, glass etc. – a more practical distance (for any 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi connected device) is about 20 metres.
The alternative is Arlo and D-Link OMNA using an independent RF base station instead of Wi-Fi. These need to be connected to the router by an Ethernet cable but they keep camera traffic off the Wi-Fi network and can do more on-board signal processing. As such they are more expensive.
The router is usually the culprit when it comes to performance
Most Wi-Fi routers regardless of speed, are very poorly placed. So much so that it is the single biggest complaint in getting good Wi-Fi coverage throughout a home. Routers emit a circular 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi signal out to about 20m. The signal gets progressively weaker as you move away or it passes through objects. So, the caveat with any Wi-Fi device is to check the signal strength where you place it.
If you use Android, you can download Network Cell Info Lite from Google Play and use your smartphone to check signal 2.4Ghz strength where you want to place the camera. If you can’t get a decent signal (-60dBm or lower), you can use a Wi-Fi extender.
Read our router placement and mesh guide here.
Cameras can be battery, solar or mains power operated. A few are POE (Power over Ethernet cabling).