Our comprehensive testing methodology builds on CR’s expertise in testing cameras, televisions, and other connected devices. We focus our tests on how quickly a camera sends alerts to your smartphone when motion is detected—and for video doorbells, when you can see who pressed the bell—as well as its video quality, smart features, data privacy, and data security. These factors can make or break your experience with wireless security cameras and video doorbell cameras.
For the response-time test, we measure how long it takes for the camera to detect movement occurring in its field of view and send alerts to its smartphone app. For video doorbells, we also time how long it takes for a button press to result in a smartphone alert and, subsequently, a live video feed, which is critical if someone is waiting at your front door.
For the video-quality test, we set up a room with multiple resolution charts, everyday objects, and mannequins as stand-ins for people, and evaluate how clear the video is from cameras in good light, low light, and zero light (to test night vision). CR’s engineers designed this test to expose weak spots in the cameras, whether in their sensor, lens, or software. We also add different levels of backlighting to each lighting scenario. All these tests assess whether you would be able to clearly see people or objects in the frame, such as a potential intruder. The results of these tests appear in an individual video quality score for each wireless security camera and video doorbell in our ratings.
When it comes to smart features, we assess a wide variety of capabilities, depending on the type of home security camera. They may include monitoring zones, person detection, facial recognition, voice and app control (with Amazon Alexa, Google Home/Assistant, and Apple Home/Siri), smartphone alerts, two-way audio, scheduling, and geofencing (which turns alerts on and off, depending on whether the device reads that your smartphone and you, presumably, are nearby). All these features factor into our unique Smart IQ score for smart home devices, allowing you to see which cameras are smarter than the competition.
Due to repeated hacks of wireless security cameras and the growing privacy concerns about video doorbells that record audio in public areas (such as streets and sidewalks), we test all these cameras for data privacy and security. In these tests, we evaluate each company’s or service provider’s public documentation, such as privacy policies and terms of service, to see what claims the manufacturer makes about the way it handles your data. The tests include inspection of the user interface and network traffic from each camera and its companion smartphone app to make sure it’s using encryption, adhering to manufacturer policies, and not sharing your data with irrelevant third parties. Additionally, we conduct testing to see if whether can find security vulnerabilities that cybercriminals could exploit.
Finally, our test engineers take the results of these individual tests and use them to calculate our Overall Scores for both wireless security cameras and video doorbell cameras.