Wi-Fi has made it a lot easier to live more comfortably and without so many cables in our homes, as evidenced by the popularity of devices like smart TVs, speakers and thermostats. It’s also made it easier to live safer, thanks to the rollout of Wi-Fi-connected security cameras in recent years, including Netgear’s Arlo Pro, Google’s Nest Cam and Amazon’s Ring video doorbell.
But while these and other Wi-Fi cameras can be easier to install, the pros say they come with tradeoffs that suffer in comparison to a full-fledged security camera system that’s wired via ethernet cables to a dedicated hard drive or network video recorder (NVR).
An NVR system records video sent from IP (internet protocol) cameras using Cat5 or Cat6 Ethernet cable with RJ45 plugs. An NVR system with PoE (power over ethernet) ethernet ports is
preferred, because it eliminates the need for an extra electrical cord to power the camera; with PoE, a single ethernet cable carries both the electrical power and the video signal.
“A wired system offers increased bandwidth for data throughput,” says Louis Wood, owner of DefendItYourself.com, a San Antonio-based online retailer of surveillance products. “This means you get higher resolution footage and a higher frames per second rate than wireless cameras.”
And that produces better image detail and clarity — important criteria that can help prosecute a burglar or trespasser on your property. “Hardwired cameras also keep data off your Wi-Fi network, preventing it from being bogged down and decreasing your Wi-Fi speed,” Wood adds.
“The best benefits of wired systems are that they are more secure, don’t require batteries and have fewer connectivity issues,” Paul Selby, vice-president of sales and marketing at Edgeworth Security in Pittsburgh, says.
Wi-Fi cameras have other liabilities, too, says Maurizio Pejoves, director of P&O Global Technologies, a video surveillance system provider located in Miami/Lauderdale by the Sea. One is that many require you to pay for a cloud backup service where the recorded video is stored.
“Also, wireless cameras run on batteries that need to be recharged eventually. It’s easier for bad actors to hack into a wireless camera system,” Pejoves says.
Plus, Wi-Fi cameras can have high latency issues, “which causes a delay in how long it takes for the signal to go from your camera to your NVR or app,” notes Pejoves. “You want to be able to see what’s going on inside or outside your house in real time, which a wired system can provide.”
The downside to a wired system is the wired part: you’ll have to run typically long ethernet cables through your home’s interiors (or across its exterior) from the NVR to each camera.
“But if you have legitimate security concerns and believe you are a target for burglary, home invasion or other potential threats, then you need to look at a system that provides the greatest security posture for your family, which is usually a wired system,” adds Selby.
At bare minimum, Wood and Pejoves says a hardwired system should include:
- an NVR with at least one terabyte of local storage and built-in PoE power for your cameras;
- four or more outdoor-rated cameras (that can be installed indoors or outdoors), each with at two megapixels or greater and each offering a wide field of vision with at least 75 feet of infrared illumination;
- a free smartphone app for offsite viewing;
- free and easy retrieval of recorded video; and
- reliable technical support and a good warranty (at least one year).
Expect to pay $500 and up for these specs (not including installation). Recommended system manufacturers include Hikvision, Dahua, Sony, Axis and Hanwha Techwin (note that these systems may be branded under a different name but often include these makes of cameras and NVRs).
Installing the system yourself can save hundreds, although it will likely require climbing a ladder to mount any outdoor cameras and knowing how to configure the equipment.
“Be sure to mount the cameras high enough to be out of reach but not so high that you only capture the tops of heads. And mount your cameras in visible places to act as a crime deterrent,” Wood says.