How We Picked The Best PoE Cameras
Testing and comparing security cameras is our bread and butter, and so we always make sure to cover all the important aspects when putting together our best security cameras pieces. We usually spend months researching, buying, and testing cameras. We also devise unique methodologies for comparing cameras.
For PoE security cameras, in particular, one of the main factors we considered was the ease of installation. What each camera system included in the box spoke volumes, particularly the mounting accessories and length of cables. For instance, even though we live in a mid-sized apartment spanning about 30 feet from wall to wall, we needed Ethernet cables no shorter than 45 feet so we could neatly hide the wires. Anything shorter than that and we would have had to risk tripping on cables running through our living room. But that’s just one part of our ease of installation test. Going through the installation process ourselves, we paid attention to how easily (or otherwise) the cameras paired with their respective NVRs, their mounting options, and how well they adapted to outdoor conditions and temperatures.
Given that PoE camera systems often come with a dedicated local recording device like an NVR and DVR, we also compared their local storage capacity. Ideally, an eight-camera system needs two TB of video storage or more while a four-camera system needs at least one TB of storage. But since high-resolution videos take up more storage space, we also looked for systems with an expandable storage capacity. That means either the NVR has free ports for additional hard drives or the cameras have micro-SD slots. We prefer the former as it’s more practical and easier to implement than putting in micro-SD cards to each camera.
We also made sure that each camera’s video quality was up to our standards. That means they had a 1080p HD resolution or higher, infrared night vision, and a wide field of view, ideally at least 120 degrees. However, we’ve found that most PoE cameras have a limited field of view. So we made do with what’s available and chose the ones with the widest viewing angles.
Of course, security is the main reason people buy security cameras, so we also tested each camera for security features. The bare minimum security feature we require is motion detection, and fortunately, most of the cameras we tested had this feature. That means they were able to send motion alerts to us as well, either via mobile app notifications or email. We also checked for smart features that would improve the cameras’ ability to detect possible threats, such as person, pet, and vehicle detection, activity zones, and facial recognition. More and more people are buying into the idea of smart home security; research predicts that the smart home security segment will become a $15 billion market by 2025.3 So while artificial intelligence features are not yet absolutely necessary today, they might become the norm in the future. Unfortunately for PoE cameras, only a select few brands offer these features.
Lastly, we checked for smart platform integrations or the ability to integrate with the likes of Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri. Because PoE cameras are often parts of standalone camera systems, there weren’t many options for smart platform integrations. Only one system with integrations made it to this list, as highlighted in our feature breakdown.
To sum it all up, the top factors we considered for this list were the following:
- Ease of installation
- Video storage
- Video quality
- Security features like motion detection
- Artificial intelligence
- Smart platform integrations
Also, we compared each camera’s:
- Overall value
- Extra features
- Availability of cloud storage
- Mobile app performance