Best Power over Ethernet Security Cameras
There's a lot of PoE cameras on the market these days. Having tried many of them, we decided to come up with a list of the best ones we've tested. If you're shopping for a PoE camera system to protect your home or business, these are the best in terms of features, cost, picture quality, ease of installation and use, and video storage.
Best PoE Camera System with Smart Platform Integrations
These two camera systems were the cream of the crop when we tested PoE cameras. However, they weren’t the only promising options. Other cameras that stood out in terms of features, cost, value, and ease of installation. So if you want to learn more about our full list of the best PoE cameras, keep on reading. We’ll highlight below their strengths and weaknesses, our favorite features, and the methodology we used.
The Best PoE Security Cameras of 2021
- Swann 4K PoE Cameras with 8 CH NVR - Best PoE Camera System with Smart Platform Integrations
- Reolink 5MP PoE Cameras with 16 CH NVR - Best PoE Camera System for Local Video Storage
- Lorex 4K PoE Cameras with 8 CH NVR - Best 4K PoE Camera System
- Reolink 5MP PoE Cameras with 8 CH NVR - Most Affordable PoE Camera System
Spec-by-Spec Comparison of the Best PoE Security Cameras
|Swann 8 Channel 2 TB NVR + 8x 4K PoE Cameras with Dual LED Spotlights||Reolink 16 Channel 4 TB NVR + 8x 5 MP Super HD PoE Cameras||Lorex 8 Channel 2 TB NVR + 2x Bullet and 2x Dome 4K PoE Cameras||Reolink 8 Channel 2TB NVR + 4x 5 MP Super HD PoE Cameras|
|Usage||Indoor and outdoor (IP 66 rated)||Indoor and outdoor (IP 66 rated)||Indoor and Outdoor (IP 66 rated)||Indoor and Outdoor (IP 66 rated)|
|Camera Resolution||4K||Up to 5 MP||4K||Up to 5 MP|
|Field of View||90 degrees||80 degrees||93 degrees||80 degrees|
|Night Vision||Infrared and color (using spotlights)||Infrared||Infrared night vision and color (using spotlights) for low-light conditions||Infrared|
|Night Vision Range||-Infrared: Up to 200 feet
-Color: Up to 115 feet
|Up to 100 feet||Up to 130 feet with infrared night vision||Up to 100 feet|
|Audio||Two-way||Microphone only||Microphone only||Microphone only|
|Local Video Storage||2 TB Network Video Recorder (NVR)||4 TB NVR||2 TB NVR||2 TB NVR|
|Maximum Number of Cameras||8||16||8||8|
|Free Cloud Storage||-7 days free cloud storage with Swann Secure+ Service
-Backup videos and photos to a personal Dropbox account
|Upload to user’s File Transfer Protocol (FTP) server||X||Upload to user’s File Transfer Protocol (FTP) server|
|Paid Cloud Storage||$4.99 per month for each camera or $14.99 per month for up to 10 devices||X||X||X|
|Paid Cloud Storage Features||-60 days of cloud backup
-Vehicle and pet detection
-Alerts with snapshots
-Free camera replacement if stolen (with a valid police report)
|Smart Platform Integrations||Alexa and Google Assistant||X||X||X|
|Artificial Intelligence||Person detection and facial recognition for free, vehicle and pet detection with a paid plan||X||X||X|
Camera Resolution Fact: 5 MP cameras have approximately 5 million pixels, whereas 1080p HD cameras have 2 million, and 4K cameras have over 8 million. Because the number of pixels plays a big role in the image quality of cameras, that means 5 MP is better than 1080p HD, but 4K still stands the tallest.1
Highlights of the Best PoE Security Camera Systems
1. Swann 4K PoE Cameras with 8 CH NVR - Best PoE Camera System with Smart Platform Integrations
What We Like:
- 4K resolution
- Infrared and color night vision
- Alexa and Google Assistant Integrations
- Included local video storage and free cloud storage
What We Didn’t Like:
- Most expensive
- 90 degrees field of view
- NVR supports only up to eight cameras
- Vehicle and pet detection requires a cloud subscription
The Swann 4K PoE camera system included all the accessories and cables we needed for installation, not that it needed a lot anyway. A 60 feet Cat5e Ethernet cable supplemented each camera and a three feet cable of the same came with the NVR. Once we decided where to place the cameras, we used the longer 60 feet cables to connect them to the NVR and the shorter cable to connect the NVR to our router. Just a little bit of setting up on the software side of the NVR and voila! All eight cameras were up and running in more or less than 30 minutes. That’s impressive for a PoE security camera system.
Free Person Detection and Facial Recognition
Although the Swann 4K PoE system was the most expensive on this list at $1,200, it was well worth it. That’s because it’s also the only one with artificial intelligence capable of person detection and facial recognition with no subscriptions required. With person detection, the cameras alerted us if there was a person in view. The one we placed above our apartment’s front door, in particular, helped us stay in the know if there was someone at our door. With facial recognition, the cameras put a name on the faces it saw, with our help, of course. We uploaded our faces to the NVR under Advanced Analytics and after that, the cameras were able to tell if we were in the frame. But that’s not the best part. The NVR software allowed for tons of customizations. For instance, when an underaged cousin stayed with us, we set one of the cameras to alert us if he’s seen anywhere near where we hid our liquor, while the rest simply ignored him. Not on our watch, Brian.
Integrations with Alexa and Google Assistant
Its integrations with Alexa and Google Assistant was another unique thing about the Swann 4K PoE system. The integrations came in handy when we wanted to view our cameras on our smart displays, namely, the Echo Show 8 and the Google Nest Hub Max. Both smart displays were in our living room, so if there’s someone at our door, we just asked Alexa or the Google Assistant to show our front door camera.
FYI: The cameras didn’t directly integrate with Alexa or Google Assistant, but rather, the NVR made the connection possible. If you’re planning to purchase the PoE cameras for use with an existing Swann NVR, your NVR must also support the integrations to enable voice control.
3. Lorex 4K PoE Cameras with 8 CH NVR - Best 4K PoE Camera System
What We Like:
- 4K resolution with 93 degree viewing angle
- Infrared LED lights for night vision and spotlights for low-light conditions
- H.265 video compression to maximize video storage
- Expandable NVR storage up to six TB
What We Didn’t Like:
- No cloud storage options
- Expensive for a four-camera system
- Uses an older Lorex mobile app (Lorex Cirrus)
- Limit of eight cameras for one NVR
DIY Installation, Professional-Grade System
The Lorex 4K PoE camera system is a professional-grade system capable of protecting large homes and business establishments. However, when we tested it, the setup process was just as simple as the other residential PoE systems we installed. And thanks to the 100 feet Ethernet cable included with each of the four cameras, we were able to route the cables easily through the ceiling of our office. We also loved the fact that both the dome and bullet cameras (the system had two of each) were wall and ceiling mountable and that each camera came with a mounting kit. You can learn more about the setup process in our Lorex camera review or if you prefer a video review, check out our YouTube channel.2
Exceptional Video Quality
One of the things that stood out was the video quality of the Lorex 4K PoE camera system. It wasn’t the only 4K PoE camera we tested, but it had just the right mix of technologies to make it stand out. It automatically switched between daytime videos, infrared night vision, and color night vision depending on the light condition. It was capable of zooming in without losing quality. And of course, the 4K resolution made its videos almost stunning. If there’s one thing that could use improvements, though, it’s the viewing angle. With a 93 degrees field of view, the Lorex cameras fell below our expectations. However, it was still pretty good considering that the camera we installed in our break room was still able to monitor the entire area. Unfortunately for us, that meant no more extended breaks.
Intelligent Video Compression
4K videos can take up a lot of storage space, but thanks to the intelligent video compression of the Lorex 4K PoE cameras, we were able to maximize the two TB storage of our NVR. The cameras used H.265 compression instead of the usual H.264. According to Lorex, it could cut the size of video files by up to 50 percent. We didn’t have a way to check for sure but considering that it took all four cameras over a week to fill the two TB NVR, that seems to be the case. Most other four-camera 4K systems we tested gobbled up two TB in only about four or five days. On top of that, Lorex used HEVC encoding, which stands for High-Efficiency Video Compression. HEVC encoding further helped compress the size of the videos but without affecting the 4K video quality.
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
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best PoE security camera brands?
Based on our tests, the best security camera brands for PoE systems are Swann, Lorex, and Reolink.
What are the advantages of a PoE security camera system?
PoE camera systems have several advantages over hardwired and wireless systems. The most notable benefit of using PoE cameras is the ease of installation. With only one cable providing both power and data transmission, PoE cameras are easy to set up yet just as reliable as hardwired cameras.
What type of cable do PoE cameras use?
Older PoE cameras often used Cat5 Ethernet cables, but because modern security cameras have much higher resolutions, we recommend using Cat5e or Cat6 Ethernet cables. These cables allow for video transmissions at one Gbps or higher. Most PoE cameras, however, already include a suitable Ethernet cable.
Can I use PoE cameras at home?
Although many PoE cameras advertise themselves as business security solutions, PoE is actually a good option for residential use as well.
How many PoE cameras can NVRs support?
The number of PoE cameras that NVR can support depends on how many channels there are. Most NVRs for residential use either have eight or 16 channels, which means they support up to eight or 16 cameras, respectively.
SquareSpace. (2020). How to calculate image resolution.
Youtube. (2020) Security.org.
Statista. (2020). Smart Home – revenue forecast for the segment Security in United States from 2017 to 2025.