Wyze has been on a bit of a spree lately, expanding into additional markets with products like its new noise-cancelling headphones and its first smart thermostat, but through all that, there's no forgetting the company's roots: selling very capable, very affordable smart cameras. For a mere $20, shoppers could pick up Wyze's first-gen camera with motion detection, free cloud storage, and support for local microSD recording. Later models added pan and tilt motion control and even full-wireless operation, all while keeping prices tantalizingly low. Now we're turning our attention back to where it started as the stalwart Wyze Cam gets a new v3 hardware refresh with drastically improved light sensitivity, support for higher frame rates, and protection against the elements — all for the same $20 sticker price.

Specs

Camera 1920 x 1080 20FPS day/15FPS night, f/1.6
Night vision Starlight CMOS sensor + dual-band IR LEDs (4x 940nm, 4x 850nm)
Field of view 130 degrees
Audio 2-way talk, 80dB speaker
Power Wired, micro USB
Connectivity 2.4GHz WiFi only
Local storage microSD support
Cloud storage 12-second clips free for 14 days, paid CamPlus option available
Weather resistance IP65 rating
Dimensions 52 x 51 x 58.5mm, 98.8g

The Good

Price The Cam v2 was a steal at $20, and getting so many upgrades for the same price just feels like winning the lottery.
Video quality While we stay at 1080p, a wider field of view and higher-frame-rate recording make things look that much better.
Night vision The upgraded IR LEDs are cool, but the Starlight full-color mode is something to be seen.

The Not So Good

App Lots and lots of functionality within, but still a little glitchy and occasionally unintuitive.
Limited free cloud recording I'm fine with the 12-second clip limit, but the 5-minute cool-down between clips is too long to be very useful. Then again, Cam Plus is pretty cheap.
The rat tail It's 2020. Surely someone has a better idea for waterproofing a USB port.

Design, hardware, what's in the box

Wyze cameras have long had a distinctive look: white box, black circle. That design persisted with the introduction of the Wyze Cam Pan, and with some small tweaks, even stuck around for the Wyze Cam Outdoor. Now with the Cam v3, we're finally starting to see some deviation, with that black circle becoming ... a squircle.

Even with that change, the Cam v3 is unmistakable as a Wyze device, with the same compact construction and articulated fold-away stand. Probably the most notable change to the overall layout is the switch from a micro USB port for power on the Cam itself to the v3's short USB "tail" and silicone-shrouded plug.

Just like puppies or lizards, the new Wyze Cam has grown itself a tail.

That's a move to help with water resistance, as this camera (unlike previous wired Wyze Cams) is designed to withstand the elements. Wyze is a company that loves offering affordable products, and while I can see this as a simple, cost-effective way to deliver power while avoiding shorts, it's also a bit less than graceful, and I think I'd gladly pay a few more dollars for a water-resistant USB port on the Cam v3 body itself. On the plus side, this camera's a lot more attractive than the Wyze Cam Outdoor, with its sharp-edged design and off-center lens.

The Cam's tail is permanently attached, just below its speaker grille (left); support for microSD cards allows for local recording (right)

You've got slightly more freedom mounting the Cam v3 than past generations, and the camera comes with the hardware you'll need to either slide the camera's footplate over a screw head for a nice, secure mount, or install the included metal disc for an easily removable magnetic mount, taking advantage of the magnets within the footplate. If so inclined, you can even remove the base entirely and screw on a third-party stand.

While the camera itself is rated for outdoor operation, the power adapter it comes with is not. You are able to easily snake its flat micro USB cable through a window to access an outlet indoors, but you'll want to pick up an optional power adapter rated for outdoor usage if you don't want to route cables.

Software and features

Wyze software has long been a bit of a balancing act. You get the sense that Wyze really wants to bring users as much functionality as it can, in the most accessible way possible, but it inevitably hits some speed bumps along the way.

Now in all fairness, I've been checking out the Wyze Cam v3 using an alpha release of the app, and the company was clear from the get-go that some bugs could be expected. I'm optimistic that some of the more egregious glitches will be resolved by the public release (like how pinch-to-zoom also changes your video's aspect ratio for some reason), but it's likely we'll still end up in "feature-rich but rough around the edges" territory.

Setting a motion-alert zone, viewing the playback buffer, and choosing video options (left to right)

Version 2 of the Wyze Cam was already loaded with functionality, and all that carries over to the Cam v3: motion and sound detection, motion tagging, free 14-day cloud storage, and support for local microSD recording. Wyze is still trying to work out person detection after the initial on-camera offering fell through, and that's set to arrive in the form of a $2/mo Cam Plus subscription for this model — though there's still no firm ETA. In addition to person detection, Cam Plus also offers support for unlimited-length event recordings, with no cool-down time between them — the free option is limited to 12 seconds per clip, with a mandatory five-minute gap between them.

Honestly I don't miss not having person detection right now, and have been managing pretty well with regular motion alerts. As with previous Wyze cameras you can adjust sensitivity and restrict detection to only select portions of the camera's view, helping to cut down on too many from stuff like branches blowing in the wind. And while I don't love cameras with essentially mandatory subscriptions, if you really do need person detection, $2 a month (or discounted to $18 a year) isn't that egregious.

Even with the noise, compression artifacts, and the camera constantly trying to compensate for lighting changes, I'm hugely impressed by what the Cam V3 is able to see — this is an order of magnitude brighter than the scene appeared to the naked eye.

Even B&W footage looks good with dual-band IR LEDs helping to illuminate things.

So while functionally not much is different this time around, the quality of the Wyze Cam experience is drastically improved. Between the new CMOS image sensor and upgraded internals with more processing power, everything just looks better — video is smoother with higher frame rates during both day and night recording. And while the new dual-band IR LEDs really help light up a scene at night when using the traditional black & white night-vision setting, I'm most impressed by what you see with the LEDs off in full-color mode with the camera's "Starlight" sensor (and help from the big f/1.6 aperture) and the way it makes even the middle of the night look like the early minutes of dusk.

Things sound better, too, thanks to the arrival of full-duplex audio support. There's even an alarm you can trigger to scare trespassers off. While these aren't that huge on their own, they still contribute to making the Cam v3 one hell of a well-rounded upgrade.

The Wyze family: Cam v3, Cam Outdoor, Cam Pan, and Cam v2 (left to right)

Should you buy it?

Wyze Cam v3
9/10
Yes. Everything the Wyze Cam v2 did, the v3 does better, and does so without costing one red cent more. This is how you do a hardware refresh. While I still think the USB "tail" is positively ridiculous-looking (and the fact that Wyze conspicuously omits it from product shots suggests I'm not alone here), literally every other change here is incredibly on point, and they add up to making the Cam v3 a markedly better value than its already-stunningly-great-value predecessor.

At this point, the only thing even giving me the slightest pause in recommending the Cam v3 is hope that Wyze might soon bring this same sort of upgrade package to the Cam Pan. Given all the moving parts there, though, water-resistance might be an impossible ask, but a man can dream, can't he? I just really can't overstate how pleased I am with the upgrades here, especially when it comes to low-light performance. Even if you've already got a bunch of Cam v2s, this is such an affordable upgrade that it's well worth your consideration.