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Best Home Surveillance Systems for under $300

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 2

If you are considering installing a home security system complete with video surveillance, there are great options available for you at very attractive prices. Since there are dozens of products on the market with similar functions, I will only discuss those that have received the best customer reviews and better than 3 out of 5 rating.

On the lower price end are the models with inexpensive, low resolution cameras. These install easier and can be upgraded to more expensive models later on. 

On the higher price range are the HiRes cameras with CCD (Charge Coupled Devices)  which provide superior motion detection and better night vision. High end cameras and DVRs are more suited for commercial and industrial applications where reliability and longevity are very important factors. 



Zmodo - 500 GB - Internet/3G Phone accessible 4-channel DVR

with 4 night vision cameras

Zmodo PKD-DK4216-500GB H.264 Internet & 3G Phone Accessible 4-Channel DVR with 4 Night Vision Cameras and 500 GB HD
Amazon Price: $249.00 $179.99 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 20, 2013)
This system is wildly popular among home security DIY enthusiasts and has been selling very well. This has allowed the manufacturers to offer pretty good discounts and there is a sale on this system at least once a month.
I have seen generally good reviews about this system and have purchased a similar setup from costco at almost 3 times the price.

If you are looking for a cheap, barebones system that will offer basic functionality, then look no further. The cameras are easy to install and need only 3 screws (provided). After the cameras are installed in a desired location, simply run the wires to the camera from the DVR and you are done! 

I have had the pleasure of owning 3 of these DVRs and i have never had any manufacturing related issues. They tend to work right out of the box and come with a detailed owners manual. 

The quality of cameras is adequate for their price. In the dark, you are able to see up to 10 to 15 feet with enough clarity to recognize a person, however there is a drop in clarity for distances of more than 30 feet - you wont be able to distinguish the faces. 


  • H.264 Compression allows for remote monitoring on 3G capable devices. This hardware was developed with smartphones in mind. 
  • Internet-Capable monitoring. Allows you to monitor the premises from anywhere in the world via internet. This does require the DVR to have internet access. 
  • 500GB hard drive with capability for an even larger hard drive capacity o be installed on demand later. 
  • Motion Detection Recording. Your cameras will detect motion and start recording immediately thus saving precious memory for the time when there is actually something to record. This is ideal for rooms with low activity but is not so good for outdoor applications because the camera will have trouble detecting movement farther away than 30 feet ( this is standard for most generic cameras).


Swann 4-channel DVR - 4 - PRO-550 Cameras

Swann SWDVK-425504 S 4-Channel Digital Video Recorder with Smartphone Viewing and 4 x PRO-550 Cameras
Amazon Price: $449.99 $270.00 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 20, 2013)
This system has been receiving rave reviews on the internet, in particular due to ease of installation and reliability of hardware. Both DVR and cameras are built to last, with rugged, hard plastic and steel construction that is capable of withstanding lots of punishment.

Swann is a bit more expensive than the other suppliers on the market. with a price tag of $295.90 it is cutting it pretty close to our $300.00 budget. 

In my opinion, they do make up for it with their superior camera hardware. the camera lenses is 6mm as opposed to the standard 3.6mm competitor lens. This nets you a wider angle of viewing. In addition to that, Swan uses CCD technology in their cameras for motion activated recording which is more effective than the standard CMOS system. 

I did get a chance to look at one of these cameras recently and they were sporting a "SONY" label, which is a well-known, quality camera manufacturer. 

We also called the customer support hotline to test the response time and were pleasantly surprised when we were able to speak to a Native English-speaking rep within minutes.

Overall, you will get a solid 30 fps performance with superior night vision and responsive customer support. 


  • More expensive hardware but make up for it with quality video and wide angles
  • upgradeable storage 
  • CCD technology with better motion detection
  • Brand Name video cameras (From Sony)

The verdict: More expensive but more than makes up for it with higher quality hardware and better customer support. 

Q-See - 1TeraByte HDD - 8 Hi-Res Cameras

Q-See QS558-852-1 8 Channel Full D1 Security Surveillance DVR System with 8 High-Resolution Cameras and 1TB Hard Drive, Black
Amazon Price: $649.99 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 20, 2013)
This system is well outside of our price range but still worth the mention because of it's stylish look and reliability. I did like the minimalistic, clean DVR design and modern, high resolution cameras.

Q-See has a monster solution for the big spenders. Don't let the price discourage you. Most of the additional cost comes from the extra 4 cameras and the fact that all their cameras are HiRes. 

If you choose to opt for a DVR only option, the price tag is a comfortable $299.99. 

In my opinion, this has all the makings of the professional Video Surveillance system with more options than you can shake a stick at. 

8 HiRes cameras need a bigger hard drive and Q-See delivers with a pre-installed, ultra-fast 1TB HDD. 


  • Multi user monitoring. You and up to 5 of your employees can monitor the cameras at the same time. 
  • Built-in email alert. Get notified the instant the camera picks up movement
  • H.264 encoding compression means that you will use less hard drive space while sacrificing minimum video clarity. 
  • the DVR unit has several video outputs. It accepts the standard VGA Monitors, more modern HDMI or BNC. 
  • The Software suite is optimized, easy to use and is not clunky at all. 
  • Enjoy a cool 24o FPS real time recording on all cameras
  • capability to record audio as well as video simultaneously.
  • Built for the new generation of operating systems. 

There seems to be no issues with internet monitoring features, most popular browsers are supported with the help of easy to add 3rd party add-ons. EI has native support.


Overall, there are a surprising amount of high quality hardware on the market which will allow you to bypass professional security installers in the favour of more cost-effective DIY projects. Spend the money you saved by not having to hire a professional installer by buying more expensive and higher grade hardware. 




Jul 1, 2013 7:27am
Well I'm not in the market for any of this stuff, but I can still recognize a good article when I see one, well done
Jul 2, 2013 7:44pm
Thanks! i did spend quite a bit of time on this one.
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