Reviews: Netgear's Arlo simplifies home video security; Logitech widens its wireless mice

Netgear Arlo Home Security Camera

We’re catching up on some post-gift-guide, post-holiday equipment reviews here at the “Cool Tools Testing Labs”, aka my office. Today we’re reviewing Netgear’s new Arlo home security video cameras and a new wireless mouse from Logitech.

The Scoop: Arlo Smart Home Security Camera, by Netgear, about $350 (for two-camera kit reviewed)

What is it? This kit contains two wireless and wire-free video cameras that communicate with a base station that plugs into a home router (so make sure you have an extra Ethernet port available). Users can view footage from the camera via a free Arlo app (iOS or Google Play) or through a Web browser via PC or Macintosh. You can view the video streams from each of the cameras live, or you can enable motion detection, which then records 10 seconds of footage (the recording length can be changed in the settings) for viewing later. Netgear has three service plans available - the free service stores seven days of cloud recording (or up to 1 GB of data); the premier service ($9.99 per month or $99 per year) gives you 30 days of  saved cloud recording and 10GB of storage; and the Elite offering ($14.99 per month or $149 per year) gives you 60 days of saved recordings and 100 GB of data storage). During those time periods, you can download saved videos, so it never feels like you’re losing any valuable video recordings, especially if you have the motion-detection alerts enabled.

Why it’s cool: The wire-free nature of the cameras make Arlo stand out from other home network-based video cameras. When placing the cameras, you don’t need to worry about being near a power outlet - the 720p cameras are powered by long-lasting, replaceable 3V Photo Lithium batteries (Netgear claims a six-month battery life, depending on how much you utilize the recording features and live viewing, of course). The cameras can be placed indoors or outdoors, and come with cool magnetic mounts that can be screwed into a wall or even mounted via sticky tape (not included). The setup was also very easy - instead of having to type in my wireless network and password for cameras that connect directly to the router (or via wireless), it was easier to connect the base station via Ethernet cable, then click a “Sync” button on the camera and base station to get up and running. Some people might not like the extra gear the base station provides, but I think the tradeoff is worth it for quick-and-easy setup.

The Arlo mobile app and Web portal was pretty good, as it let me watch the live stream, pause, begin a recording (in case the motion-detection didn’t kick in), take a snapshot or adjust brightness settings. In the non-streaming mode, the portal/app tells you how many recordings  it has saved, battery power level of the cameras and the wireless signal strength (from the camera to the base station). The quality of the video streams was excellent, even in low-light situations. 

Some caveats: The biggest frustration was trying to find the proper motion-detection setting that struck a balance between capturing all movement or just the motion that would trigger a call to the authorities. For example, if you aimed the camera outside your home to see people coming up to the door (or attempting to break in), the camera might also pick up cars driving by on the street, or someone walking their dog, etc. It would be nice to specify an area within the camera's view that could trigger an alert (such as ignore cars on the street but send me an alert for any motion in front of the door), rather than trying to fiddle with motion-detection sensitivity sliders.

In my tests, I was alerted about 50 times (via email alerts and app notifications) whenever some minuscule motion occurred. When I turned down the settings to require more motion before sending an alert, I missed some of the moments I might have wanted to capture or see. Trying to find this happy medium was tricky, because the app/portal makes it hard to find the specific motion-detection setting. You don’t change it under “Camera Settings”, but rather under the “Rules” area within the “Base Station Settings” area. In addition, motion-control is enabled by the base station and is either on or off for all the cameras - it would be nicer to be able to handle motion-control settings for specific cameras.

Grade: 4 stars (out of five) 

Logitech m320 wireless mouse Logitech

The m320 wireless mouse from Logitech has a wider scroll wheel and improved optical tracking.

 The scoop: m320 Wireless Mouse, by Logitech, about $20 (Amazon)

What is it? The latest version of the Logitech optical wireless mouse is a bit larger than previous models from the company, but the same basics are there - a USB dongle that plugs into your PC or Mac, two-button click abilities and a scroll wheel, and a choice of colors to fit your own personal style (for those into that kind of thing). The mouse operates on a single AA battery, and the USB dongle gets stored inside the base of the mouse for portability/travel purposes (don’t forget the dongle!).

Why it’s cool: The scroll wheel is a bit larger to help improve the scrolling experience, a must-have with the amount of web sites and Word documents and other such computing functions that need a good scroll. Another minor change that I like is Logitech’s claim of a 24-month battery life - the mouse still has an on/off switch to help you manually preserve the battery on the unit, but the company now says there’s an auto-shutoff feature that turns off the battery drain after a period of non-use. While I can’t remember how long each of my previous mice batteries have lasted, they always seemed to “die” whenever I was either on the road or right in the middle of an important task.

Some caveats: Is it the best mouse in the world? No - it’s a general purpose mouse with a great feel and cool colors (I’d expect to see more designs, styles and colors in the months to come). For gaming purposes, you’ll probably want a more specific mouse. But if you’re a road warrior and hate using the touchpad, an external mouse is a must-have, and you can’t go wrong here.

Grade: 4.5 stars

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