Review: Arlo Pro cameras offer true flexibility for home security

Netgear Arlo Pro video security camera
Netgear
At a Glance
  • Arlo Pro Security System with Siren - 2 Rechargeable Wire-Free HD Cameras with Audio, Indoor/Outdoor, Night Vision (VMS4230)

    MSRP $419.99
    View
    on Amazon

Netgear’s Arlo brand of home security, network-connected cameras continues to improve, defeating every real or perceived criticism about the devices with an upgrade or improvement. Want to place in an area where there’s no network cable? Bam! Wi-Fi connection. Need to place in an area where there’s no power outlet? Bam! Battery powered! Don’t like replacing batteries? Bam! Rechargeable batteries and a quick-charge battery adapter.

The latest version of this system is the Arlo Pro – it’s the most flexible camera system I’ve come across so far. After a few weeks of testing, I’ve determined that anyone who has a problem with this system (or think that it can’t do something) is just a cynical old crank.

Arlo Pro package 2-camera kit Keith Shaw / Network World

It may look like a lot to set up, but the 2-camera kit has lots of options for maximum flexibility. Plus, a sticker!

The Arlo Pro system I tested ($420, Amazon) came with two cameras, two batteries, two mounting magnets and screws, USB cable and power adapter (for recharging the camera’s batteries), a base station, Ethernet cable and power cable for the base station. Also, a sticker that you can hang on your window to deter potential intruders. I’m amused that Netgear added the sticker – as if to fight off complaints from customers/reviewers – “Yeah, but you don’t have a sticker!”.

The powered base station connects via Ethernet cable to your home router (hopefully you have a free Ethernet LAN port available). After you download (or update) your Arlo app (iOS, Android and Amazon supported), you can then add the new cameras to the system by synchronizing the camera with the base station. It doesn’t rely on your existing network, but rather uses a wireless connection between the camera and the base station (which offers network connectivity through Ethernet). This is a big difference from other wireless security cameras, which use an existing Wi-Fi network.

Once you synchronize the cameras, you can place them wherever you want, inside or outside, mounted or unmounted. The tiny cameras are very mobile, so if you want them to be inconspicuous it’s easy to put on a bookshelf or other location where they blend in with the other décor. In my case, I placed one camera in the basement (to see if I could catch a cat causing mischief) and one in our sun room to view the back deck entrance.

Once activated, you can view the live stream on the Arlo app for each device, and as motion is detected, the cameras record (for 10 seconds, see below). Motion also triggers an alert to the mobile device the app is on, if you have notifications enabled, or to an email address. The video is saved to the cloud for seven days (for free, longer periods require a subscription). If you have a USB external storage drive, you can connect that to the base station and save your recordings locally. You can also download videos from the cloud within that free, last seven-day period. Downloaded videos are saved as a 640 x 352 resolution, smaller than 1080p, but still good enough if you need it for evidence. Viewing live lets you interact with the camera via the two-way microphone – letting you either yell at an intruder (or, easier, activating the alarm on the base unit) or at a dog that’s jumping on a couch.

The picture quality when viewing via web browser or on the mobile app was outstanding – gone are the days of low-lit, black-and white images that make you think of a closed-circuit security system. The color images are crisp and sound quality is good if you want to hear what’s going on as well (at least in the live view). In addition to color video, if the room is dark and you have Night Vision enabled, you get the video in the black-and-white, night vision mode (in which cat animal eyes look really creepy).

Triggered video clips record for 10 seconds by default. If you want to record for a longer period of time, you can adjust that in the camera’s settings on either the app or web interface (it’s hard to find at the moment, but Netgear says a UI change will make it easier to find). You can record up to 2 minutes per motion event. Netgear says its Motion Stop feature, in which users can choose video recording to last until motion stops (with a maximum of 300 seconds), will soon come to the Arlo Pro (it currently is available on the Arlo Q cameras).

Battery life on the cameras is very good – in my tests over a few weeks, the active camera (the one in the basement) didn’t suffer much battery loss even after recording a lot of activity – about 12%. Netgear says the batteries can last up to six months. That’s a bit beyond my testing time, but I don’t have any reason to doubt that, especially for cameras that don’t get a lot of action in terms of motion. The second camera, pointing at a room where it’s looking for people coming in a door from the outside deck, has yet to trigger an alert, so it remains at 100% battery life.

Arlo Pro tree Netgear

The wire-free nature of the Arlo Pro cameras (Wi-Fi and rechargeable batteries) means you can place cameras anywhere, even on a tree trunk.

The reason I’m not getting a lot of motion-detection triggers or false alarms is due to an improved motion detection system on the camera. Earlier versions of home security cameras would alert me if a tree branch blew in the wind. It feels like Netgear has figured out whether detected motion is small, large or just the sun shifting or wind blowing. The default setting for motion detection sensitivity is at 80 (out of 100) – you can slide that up or down to create more or less sensitivity on the motion detection.

Even the subscription plans are reasonable – you get seven free days of recordings (it records when motion is detected), up to 1GB of space. Up to five cameras can be included with this plan, and you get support for three months. If you need more storage space or need to save recordings for more than the past seven days (remember, you can download videos within that 7-day period), then you can upgrade to either a 30-day plan ($10 per month, 10 GB) or a 60-day plan ($15 per month, 100 GB). For most home users, the free basic plan should suffice. Business users can get additional plans if they want to use the cameras to protect their company.

Bottom line: If you’re new to the home security camera space, the Pro version and its features and price might scare you off a bit (perhaps start with the basics); but if you’ve dabbled in this for a while, the Arlo Pro should meet (and exceed) your home security camera needs.

Grade: 5 stars (out of five)

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At a Glance
  • Arlo Pro Security System with Siren - 2 Rechargeable Wire-Free HD Cameras with Audio, Indoor/Outdoor, Night Vision (VMS4230)

    MSRP $419.99
    View
    on Amazon
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