One thing was immediately clear as soon as I was able get Netgear Arlo up and running: 1) it was very easy to add cameras, and 2) all I wanted was to buy more cameras! But let’s back up a second and explain exactly what Arlo is, and is not. Arlo, the spiritual successor to Vue, is the newest camera security system from Netgear — it consists of a central wireless hub hooks into your home router along with a number of wireless cameras. Arlo also incorporates heat-based camera sensors to record video as motion is detected and stores those clips in the cloud. But Arlo is NOT designed for continuous 24/7 video recording like a Dropcam. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s walk through how to setup the system, and explain the usage at our home.
The Arlo system ($349) comes with two wireless cameras, capable of 720p video across 130 degrees, and a central hub unit that you connect to an existing router. Additional cameras can be purchased for $159. These days it seems that hubs are all the rage, so why not add another one to your stable. :-) The hub unit is reminiscent of a router, and the size is very similar. For the initial setup, you simply plug in the Arlo hub into your existing router and wait for the status lights to turn green. You then download the Arlo app (iOS / Google Play), and start the setup walk through. Arlo also has a web portal that can be used instead of the apps. For the most part, the web portal functions exactly the same as the apps.
After the hub has started and you create your account, the hub will appear in the app to continue setup which includes adding new cameras. To add new cameras,you need to first install the batteries into them. The Arlo cameras use 4 CR123 batteries which are good up to 4-6 months depending upon usage (we’ll touch on that below). After the camera powers up, you then connect it to the hub by pushing a sync button on both the hub and the camera. After a few seconds, the camera will then show up in the app. You can repeat the steps to add additional cameras.
As these are wireless cameras, with night vision, being able to install them virtually anywhere felt liberating. The Arlo cameras come with a magnetic attachment that you first install to your wall. You could also just place the cameras wherever, but I opted to put these out front in a higher position. Once you have the magnetic attachment installed to your wall, you then “clip” the Arlo camera to it. The magnet is definitely strong, and you are able to move the positioning of the camera to a multitude of angles.
After adding a HD camera to both our Front Door and inside our Garage, it was time to dive into the application itself. The app is divided into 4 sections: Cameras, Library, Mode, and Settings. The camera section allows you to view all your cameras and their latest update. The library section is a place to view all previous recordings. The mode section allows you to create schedules for when the cameras are active and when you should receive notifications. And lastly, the settings section allows you to not only update your camera and and hub settings, but also gives you the ability to see your current storage use for recordings and check for any new firmware updates.
The cameras themselves work using motion detection. Arlo determines motion by changes in heat, not just movement in front of the camera. In my time testing and configuring the sensitivity of the cameras, I find this method extremely accurate. Whereas other IP-based camera’s I have used would send off alerts from a leaf blowing, Arlo was much more reliable in determining if someone was actually in front of the camera. I adjusted the sensitivity settings for the front door down so that I rarely received false notifications.
Arlo also gives you the ability to schedule your cameras. Say you only want to have one camera active from 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday. Arlo gives you this ability via scheduling. During active time, Arlo can send you notifications and save recordings. Having these cameras as a main notification for anything moving outside our doors, I opted to leave the system active all the time. Time will tell how this affects battery life as this is a concern of mine.
With it being fairly cold here in Indiana the past few weeks, the front door camera did give me a low battery warning. After looking through Arlo support, they acknowledge this as an issue and a fix for it. After completing the steps outlined, the battery status went back to normal. Netgear promises future updates in regards to better camera status as well.
When you want to view previous recordings, the Library section makes it easy to select a day and view all recordings for that day. You can even filter by specific cameras if needed. You also have the ability to download your clips via the app or browser.
With Arlo, you have the ability to add additional people to they system and give them either general access or specific access to certain cameras. One thing to note about the using the apps and web portal simultaneously is that only one person can be logged into the system at a time. If you are viewing your cameras and someone else logs into the system, you will be booted. This is a security precaution so that only one person at a time is on the system.
Storage and Subscriptions
When Arlo detects and records, it uploads these clips to Netgear’s cloud based storage system. For the free Basic subscription, you receive 1gb of storage and the ability to add up to 5 cameras. The Basic subscription stores these clips for 7 days, which, to me, is more than enough time to go back if needed.
As someone who has installed both a Dropcam and Simplicam in their house, these prices seem very reasonable. If you did want to add more than 5 cameras, or need additional storage space, Netgear offers a Premier and Elite subscription which ups the storage capacity and the time frame which the clips are stored. You can read more about these plans here, but I have a feeling the Basic plan will work for most people.
Keeping in mind that the Arlo system is not meant to be a 24-7 monitoring service, the product is wonderful to have at our house. The app / web portal are very easy to see the current status of the cameras, view recorded clips, and change existing settings. The ability to add additional cameras as needed also makes this system very flexible.
Things I would like to see in the future would include location-based scheduling and the ability to store clips locally on a NAS. Location based scheduling could allow you to have the system deactivate and only have it active if you are away from the house. For the second part, I’ve already read on multiple sites that Netgear does plan to allow local storage. Having a ReadyNAS currently in the house, it would be very nice to not have to worry about cloud storage.
Overall I came away impressed with the Arlo system. If you are looking for some type of home monitoring, I would highly suggest looking into Arlo!