Arlo Ultra First Look: A Mixed Bag

With the release of Arlo Ultra, the company has upped the ante with not only 4K video quality, but also some neat new features including HDR, color night mode, auto track and zoom. But this jump to higher resolution and feature enhancements has some initial teething problems.

Having unboxed the Ultra (below), I began the setup process.  If you’ve installed any wireless Arlo system before, it’s the same procedure.  Basically just connect the base station to your router then add each camera.

The Good
Image quality, both for HDR and low light / night mode. First, the image quality coming from the Ultra is great, even in bright conditions such as sun and snow. It’s here where you can see the HDR provides a very nice image. I’m also impressed with the low light and night mode. It seems that these are two different conditions for the Ultra. Even in lower light, the Ultra will not switch the IR on and provide what looks like a brightened color image. When lighting conditions get too low, it will switch to night mode and blast IR for a better picture.

The 180 degree field of view is also a significant upgrade from previous Arlos (and over competitors). With this perspective, the Ultra provides much broader coverage of both our front and back yards. Related, the Ultra does a nice job processing video to minimize the fish eye effect (unlike, say Ring).

Another nice convenience is the new magnetic charger. It’s far more efficient to connect the Ultra at the base, rather than having to plug a micro USB cable into the Pro line.

The Bad
Camera wireless range has taken a hit. It seems that the Ultra cams can connect to the base station via 2.4ghz or 5ghz. But if the camera is “stuck” on the 5gz, that could explain the decrease in range. In my very brief testing, I received numerous “device offline” alerts or the base station couldn’t connect.

Responsiveness may also be an early Ultra issue. When initiating a live view, there seems to be a little more delay than the Pro 2, although I did have the Pro 2 hard wired for power. Will keep an eye on this and hopefully a future firmware update will alleviate both these issues.

The Ugly
One of my devices exhibits a purple hue. Doing some research, it looks like a stuck IR filter on the camera lens. As a likely mechanical issue, I’ll need to replace the device as a firmware update wouldn’t help. The stuck filter also seemed to cause the camera to constantly detect motion which may have flooded my system as a whole. Once I removed the problem camera from the base station, system reliability improved.

Despite these initial issues, I have high hopes for the Ultra. Alro has already acknowledged the connectivity issues and is looking to provide a firmware update to address.

14 thoughts on “Arlo Ultra First Look: A Mixed Bag”

  1. What about battery life? How often do you have to swap out the batteries on these cameras? That could be a bit of a pain if they’re mounted where you’ll need a ladder to access them.

  2. No idea yet. They just came out and I’ve tried to charge them fully. Will keep an eye on battery life. Supposedly it’s the same as Pro 2 which would mean every few months depending upon recording usage. What is nice is the magnetic charger which is much easier to use than the old micro USB.

  3. Supposedly HomeKit support is coming at the end of the month… if they miss their target or the integration is poor, we’ll add it to the bad column.

  4. Arlo pushed an update last night. Smart Hub was updated to 1.12.0.0_30255 and Ultras to 1.060.20.10_30273. So far, connectivity is much better, but will continue to test/monitor.

  5. My concerns are since the camera doesn’t screw on the base stand. How strong is the magnet. is it strong enough to with stand strong wind. Meaning will it fall off or be moved by a strong Gus of wind

  6. What is the range from the Smart Hub to the camera for the camera to work and connect reliably? Thanks for the initial thoughts!

  7. Paul, it has the threaded hole for existing mounts that Arlo sells. The only thing that has changed is the magnetic mount. The new mount does seem to provide better angles and is very strong.

    Jack,
    I have three Ultras right now with my Smart Hub pretty much in the middle of the second floor. Two cameras are around 30-40 ft from the hub, the other camera is around 60ft. I’m able to live stream in 4K local from all of them. Loading takes around 10 seconds right now. With Arlo’s update yesterday, the Ultras have been working well and consistently.

  8. Is there a solar panel available for the Arlo Ultra alike the Pro 2 or a cable upgrade with magnetic connector to the original solar panel?

  9. Do the advanced features work without the device being plugged into an A/C power source or does it have the same limitation as the Arlo Pro2? Specifically Activity Zones and Continuous Video Recording?

    Thank you!

  10. After speaking with the support team today, I learned two very concerning things and I am curious if anyone else shares my same concerns.

    1. In order to have any sort of recording function at all, you are now required to subscribe to an Arlo Smart package or insert a SD card for local storage. I understand that the Ultra comes with 1 year of Smart Premier, but after that you need to renew or lose all recording capabilities. One of the main reasons why I chose to go with Arlo Pro 2 was the fact that I had a limited about of free recording.

    2. Possibly the most concerning thing since this camera is advertised as 4K, is that in order to take advantage of 4K capture beyond local live streaming and recording to a microSD card, you need to subscribe and pay for an additional Premium Video recording add-on plan for $1.99 per month / $19 per year per each individual camera. This was shocking for me and it not proactively advertised anywhere on the product pages of the website.

    So not only am I no longer able to use Arlo without a paid subscription package, but I am also not able to leverage 4k for cloud-based motion capture video recording without an additional plan.

    I would love to hear others thoughts on this

  11. A second round of firmware updates went out this morning that supposedly address some open items, according to the company. We’ll continue to test and monitor, will update our findings if warranted. Having said that, the first update did indeed improve connectivity reliability, so we’re feeling hopeful. Also Adam swapped his busted hardware at Best Buy and hasn’t had a repeat… yet… knock on wood.

    JB, it’s a little unclear to me as well – looks like an extra $20/year for 4K cloud recording. Hm.

  12. To JB McRee’s question – it is my understanding that the Ultra has a USB port on the base station and a USB drive or hard drive can be attached to store recordings. They did refer to it as “optional” I think.

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