Categories: ReviewsSmart Home

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.

View Comments

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Published by
Adam Miarka