The latest version of Netgear’s clever little security camera, Arlo Pro, adds a rechargeable battery and higher video quality (720p), plus two-way audio and a siren. This lets you talk to the courier trying to deliver a parcel, or shout at the intruder Arlo alerts you about.
The camera comes in bafflingly secure packaging, but once you’ve fought your way through the tabs and flaps what you get is a slightly chunkier version of the traditional Arlo shape, with one button to press to insert the rechargeable battery, and another to sync the camera to the base station when you have them in the same room — a simple and painless process with blinking LEDs to guide you.
At one point, Netgear had hoped to do away with the specific Arlo base station and add the low-power wi-fi mode that the Arlo cameras use to its standard wireless access points. Unfortunately, 2.4GHz wi-fi has remained too popular to do that (it would mean either raising the cost of the access point by adding another radio or dropping 2.4GHz support), so that plan is off the table and Arlo Pro still comes with its own base station. If you’re adding it to an existing Arlo network, it works with the base station you already have.
You then decide where you want to put the Arlo Pro and attach the magnetic mounting (there’s an optional screw-fit security mount). The positioning view in the Arlo smartphone app lets you preview almost in real time what you’re going to see in your videos, to help you get it in the right place. You can also pan, zoom and rotate the image (handy if the best place to install the camera happens to involve turning it upside down).
You can also use the app to run a motion-detection test: instead of recording a video the way it normally would, this flashes the LED on the camera, so you can keep adjusting the angle of the camera until the LED triggers. The Arlo Pro has a slightly longer range for detecting motion (up to 7 metres, or 23 feet) and a wider angle (130 degrees).
The advantage of rechargeable batteries is that you don’t have to keep buying new batteries (or worrying about finding a source for the pricey and somewhat uncommon CR123s), or waiting for a new battery if the camera goes flat when you’re out of stock. The disadvantage is that you have to plug the camera in to charge — and if it’s outdoors that means taking it down and bringing it back inside — or buy a second battery and charging station. What Arlo Pro really needs here is a solar panel to keep the battery trickle-charged (which competitors like Ring already offer and Netgear is planning to offer as an accessory). There is an outdoor-grade power adapter so you can use it plugged in, but there won’t always be a power socket where you want to use a wireless camera.
Recent software updates have improved the battery life on the original, fully wireless, Arlo — from around four months to a solid six months. Netgear says the rechargeable battery in the Arlo Pro will last about the same time. Two weeks after installing it, with video quality set to medium, the battery level was still at 91 percent, which suggests it will indeed last five to six months. You can also choose better video quality or better battery life, but the default optimised settings gives you good video and battery life that’s far better than most of the competition.
The two-way audio works well enough, as long as you spot the alert in time to grab your phone and start talking. The siren is loud (100 decibels), but it’s the base station rather than the camera that makes the noise (and has the button to turn it off again), so it’s going to come from inside your house.
As with the original Arlo, you don’t have to pay extra to see the video of what the camera records or to connect multiple cameras. When motion is detected you get an alert on your phone, Apple Watch or by email, and seven days of motion-triggered recordings are saved in the cloud. If you want to store video for longer you can pay a monthly fee. The alert options are quite sophisticated, including geofencing to turn off alerts once you (and your phone) are at home, and you can use Arlo alerts as triggers for IFTT and Samsung SmartThings tasks. This means you could automatically turn on a Hue lightbulb if the Arlo spots motion too close to your house. You can also record onto USB storage using the base station if you want the footage rather than the real-time warnings.
The Arlo Pro is pricier than some alternatives, starting at £299.99 (inc. VAT) for a base station and one camera in the UK ($249.99 in the US), but it has good battery life and a strong set of features. You can pay less for a connected camera, but few of them match the range of options offered by Netgear.
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