I’ve seen a whole bunch of cameras over many years aimed at the home market with home owners looking for an additional layer of security and peace of mind. They’ve been good, doing a good job of giving you remote view access, motion detection and more – as of today, they all take a back seat, and those companies have a lot of catching up to do because Netgear Arlo is more than just good it’s downright impressive.
The intention is always well-meaning – “remote access”, “motion detection”, “recorded motion” and all these things with the hope that owners could get a full picture of what’s going on at home.
Companies like Swann offer home camera solutions with a hard drive recorder unit and remote access, even wireless transmission of the video
Belkin has an excellent WeMo camera which can also act as a motion trigger for other WeMo products and can be well-integrated into other applications via IFTTT.
That’s great, however Netgear have literally kicked this category up a gear with genuine wire-free cameras which record motion detected video to a cloud server with all the video content available on any device.
I can’t think of many better ways to describe it.
Netgear sent me the Arlo starter kit with two cameras, inside is a base station unit which is about the size of many average home-routers. Also in the pack are the two cameras and batteries required to get them going.
Credit to Netgear on this one, when they say it’s easy to setup, they mean it. Plug the base station into power, connect an Ethernet cable between it and your home router and wait a few minutes for it to boot up.
Put the batteries into the camera, press a triangular button on the side of the base station, then a small button on the front of the camera – again, wait a moment and hey presto, you’re connected.
Repeat that process for any other cameras you have, or in the future should you purchase more.
Once that’s done you either log into the Arlo website or install the app on your smartphone and create an Arlo account.
When you sign up you’re presented with a bunch of payment options for monthly plans. Scroll down for the free option to get going, but if you want to keep recorded content more often and more of it, you’ll need to consider a larger storage plan, likewise if you add more cameras over and above the five allowed within the free plan.
Each camera comes with a small circular mount which has a dome-shaped protrusion on it, this little dome is what your Arlo camera attaches to magnetically.
Pick a location. In my case I put a small screw into a wall and hooked the mount on in the corner of my office. You could choose to use a removable 3M style double-sided adhesive because each camera is so lightweight.
Interestingly to test the magnetic hold, I put another camera on my gutter outside. Worked a treat, however because the gutter was a flat surface I was unable to adjust the viewing angle, so I installed a second mount and was able to move the camera around to the ideal location.
That’s it. The system is running.
As of this moment your cameras are actively detecting motion 9-5 Monday to Friday, and recording about 10 seconds of video each time.
That video is uploaded to the Netgear Arlo cloud, and for Australians Netgear has installed a local server to ensure you get the best performance from the system.
It didn’t take long for me to really see the power of this system. Next day sitting at work I started to get email after email from “Arlo” having “detected motion.
My first problem was facing a camera outside which included my front driveway and the street. Every car that drove past triggered a recording. Proved its capability though! A quick rejig of the angle that night and we were up and running.
I adjusted the schedule to take into account the days and nights when my wife and I are not home as being the critical times I wanted recordings.
The email alerts I turned off pretty quickly, but you can choose to get an email, and or get notifications on your smartphone.
For each notification there is a video clip.
From the email you can click and immediately download that video, or you can open the Arlo app or website and view each and every recording.
You can also view the live stream from any camera online and in the app.
After a bit of digging around I found settings that allow me to record longer periods of video with different settings for each camera, as well as cropping the image frame, and changing the resolution.
Importantly also there is a trigger setting, the more frequently the Arlo takes a snap the more likely it is to see every little bit of motion. The longer that trigger window is the less likely you are to catch every bit of action.
Quality of the video is excellent, with full bright colour during the day or in well-lit environments, while the night vision provided excellent quality too.
One wonders what my daughter is doing wandering around in my office at home https://t.co/XUToK8alNt
— Trevor Long (@trevorlong) February 16, 2015
This is not a first generation product, being the improved version of the VueZone camera – a company Netgear acquired a couple of years back.
However it was rebuilt from the ground up – it’s exceptional in many ways. Completely wire-free, waterproof, light, easy to install – these are big ticks.
There’s a few things I’d like to see improved – almost all of which can be achieved through firmware evolutions and software upgrades.
I’d love to be able to set individual schedules for each camera. While my wife may be home some days and thus we don’t need the cameras recording for security reasons, I want the one in my office running whenever I’m not there.
There is a lag between the camera detecting motion and the recording starting, no matter how low you set the trigger period. There’s times when the car driving past (which triggered the recording) is well up the street before the recording kicks off. While a simple thing, it could be make-or-break in the most important of situations.
I’d dearly love to see IFTTT integration. If a camera detects motion I can rely on it making a recording, but why not have it trigger a light to turn on.
Netgear talk about an ecosystem that could include light bulb manufacturers in the near future, I’d only ask why not open it up to IFTTT which is secure and really opens a world of opportunity for users.
Finally I’m uncomfortable with the camera I’ve got sitting outside. Come round, stand on a box or chair to reach up to my camera and it’s yours to take because it’s held on only by that magnet. For that reason I would recommend looking at external mounting locations that are well and truly out of reach. The fact that these Arlo cameras are waterproof means they are at their best outside in all-weather.
For the outdoor cameras I’d recommend getting a separate mount (with a standard tripod fitting) to bolt onto the house at a much greater height. Just remember you’ll need to get access to it a few times a year to change the batteries.
Those are some pretty picky deep dives into things you should know before buying, but as I said most can be addressed through a broader ecosystem or software upgrades – I’d like to think that for such a young product Netgear would well and truly be listening to the feedback they get.
Be careful trying to price match the Arlo to any other product. Plenty of “cloud” products out there, but Arlo to me seems like the whole package, with one of the slickest user interfaces I’ve seen.
You may well pickup a single camera for under $100, but it will need at least a power supply, and won’t offer the alert and storage capabilities of Arlo. For a more comprehensive system with a local storage drive and “cloud” accessibility you’ll pay $800 up to $1600 or more for between three and six cameras.
Based on that, these prices seem reasonable, if not a bit steep at first glance.
You’ll get a single camera and base-station for $349, two cameras and base for $589 and three cameras and base for $799.
Each additional camera you add will cost $249.
I’ve never seen a home camera system that was so easy to install and get working, and so feature rich with cloud based recording right out of the box. I’m going to be adding more cameras to our network very soon.