Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Product review: Arlo Smart Home Security Camera System
There are things about this camera that I absolutely love and then there are things that I did not like however after over 2 weeks of continuous use I found a way to work around them.
I own a number of IP cameras (they helps us take care of an older relative) and I can say without hesitation that the video quality of this camera is better than all the others I have tried. Perhaps because of this really high quality of the video the response on the mobile device is quite slow. However, I found the performance using Arlo web site is much better and now I only use the mobile app when I have no access to my desktop. The second aspect of the camera that is excellent is the mount. I was able to mount the mount with adhesive tape outside. The camera attaches to the mount magnetically, so it is easy to point where I want it to point and is easy to remove it to change batteries. Speaking of batteries, the camera has been running slightly over 2 weeks on the same set of batteries and I have not had to change it so far. I will post an update when it runs out of juice. I love not having wires and the camera has no problem communicating with the control station (basically a router) which is in the computer room on the floor above where the camera is mounted. The router is in the middle of the room not next to the window.
1. The video quality is excellent. Very crisp, good color, high resolution. It can also capture good quality audio.
2. The set up was easy and the manual is well written
3. The package includes two cameras. The cameras look really slick, and the entire package looks and feels "high end"
4. Totally wire free (no power cable as it runs on batteries and it is WIFI). Each camera runs on four RCR123A. I purchased rechargeable batteries so I don't have to feed the camera new batteries. So far it has been 15 days and it is still running on the first set of batteries.
5. A magnetic mount which makes it easy to remove the camera to change the batteries or position the camera like you want it. I mounted the magnet mount with sticky tape as I placed it hanging down above the back door so I can see who is coming to the door.
6. I can see the video from the mobile device and from the Arlo web site
7. Good security. Requires a complicated password, uses a security question, the UI leads to set the password right away. Clearly these folks understand and care about security. I have encountered IP cameras that only allowed numbers in the password or only alphabetic characters. No such red flags here!
I did not like
1. There is a significant delay between the action and what the camera shows. See video where I show both the action and the mobile screen to demonstrate this.
2. The mobile app screen often display "buffering" and "please wait". The web site response has some delays but not significant.
3. There is no choice to change the resolution of the camera. I would be willing to give up some of the resolution if it would improve response time. I found only one reference to video quality. On Arlo web site, under camera settings, and power management I was able to change from "balance between video quality and battery life" to "best battery life" which in parenthesis told me it may reduce video quality. I still see "buffering" message and the video quality is still very good.
4. I am not able to control where the camera is looking by swiping my finger across the screen as is possible in some of other cameras. Once you position it the angle is fixed.
5. Motion activation sends alerts but could be made smarter. It sends an alert for every 10 second segment. It would have been better if send an alert only if there was a big gap before motion was detected and not send alerts for sequential 10 second segments. It needs to monitor the time when the last message was sent and suppress an alert if the gap is less than say 5 minutes (or even better make it configurable).
6. Annoying permanent up-sell messages which cannot be hidden and take up half of the screen on the mobile app. If it was shown once and then disappeared I would have found it acceptable. Permanently? No. Taking up half of my mobile display? Not good.
The Arlo web site provides three subscription options. The free option supports 5 cameras and stores video for 1 week (you actually get 8 days, 7 day history and the current day). More cameras and longer storage (30 days and 60 days) costs $9.99 per month and $14.99 per month. I find the free version totally sufficient for my needs.
What's the bottom line? Despite the flaws I mentioned I really like it.
Update: July 2015.
It has been a month since I installed Arlo Security system. I am still running on the original batteries. The camera records something every day, so this is better battery life than I expected. I will post an update when I need to install new batteries.
Update: August 18 2015
Today I changed the first set of batteries. Now I am using rechargeable batteries. The first set of batteries lasted slightly over 2 months. As noted in my review I selected the most power efficient mode in the camera configuration. During this period the camera recorded about 20-30 short videos every day. When the battery was dead the web site gave me a notification "It is time to replace the batteries" and the battery indicator showed 1 red bar (instead of 3 green bars).
Update: September 23 2015
On August 18th I replaced the battery with rechargeable batteries. Brand name "UltraFire". Yesterday the battery indicator on the web site was displayed in red, I charged a new set of batteries overnight and this morning the camera was not taking any video, so I had 1 day warning. Rechargeable batteries lasted slightly over a month compared to the non-rechargeable batteries that lasted slightly over 2 months.
Update: August 10 2016
Using rechargeable in the winter required frequent battery changes. I have tried several brands of primary batteries since I began using Arlo and settled on Panasonic as they give me the longest life during the summer and in the winter.
The camera itself is working flawlessly, I am very happy with it. Since I wrote the original review the mobile app has been updated and is now speedy to use as well.
You can find it on Amazon by following this link.
Ali Julia review ★★★★★