​Arlo Doorbell review

One for Arlo users only – and hard to recommend

​Arlo Doorbell
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The era of the smart doorbell is nigh – and it only seemed logical that Arlo would follow in the footsteps of Ring and release its own.

You may know Arlo as the smart security camera firm behind the Arlo Pro 2 – so it’s inevitable that it would put this technology to use on your front door. But you might be surprised to learn that the Arlo Doorbell has no integrated camera.

Priced at a very reasonable $79.99 it's an Amazon Bestseller. But is the Arlo Doorbell a welcome visitor or unwanted cold caller? We found out.

Arlo Doorbell: Design and setup

Arlo Doorbell review

Compared to the Ring Video Doorbell 2 – and let’s face it, that’s going to be a common comparison – the Arlo Doorbell is a sublimely svelte offering. With more in common with the Nest Hello, it’s thin, slim and unobtrusive – all the makings of a perfect smart doorbell.

But it’s complicated. First there’s no camera, so space for tech and battery is saved. But it is 100% battery-powered, unlike the Nest Hello which requires the presence of existing wires. Let's be honest, nobody is retro-fitting doorbell wires in 2019.

Budget option: Ring Wired Video Doorbell review

No video you say? Bit of a deal-breaker? Well, in more ways than one.

The Arlo Doorbell also requires one of the company’s base stations to be installed, so it’s very much for existing customers only. No-one will be going out there to make that kind of investment for a doorbell.

Arlo Doorbell review

If you do have all that in place, it's a very simple setup. The Arlo Doorbell is powered by a couple of AA batteries, which should last you a year. Pair it to the hub, and you're good to go. There's no complicated mounting – and if you do have wires you want to utilise, there's room for that on the back.

But the upside is that a ring of the doorbell can be paired to trigger an Arlo camera you already own, which may (or may not) be covering your front door anyway.

Ding dong: Arlo Video Doorbell review

This may sound like an ingenious way of avoiding adding more cameras. In our tiny porch there’s little need for an Arlo camera, so the whole thing is overkill – and the camera needs to be positioned high, so we just see the tops of callers’ heads.

Also, the presence of the camera makes for a very oppressive greeting at the front door, like checking in for a prison visit. We’re not fans of the set-up, but if you have a larger porch you may be able to work things better.

Arlo Doorbell: Features and performance

Arlo Doorbell review

With no camera, you simply get two-way audio. When the caller rings the bell, the Arlo app will call your phone, as if receiving a voice call with a lock screen alert. If you answer, you’re patched into a two-way conversation with your caller.

It’s decent and clear audio – and probably has the edge on Ring in terms of responsiveness and clarity, although we did get a little bit of feedback.

If you don’t answer, a robotic voice will invite your caller to leave a message by directing them to press the button. However, it’s a little weird and doesn’t really make it clear whether your caller needs to press the button again to finish or just stop talking and walk away.

Answered or missed calls enter your video stream, along with the footage of your cameras. That’s natural, but it would be nice if they stood out from footage of cats wandering through the back garden, as missed deliveries are generally more important.

Any messages left will be part of the audio for that element, and will be categorised as “missed”. We’d also have preferred to have been alerted to left messages specifically – perhaps via a push notification. Doorbell activity gets lost among the feed.

Arlo Doorbell review

The Arlo Doorbell itself makes a low chime when pressed, and then contacts other household members via the Arlo app. If you want to hear the chime within the house you'll need separate Arlo Chime ($49.99), which pairs to your doorbell to provide a sound in the home.

This is much the same as Ring – although we were a little disappointed by the volume. Put it this way: our dog became very attuned to the sound of the Ring Video Doorbell 2 – even barking at the TV advert – while he never even realised the sound of the Arlo Chime, barely louder than the radio, was a sign of someone at the door.

Arlo Doorbell
If you have an Arlo setup and a spare camera, the Arlo Doorbell is a budget offering that lets you get more from your setup, quickly and cheaply. However, it feels like an afterthought, thus doesn't perform as well as rival smart doorbells such as the Ring Video Doorbell 2. We'd like to see an Arlo Doorbell with a proper integrated camera to really show what Arlo can do in this space.
  • Low cost
  • No subs for recorded video
  • Clear two-way audio
  • Great battery life
  • No build-in camera
  • Needs Arlo base station
  • Footage gets lost in system
  • Quiet (and pricey) chime

TAGGED    video doorbells    security cameras    arlo

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