Security cameras are one of the success stories of the connected home, thanks in part to their extreme versatility. And that's exactly why the Arlo Pro 2 excels. It’s one of the most versatile smart home cameras out there, with pretty much the full gamut of features.
While many will presume smart home cameras are best used to protect your property, smart home security cameras are used by just as many people for simply checking in at home, seeing who’s back from school, who’s getting hairs on the sofa, or what night time visitors are frequenting your garden.
At $449.99 for two cameras and the hub, the Netgear-owned Arlo Pro 2 doesn’t come cheap. Additional cameras can be added for $219. You can get a pair of Nest Cam IQs for a similar outlay – so why should you plump for Arlo? Let's find out.
Arlo Pro 2: Features
There’s plenty going on inside the Arlo Pro 2, so let’s get started. The cameras are 1080p, so there’s no worries on quality. We would say that the Nest Cam IQ Indoor edges on quality and that Arlo isn’t using the best compression – but given the benefits (which we’ll come to) we’ll forgive it that.
The Arlo cameras are also completely wireless – running on a single rechargeable lithium-ion battery. They connect to a wireless 802.11n hub which is connected to your router. You charge the batteries back up with the supplied USB-C cable.
The cameras themselves are pretty small and compact – albeit chunky. They're not going to look out of place in your home, or take up too much space - although they're not a patch on the Hive View in terms of elegant design.
The other key component is that the Arlo Pro 2 is IP65 certified, making it pretty much weatherproof. This means it’s totally up to you where you set it up. It comes back to that idea of versatility, and that’s where the Arlo really excels.
Elsewhere is a pretty rich set of features. Two-way audio, motion and sound alerts via the Arlo app, recording of alerts with a three second pre-record, so you capture the moment of an event rather than the aftermath. There’s also night vision.
You can also set up action zones, so you can stop being alerted every time the cat goes for a toilet break, although you can only do this if the camera is plugged into the mains via the USB-C cable, not on battery power. It’s a really complete set of features – and one of the best cameras, pound for pound, that we’ve used to date.
There's also good news for Alexa users. There’s an Arlo skill so you can view cameras on your Amazon Echo Show and Echo Spot smart speakers, and it will also hook up to IFTTT and Stringify for other integrations as well. There’s no word on Google Assistant or HomeKit integrations yet, sadly.
Arlo Pro 2: Set up, performance, battery life
As we mentioned, the cameras connect to the Arlo Bridge – something we were a little irked by when opening the box. We already have hubs for a bunch of smart home products – from Hive to Philips Hue – so adding another one was a bit of an annoyance.
Fortunately, the Arlo Pro 2 does justify the use of another white plastic box. The set up itself was easy, just push a couple of buttons and the cameras pair to the bridge seamlessly. But the bridge really justifies its existence when you consider the range of the cameras. We were able to position cameras at the bottom of our garden, around 50 feet and a couple of brick walls away from the bridge, and still get decent performance. Arlo quotes 300 metres with line-of-sight – which isn't too far shy.
It wasn’t perfect. At that range the frame rate dropped significantly and there was a lag of around 30 seconds, although recording was still smooth – just quite a way behind. That’s compared to a lag of just a few seconds when placed inside or just outside the house.
In the box you get a mount for each camera, which is a plate that you screw onto a surface, and magnetically holds your Arlo camera. Positioning is important, and as we’ll go into more detail later, we did encounter issues around night vision in regards to placement. For reliable night vision performance you will want to use the supplied mounts.
We were also extremely impressed with battery life. In two weeks using the cameras (extensively) we drained about 15% from the battery. You don’t need to be Isaac Newton to work out that that offers around 7 weeks of battery life on a single charge – something we can more than put up with. That’s also pretty favourable against Ring 2, which offers similar (perhaps less) longevity with far fewer motion and recording alerts. What’s more, its lithium-ion battery is far larger, and the range much less.
Arlo Pro 2: App
The Arlo app keeps things simple, but yet again is delightfully powerful. The main screen shows your camera feeds and you can tap to live view. From within that window there are controls for taking a picture, two-way audio, brightness control and volume levels.
The second screen, Library, shows all the captures from your camera. We’ll go into data storage shortly, but when motion is detected, the clip is viewable in this window. The clips are neatly sorted by date and from within that window you can instantly download any clip to your iPhone or Android device. There are also sharing options, too.
The app is also where you can change settings of various cameras – we had to turn night vision off our front garden camera – as well as set up elements such as geofencing, scheduling and motion/sound alerts.
It’s a decent app, and while it won’t win any design awards – it offers everything you need.
Arlo Pro 2: Video quality
We think sometimes security cameras can get a bit of an unfair kicking over video quality – after all, these cameras are designed to keep watch over your home, not capture your holiday snaps.
As we mentioned, the Arlo Pro boasts full HD 1080p quality – which does appear a little over-compressed, but overall we were pleased with the quality. The colours are warm and vibrant, giving the sky a pleasing dark blue hue. Good weather looks great on the Arlo. It’s certainly better than Ring 2 in terms of frame rate and performance, although behind the Nest Cam IQ.
In day time footage is clear and crisp, faces easily recognizable and the frame rate is pretty decent (Arlo doesn’t quote this but it looks to be around 30fps).
At night we had some initial problems with the IR bouncing off nearby surfaces and causing a fog effect. We managed to clear this and get decent performance from the Arlo Pro 2 – but we’ve seen much better night vision cameras. Placement really is key, but this was the weakest area of the Arlo camera.
That, however, was mitigated by very impressive low light performance. Given our front garden is bathed in light from a nearby street lamp, we got incredible night time performance from the Arlo Pro 2 when we turned night vision off. What’s more, we had concealed the camera, so this dodged the problem of the IR bouncing off the camouflage (see the modified plant pot above).
Arlo Pro 2: Storage
So it’s a really strong showing from the Arlo Pro 2 so far, boasting a great set of features, decent video quality at great frame rates and good performance over long ranges, too. But the storage aspects of the set-up are even more pleasing.
You get seven days of free storage of recorded clips from video and audio alerts, and this supports up to five Arlo cameras. That’s really good for a free service, and there’s no time limits either. It’s one of the most generous plans we’ve seen, and really offers an alternative from Nest, which starts at $5 per month for any storage at all.
But there’s also an offline back-up option, too. Some people may not like the idea of captured video being stored on Logitech’s servers, so you can attach USB storage to the Arlo hub and have your footage stored locally instead. No cloud, no data leak. It’s a final benefit in a great suite of features.
- Good quality footage
- Indoor and outdoor
- Great range
- Battery operated
- Requires hub (included)
- Night vision not world class
- Motion too sensitive
- Really expensive