Arlo Pro 3 review: This wire-free smart camera just got better

A top wire-free camera - but you pay more for features

Arlo Pro 3
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The Arlo Pro 3 is the next version of a continual improvement curve of Arlo’s range of connected cameras. The range is some of the most versatile on the market – being 100% wire-free, you can place them indoors or outdoors and enjoy around a month of battery life.

The Pro 3 range being a host of new features and quality improvements on from the Pro 2 – and builds on the success of this year’s Arlo Ultra. But users are being asked to pay more for features and data storage, and subtle changes to Arlo’s service plan challenge what was once a very good deal.

And it's a pricy outlay. A two camera system with base station retails for $499– and there's a lot cheaper home security cameras on the market, but few that offer 100% wire-free recording. Adding extra cameras will set you back $179 a pop, which works out similar to outdoor cameras such as the Ring Spotlight Cam, so again, good value when you consider the tech.


So do we still recommend the Arlo Pro 3? Read on to find out.

Design

Arlo Pro 3: Camera and Base Station unit

The design of the Arlo Pro 3 hasn’t changed too much – and it’s still the familiar white-cased cameras which attach to the required base station.

This can come as a surprise to some new users, but to use Arlo you need the base station. The downside is an extra white box being plugged into your router, but this does mean you get a better signal – and we’re yet to find a camera that can be placed so easily outside the house without the connection evaporating.

The cameras themselves are IP67 rated, so completely weather-proof. We’ve been using ours outside and had no problems, aside from the lens getting occasionally misted in bad weather.

The charging port has been changed from the Pro 2 to be a magnetic proprietary cable – which boosts protection against the elements.

The case can be opened to reveal a Lithium-Ion battery inside – and these can be changed out. You can also buy larger batteries with an elongated case, which will up battery life to three months.

The cameras come with a magnetic mount, which makes them easy to pop on and off for recharging.


Essentially, there’s little new here – but there’s a lot more going on under-the-hood.

Features

Arlo Pro 3 review

Footage has also been upped to 2K QHD HDR with a resolution of 2560x1440, over the standard 1080p on the old Arlo Pro 2.

Of course, Arlo Ultra is 4K – so it’s a neat halfway point. The HDR offers good detail in light and dark, and we’ve got no complaints about image quality in daylight conditions.

The Pro 3 now features an integrated spotlight, which will turn on at night when motion is triggered. This was introduced on Arlo Ultra but it’s the first time for the Pro range.

This also enables the colour night vision – enabling the cameras to record full colour at night. The picture does end up being pretty noisy – especially compared to true night vision. However, it’s great to be able to pick out colours and details in your captures.

Arlo Pro 3 has a 160 degree viewing angle - a 30 degree increase over the Pro 2 – and it uses image flattening technology to avoid a fish-bowl effect on footage.

Arlo Pro 3 review

The base station has been changed to match the Arlo Ultra’s but there are some differences. First, the Pro 3 base station only uses 802.11 b/g/n and not the newer and better ac standard. We noticed some slight reduction in range – and this could be responsible.

We could still operate the cameras around 100 feet away through two solid walls – and cameras at the end of the garden were responsive – and if you want to operate your devices at range, the Arlo is still a unique option.

The base station now uses a USB 3.0 port rather than microSD for local recording of footage, which is an improvement and means you can have up to 2TB of local storage, which as you’ll see could save you a fair bit of money.

Audio is now two-way, so you can have a conversation with someone – and the speaker has been improved too, as it was pretty quiet. Likewise, the siren has been improved.

So there’s an interesting backwards compatibility story here – and one of Arlo’s strength is how you can mix and match the system.

Arlo Pro 2 and Arlo Ultra is backwards compatible with the Arlo Pro 3 base station. That means if you already own Arlo 2 you can still use the cameras to expand your smart home.

Arlo Smart

Arlo Pro 3 review

A big part of choosing a wireless security system is the cost of storing clips, which can add up to a significant annual outlay on top of the pricey tech. You used to get 30 days of free storage in the era of the Pro 2 – but the Pro 3 requires an Arlo Smart Premier membership. You get a year included with the purchase.

But the Arlo Smart subscription does offer more than just storage. You get AI detection of people, vehicles, animals and even packages so you can filter out false positives. You also can set activity zones in the cloud and get smart alerts to your lock screen.

All this is good stuff, but the long and short is that you now need to pay 2.99 per month to essentially use Arlo Pro 3 on a single camera, where before that wasn’t necessary. That’s up to $7.99 per month for five cameras.

Of course, you can use the local recording but you need a Smart Premier account to enable 2K or 4K – so there's no point in buying the Pro 3 and not having the subscription. If you want to save money the Pro 2 still offers free 30 days of cloud storage.

And this extra cost does make us a little less tolerant of the Arlo app’s shortcomings. The app is slow to load and we’ve found that it takes an irritating time to watch footage – confounded by the 2K and 4K footage from our cameras.


You can only have one person using the app at any given time, which is just annoying if two members of the family are checking out clips and footage. We just can’t see a reason for that restriction.

And finally, every time you jump out of the app on iPhone it has to load all over again.

The most annoying part is that Arlo has only just released a new version of the app, so it seems we’re stuck with this experience for the foreseeable.

Arlo Pro 3: Footage quality and performance

Arlo Pro 3 review

We found Arlo Pro 3 to be extremely sensitive at picking up motion – up to a point. The camera rarely missed even the smallest events, once even picking up a tiny mouse in quite terrible weather conditions in the dead of night.

That said, the stated range for motion detection is around 15 feet. However, it’s blind to quite major events over that distance. A huge tree blew down within view of the Arlo camera at around 30 feet and it wasn’t captured. Likewise, an entire wall also fell down and likewise no alert.

While ignoring the middle distance means tiny movements in the distance aren’t constantly picked up, we were a little disappointed such major events didn’t trigger an alert.

It also highlights the weakness of Arlo Smart as a subscription service against Nest Aware, which offers 24 hours rolling recordings you can scrub back through. Yes it's more expensive, but so much more usable.

However, in terms of just footage quality, the Arlo Pro 3 is some of the best out there. The HDR helps show off areas in shadow, and in daylight the recordings are crisp, sharp and smooth.

Daylight Arlo footage sample

The night vision is also exceptionally crisp, although we do use the colour night vision, enabled by the integrated spotlight. It’s a little grainy and noisy – but there’s plenty of detail, whether you’re spying on animals or using it for security.

Night time Arlo footage samples


Arlo Pro 3
If you're serious about creating a true smart home camera system Arlo is still the best choice. 100% wire free, with a long range and great footage quality – there's not much out there that can match it. While installing single home camera may still be better done with Nest, Arlo offers versatile expansion, great AI features and fantastic image quality. Arlo has always been an expensive initial outlay, but works out better value to build a system. However, with an Arlo Smart subscription now a prerequisite, that value is diminishing. But we have no hesitation in recommending Arlo as a multi-camera smart home system – and it's still one of the best on the market.
PROS
  • Superb 2K footage
  • AI smarts are useful
  • Colour night vision works well
CONS
  • Subscription now required
  • App is creaky and slow
  • Expensive

TAGGED    security cameras

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