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Review: NETGEAR Arlo Wireless Home Security Monitoring System

by Paul Strauss

NETGEAR’s recent entry into the home security space is designed to make it easy to monitor and record your home or office remotely. Unlike other systems on the market, the Arlo is truly wireless. Other than connecting the base station to an outlet and your internet router, the cameras themselves have no wires whatsoever.

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Each battery-powered camera is capable of capturing 720p HD video, and has the ability to record in complete darkness. Unfortunately, they don’t capture audio, which would be nice. All video captured is automatically uploaded to Netgear’s Arlo cloud servers, so you can access streams remotely. The Arlo cameras are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and can either be set on a shelf or mounted on the wall with an ingenious magnetic mounting bracket, which lets you swivel the camera. The only downside to the ease of mounting is that the cameras can easily be removed, since they’re not locked down in any way.

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The cameras also have a tripod-style thread on the bottom, which works with a more rugged swivel camera mount, in case you have an application where that makes sense. They’re also waterproof, so you can set them outside, though there’s about a 300 foot line-of-sight operating limit from the base station. I mounted a test camera in the far corner of my basement – about 75 feet and one floor below the base station with no signal problems.

Setup of the Arlo is simple. Just install the Arlo app on your smartphone, plug the base station into the outlet and your internet router, turn on the router, put batteries into the cameras, and then connect them to the base station by pressing a sync button on each one.

arlo_camera_security_system_1zoom in

Viewing live video is as simple as opening the Arlo smartphone app or the Arlo website and clicking on a camera to start a live stream. The trick to this system is that it uses motion detection smarts and the ability to remotely wake cameras in order to minimize battery usage. Unlike systems like Dropcam, the Arlo only records when it senses movement or if you request a live stream. For the most part, this approach works quite well, since you probably don’t care about recording when nothing is going on. You can fine tune how much video should automatically record when motion is detected as well. In my tests, the motion detection worked as expected, detecting me when I entered both lit and darkened rooms. However, there is a momentary lag of about two seconds when you request a live stream.

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Live streams are not automatically recorded, and you need to click the record button if you want to archive footage. You can also click the camera icon to grab a still. Once recorded (either as a live stream, or automatically detected), stream files can be viewed from the the Arlo Library, which organizes all clips by date and time. Files can be marked as favorites, shared or downloaded in MP4 format here.

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Each Arlo camera uses four CR123 lithium photo batteries, and I recommend stocking up on them if you plan on using this system. The last thing you want to do is be heading out of town on vacation, only to discover your camera batteries are low. Battery life is the one big wildcard with the system – if you have minimal motion in a location, the batteries can last for up to six months. However, if you’re frequently requesting streams, or the motion sensor is constantly going off, you’re looking at significantly shorter battery life. Also, placing the cameras far away from the base station can impact battery life.

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Fortunately, motion sensitivity and video quality can be tweaked to optimize battery life (and to minimize false alarms if flying insects keep setting it off at night.) You can also use the Arlo’s scheduling capabilities to turn motion tracking on and off during certain days and hours.

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The Arlo system works well for situations where you want video monitoring without the hassle of wiring of any sort. It has some limitations compared to other systems, like not recording 100% of the time, but the upside is it uses a whole lot less internet bandwidth and you can move the Arlo cameras anywhere at any time. Of course, the downside to this is that a thief could just walk off with your camera without even needing to unplug or detach it from the wall. You also have to worry about changing batteries on a regular basis.

arlo_camera_security_system_2zoom in

Arlo systems range in price from $199(USD) for a single camera and base station, up to $649 for a five camera setup. Additional cameras cost $159 each, and you can connect up to 15 cameras to the same base station. While each system includes free cloud storage for up to seven days of footage, you’re looking at an annual fee of $99 for 30 days of storage for up to 10 cameras, and $149 for 60 days for up to 15 cameras.

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[FTC Disclaimer: Technabob was provided with the hardware tested in this review by NETGEAR at no cost. However, all of our reviews are the unbiased opinions of our authors, and in no way represent the views of the product manufacturers represented here.]

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