Netgear’s Award winning Arlo Wireless HD Camera system finally available in Canada at a retail price of $379 for a two camera system with the option to expand the system up to 15 cameras.
Arlo is designed for the do it yourselfer who wants a high definition security camera system but doesn’t want the hassle of running wires. The system consists of a Hub which essentially creates a private wireless network for the Arlo Cameras and then handles the local camera network traffic as well interfacing with your broadband router to get your Arlo camera video up to the cloud for offsite storage and viewing.
Cameras: Arlo cameras have a 720P resolution, a 130 degree field of view and are powered by four CR123 lithium batteries. Netgear says you should get 4-6 months battery life from the cameras under optimal conditions but is should be pointed out that the Lithium Batteries don’t work very well in cold weather conditions which is why Netgear rates the Arlo Camera operating temperature from -10C to +50C. At -10C you can expect the voltage of the lithium ion batteries to die pretty quickly, I’m talking days not months. Another factor to consider with the Arlo Camera system is the cost of replacement batteries. CR123 Lithium batteries cost $4.50-$9.00 each, so replacing a set of 4 batteries on a single Arlo Camera will cost you $18 – $36 each time you have to replace them. Assuming you will get 4 months use out of a set of batteries a two camera Arlo system will run you $108 – $216 per year just in batteries. A four (4) camera Arlo system will cost $216-$432 per year in batteries. The cost of batteries is significant and really adds up. The total cost of operating a four camera Arlo system with the basic hardware over a period of four years is $1725 – $2599. When you compare that to the cost of a Wired HD four (4) Camera system the cost of the wired system is comparable and the reliability and resolution is far greater than with any wireless system.
One more thing about battery life with the Arlo Cameras. There are three settings or modes with Arlo Cameras, “Best Video”, “Optimized” or “Best Battery Life”. The higher the streaming and resolution quality the shorter your battery life and the sooner you’ll be replacing those pricey CR123 batteries!
Range: Range is another consideration with any wireless camera system. Arlo says the cameras will work up to 300 ft from the hub under optimal conditions. In the real world due to interference from other wireless devices and structural factors the “usable camera range” is more like 50-150 feet.
Set Up: The Arlo camera system is quick and easy to set up and can be done in less then 10 minutes. Step one is connecting the hub to your router. Step two is downloading the Free iOS or Android app. Step three is creating an account either using the mobile app or on the web. Step four is adding the batteries to the cameras and syncing them to the hub. Step five, installing the cameras within range of the hub.
Smart Phone App: The Arlo app is not the most intuitive security camera app but it does show you all of the cameras on your account and provides you with FREE, 7 Day Cloud Recording and Storage for up to five cameras. If you want longer storage there is a 30 day option for $10/month (for up to 10 cameras) as well as a 60 day storage option for up to 15 cameras for, you guessed it$15/month. The Arlo app allows you to view multiple streams at once or a single camera at Full Screen . While watching you can record a video stream or take a snap shot. In addition to Live Viewing there is a Mode section which enables you to set recording schedules, motion detection, push notifications, video quality and manage your cloud storage among other things.
Overall the Arlo Camera system is a good quality wireless security camera system with some tradeoffs and limitations, namely battery power and cold temperature operation. The cameras work well in above freezing temperatures and provide good 720P HD image quality in both day and night modes. Freedom from wires makes installation fast and easy and allows Arlo cameras to be installed in places where it would be time consuming, costly or impossible to install conventional.
Lithium Ion Batteries are expensive so the cost of using an Arlo system is high when you factor in replacement batteries. Lithium Ion Batteries also lose power in cold weather so Arlo cameras will not work well in colder climates.
Next is the problem with motion capture. To save battery power Arlo cameras SLEEP until they detect motion and then power up and begin recording. While this saves battery power it often leads to missed recordings especially with fast moving action. Several Arlo camera owners have commented how their Arlo cameras missed recording events because the action happened before the cameras woke up from sleep mode. Waking up from sleep mode or detecting motion seems to take the longest at night when the cameras are in Black and White IR Mode. The response in daylight seems quicker. Cold weather also adversely affects the wake up response time as well as motion detection sensitivity. The colder the temperature the longer it takes to wake up from sleep and the closer you need to be to the camera to detect and trigger motion recording.
If you’re looking for completely wireless DIY Security Camera Solution Arlo’s worth a look but before you purchase an Arlo system you should also consider Nest (formerly DropCam), My D-Link, FlirFX and perhaps even a professionally installed security camera system.
Here’s an video clip we shot with Christine Tarver in the Netgear Booth at ISC West 2015 in Las Vegas.