Arlo just announced the Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free, which is basically a battery-powered version of the Arlo Video Doorbell. While the product still works with existing doorbell wiring, its rechargeable battery gives you more installation flexibility. This new doorbell will become available sometime during the 2020 holiday season for $199.99. We're planning to add it to our Arlo doorbell review after launch.
Bottom line: The Arlo Video Doorbell is a better choice
The Arlo Video Doorbell has many advantages over the Arlo Audio Doorbell. But the fact that you don’t need an expensive Arlo base station was the deciding factor behind our choice. This means you can control your Arlo Video Doorbell without buying any other Arlo products. It’s an ideal starting point before you decide to go all-in with Arlo for your security camera needs.
The Arlo Video Doorbell also has a built-in siren to help scare away intruders—surprisingly no other doorbell cameras have such a useful security tool. It also stores pre-recorded responses to help you greet visitors more quickly—a feature previously exclusive to the pricier Nest Hello.†
We like that the Arlo Video Doorbell offers a ton of extras when you subscribe to an Arlo Smart video storage plan. Our favorite emergency feature from this subscription is the e911 call service that connects you to emergency responders. For convenience features, we like the package detection for when your new kitchen gadget arrives on your doorstep.
For more detail on why we like the Arlo Video Doorbell, check out the rest of our Arlo doorbell review. We also point out some compelling reasons why you shouldn’t ignore the Arlo Audio Doorbell.
We aren’t able to do hands-on testing on the Arlo doorbells due to limited resources during the COVID-19 pandemic. But we took advantage of our experiences with testing other smart doorbells to guide our research. We plan to update our review after testing the doorbells in person.
For now, we looked at the tech specs from Arlo’s website to learn what makes the products unique and to compare how they stand up to the average smart doorbell. We also researched user reviews for both products to gain a greater perspective. If you want to learn more about how we evaluate products, check out our full testing methodology.
Despite the substantial differences between Arlo’s Audio Doorbell and Video Doorbell, both have the same core features. Here’s what they have in common.
All smart doorbells—not just Arlo’s—have two-way audio so you can talk to visitors on your porch. The audio kicks in after someone presses the doorbell button, and you accept the call on your smartphone.
Both Arlo doorbells have built-in motion sensors that send you notifications without a visitor pressing the button. This isn’t as useful on the Arlo Audio Doorbell but still adds a little extra flexibility to help you find threats.
When a guest rings the doorbell, you can skip the small talk with one of five pre-recorded messages:
“Leave the package by the door.”
“You are being recorded.”
“I’ll be right there.”
“We can’t answer the door right now.”
“Leave your message.”
These are great when you can’t come to the door or just want someone to stick around while you turn the stove off in the kitchen.
Wires directly to your doorbell
You can connect these devices to your existing mechanical doorbell chime for continuous power and added convenience. By using your existing doorbell chime, the doorbell works like it always has, so you know when there are visitors even if your phone is charging upstairs.
You can install these doorbells in less than 10 minutes—simply follow the step-by-step instructions in the Arlo App. Still, it might take a little longer if you need to drill new holes for the mounting screws.
Smart home compatibility
Arlo has some of the best smart home compatibility among security camera companies, so making it work with your favorite smart home devices is practically stress free. It’s easy to add Arlo products to the most popular smart home platforms (though your mileage may vary with what you can do):
There are usually more similarities between smart doorbells from the same company, but each of Arlo’s doorbells stands out in terms of its differences. Here’s how the Arlo Video Doorbell and Audio Doorbell differ.
As you might guess from the names of these doorbells, there’s no video on the Arlo Audio Doorbell. If you want the most out of the Arlo Audio Doorbell, you need to use it with another Arlo camera since the audio-only format isn’t as great for security as it is for talking to visitors.
Arlo designed the Audio Doorbell to supplement existing Arlo cameras, so it requires the same base station these cameras use. Even without other Arlo cameras, you still need to use a base station to control the Audio Doorbell with the mobile app. This isn’t very budget friendly because you pay for all of the gear.
In contrast, the Arlo Video Doorbell works by itself right out of the box. It connects directly to your Wi-Fi network after installation— you don’t need any extra equipment, so you spend less money.
At first glance, you might expect the optional wireless Arlo Chime accessory to work with both doorbells, but it’s only compatible with the Audio Doorbell. This is because it also requires a base station, something the Video Doorbell doesn’t use. If you want a video doorbell that uses a wireless chime, we recommend going with Ring.
The Arlo Audio Doorbell can run off two AA batteries, so you don’t need to connect it to your doorbell wiring. This is great if you want to put the doorbell on a gate to your yard.
The Arlo Video Doorbell doesn’t have a battery-powered option, so it isn’t as flexible. Still, we think it’s better for most folks because a wired connection is more reliable.
The Arlo Video Doorbell is one of the best video doorbells you can buy today thanks to a list of thoughtful features that go beyond chatting with visitors on your stoop. It costs around $150, making it cheaper than other brands, which usually cost around $200.
Emergency call service
We think that Arlo’s best feature is its e911 emergency call service that you can use to contact emergency responders. During a typical 911 call, the police respond to your phone’s location, but e911 sends them to your home whether you’re there or not. While you need a multi-camera video storage subscription to use the feature, it’s worth checking out.
Smart detection alerts
No free cloud storage plan
Arlo’s video doorbell records videos in a square aspect ratio—similar to what you find in an Instagram post. This gives you a better view of your porch than Ring’s widescreen video. Some other brands—like Nest and August—use a similar aspect ratio for their doorbell cameras. But Arlo has the highest resolution of the bunch, making for crisp videos both day and night.
Advanced detection feature
The Arlo Video Doorbell also uses artificial intelligence to distinguish between people, animals, cars, and packages. While other doorbell cameras offer similar features, online reviews say that Arlo is less likely to send you notifications that confuse dogs with people.
Answering the door
One noteworthy quirk is that Arlo treats doorbell calls like a regular phone call on your smartphone, where you choose to accept or decline a call. It can be confusing at first but is a bit easier than opening a tiny notification. There’s also a siren in the Arlo Video Doorbell, which you can activate in the app to startle uninvited guests trying to open the door.
Another feature we like about the Arlo Video Doorbell is pre-recorded messages you can play for visitors, an option that pops up after you accept a call. This is such a time-saver, especially with deliveries where face-to-face interactions are unnecessary, or if you’re finishing an important email for work.
Despite some impressive features, the Arlo Video Doorbell has a few problems—the biggest of which is that the camera doesn’t come with free cloud storage. This is a feature that Arlo offers on its older products but stopped offering on new products like the Arlo Ultra, Arlo Pro 3, and the Arlo Video Doorbell.
Fortunately, Arlo’s cloud storage costs $2.99 a month for one-camera plans, which is one of the best prices among security cameras and video doorbells.
The Arlo Video Doorbell also requires a hardwired connection to your existing doorbell chime. This is standard practice for most video doorbells but comes at the cost of a slightly more complex installation. It also limits placement options when you compare it to battery-powered models like the Ring Video Doorbell.
The Arlo Audio Doorbell isn’t a substitute for doorbell cameras. Still, it might be a cheaper option if you already own Arlo security cameras since it costs around $80 by itself, which is less expensive than other smart doorbells.
Unfortunately, if you don’t already have Arlo security cameras (particularly the base station that comes with them), it can cost as much as the Arlo Video Camera (or more).
Great add-on to existing Arlo cameras
Battery power for more placement options
Visitors can leave audio messages
No video without other Arlo cameras
Requires base station
Necessary equipment raises the price
Once you look past the pricing problems, the Arlo Audio Doorbell is a nifty little device. It uses two AA batteries that last up to a year, according to the company.
Battery-powered smart doorbells are easier to install, and you can put them almost anywhere, which is great for fences and tool sheds with expensive equipment inside that lack wiring options.
You can also hardwire the Audio Doorbell to your existing doorbell chime if you don’t mind a longer installation process.
Because this smart doorbell doesn’t record video without a companion camera, it’s at a disadvantage against video-capable models. Still, visitors can record short messages if you don’t answer using the mobile app—like voicemail for your house.
Free cloud storage
The Arlo Audio Doorbell offers free seven-day cloud storage, unlike the Arlo Video Doorbell. Because this is technically an accessory, it also doesn’t require a paid subscription unless you pair it with a security camera.
Bundling the Arlo Audio Doorbell slashes costs
You can buy an Arlo Smart Home Security Kit (about $170*) that includes an Arlo Audio Doorbell, Arlo Chime, Arlo Pro security camera, and a base station. It costs less than buying all of the components separately, but more than the Arlo Video Doorbell.
Arlo Smart plans
When you subscribe to an Arlo Smart plan, you get access to a lot of extra features for your Arlo Video Doorbell and other Arlo cameras.
People, animals, vehicles, packages, motion zones ✓
‡While free video storage isn’t available on the Arlo Video Doorbell, Arlo Pro 3, or Arlo Ultra, all other features of this plan still apply.
As good as the e911 feature is, you need to subscribe to a multi-camera plan to use it, even if you have only one camera. Because $9.99 a month is a high price to pay for cloud storage on one camera, it’s a good idea to hold off on a multi-camera plan until you have more than one Arlo security camera or video doorbell.
We didn’t include the Arlo Smart Elite Plan in our table since it’s only useful for storing the 4K video of the Arlo Ultra and isn’t ideal for the Arlo Video Doorbell.
The Arlo Video Doorbell gives the Nest Hello a run for its money by offering many of the same features in a cheaper package. It also has excellent video quality and works with a wide variety of smart home platforms. While the e911 service brings extra security to your home, it can be pricey to get the feature if you have only one camera.
Don’t let the lower price of the Arlo Audio Doorbell fool you—it will ultimately cost more once you get the required base station, and you won’t have all the bells and whistles of the video version. Still, it’s an excellent add-on if you already have Arlo security cameras.
Arlo doorbell FAQ
Can you live view Arlo?
Yes, you can view a live video feed from any Arlo Video Doorbell or Arlo security camera—even if you don’t have a subscription.
Do you need a base station for Arlo’s doorbells?
It depends on which doorbell you have.
The Arlo Video Doorbell doesn’t require a base station.
You need a base station if you have the Arlo Audio Doorbell.
Can I use the Arlo app without a subscription?
Yes, you get simple notifications when someone rings the doorbell or when the camera detects motion. You can also watch the live video feed and use two-way audio to speak with visitors at your door.
*Amazon.com list price as of 09/15/2020 at 10:00 a.m. (MT). Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Safewise.com utilizes paid Amazon links.
Certain content that appears on this site comes from Amazon. This content is provided “as is” and is subject to change or removal at any time.
†Nest Hello, Google, Google Assistant, and other related marks are trademarks of Google LLC.
Written by John Carlsen
John is a technology journalist with over seven years of experience researching, testing, and reviewing the latest tech. Before joining SafeWise in 2020, John was an editor for Top Ten Reviews specializing in home security and the smart home. Learn more