Arlo recently announced two new security cameras that we plan to review after launch:
Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free, which is a battery-powered version of the Arlo Video Doorbell, though it still works with doorbell wiring. It will become available during the 2020 holiday season for $199.99.
Arlo Essential XL Spotlight, which has a battery life of up to 12 months, double that of the Arlo Essential Spotlight. It costs $149.99 and launches on October 18, 2020.
Bottom line: Arlo’s wireless cameras are hard to beat
Arlo was one of the first companies to release battery-powered security cameras way back in 2014, and its years of experience show in its latest products. Among these products is our favorite Arlo camera: the Arlo Essential Spotlight, which doesn’t require a base station and is the company’s most affordable option.
This is good news for a brand that tends to be otherwise too pricey for most folks. But even on the more expensive models, Arlo backs up the cost with beautiful hardware that’s easy to use and install. Arlo also has some of the best video quality among security cameras.
But overall, we think that Arlo’s wireless security cameras are a great choice, whether you want to keep an eye on package deliveries, check in with your pet, or welcome the kids home after school. Continue reading to find out what makes (and breaks) Arlo.
We researched every Arlo security camera we could find before writing this review. This was a tall order because Arlo currently makes nine camera models. The biggest challenge is that Arlo’s website often lists older, sometimes unavailable models alongside new models.
Next, we narrowed our list to include four of Arlo’s latest models (released in 2019 and 2020) and the Arlo Q, which is somehow still available despite a 2015 release date. While not our primary focus, we also sprinkled some info about other Arlo cameras throughout our review for curious folks.
Finally, we looked for unique attributes that make Arlo worth buying over other brands. We also focused on user reviews, which paint a favorable picture of Arlo’s products. For more information on how we rate products, check out our review methodology.
While there are slight variations in the execution of Arlo’s core features, every Arlo camera can do these things:
The Arlo app allows you to access and control your cameras using your smartphone.
Night vision uses infrared light so your Arlo cameras can see and record in the dark. Models like the Arlo Essential, Arlo Pro 3, and Arlo Ultra also have a bright LED light for color video at night.
Motion detection allows Arlo cameras to save battery power by recording only when there’s motion in front of the camera.
Two-way audio allows you to speak with people near the camera, which is perfect for checking on the kids during your lunch break.
Battery-powered cameras are the rule at Arlo, not the exception. This means that the majority of Arlo’s security cameras have a battery that lasts up to six months between charges. Only the Arlo Q and Arlo Video Doorbell require a power cable.
By using a battery, there are practically endless places you can install an Arlo security camera outside your home like fences, trees, and sheds. We also like that the mounting hardware for Arlo cameras is easy to install, so you don’t need to spend more than a few minutes placing your security camera.
All of Arlo's wire-free cameras are weatherproof. You can install them anywhere indoors and outdoors.
Cloud video storage
You can view live video in the Arlo app anytime without a subscription, but Arlo gives you extra features and higher-quality video storage with its paid Arlo Smart plans. Here’s a quick overview:
Info current as of 07/24/2020. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
‡While free video storage isn’t available on the Arlo Essential, Arlo Pro 3, Arlo Ultra, or Arlo Video Doorbell, all other free features without a plan still apply.
A fascinating feature in Arlo Smart is the e911 emergency call service that comes with multi-camera plans. This clears a path for a quick police response to your home instead of your smartphone location during an emergency. It’s not a substitute for professional security monitoring but can streamline 911 calls.
Does Arlo record all the time?
You can subscribe to Arlo's Continuous Video Recording (CVR) plan to access 24/7 recording. It costs $9.99 per month for 14-day storage or $19.99 a month for 30-day storage. But CVR works only with select Arlo cameras using a wired power option: Arlo Ultra, Arlo Pro 3, Arlo Pro 2, Arlo Pro, Arlo Q, Arlo Q Plus, and Arlo Baby.
As Arlo cameras increase in price, they gain higher video resolution—while the core features such as wire-free installation and color night vision remain mostly the same. This is different from competitors like Ring and Google Nest, which tend to standardize resolution across cameras, regardless of cost.
By offering plenty of video resolutions, Arlo can cater to specific customer tastes. For example, a techie might buy an Arlo Ultra for access to stunning 4K video. But a new parent can save a little cash by opting for the lower resolution of an Arlo Essential in nurseries and playrooms.
Wider field of view
Arlo's more expensive models also capture more detail and cover more ground using a wider field of view. A high field of view usually distorts video, but Arlo's software corrects distortion better than most brands.
We have a love/hate relationship with Arlo’s hubs. We absolutely love that they improve battery life compared to security cameras that use only Wi-Fi. They also enable local video storage by connecting a storage device to the hub.
But base stations have a major drawback: cost. An Arlo Smart Hub accounts for around $100 of Arlo’s starter kits’ price—the same amount as the Ring Stick Up Cam Battery. This extra expense makes most brands a better value than Arlo since you can buy more cameras for less.
Here’s a quick list of Arlo cameras that require a base station (not including many discontinued models):
Arlo Pro 3
Arlo Pro 2
Fortunately, Arlo sells some stand-alone cameras that don’t use a base station:
Arlo Essential Spotlight
Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight
Arlo Video Doorbell
We recommend choosing a stand-alone camera if you want to save some cash. But the base station is the best way to record local video without a cloud subscription, which saves more money over the long run. Depending on the local storage capacity you have, you can start saving money in 2–4 months (compared to cloud storage).
While most Arlo cameras use a battery for wire-free operation, some models also use an optional solar panel or power cable to supplement the battery. Two Arlo cameras don’t use batteries at all: Arlo Video Doorbell and Arlo Q.
The Arlo Essential Spotlight is our new favorite camera from Arlo because it’s the company’s first truly affordable wireless camera. The savings come since the camera doesn’t require a base station, which adds a lot to the overall price of most Arlo cameras.
Arlo Essential isn’t as affordable as the Ring Stick Up Cam Battery or the upcoming Wyze Cam Outdoor. Still, it comes with everything we love about Arlo cameras like a spotlight for color video at night, easy mounting on practically any surface, and Arlo’s outstanding support for smart home devices.
The Essential doesn’t have any wired power options to enable continuous video recording. But you can buy a solar panel accessory so you don’t have to take it down for recharging as often. It also lacks the automatic tracking of the Pro 3 and Ultra, so it’s harder to follow the action in a video.
Arlo Pro 2
Arlo still sells an older camera that closely matches the Arlo Essential in features: the Arlo Pro 2. Plus, it qualifies for Arlo's free seven-day cloud storage, which doesn't come with newer cameras. The two-pack on Amazon is currently a better value than buying two Arlo Essentials.
It’s worth noting that the Arlo Pro 3 fits perfectly between the Arlo Essential and Arlo Ultra with regards to its features.
The crisp 1440p resolution (2K) is better than most 1080p security cameras on the market but not as detailed as Ultra’s superior 4K video. The field of view is another area where Arlo Pro 3 shines. Its 160º field of view is wide enough to watch over more area than the Essential—but again, it’s not as capable as the Ultra.
The biggest disadvantage of Arlo Pro 3 is its price. Because this camera requires a base station, you need to already own a compatible Arlo Smart Hub or buy a kit that includes the base station. Sadly, the base station only comes in a kit with a two-pack of cameras instead of a single camera. Even buying the camera and Smart Hub separately is a bad deal because it costs almost as much as the one-pack kit for the Arlo Ultra.
We think the Arlo Pro 3 is perfect for folks who want a happy medium between average and overkill, but the cost of entry is probably too high for people without the base station.
Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight
The Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight (about $250) is much less discreet than the regular Pro 3 because it sports a super bright LED floodlight that's perfect for outdoor locations. Best of all, it doesn't require a base station or a two-pack, so it's the cheapest way to get an Arlo Pro 3 for your yard.
The Arlo Ultra is the best 4K Ultra HD security camera on the market. It’s the only completely wireless camera that records 4K video that we’ve come across so far. This gives it an edge over competitors because it’s just as easy to install as Arlo’s other battery-powered security cameras.
We’re also big fans of its ultra-wide 180º field of view, which pairs perfectly with the 2160p video resolution to capture more detail. This means you can zoom in on the video to identify intruders or spot discrepancies without the image getting too pixelated. Arlo also uses some clever programming to remove fisheye distortions caused by the 180º lens.
The biggest flaw of the Arlo Ultra is that you need to pay 50%–60% more to store 4K video in the cloud using the Arlo Smart Elite plan. But you can subscribe to the cheaper Arlo Smart Premier plan if you don’t need 4K video with this camera.
The Arlo Q lacks the wireless portability of the company’s best cameras but outperforms them in one key area: cloud storage. Because the Arlo Q is one of Arlo’s older models, it still qualifies for free 7-day cloud storage, making it a great alternative to local storage and paid subscriptions.
We also like this camera because it’s very affordable, you don’t need a base station, and you don’t need to charge a battery. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have local storage, making it wholly reliant on an internet connection to work properly.
For an alternate power source and local storage, check out the Arlo Q Plus, which uses a Power over Ethernet (POE) cable. POE eliminates the need for a Wi-Fi connection, which is very useful if you already have a crowded Wi-Fi network.
Although any Arlo camera can watch over a nursery, the Arlo Baby sports an adorable design with baby-specific features like crying alerts, air sensors, a colored night-light, and a music player. Unfortunately, many baby monitors are a better value.
The Arlo Video Doorbell has the fewest placement options of any Arlo security camera, but it’s one of our favorite smart doorbells because it comes with a wide field of view and a quick reply feature that helps you chat up visitors more easily. It also doesn’t require a base station unless you want local storage.
It’s not as affordable as the Ring Video Doorbell or as advanced as the Nest Hello. It still manages to fill a niche between its two biggest competitors by offering e911 emergency calls and video with a square aspect ratio.
Arlo sells a variety of solar panel charges depending on the Arlo wireless camera you have. These are a great way to improve battery life in locations where you normally need a ladder to reach. It’s also nice for places where power cables can’t reach.
Arlo Security Light
The Arlo Security Light uses a motion sensor to activate a spotlight outside your home. When it detects motion, it can trigger Arlo camera recordings for improved video quality. It works on its own too, with a unique LED light that can shine or flash in different colors. This is something that no other motion detector light does. It comes with a Wi-Fi adapter but is incompatible with Arlo’s other hubs.
Arlo Audio Doorbell and Arlo Chime
The Arlo Audio Doorbell adds a battery-powered doorbell to regular Arlo security cameras that use a base station. It still uses two-way voice to communicate with visitors but lacks a built-in camera. The Arlo Chime is an accessory specific to the Audio Doorbell, which doesn’t require an existing doorbell in battery-only mode. Although these are nice add-ons to an Arlo camera system, the Arlo Video Doorbell is the better option because it doesn’t rely on an extra camera or base station.
Arlo’s camera selection is diverse, and each model brings a lot to the table, but we think the Arlo Essential Spotlight is the best choice for most folks. It’s affordable and weatherproof, making it ideal for any location in or out of your home. It doesn’t have free video storage, but thankfully Arlo’s plans are very competitive with Ring and Nest on price.
Still, we recommend other Arlo cameras if you have the budget or simply want better video quality. Feel free to browse our FAQ below or visit our wireless security camera review to learn more about Arlo and how it compares to other brands.
Arlo security camera FAQ
Can you use Arlo cameras without a subscription?
Yes, every Arlo camera comes with features that work without a subscription:
Live video viewing
Local storage (for cameras that use a base station)
Local recording on non-base station cameras
The Arlo Essential, Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight, and Arlo Video Doorbell also work with a base station (if you buy one separately) to enable local video storage.
Does Arlo record for free?
Most Arlo cameras can record free video using one of two methods:
Every Arlo camera that uses a base station can record local video when you connect a USB drive or microSD card to the base station.
All of Arlo’s earliest cameras (many of which are still available, like the Arlo Q) come with free seven-day video storage that doesn’t require a subscription. But newer cameras like the Arlo Essential, Arlo Pro 3, Arlo Video Doorbell, and Arlo Ultra come with a free trial for cloud storage.
Will Arlo work without an internet connection?
Although local storage still saves videos without the internet, you can’t view video with the app, view live video, save videos to the cloud, or adjust settings without an active internet connection.
To view local video without the internet, you must connect the USB drive or microSD card to a computer or set up Direct Storage Access using the Arlo app. Direct Storage Access connects the base station to your home Wi-Fi network so you can view footage as long as your phone is on the same network.
Arlo Go doesn't need Wi-Fi
Arlo Go uses a cellular LTE connection to access the internet, but you must buy it through a mobile provider like Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile. Despite its portability, we think Arlo's other wireless cameras are better choices for most folks.
How far can Arlo be from the base station?
Arlo says the cameras’ max range is up to 300 feet away from the base station as long as you have direct line sight. This distance decreases with each object (ceilings, walls, trees, furniture) between the camera and base station.
How do you use the Arlo app?
All you have to do is download the app to your smartphone (Android or iOS).
Once you install the Arlo app, you enter your email address and set up a password.
Arlo sends a verification email to your inbox, and once you click the included link, you’re ready to go.
From the app, you can access recordings and live video, conduct two-way communication, change settings, and zoom or digitally pan the camera.
Can multiple users access an Arlo camera at one time?
Arlo makes it easy to add users:
Go into the Arlo app, access Settings, and select Grant Access.
Next, select Add and enter the name and email address of the person you want to add.
After the person activates their verification link, they can use the Arlo app to access the camera.
You can decide what kind of rights each user has.
If you have more than one camera, you can select which users have access to which cameras.
*Amazon.com list price as of 07/24/2020 at 9:18 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.
†Google, Google Assistant, and other related marks are trademarks of Google LLC.
Written by Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past six. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month testing and evaluating security products and strategies. Her safety expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her work and contributions in places like TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, HGTV, MSN, and an ever-growing library of radio and TV clips. Learn more