Some people don’t really care much for full home automation. But even though you may think that most smart devices don’t have to be all that smart to be useful, you’ll have to admit that the smart features of the Arlo Smart Home Security Camera System make a whole lot of sense.
With the Arlo, you begin to realize that a security system has to have smart features. You start to see why standard home automation capabilities such as remote control and triggered responses are necessary.
Here are the components you get along with a brief description of their features and capabilities:
- You get a base station and 4 cameras, with the base station functioning as the hub. You also get a cable to connect the base station to your router, magnetic mounts and other mounting hardware for the 4 cameras, and 4 batteries for each camera. The base station can accommodate up to 5 cameras, so you can buy an extra one for this system.
- The bundling offers you considerable price savings. If you buy a single camera kit and then add the 3 other cameras separately, you end up paying at least $30 and that’s not counting the delivery charges. But this 4-camera kit comes with free shipping on Amazon.
- The base station and the cameras come in a glossy white plastic finish. The base station is a bit on the large size, but it’s not too big at all. The cameras are more discreet, as it can fit in the palm of your hand. The weight of the cameras is substantial enough to promise a high quality build.
- These are wireless cameras, so they connect to your base station without having to put in wires. The connection range for the cameras is supposed to be 300 feet from the base station, but that’s only under optimum conditions when you don’t have walls in between. A more accurate assessment of the range is about 150 feet.
- The cameras can just simply sit on any flat surface, and there’s tripod adaptor at the bottom for some other mounting options. There’s also a magnetic mount so you can put it up on a wall. There’s no need to mount it anywhere near a wall socket, as it’s battery-operated. And it can be used for indoor and outdoor locations, as it is hardy enough to withstand rain and snow. For outdoor use, the camera’s operating temperature ranges from 14 degrees F to 122 degrees. That’s about -9 degrees to 50 degrees in Celsius.
- The camera has night vision capability, which switches on automatically when its sensors detect very low ambient light. And it also has a motion detector, and you can adjust its sensitivity. The camera has a 130-dgree field of vision, with a 720p resolution.
- The system comes with a website interface which you can access with a Windows PC or tablet. But you can’t use a Windows smartphone for the web interface. You’ll need to use an iOS or an Android phone, and you can download the appropriate app.
- You start with the base station. You have to put it in a place where you can plug it in a wall socket while you also attach the Ethernet cable to the router.
- Then you can download the app (which is probably more practical) for your Android or iOS Smartphone, or use the web interface with your home PC or laptop. You’ll need the app or web interface to set up an account on the Arlo website.
- Then put in the batteries for each camera. Then you sync the camera with the base station. That’s also a simple process, because all you need to do is to press the sync button on the base station, then you just press the sync button on each camera.
- The system also has a battery monitor that tells you when you’re low on battery power.
The setup of the Arlo is among the simplest of all home automation setup procedures. If you’re not yet familiar with the procedure then it may take you about 10 minutes to complete it. But if you’re setting up your 2nd Arlo in your home, the entire process takes only 5 minutes because you won’t have to figure anything out.
Just in case it hasn’t sunk in yet, you need a nice Internet connection at home. And to monitor your Arlo system even when you’re not home, you’ll need an iOS or Android smartphone, or a laptop.
Using the Arlo System
With the app and the 4 synced cameras, you now have all that you need to keep your home secure from burglars, even if you’re not home. With 4 cameras, you can have camera by your front door and the others can be put inside the house or by the back door through the kitchen.
With the app, you can now see all your connected cameras on the home screen display. You can use the app to access as many cameras as you want, although you’ll need a separate base station for each 5 cameras. The fault free Arlo plan offers 5 synced cameras, and your video recordings are kept in the cloud for 7 days. But for just $10 a month, you can keep your videos for up to 30 days, and you can monitor up to 10 cameras. For just $15 a month, the videos are available for 60 days, and your app gives you control for up to 15 cameras.
These cameras can act like web cams, so you can have live streams. Interestingly, it offers play and pause options on these live feeds, which enable Arlo to claim a 4 to 6-month life span for the cameras. The live stream video can play in a small, medium, or full screen window. You can also adjust the brightness of the live stream mode. You can also manually record a video of the live stream, or take a photo whenever you want.
On the app, you have a library section so you can access the saved videos on any given day covered by your Arlo plan. The mode section lets you turn on the video recordings depending on what the motion sensor picks up, or have them function on a schedule. You can set it up so that it records clips every time it senses movement, or you can have it not record any video clips at all. And you can also adjust the sensitivity of the motion detector, so you’re not bothered when a strong wind causes tree branches and plants to move.
In the separate settings section, you can manage your cloud storage and push notifications. Here you can also adjust the video quality of your clips. You have three options:
- High quality. This offers the clearest images, but you reduce the battery life considerably.
- Balanced. This is the compromise video quality settings so you have reasonable video quality and battery life.
- Best life. This setting offers the longest lifespan for your batteries, but the video quality is at the very minimum.
When your motion detector senses something, you receive a push notification on your smartphone. You can then use the app to see the live stream. What’s more, you can download the clippings and then send them to the police for evidence. They can use the clippings while the search your neighborhood to apprehend the burglary suspect.
This system does offer a lot for those who may not be all that enamored with home automation. For one, it’s quite a good investment, and it does offer a heck of a bang for your buck. And the free 7-day recording option can work for most people. After all, you can just download the videos to your own computer, or send clippings of recordings as attachments in an email for the police.
It’s also a godsend for the non-tech savvy, because its setup procedures are a piece of cake. It’s just so simple, and even those who are well-versed in home automation will wish that all smart device systems are as easy as the Arlo to setup. It’s very fast to do, and there’s simply no problem that should come up.
It’s also very easy to use, and if you have an Android or an iOS (which basically covers most people) then you’re all set. And even of you don’t have these smartphones (why you’re using a Windows smartphone or a Blackberry is another issue entirely), you can always use your laptop to access your Arlo through the web interface. Even Windows smartphone users have some limited capabilities, as while live streams aren’t available in real time you can still access your record clips. So as long as you have web connectivity wherever you are, you have control over your Arlo system.
The wireless aspect is also nice, as you can change the location of the cameras whenever you want without having to rearrange the wiring as well. It also helps that the cameras are unobtrusive, and yet it look good enough if you put it in your home.
The videos, even in the “Balanced” setting, offer good enough quality images so that people in the videos can be recognized. This is true even for night vision videos. The ability to download is also a truly terrific option, and this isn’t a feature that’s available in all home security system (though it probably ought to be).
Finally, you’re sent an alert about 10 to 30 seconds after the motion sensor detects movement. That’s a fast reaction time for these things. You’re also sent an email with a camera snapshot, and clicking that image lets you play that video without having to go through the login process to the Arlo website.
It’s not exactly perfect, and that’s immediately noticeable when you don’t use an iOS or Android smartphone. Presumably it should allow Windows phone users to use the web interface just like this is possible for Windows tablets, but for the moment using the Windows smartphones automatically requires you to download the app instead.
While the use of the battery is a good idea (it lets you set up the camera on a tree branch), there should be an electrical cord option for indoor use so that there’s no worry about battery life. And speaking of battery life, the battery power monitor seems unreliable. It may show full power even after several weeks in “best video” mode, and yet when you take it out of the house and into the cold it will display a low-battery status. Put it back inside, and it reverts to full battery. So you should have 4 batteries on standby for each camera, just in case.
Its lack of integration options is also a bit grating. You can’t automatically use it to start video recording when your smoke detectors sense fire, nor can you use it to automatically light up the area where your cameras detect movement. And if you’re already using a home automation system through a single app, you’ll need to use the Arlo app separately.
This is the home security automation system for you when you’re not a real fan of home automation in the first place. It’s a standalone device, so it doesn’t integrate with other home automation systems or smart devices. But if you’re not planning to have a complete system with automated lights and thermostats, then this is ideal. It offers a lot more advantages than disadvantages.
Basically, the Arlo Smart Home Security Camera System exemplifies just why you need home automation these days, and especially for security. While it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that some people would like, all in all it offers good value for money and with it you can keep a pretty good watch over your home when you’re at work.