Although I’m confident that our home is covered when it comes to security, monitoring and protection, less can be said about my folks’ house. They have a wired house alarm and CCTV, but these are outdated and arguably no longer fit for purpose. It also means that they haven’t benefited from the emergence of smart home technology.
For me, I love the fact that I know what’s going on in my house no matter where I am in the world. Through various apps on my phone, I’m able to view live video inside and out, be alerted if a door is opened, turn lights on and off, check there hasn’t been a fire and turn on the central heating. Whilst smart home may be seen as a fad to some, it’s a way of life for us which has huge benefits in how we control and automate our lives.
So, in an attempt to part upgrade my parent’s house to the 21st Century, I’ve been working with the clever folks at Arlo to try out some of their smart home products – namely the Arlo Pro 2 Wire-Free HD Security Camera, the Arlo Audio Doorbell and the Arlo Smart Chime.
Combining these products together and using the Arlo App effectively creates a 100% wire-free smart front door or smart porch, which allows my folks to be notified of detection, watch live and recorded video and answer the front door no matter where they are.
Below, you’ll find my review of these three Arlo products. As a summary, I’ve been really impressed with how they work together and what they can do when everything functions as it should, however, unfortunately I’ve experienced a number of issues – particularly with the Doorbell and Chime – which has left me feeling slightly disappointed and frustrated.
The products are described as:
The Arlo Pro 2 Camera keeps an eye on your home while you’re away, in brilliant 1080p HD quality. Put the 100% wire-free, weather-resistant camera anywhere, indoors or out. Then, power it with the included rechargeable battery or plugged it in (when indoors) to access activity zones and 24/7 Continuous Video Recording upgrades. Use 2-way audio or remotely sound a 100+ device siren while catching every moment with night vision and advanced motion detection. You’ll even get motion and sound-activated alerts and 7 days of free cloud video recordings. Arlo Pro 2 works with Amazon Alexa to make your smart home security even more simple and effective.
The Arlo Audio Doorbell lets you respond to visitors, guests and delivery people right from your phone. Get calls on your smartphone or tablet when someone presses your Arlo Doorbell so you can greet guests, give instructions to delivery people or ward off intruders. Visitors can leave a message when you’re unable to answer the door, so you can listen at your convenience and when you’re too busy or otherwise unable to talk, select an instant response from a list of pre-recorded messages. The Doorbell works seamlessly with Arlo, Arlo Pro and Arlo Pro 2 to provide the optimal images and angles.
Add the Arlo Smart Chime to any indoor wall outlet to get instant chime alerts when someone presses your Arlo Audio Doorbell. The Arlo Smart Chime also features a wire-free design, instant motion and sound alerts from your Arlo Audio Doorbell, as well as adjustable volume, silent mode and a smart siren.
On opening the box, I discovered a number of different parts, including the Arlo Pro 2 Camera, a rechargeable battery, the Base Station, a wall mount, an indoor power adaptor, an indoor power cable, an Ethernet cable, fixings, a Quick Start Guide and window decals. Everything felt solid and well made, plus I really liked the aesthetically pleasing curves of the Camera.
After unwrapping everything and taking a look at the Quick Start Guide, it was time to set it up. The first thing I did was insert the battery into the Pro 2 Camera. Although it supposedly leaves the factory fully charged, I wanted to plug it in to ensure this was the case.
There’s a little button on the top of the camera which opens up the battery compartment for you to slot the battery in. Once the compartment is closed, you can then plug the charger into the back of the camera and turn it on at the plug socket.
Next, I connected the Base Station to a plug socket and to the router using the Ethernet cable, then waited for both the Power (left) and Internet (centre) LEDs to turn green. The Base Station acts as the hub for the Arlo system and allows devices – such as cameras and doorbells – to be connected to a WiFi network broadcast by the device. It also has a slot at the back for USB local storage backup and a very, very loud Siren.
I then downloaded the Arlo App on my Android phone, clicked ‘New to Arlo’, selected ‘Arlo (Wire-Free) and let the App discover the Base Station. After a couple of minutes and a few more steps, I’d registered my Base Station and had set up my account. You are given the option to upgrade to paid-for subscription plans which provide more features, however I stayed with the free one.
At this point, the Arlo Pro 2 Camera had a blue LED on the front, which indicated that the battery was fully charged. I could now link it to the Base Station using the App. To do so, I selected ‘Add New Device’ and chose ‘Arlo Camera Wire-Free’.
After checking for updates, I was instructed by the App to press the Sync button on the top of the Camera. After a minute or so, the App recognised the Camera and I was able to confirm that I wanted to add it to my system. This gave me my first view of the live feed of the camera, which I could see on the App.
The next step was finding a suitable location to place the Camera. As my plan was to connect the Doorbell, Chime and Camera together to monitor activity in and around the front porch area, it obviously made sense to place the camera somewhere outside by the front door.
After checking the positioning of the Camera using the live feed on my App (you can also use ‘Position Mode’), I settled for mounting it on the wall to the right of the door about 8 feet high. This way, I was able to get a good view of the porch area, but also see a large proportion of the front garden, including both gates.
In the box, you’ll find a magnetic mount which you attach to your preferred location using the included fixings. For me, this meant drilling a hole in the wall, inserting a rawl plug and screw, then sliding the magnetic mount over the screw. Once attached, you simply place the Camera against the mount and let the magnets do the rest. You’re then able to adjust the Camera on the mount to get the viewing angle you desire.
Setup had maybe taken around 15 minutes to this point, with the actual fitting of the Camera less than five. The fact that the Camera can be used wire-free, as it is powered by the rechargeable battery, helped to make installation quick and easy as there was no messing around with cables. This was something that really appealed to me when first looking for a camera system as I didn’t want be drilling through walls to run cables through.
That being said, you can have the Camera plugged into an indoor AC power outlet if you so wish. This has the benefit of meaning you don’t need to recharge the battery manually, plus it also unlocks additional features – more on that later. There’s also the option of buying an outdoor AC power cable to use on external sockets if required. For now though, I’m sticking with the battery.
So, what can the Camera do? Well, firstly, you can see a live feed of your Camera whenever you want and wherever you are thanks to the App. Once the App is launched on your phone, you just need to click the play button for the Camera and it launches into a live video stream. This is great for reassurance and comfort, for instance, checking in on your home when you’re away.
Secondly, the Arlo Pro 2 camera detects, and alerts you, if there’s motion. This is arguably the key feature of any smart security Camera as you want to be notified when something is happening as opposed to finding out later. When the Camera detects movement, it starts recording to the cloud and notifies your phone via the App.
You can then launch the app to see what’s happening, either via Live view or by going into the ‘Library’ and seeing the saved videos. These saved videos are stored in the cloud (free cloud recording for seven days, but you can pay to upgrade and use the USB storage in the Base Station) which allows you to do things like watch, share or download. This is pretty handy if, for instance, you need to keep a video to show the police.
Over the course of trying out the Arlo camera, I found the detection to be pretty good. It picked up everything I expected it to detect and there were very few false detections – any of the latter could be attributed to a plant moving in the wind or an insect close to the lens.
Luckily, I’ve not spotted anything sinister happening in the early hours, but I’d have the confidence that anything like this would be detected if it was going on. In reality, the camera has captured the likes of delivery drivers dropping off packages, the postman / postwoman delivering letters, my mum cutting the grass and my grandma watering the plants. Riveting stuff!
Not everything is perfect with detections though. I’ve noticed that the recording sometimes has a delay, which means that you can miss footage from the start, particularly if someone is walking quickly. Secondly, the detection range is a bit shorter than I hoped for – movement is only picked up where the brick driveway meets the concrete path, which is less than the 15 feet away detection range Arlo advertise.
The Arlo Pro 2 Camera has a 1080p resolution, which allows you to capture good quality video footage in high definition. Overall, I found the image to be clear and crisp during the daytime, which is ultimately what you want when keeping an eye on your property. At night, when the camera uses Night Vision, things are more grainy, softer and less defined, but that’s not surprising. On the whole, I’d be fairly comfortable and confident that faces can be picked out and recognised when they’re in close range to the Camera.
The App also allows you to pan and zoom, which is useful for focusing in on items. It has a 8x digital zoom, which is activated with a pinching motion on your phone / tablet screen. This allows you to move around the video and zoom in to get a better look. Obviously image quality decreases the closer you get, but it’s still really useful for detecting and identifying people.
Video quality can be impacted by a few things, such as lighting, location and signal. There’s a few things you can tinker with in the App to ensure you get the right balance. For instance, the ‘Power Management’ setting gives you three options, which allow you to trade battery life against video quality – mine is currently set at ‘Best Battery Life’ which can reduce video quality. It’s also worth noting that the camera has a 130 degrees field of view and there’s minimal warping or distortion at the edges.
I mentioned before about additional features if the Camera is plugged in. I’ve not done this, but supposedly you get non-stop continuous recording, the ability to designate motion/activity zones, and the 3-Second Look Back. I’ll admit to being a bit aggrieved that I can’t access these due to using the Camera in wire-free mode, but I guess that these would drain the battery too quickly. Therefore, the lesson is probably to plug in the Camera if at all possible to unlock these additional features.
Talking about the battery, I love the fact that the Camera is 100% wire-free and just works on a rechargeable battery. However, this does mean that you have to charge the battery when it gets low. Handily, you get an App notification when the battery is running low, but then there’s a manual process to remove the battery, charge it up and put it back into the Camera. I’ve found that it probably takes three hours to fully charge the camera from nearly dead, which I think is pretty speedy.
Arlo claim that the batteries last approx 3-6 months with average use, however I’ve found this to be far from the case. For us, the Camera battery has needed charging at least once a month. I wouldn’t say usage has been excessive either – probably 15 or so recordings over a 24 hour period. As such, I’ve taken to turning the Camera off via the app when I know there’s going to be heavy usage to save battery life.
When it comes to the Camera and Base Station, there’s plenty of features and settings which can be explored via the App. Picking out a couple of them, I like how you can invite others to the account, so you can have one master admin account, then a number of sub accounts with different access rights. You can also set your system to arm / disarm based on schedules or geofencing, so, for instance, your cameras will turn on when you leave the house.
Another thing I’ve done is link Arlo to my Google Home and Google Chromecast. This means I can use voice commands to show a live video feed on my TV. Granted, this is a bit buggy – it takes about 20 seconds to fully load and only works once every five tries – but it’s still pretty cool when it does!
The beauty of a system like Arlo is that you can constantly add to it with other devices to get your smart home exactly how you like it. Along with the camera, I was also sent the Arlo Audio Doorbell and Arlo Smart Chime. Here’s what I did with them…
Arlo Audio Doorbell and Arlo Smart Chime
By combining the two products above with the Pro 2 Camera, I was able to effectively create what I’m calling a ‘smart front door’. This has allowed me to manage and monitor activity in and around the front porch, which has benefits such as being notified of potential intruders and speaking directly to people delivering packages when out.
In the box for the Arlo Doorbell, you get the Doorbell, a Quick Start Guide, two AA batteries, a screwdriver, wall screws and rawl plugs, wire extensions, wire screws and wire nuts. The Arlo Chime box simply consists of the Arlo Chime and the Quick Start Guide. Initial impressions were good. Everything felt solidly made, I was surprised that the Chime was quite compact and I really liked the look of the stylish, modern Doorbell.
Just like with the Camera, the App is used to add the other devices by following the step-by-step instructions. After selecting the Doorbell, you’re instructed to insert two AA batteries, wait for the LED to turn white, then allow the App to scan for the device. Once the Doorbell is found and firmware has updated, you can name it and choose a Camera (if you have one) to pair it with – this is what I did.
You’re also given the option as to whether you want to use your existing wired chime or link to the Arlo Chime. I went with the second option as I had the Arlo Chime, but it’s worthwhile noting that the Doorbell will connect to an mechanical or digital chime if you have one. By using the existing wires, you’re able to use the Arlo Doorbell to replace your existing doorbell whilst still triggering your current chime.
The next step was to fix the back section of the Doorbell to the door using the screws (and rawl plugs if needed) that came in the box. Once secured, you slide on the front section of the doorbell, then tighten the two together using a little screw found at the bottom of the unit. This was a simple process and took less than ten minutes. The doorbell was now active, but I needed to do one more thing – install the Arlo Chime.
Installation of the Chime is also done via the App. You navigate to the section to add a new device and select the Chime. You then plug it into a socket, turn the plug on and wait for the LED to appear. The App will then scan for the device, connect to the Base Station and check for updates. Once done, you can name the Chime and pair it with the Doorbell. Again, this was very easy and took a couple of minutes.
So, what happens when the exciting moment comes for the Doorbell to be pressed? Well, firstly, the Chime pretty instantly (less than a second) makes a “Ding Dong” sound inside the house like you’d expect from a normal, non-smart Doorbell. Nothing too innovative there, however…
…a second or so later, you also receive a phone call on your smartphone with the option of Accepting or Declining. Having not used a smart doorbell before, I’ll admit to being very giddy when this first popped up. The doorbell actually rang my phone. Crazy?!
If you Accept the call, then a live feed from the paired Camera automatically pops up on your phone screen, along with a couple of different buttons which allow you to put the call on speaker, send automated messages or put the call on mute. If the call is Declined or not answered, then the Doorbell asks the person to leave a voice message, which can then be listened to via the App ‘Library’.
As the Doorbell has two-way audio, you can effectively have a conversation with the person at the door through your phone. This is particularly handy if you’re not in a position to answer the door, for instance, you might be at work or might be otherwise preoccupied inside the house with the kids.
If you don’t fancy talking or aren’t in a position to answer, then you can also send quick replies. These are automated messages already programmed into the app which speak to the person at the door through the speaker on the Doorbell.
Being able to communicate with whoever is at the door – whether it’s via two-way audio or the quick replies – from wherever you are is a very useful feature. As we do most of our shopping online and have multiple deliveries per week, being able to communicate with the courier and keep an eye on any left parcels is a game changer.
During day to day usage, I was impressed with the Arlo system – when it worked properly. I was able to receive notifications and view footage of any movement around the door directly on my phone, plus also interact with anyone who pressed the Doorbell. Ultimately, this increases security of your property and reduces the chances of missed deliveries etc.
One of the unexpected things I found was that the Doorbell also includes a motion sensor. When someone approaches the door and movement is detected, the white ring around the Doorbell button flashes white. This acts as a guide for people coming towards the door and effectively directs them to press the button – a very handy feature for when it’s dark outside.
This has another function too though. Using the ‘Motion Settings’ in the App, you’re able to pair the Doorbell with other devices. I’ve got it set up so that when motion is detected, I receive a notification on my phone and the Camera starts recording. This means that I’m very unlikely to miss activity around the door, even when the Doorbell hasn’t been pressed.
There’s also other personalisation you can do on the App, such as changing the Chime melody, increasing the volume, changing the language and selecting whether you want to be on mute or speaker when the call is answered. You’re also able to see the battery level of the Doorbell, which means that you shouldn’t be in a position where the Doorbell doesn’t work due to dead batteries.
Although I really like the way the Doorbell, Chime and Camera all interact with each other and have discovered numerous benefits of having the system, I’ve encountered a few issues and do have some improvements. For instance, I’d personally like the chime inside the house to be louder and would love the ability to record my own personalised quick replies rather than use the standard messages which I find to be limited.
The audio from the Doorbell speaker would also benefit from being a tad clearer and louder, as it can be difficult to hear if there’s noise nearby. Another issue, which is quite fundamental in nature, is that the Doorbell (and associated devices) didn’t always act as they should. This included:
- Receiving an App notification that the Doorbell had been pressed, but then not receiving the actual phone call.
- The Chime not making a noise inside the house when the Doorbell had been pressed.
- The live feed from the Camera didn’t always appear on the App after I’d answered the call.
- Occasionally the video on the App froze quite quickly after answering the call so I didn’t have a live view, only a static image.
This was obviously very frustrating. Reliability of service and confidence in the product is critical for something like this when you’re replacing non-smart tech with smart tech – particularly when you’re trying to sell the benefits of smart tech to others (i.e. my folks) who are less used to it.
So, if something doesn’t act like it should, particularly when there’s no noticeable reason or explanation why, you can be left feeling slightly unsure of the product. Despite speaking to Arlo Support on multiple occasions, I’ve been unable to get everything working perfectly 100% of the time – judging from the posts in the Community forum, I’m not the only one.
On the whole, I’m impressed but ultimately disappointed. Hopefully, the bugs I’m experiencing will be fixed in future software updates and everything will be hunky dory. However, at the moment, I’m left with a Doorbell and Chime that only work some of the time – this puts me in a worse position than when I had a non-smart Doorbell.
I really love the idea of the ‘Smart Front Door’ by connecting these three Arlo products and have seen big benefits in having this setup, but until it works as it should 100% of the time, it’s sadly more of a hassle than an improvement.
If bought separately, the Arlo Pro 2 Wire-Free HD Security Camera (including the Base Station) costs £249.99, the Arlo Doorbell is £79.99 and the Arlo Chime is £50. However, I have seen that you can get a bundle which includes all of these three products for £365 from Amazon.
I’m really torn about my overall views of the Arlo products. Part of me really likes them – on the occasions they’ve all worked together, combining the Camera, Doorbell and Chime have created great way to monitor and manage all activity around the front door. However, that’s been the main issue – there’s been too many occasions when they haven’t worked as they should, which has led to frustration and annoyance.
Installation was really simple. The App talks you through everything you need to do, and the fact that everything is wire-free cuts down so much time and effort compared to wired products. I also found it easy to manage devices through the App, and on the whole, found the App to be robust and intuitive to use.
I’ve found the Arlo Pro 2 Camera to be the device I’ve had least issue with. It’s worked as I’ve expected it to, with minimal downtime or other problems. The detection has been good and I’ve been impressed with video quality in the daytime, although it’s not as good at night. Additional features like being weather resistant and two-way audio, as well as having a rechargeable battery, make this a camera I’d be happy to protect my home.
The Arlo Doorbell and Chime have been a bit more problematic. When they work as they should, it’s a great system and allows us to not only know when someone is at the door in the traditional way, but also see and interact with those people via smartphone. However, on too many occasions, the Doorbell hasn’t rung our phones or activated the chime, meaning we’re left with a smart solution which arguably isn’t fit for purpose.
Overall, I want to love these three Arlo products and am well on the way to doing so – when they work. At the time of writing, I’m happy with the Pro 2 Camera and would recommend, but the Doorbell and Chime are just too unreliable on a day to day basis. Hopefully a software update will rectify these issues, but until then, I’m left a bit frustrated with a system that only works as it should some of the time.
The DADventurer Star Rating
Pro 2 Camera 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Doorbell And Chime 3 out of 5 Stars
Review: Disclosure: The Arlo Pro 2 Camera, Doorbell and Chime were sent to me by Arlo with the purpose of writing an honest review in exchange for the product.
Affiliate: Disclosure: This post includes an affiliate link(s).