The Arlo Video doorbell is one of the best wireless video doorbells you can buy. It boasts a high-res 1536×1536 camera, a wide-angle 180-degree lens, a long-lasting 3-month+ battery, high-powered infrared LEDs (night vision), and a modern weatherproof design. Oh, and it takes about five minutes to set up and can be linked to other smart home devices, like Amazon Echo, to alert you when someone’s at the door.
In short, it’s a great product for anyone looking to add a wireless camera to their front door. But it’s not perfect.
See also: Arlo Pro 2 review.
HD 1536×1536 camera
Wide-angle 180-degree lens
Infrared night vision
Customisable motion detection
Works with other smart home devices
No Chime devices included
Slow to respond
Is it a good doorbell?
Yes, but not in the traditional sense.
As a tool that alerts when someone is at the door, it’s kind of a backwards step from a dumb doorbell. It’s slow (I’ll come to that in a bit) and doesn’t come with a speaker. Two pretty big misses.
But that’s not the point here; video interaction is the obvious advantage. The ability to see, on your smartphone, who’s at the door is the exact benefit you’re paying for. And with that in mind, the (awfully named) Arlo Essential Wire-Free Video Doorbell is a smash hit.
The HD camera is ?
The camera is great. Delivering 1536×1536 pixels of clarity whenever anyone is at the door makes it one of the best wireless smart doorbells you can buy right now. The 180-degree lens is another plus-point too, providing you with a 1:1 aspect ratio video that allows you to see a person from head to toe or a package on the ground.
The combination of the wide-angle lens and HD camera, produces a high-quality video stream that’s more than detailed enough for you to recognise who is at your door.
The built-in microphone and speaker are decent too, though there’s nothing special going on here. They’re clear enough to easily have a conversation with someone at your door, and that’s all you really need.
It’s a bit slow to respond
The Arlo Essential Wire-Free Video Doorbell is let down by its sluggishness. There’s a delay of about six-seconds from when the doorbell is pressed to your mobile phone, or a connected smart speaker alerting you that someone is at the door.
Admittedly, six seconds isn’t that long, and most people will wait that long. But it’s an issue when you’re not at home, as you have to add several more seconds as you fetch your phone out of your pocket and answer the call or race to the door. I’ve nearly missed deliveries from couriers because of this delay.
I don’t understand what the problem is here, either. I have fast and reliable Fibre internet at home, with the latency on my wireless network is measured in milliseconds, not seconds (like most people). It’s a definite negative of the setup and one of the few examples where a traditional doorbell trumps it.
The Chime accessory is way too expensive
A possible solution to this delay is to buy the Chime accessory that will serve as a dedicated wireless speaker for your video doorbell.
It’s an expensive option, though. Costing $69 for a single unit. And there’s no two-way audio with the Chime; it’s just a dumb speaker.
Good connectivity with other smart home devices
One of my favourite things about the Arlo Essential Wire-Free Video Doorbell is how well it integrates with other smart home devices. You can set up your Arlo so a sound, or even live video, plays on your Amazon Echo, for example. Likewise, you can configure Philips Hue lightbulbs to turn a different colour when your doorbell is pressed.
As I said above, there’s a delay of about six seconds (if you’re lucky), but it’s very cool. And feels future-y. It’s great, and easy to set up; you’re going to love it.
Arlo’s Smart Plans are a rip
When you buy the Arlo Essential Wire-Free Video Doorbell, you get a free three-month trial of its Premier Plan. This lets you store your records in the cloud for up to 30-days and personalise your notifications. For example, you can set an activity zone, or to only get notified if a person (not an animal or tree moving in the wind) is detected on your camera.
Arlo’s use of AI is good. But putting it behind a paid subscription tier leaves a bad taste. Especially after users have invested several hundreds of dollars in the hardware.
Lack of support to store captured videos in third-party cloud storage providers – such as Google Drive, Amazon Drive, or iCloud – is poor form too.
Subscribing to Arlo’s Smart Plans isn’t cheap either. Costing NZ$4.99/mo for a single camera and NZ$14.99/mo for up to five cameras on a 2K “Premier Plan; or NZ$7.99/mo for a single camera and NZ$23.99/mo for up to five cameras on a 4K “Elite Plan”.
You can get around this by connecting your Arlo cameras to a NZ$209 Arlo Smart Hub and setting up USB storage. But this isn’t a perfect scenario as savvy intruders – that Arlo is designed to protect against – could unplug and steal the USB device and render your expensive Arlo security system useless.
Setting up the Arlo doorbell
Installation is where Arlo shines. It took me five minutes to set up this wireless video doorbell; I had to drill two pilot holes for screws into my brick exterior and then screw in the provided screws. The doorbell also comes with a cleverly-angled attachment (optional) that lets you position your camera, so it’s facing the centre of your porch.
Connecting the Arlo to your local Wi-Fi network is simple too. Following the in-app instructions take a couple of minutes and are so simple anyone can do it.
Getting the Arlo doorbell connected to a Smart Hub is a different story, though. I’ve been battling with this for three weeks, and I’m unable to do it. This is a niggle, because I have three other Arlo cameras dotted around my house that have to connect to the internet via the Arlo SmartHub. It’s not a deal-breaker for me, but it is annoying that I get double notifications on certain things.
I don’t have kind things to say about Arlo’s in-app support either. I’ve left my number multiple times (as requested) and still haven’t received a call, or confirmation that my message has been received by a member of Arlo’s support team.
Note: I’ll update this review if/when a member of Arlo support gets in touch.
Let me start by saying that I really like the Arlo Essential Wire-Free Video Doorbell. The HD camera is great: two-audio works really well, it looks good and has a weatherproof design, and it’s super easy to install.
But it’s not perfect. When you’re at home, it’s arguably a worse tool – at letting you know someone is at the door – than a traditional dumb doorbell. But that’s not really the point here. Video doorbells are so popular because they let you do so much more from an interactive and security perspective, and it’s here where the Arlo Essential Wire-Free Video Doorbell really excels. Delivering the best performance of any video doorbell set up on the market.
If only the Smart Plans weren’t so expensive. The prospect of paying between $59.88-$287.88 a year (and maybe more) for the privilege of watching the recordings from the Arlo device(s) you paid hundreds/thousands of dollars for, sucks.