Arlo Security Camera Review 2021

Arlo has some of the best wireless security cameras out there. The one you choose depends on what you want it to do
  • Arlo Pro 4
    4.5 out of 5 overall
    Advanced object detection
    Paid plan required
  • Arlo Ultra 2
    4 out of 5 overall
    4K video
    Hub required
  • Arlo Essential Spotlight
    4.25 out of 5 overall
    Spotlight
    Paid plan required
  • Arlo Q Plus
    4.25 out of 5 overall
    Geofencing
    Indoor only

Arlo sells a bunch of wireless cameras that will satisfy almost any need. They aren’t the most expensive cameras out there, and they work pretty well, making them one of our most popular camera recommendations. The biggest downside is that Arlo cameras require a paid subscription to access some of the best features.

Arlo cameras comparison
ModelImagePriceCamera quantityLearn more
Arlo Pro 4$199.991View on Amazon
Arlo Ultra 2$599.992View on Amazon
Arlo Essential Spotlight$129.991View on Amazon
Arlo Q Plus$249.001View on Amazon

Amazon.com List Prices (as of 06/17/2021 11:00 MST) Full disclaimer

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Which cameras do we cover in this review?
Arlo keeps making newer and better cameras. In this review, we’ve focused on the cameras and camera lines that Arlo is actively selling. Products that are sold out or discontinued aren’t included; although, we made note of outdated products when they’re part of a line we’re featuring.

How Arlo cameras work

Arlo sells a lot of cameras, and each one works a little differently

We wish it were easy to explain how Arlo cameras work!

Arlo has a lot of variety in its offerings—which is terrific in that the company has a lot of different solutions for different preferences. But, because each camera varies in its connectivity, compatibility, and even storage plan features, it makes it hard to give a blanket explanation.

Here’s our stab at a quick-and-dirty summary. We’ll provide more depth as the review goes on.

  • All Arlo cameras communicate without wires (so you won’t need an electrician), but some of them need to be plugged in to work.
  • Arlo sells both outdoor and indoor cameras.
  • Some Arlo cameras need hubs or base stations to connect to your smart home. Some don’t.
  • Some Arlo hubs and cameras have local storage. Some don’t.
  • Most Arlo cameras work with Alexa, Google, IFTTT, and HomeKit.
  • Arlo has three different cloud storage/video streaming plans. You can’t use every plan with every camera due to varying storage needs and video quality capabilities.

The main differentiator between many of the Arlo camera lines is the video quality. The Essential, Pro, and Ultra lines are all very similar in terms of features; their prices are primarily determined by whether they stream in 1080p, 2K, or 4K.

So basically, if you’re just looking for a good camera, you’ll probably like any of the main three lines. But if you want a specific video quality, then Arlo’s still got you covered.

Arlo hubs

Arlo sells three categories of hubs: the base station, the base station with siren, and the Arlo SmartHub. As if that’s not enough, each category has a few different models.

The standard base station is compatible only with cameras that are now obsolete, like the Arlo Pro and Arlo Pro 2. The other two hubs work with Arlo’s current offerings.

Arlo base station with siren models
FeaturesVMB4000 base stationVMB4500 base station
CompatibilityArlo Pro 3, Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight Camera, Arlo Ultra, Arlo Ultra 2, Arlo Essential Spotlight, Arlo Video DoorbellArlo Pro 3, Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight Camera, Arlo Ultra, Arlo Ultra 2, Arlo Essential Spotlight, Arlo Video Doorbell
Max streaming resolution4K4K
Local storage

Yes, USB

Yes, USB
Siren volume100 dB90 dB
Learn moreView on AmazonView on Amazon

Data as of 04/06/2021.

Arlo SmartHub models
FeaturesVMB5000 SmartHubVMB4540 SmartHub
CompatibilityArlo Pro 3, Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight Camera, Arlo Ultra, Arlo Ultra 2, Arlo Essential Spotlight, Arlo Video DoorbellArlo Pro 3, Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight Camera, Arlo Ultra, Arlo Ultra 2, Arlo Essential Spotlight, Arlo Video Doorbell
Max streaming resolution4K4K
Local storage

Yes, microSD

Yes, USB
Learn moreView on AmazonView on Amazon

Data as of 04/06/2021.

Arlo storage

Arlo Smart features a few different storage plans, including a free option.

For cameras with advanced object detection and other features that make Arlo worth the buy, you must get a paid Premier or Elite plan. Without one, you can’t access most of your camera’s functions.

However, which plan you get will be determined by the camera you have. And, if you have a few different Arlo cameras with different plan needs, you could end up paying for both a Premier and Elite plan each month.

Arlo storage plans
FeaturesArlo Smart (no plan)Arlo Smart PremierArlo Smart Elite
PriceFree$2.99/mo. for a single camera; $9.99/mo. for up to five cameras$4.99/mo. for a single camera; $14.99/mo. for up to five cameras
Max resolution1080p2K4K
Cloud storage

None

30 days

30 days
Push notifications

Yes

Yes

Yes
Custom activity zones

No

Yes

Yes
Advanced object detection

No

Yes

Yes
E911 emergency call service (with multi-camera plans)

No

Yes

Yes
Learn moreView on AmazonView on AmazonView on Amazon

Data as of 04/06/2021.

Arlo also offers continuous video recording, also known as CVR or 24/7 recording. That way, you can see everything, not just camera clips triggered by events.

But there’s a catch. Besides paying for a subscription plan, you’ll spend $9.99 each month for 14 days of CVR or $19.99 a month of 30. That works out to as much as $35 a month, which is quite a bit for DIY camera systems.

Arlo Pro features

The Pro is the most basic Arlo camera

The Pro is Arlo’s standard camera offering. It offers 2K video quality and Arlo’s signature advanced object detection.

Over the last few years, Arlo has discontinued the Arlo Pro and Arlo Pro 2. Currently, the company sells the Pro 3, Pro 3 Floodlight, and Pro 4.

Arlo Pro features comparison
ModelPriceCamera quantityHub neededLearn more
Arlo Pro 3$499.992

Yes
View on Amazon
Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight$249.991

No
View on Amazon
Arlo Pro 4$199.991

No
View on Amazon

Amazon.com List Prices (as of 04/06/2021 11:00 MST)

Light Bulb icon
Why the two-pack?
Because the Arlo Pro 3 won’t work without a base station, we’ve listed the lowest price you can pay to get a camera with the base. That package also includes a second camera.

If you already have an Arlo Pro 3-compatible base, feel free to purchase the camera separately.

All three Arlo Pro cameras have the following:

  • 2K video
  • Motion detection
  • Package detection
  • Person detection
  • Vehicle detection
  • Two-way audio
  • Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT, and Apple HomeKit compatibility
  • Color night vision
  • Zoom
  • Projected six-month battery life

The main difference between these cameras is that the Pro 3 and Pro 4 have spotlights, while the Pro 3 Floodlight (predictably) has a floodlight. Also, neither the Pro 4 or Pro 3 Floodlight needs an Arlo hub, while the Pro 3 is still reliant on one.

Advanced object detection

What Arlo refers to as “advanced object detection” encompasses package, person, and vehicle detection.

If you live on a busy street, motion detection push notifications can quickly become annoying. It’s better to get specific notifications, such as “Person detected” or “Package detected.” And that’s where Arlo’s top unique feature comes into play.

However, to use this feature, you’ll need a paid subscription.

Subscription

Arlo Pro cameras require an Arlo Smart Premier plan for 2K streaming, 30 days of storage, and full access to all features. That’s $2.99 a month for a single camera or $9.99 a month for up to five cameras.

You’ll get three months of Arlo Smart Premier free at first, and then it’s time to pay.

You can choose to go without a paid subscription, but as we’ve mentioned, you won’t be able to get the full Arlo Pro experience.

Info Box icon
Subscriptions and video quality
If you’re using a 2K or 4K Arlo camera, you can only get full quality with a paid plan. Choosing to forego a plan will result in 1080p quality on any Arlo camera.

How to install Arlo Pro cameras

To set up an Arlo Pro camera, you’ll charge it, mount it, and follow the app’s directions to get it connected to your Wi-Fi and the hub (if applicable).

Arlo Ultra features

Ultra feature-packed; ultra-expensive

When we tested the Arlo Ultra, we thought it was pretty cool. But now Arlo no longer sells the Ultra. It’s moved on to the Ultra 2.

Arlo Ultra 2 features:

  • 4K HDR video
  • Motion detection
  • Package detection
  • Person detection
  • Vehicle detection
  • Two-way audio
  • Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, and Samsung SmartThings compatibility
  • Siren
  • Spotlight
  • Color night vision
  • Zoom
  • Local storage
  • Projected six-month battery life

The Ultra 2 requires an Arlo SmartHub or base station, so if you don’t have one, you’ll want to get one.

Price Tag icon
Arlo Ultra 2 pricing
This camera is expensive because it comes in two-packs with an Arlo SmartHub. If you already have the hub, you can buy the camera as a less expensive add-on.

Spotlight

Spotlights are quite useful on outdoor security cameras. Folks who sneak around on other people’s property generally don’t want to be seen, so a light can be a big deterrent.

Subscription

The Arlo Ultra cameras are currently the only cameras compatible with Arlo’s Smart Elite plan. You’ll get a three-month trial with an Ultra 2, but after that, you’ll need to pay to get full use of your camera.

How to install Arlo Ultra cameras

When we used the Arlo Ultra, we charged it before setting it up. It needs to be mounted, which we didn’t try, but connecting it to the app wasn’t very hard.

Like other Arlo cameras, the Ultra is completely wireless, so you don’t need to plug it into the hub or your router to work.

We haven’t tried the Arlo Ultra 2, but our understanding is that it’s pretty similar.

Arlo Q features

Arlo Q is the Arlo indoor-only line

Although there’s no reason you couldn’t use a Pro or Ultra indoors, it doesn’t make sense to pay for an outdoor-graded camera when you can get a cheaper, indoor one.

Enter the Arlo Q and Arlo Q Plus. These vaguely Q-shaped cameras are a little pricey for indoor use. But in the end, they’re miles cheaper than most Arlo cameras since you only need to buy the cameras themselves. They don’t need hubs to work, and you might even be able to forego a monthly storage subscription.

Arlo Q features comparison
ModelPriceSD storageEthernet connectionLearn more
Arlo Q$149.99

No

No
View on Amazon
Arlo Q Plus$249.00

Yes

Yes
View on Amazon

Amazon.com List Prices (as of 04/06/2021 11:00 MST)

Both these cameras have the following features:

  • 1080p HD video
  • Motion detection
  • Night vision
  • Two-way audio
  • Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT, and Samsung SmartThings compatibility
  • Geofencing
  • 7 days of free cloud storage

The main difference between the two cameras, as the table shows, is that the Arlo Q Plus has more storage versatility. The Q Plus works with Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and PoE, making its streaming and cloud storage more reliable.

It also has a local storage option that allows it to record straight to an SD card. So, if for some reason, you can’t use the cloud storage or can’t recover the digital footage, you can remove the SD card and extract clips from it.

Geofencing

Geofencing is an unusual feature for an indoor camera. We think the best use for this tech would be to set your cameras to record when your phone leaves the vicinity of the house. That way, they’ll always be running when you’re gone.

Storage

Seven days of running storage is nothing to sneeze at, so you may not necessarily need a digital storage plan with an Arlo Q. Especially if you have a Q Plus with its local storage capabilities. Also, Qs don’t have any advanced features, so you won’t get better functionality with an Arlo Smart plan like most Arlo cameras do.

But if you do want extended storage, the Q line works with the Premier plan.

How to install Arlo Q cameras

We spent a little time playing around with these cameras. They had some of the quickest camera setups we’d ever seen. You just plug them in and follow the app instructions. Five minutes or less.

If you don’t want tabletop cameras, the Qs are unique because they have a magnet in the base. You can easily slap one on a fridge or magnet board. Also, these cameras come with brackets if you want to wall-mount them. It’s a lot more work to drill them in place, though, and it will drastically increase your installation time.

Keep the Q cameras within reach of an outlet.

Whatever you do, make sure you keep the Q cameras within reach of an outlet. They don’t work without their plugs.

Arlo Essential features

The Essential line features an outdoor camera and indoor camera

When we say “Arlo Essential,” we (and most reviewers) are referring to the Arlo Essential Spotlight. But there’s also an incoming Arlo Essential Indoors. (As we’re writing this, it’s available for pre-order, so we’re including it in our review.)

So what makes these cameras so essential? They both have sirens and advanced motion detection, don’t use hubs, and still manage to be two of Arlo’s cheapest camera offerings. Affordable and user-friendly: nice.

Arlo Pro features comparison
ModelPricePlug requiredSpotlightLearn more
Arlo Essential Indoors$99.99

No

No
View on Amazon
Arlo Essential Spotlight$129.99

Yes

Yes
View on Amazon

Amazon.com List Prices (as of 04/06/2021 11:00 MST)

You can expect the following from an Essential camera:

  • 1080p video
  • Motion detection
  • Package detection
  • Person detection
  • Vehicle detection
  • Two-way audio
  • Siren
  • Night vision
  • Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT, Apple HomeKit, and Samsung SmartThings compatibility

And, if you get the Essential Spotlight, you’ll also get outdoor weatherproofing, color night vision, and an estimated six months of battery life.

The Apple integration only works if you use the Essential with an Arlo hub.

Siren

Why would you want a camera with a siren? It’s extra protection for your home, property, and family.

For instance, maybe someone is in your yard, trying to light your home on fire. (Unlikely, yes. Impossible, no.) Your typical security system is powerless against that, while an outdoor camera with a siren can both alert you to the intruder’s presence and scare off the would-be arsonist.

Similarly, an indoor camera with a siren is a great way to augment a security system. It’s also a lower-cost way to get some of a home security system’s protection if you can’t afford the whole kit and caboodle.

In both these instances, an Arlo Essential camera would serve the purpose.

Storage

The Arlo Essential cameras work with the Arlo Premier plan. We’re not sure about the indoor camera, but the Spotlight comes with a three-month-long trial. That way, you can test the plan before spending money on it.

If you choose to connect the camera to an Arlo SmartHub, you can get free local storage too. Just remember that if you choose to go that route over a paid Arlo Smart subscription, you can’t use your object-detection features.

How to install Arlo Essential

We haven’t yet gotten our hands on the Arlo Essential Indoors, but the Arlo Essential Spotlight setup wasn’t difficult at all.

We charged the camera and followed the app instructions to add it to our Arlo account. It only took a few minutes. We didn’t try installing the mount, though, so we can’t speak to that.

Other Arlo cameras and accessories

Arlo has a few more products up its sleeve

While Arlo has some other offerings that you can buy used (such as Arlo Baby), it also has a few currently-available products that didn’t fit in the core review.

Those products include Arlo Go, Arlo’s doorbell cameras, and Arlo’s solar panels.

Arlo Go

Pros

  • Base not required
  • Functional anywhere
  • Alexa and Google compatibility

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Only 720p

Arlo video doorbells

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Wired and wireless options

Cons

  • Reduced compatibility with wireless version

Arlo solar panels

Pros

  • Adjustable mount
  • Weather-resistant

Cons

  • Ultra, Pro 3, and Essential Spotlight compatibility only

Recap: What are the best Arlo Cameras?

Most users will find value in most Arlo cameras

It’s hard to go wrong with an Arlo camera. But which one is right for you? Let’s recap.

Arlo Pro: The Arlo Pro line streams in 2K. The older versions require a hub, while the two newest, the Pro 3 Floodlight and Pro 4, don’t. To access the full features, like advanced object detection, you’ll need to pay for a subscription.

Arlo Ultra: Arlo Ultras feature 4K video and advanced object detection when you use the premium paid subscription. Both the older and newer versions require connection with an Arlo hub.

Arlo Q: The Arlo Q line features indoor cameras that stream in 1080p. They include a geofencing feature and don’t need hubs or paid subscriptions to work well, but they don’t have lights or advanced object detection.

Arlo Essential: This 1080p line includes one indoor-only camera. Hubs are not required to use the Essential cameras, but you’ll need a paid plan to take full advantage of the features, including Arlo’s signature advanced object detection.

If you aren’t feeling Arlo, we suggest trying Reolink, which is similar to Arlo, just with no hubs, fewer features, and lower prices. You can also check out cameras such as the Canary Pro and EufyCam 2.

Is your house ready for Arlo cameras?

Arlo cameras aren’t much good without a high-speed internet plan and accessible smartphone data.

Recommended internet plans

With Arlo, we suggest using the fastest internet you can find. Or that we can find—we’ve created a table of potential options for you.

Recommended internet plans for Arlo
ServicePlanPriceDownload speedDetails
Xfinity Internet - WestBlast! Pro$80*300 MbpsView Plan
Verizon Internet - Fios GigInternet 400/400$59.99/mo.400 MbpsView Plan
WOW! InternetInternet 1000$79.991000 MbpsView Plan
Data effective 11/04/20. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* For the first 12 months with a 1-year agreement.
w/ Auto Pay + taxes & equip. charges.
For the first 12 months with a 2-year agreement.

Recommended mobile plans

The easiest way to access Arlo video clips is through a smartphone. But using the app will eat up your data, so we suggest going for unlimited data if possible.

Arlo cameras FAQ

Are Arlo cameras expensive?

Arlo cameras can get expensive, but they aren’t the most expensive cameras on the market (hello, Google Nest).

The main thing that makes Arlo cameras expensive is that you typically have to buy them in a multipack or with a base, bringing the cost way up. When you buy them one at a time, they’re much more affordable. Especially if you wait and order them once they’ve been out for a while.

What color are Arlo cameras?

Several Arlo cameras now come in two different colors. Sadly, your choices are black or white. You don’t get anything fun, like turquoise or fuschia.

Are Arlo chargers waterproof?

Arlo sells both indoor and outdoor power adapters that can charge a camera or even provide a constant power supply (if you choose to always leave it plugged in). While the indoor adapter cannot get wet, to our understanding, the outdoor power adapter is fine in inclement weather.

Does Arlo have free camera storage?

The free Arlo Smart option does not have free camera storage. You won’t be able to refer back to an event recorded by the camera. However, some cameras, like the Arlo Q and Arlo Go, come with rolling seven-day storage at no cost.

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