Review: Arlo Essential Indoor Camera

    Arlo makes a range of connected devices including cameras, doorbells, floodlights and more. While they certainly offer the latest premium device that offer 4k quality, not everyone is looking for security products at that premium price point. Their entry-level Essentials Indoor Camera is likely to appeal to more homeowners, thanks to a compelling list of features for a great price. 

    The focus of this product is to protect any room inside your home, but naturally, there’s some nervousness in putting a connected camera inside your home. It’s natural to want to keep an eye on things at home when you’re away on holidays, particularly if you have pets, but generally to ensure your property is safe.

    When you’re home, it may make some nervous to have a camera in their personal spaces. Much like we’ve seen modern laptops integrate hardware lens covers, Arlo has done the same with this indoor camera. This enables you to have confidence in controlling when the camera is monitoring the environment and when it’s not.

    This camera was announced last month and for the past week and chance, I’ve had the chance to review it.


    Smart, efficient, essential

    The Arlo Essential Indoor Camera has a clean, efficient design, with a large lens in the front, a black face, and a subtle Arlo logo on the front faceplate. Around back you’ll find a vent where the speaker and siren can emit sound front, which also means this is not waterproof, hence the specification for indoor use only. 

    The base can be angle as to support wall mounting, or just allow you to angle the camera up, or down, depending on placement. The camera can also be inverted, covering almost all mounting situations. While you won’t be moving the camera often once it’s in place, the stem of the base, where it meets the camera is really thin and I do worry about it’s durability long term.

    The camera body comes in both white and black, which helps it blend into most colour schemes in the home.

    The choice to integrate a privacy shield in the product is great, as is the ability to control that digitally, based on which mode the camera is in. I do wish they added a hardware button, so if your placement is in reach, it’d be easy to walk over and tap a button to close or open the lens. 

    When the privacy shield is in the disarm mode, recording, motion and audio detection is disabled and won’t be enabled until the shield is opened by the user via the Arlo app.

    Users can also signal the privacy shield to open automatically and begin recording by starting a live stream or changing the camera to arm mode. To ensure this is only controlled by authorised people in your household, then I strongly recommend you secure accounts with MFA


    How does it perform ?

    When it comes to a security camera’s performance, the single biggest test is the video quality. If the worst happens and you do have a break-in, you’ll want to ensure the frames captured have all the detail you need to identify the criminal. 

    Thankfully there’s good news to report here, with the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera offering 1080p video quality with enhanced night vision. This means you’ll have the detail you need in the footage and whether an incident occurs during the day or night, you’ll be able to see that all-important detail.

    The camera features a built-in microphone and speaker, and you’ll be able to have 2-way conversations with your pets, or scare off intruders. Having used a number of security cameras from multiple vendors, I’m happy to say, the audio quality on offer here is among the best on offer, great for more natural remote conversations if you’re chatting to the house sitter.

    That built-in siren can be triggered automatically, based on motion or audio detection, or manually from the Arlo app. This siren is not subtle and should definitely send any criminals packing, as the last thing they want is attention from your neighbours. 


    Stand out features of this device.

    There’s a very compelling list of features on offer with this connected camera.

    Automated Privacy Shield
    One of the most distinctive features of this camera is the hardware lens cover which ensures your moments are private when needed by closing the automated privacy shield. 

    Motion Detection and Alerts
    When there is motion detected on your phone, you’ll get a push notification to your phone. Naturally, there are iPhone and Android apps, and tapping on the notification will launch the app and take you to the live feed. If you don’t see the notification until later, you’ll get taken to the recording of the motion/audio detection. 

    2-Way Audio
    Thanks to 2-way audio, you can hear and speak to visitors clearly with great audio quality. 

    Night Vision
    Monitoring your home or investment property needs to be done 24/7 so cameras really need to be able to see at night to be effective around the clock. Thankfully Arlo understands this and uses black and white night vision that turns on automatically once it’s dark. 

    Built-in Siren
    A built-in siren can be set to go off automatically when motion is detected, or manually from the app if you see something (or someone) that shouldn’t be there. A loud siren is a great tool to have at your disposal. In the event you need to scare someone off, you could yell at them to please leave your home, but a siren should scare them off. 

    130° Viewing Angle
    That HD quality footage is captured through a fish-eye lens that offers a very generous 130 viewing angle. This means the wider field-of-view you can see from this single camera, enables it to cover more of your home or business. If you’re kitting out multiple cameras, this may allow you to get away with fewer cameras. 

    Platform Compatibility
    Being a smart, connected Internet-of-things device, means you really want it to integrate with other devices you already have on your network. Thankfully there’s Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and IFTTT support, offering easy interaction, automation and control. 


    Not everything’s perfect

    For a device to ship in 2021 and still be using microUSB is annoying. By now, most homes will have a number of USB-C chargers and I can definitely see some scenarios where you’d want to move this camera between rooms and if Arlo had used the now-standard USB-C connector, this process would be simple.

    Other than this, the camera operated as expected, so I hope the connector is switched out in future iterations of the product, then it pretty much does everything you’d expect or want from an indoor security camera.


    How much and where can you get one ?

    The Essential Indoor Camera is now available at leading electrical retailers nationally for a RRP of A$159.00.

    In Australia, you’ll find the camera at Amazon, Bunnings, Dick Smith / Kogan and you can find links to all those options here. I encourage you to look around, as I have found it for A$144.93.


    Final thoughts

    Overall the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera offers a compelling list of features for a very reasonable price. Not having to also get a base station for this model is a real plus and means you can stand up multiple cameras very easily. While the pitch is certainly for home use, there’s no reason businesses couldn’t also use these to great effect.

    The biggest challenge for Arlo is other security ecosystems, as users are far more likely to buy the same brand products. If you already own a Ring doorbell, then chances are, you’ll buy their Indoor cam and flood lights. If you already have Swann cameras, you’re likely to keep buying that brand. This is for a very simple reason, the app.

    Being able to launch a single security app and get a complete picture of your property or properties really is under-rated. Of course jumping between apps is possible, but not ideal.

    It is surprising that nobody is really capitalising on this gateway-drug type phenomenon and offering a discount on your first device, to get their app on your homescreen.

    At the end of the day, the features on offer here and price point considerations are an easy sell, it does what you want from a camera like this, for an affordable price. Anyone who rents out their property on sharing services like AirBnB, would be well-positioned to take advantage of this. The cameras could monitor the property between stays and disabled during a stay and thanks to the physical lens cover, it’s clear when its in operation and not.

    Jason Cartwright
    Jason Cartwright
    Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021

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