It’s the time of year when good deals are out there for savvy shoppers looking to get into home security. Such was the case on the on the Cyber Monday this year when Costco had their 3 pack Arlo cameras on special. Here is our experience as we delved into our own home-based cyber-security.
Cyber Monday is the first Monday after Thanksgiving (a now timeless tradition in the Internet universe for smart shoppers looking to avoid the pains of traditional in-person Black Friday Christmas shopping.) Why deal with the crowds when you can point your trusty browser to the deals at hand on the Monday that follows the turkey and stuffing extravaganza. Personally, I like the idea because Thanksgiving has traditionally been a day meant for enjoying family – not the commercialized holiday that it’s become. Wait a few days and then go online.. you shant be disappointed!
One of the first deals to cross my desk was a three camera security camera system from Arlo as offered by Costco. Normally $439 on the store shelves, this super deal was $150.00 off the normal in-store price – $289.00 was simply too good a price to pass up. Free shipping sealed the deal. It didn’t take much much thought to make a purchasing decision.
I ordered on Monday and it was at the door within two days. I was stoked when the delivery guy dropped it off. But.. what was the “out-of-box” experience? Read on…
I broke open the box to see a tightly packed array of cool-looking devices, the first and most obvious of which was the “hub” for the camera operations. Without reading the instructions, it was clear that this device was meant to connect with the home network (aka, the router.) Most home network routers have available “hard-wired” ports for connecting such devices. We had open ports available so it wasn’t difficult at all to wire up the Arlo hub. This means that you’ll see the Arlo hub show up on your list of available wireless networks. Something your neighbors (and perhaps other unintended visitors) might discover. Don’t worry, it’s a secure network that the hub has created.
Next, I went on to install the Arlo mobile app. This is available for Android and iOS and the app quickly downloads from the app store for your device. Once installed you simply point it to the hub that you’ve established at the beginning of the process and… viola.. you’re in business!
Each Arlo camera is then added to the wireless hub which is really quite simple to accomplish. All told, the 3 camera wireless system installed in about an hour.
Pros: This system (as reviewed) is wireless. The batteries are charged and the mounting brackets are very easy to install. Most folks won’t even need to bother with the instructions. The mobile app and everything that you need to get going are right there in the packaging. The basic install includes a free “in the cloud” user account which includes live notifications and basic digital storage of the motion-activated video captured by the cameras. The Arlo app is awesome. You can view live footage or view the captured video that is activated by the motion. Day time video looks fabulous. Night-time video is infrared enhanced black and white footage which is very clear for being what it is.
Cons: Basic services get you going but some users will opt for the monthly (at a cost) service that gives you the expanded features of the camera system. In addition, even though the camera is considered wireless, the expanded features are best served when wiring the cameras to a continual power source. Some users report that they only need to charge their cameras every couple of months. We’ve only had ours for a month and yet we are already receiving app notifications that the cameras need to be charged. From what I can discern, the longevity of the battery depends largely on the amount of motion-activated video that is occurring. Also noteworthy is that on Christmas Day, a neighbor’s young boy dropped off some holiday chocolate that mysteriously went undetected by the system (really, it did!)
When motion is detected, the camera starts recording. However, the video footage does not contain the initial motion that activated the video in the first place. I’ve noticed about a 5 to 10 second delay between the motion that activated the camera versus the overall footage. In other words, you’ll miss the footage that caused the motion activation. Despite all of this, the app notifications are extremely timely. I know instantly when motion has been detected by any of the three cameras that come with the system. This is both a blessing and a curse depending on the type of activity happening within your camera’s range.
For us, I was able to establish a camera location for our front porch that also includes the walk path up to the porch. More often than not, this is sufficient for our needs. However, the cat has been our biggest perpetrator to date. Be prepared for more of that type of information than real criminal activity. The cat, however, is super glad that we know when he wants in now. There are settings to help filter out these types of false alarms. I haven’t tried playing with those yet. The Arlo app does allow you to define “zones” so that motion activation only occurs in the part of the video frame that counts. It appears though that this feature is only supported when you’ve wired your cameras to a continual power source. It’s important to know that that the advanced features of the system seem to require such a continual power stream.
The Arlo app allows you to define additional users who are able to install the app and use it as well. It’s granular enough that you can allow access to specific cameras if you need to. Another nice feature is the microphone/speaker capabilities that allow for 2-way communication with those on the other side. If there’s a bad guy on the porch, you can let them know you’re watching. I like that.
This Arlo system comes with three cameras and is expandable up to 5. That means that if we intend to go beyond that, some sort of expansion will be required. Perhaps that requires a second hub (but I’m not quite sure yet.)
Overall, I’m giving the Arlo system (as reviewed) a solid 3.5 our of 5 stars.) 3.5 might seem a bit low, but I’m reserving room for systems that could potentially raise the bar.) What does that all mean? Well, I’d pretty much recommend this system based on my limited experience of home surveillance systems to date. Here again are the motivating factors for my score:
Advanced users will find themselves paying for the additional storage and features that membership affords. It’s not terribly expensive, but I’m one to shy away from things that require monthly fees. When it comes to these types of camera systems, the devil is definitely in the details. Unless you pay extra for home-based DVR systems that record continuous footage, the features of your system will be somewhat limited. Still, I continue to be impressed by what Arlo offers “out of the box.” We haven’t signed up for paid service yet and still continue to enjoy most of the features Arlo has to offer.