The Arlo Pro4 Wireless Security Camera series of cameras have got a design style that yells premium, such as you might get from Apple or Google’s Nest products. It also comes with a price to match the premium feel, which I’ll touch on shortly. With the new Pro 4, you’ll find in the box the camera, a battery, charging cable, amount and the fixings for the mount. That’s really about it except for some very brief instructions telling you to download the Arlo app for your smartphone/tablet, so that’s what you need to do first. The app is available for iOS and Android devices and can be installed on multiple devices. Every person wanting access to the cameras will need their account and, unusually, if you want to view the cameras on one device it’ll log you out of any other device. This I found incredibly frustrating as my wife and I share access to all of the cameras in the house, and both keep an eye on where the dog is from wherever we are in the house or at work. You cannot do that with the Arlo app. Only one of you can access it at one time.
Having installed the app you need to set the camera up. Now, I genuinely thought this was going to be a breeze. Wired CCTV systems can take a masters degree to set up and configure (I’ve set several up and despise them with a passion), and budget IP cameras can be clunky and restricted by poor apps. I expected Arlo to show how it should be done. Right? Oh my, no. It took me two days of trying before it finally paired the app with the Arlo Pro 4 and my wifi. It should have been easy, and the app guides you through it, but it just wasn’t happening. The app guided me through installing the battery, and a blue light will flash and it’ll then pair with the app, but no. The app would continue to search for the camera, sat right next to my phone, but nothing. It kept saying unable to connect. I’d reset the camera repeatedly, but still no connection. After two days of trying it finally connected, having changed nothing, but before the set-up had finished it lost itself again. It was at the page where you get to name the camera. If I tried to give the camera a name (“garden”, for example) it lost itself and I had to reset the camera and start again. It would only get past this page if I left the camera as its default name “camera”. But, once we were past that, we were moving.
To operate the camera and the app you have to accept a three-month trial of the Arlo cloud subscription service. There is no memory card slot on the Arlo Pro 4 so if you wish to record any footage you will have to take out a full subscription once the trial is over. This will set you back £2.50 per month per camera, or £7.99 per month for up to 5 cameras. You can operate the cameras as a live feed only without a subscription, but the benefit of a security camera is being able to review the footage of something that has happened.
The app allows a good range of control over your camera. You can set up exclusion zones, timers, sensitivity levels, brightness, control what triggers the camera to record, whether the in-built floodlight is operating and it’s also where you review your recorded footage. One very nice feature is being able to sort through different types of triggers. The camera is clever enough to be able to tell whether what it’s recorded was a human, an animal, a car or even vegetation moving in the wind. I found that particularly impressive as our camera is set up in the garden and gets triggered a lot by the various wildlife that passes through and I’m quickly able to find things of interest. We have a family of foxes and a hedgehog that bumbles through and I can pinpoint them in a second. That, I liked.
The wifi range of the camera is pretty good. My camera is mounted on a tree in the garden, approximately 20m away from our ASUS router inside the house. It’s right on the limit of what it can do according to the strength indicator in the app, but I can view live footage from there. I did note straight away that there is a considerable delay in seeing live images. It’s almost exactly five seconds from something happening to it reaching the app, regardless of how close to the router the camera is. I thought that was very poor, especially since my existing CCTV and IP camera systems are immediate.
Regarding battery life, this is the million-dollar question. The success or failure of a wireless system is down to how often you need to service it to keep it running. Arlo claim “up to 6 months” and that will be the best possible conditions, I’m sure. It will be seriously affected by how often the camera is triggered, how often the floodlight comes on, any number of parameters that you’re in control of tinkering with. The camera came with about 34% of charge in the battery and was down to 8% within only a few days. I charged it up with the included magnetic charging cable (USB powered) and set it back up again with my final configuration. I set it up at 8:45 pm on Sunday and Friday at 7:30 am it was sitting at 72%. As I say, we have a lot of wildlife in the garden, plus our border collie running around chasing balls, so it’s going to be triggered a lot. But, at that usage rate, it’s going to need a charge every 3-4 weeks. That will lead you to consider where you’re going to locate the camera because you’re not going to be wanting to head up a ladder every month through winter, are you?
The camera, as I’ve mentioned, is a very high-quality piece of equipment. Granted, for the price, I’d expect it to be. The thing that impressed me most though was the magnetic mount. I thought it was fabulous. You attach it to a wall by a screw fitting, and then the camera just clamps into place by a magnet. It’s so easy to adjust to wherever you want to point it. Having dealt with many cameras in my time I can truly say it’s the best mounting system I’ve come across. There is also a tonne of accessories you can buy for it. Lots of different mounts, such as weighted table mounts. There’s a solar charger to keep it permanently powered, which I think is a great idea except it costs around £60-70. You can buy additional batteries so you can effectively hot-swap when you need to recharge. Again, a great idea but the battery is around £50.
So, what are my thoughts then? Well, I already have a lot of security cameras in and around my house to compare the Arlo against. Twenty-one of them! I have a traditional hard-wired CCTV system by Swann that I bought from Amazon which is a 4K system with a 2TB hard drive. This is the system primarily aimed at security. It’s the second Swann system I had, replacing an older 720p system. I kept a few of the old cameras for low-importance areas as they’re compatible with the new system, but I’ve got a total of 12 cameras for that system. The footage is exceptional, and it’s extremely reliable. It’s easy to review footage both remotely and via a TV screen, I have connected to it. It was a big one-off cost (probably about £550 in total with additional cameras I’ve added), but there’s no further expense with subscriptions. However, installing all of those cameras with the required cabling was a logistical nightmare, and setting all the network settings, port forwarding and troubleshooting will blow your mind.
I also have 8 Victure IP cameras that I also bought from Amazon, at £25-30 depending on the offer at the time. For whatever reason, Amazon is no longer selling those, but you can buy similar cameras that do the same thing. With these the video signal is sent via Wi-fi, however, they do still need power from a USB source. You are not as limited by the number of cameras you can have, unlike the Swann which requires physical ports on the hard drive unit, but you are restricted to the app that you can use. And that, I’ve found, is the Achilles heel of IP cameras. The apps are often clunky and they don’t always connect. That said, when they do work they are great. Plus, the internal cameras are dome type so I have control over which way they’re pointing. I have two external Victure cameras which are fixed points of view but go through the same app. This IP system is primarily used to keep an eye on what our cheeky border collie is up to. For that purpose, this system has been fabulous. These cameras have the option of saving footage to the cloud, for a subscription, however, they also have a micro SD card slot so I bought a handful of cheap memory cards from Amazon and I have full access to all footage for no further cost.
Lastly, I have a Ring front doorbell camera also purchased from Amazon. That, like the Arlo, is entirely cloud subscription-based. The doorbell has been invaluable over the last two years, and a thoroughly recommended purchase, but I’ve never been impressed with the cameras so I’ve not chosen to pursue those further.
Having used the three main system types for several years now (closed circuit, Wi-fi with local recording and cloud-based) I see the pros and cons of both. The Arlo Pro 4 is the easiest and most versatile of the camera systems to use. I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the quality of the camera, and the footage I’ve recorded. It’s 2K so it’s pretty good, although not as good as the 4K recordings I get from my Swann. The low-light recording is superb though, especially if you set the floodlight to come on. You get full-colour recording even in the dead of night. The ability to move the camera around to wherever you choose is brilliant, giving you great freedom to keep an eye on whatever you need to, such as kids or pets in the garden.
However, the package is let down by several factors. The app, while comprehensive, I found to have restrictions. I didn’t like being unable to view from multiple apps at the same time. I didn’t like the 5-second delay in seeing live footage. I’m not convinced by the battery life. The projection of at least one charge per month from my week-long test doesn’t look great to me.
And then there’s the cost. As a one off-camera, £159 as priced at the time of review, is a lot of money for a single camera. If you wanted a multi-camera system, however, the cost becomes eye-watering. And then you’ve got to factor in cloud subscription on top of that. If I was to rip out my Swann system and replace all twelve cameras with Arlo Pro 4s I’d be looking at £2,640 plus £251.76 per year subscription costs!
I mentioned other Wi-fi system options earlier. Eufy gives you the option of buying a kit with a local hub to record footage so you don’t need to pay for a further cloud subscription. Ring charge £2.50 per month per camera, as Arlo does, however, you can get a package for £8 per month for as many cameras and doorbells as you want. Swann’s wireless option isn’t quite as good coming in at £4.95 per camera per month or £12.95 per month for up to 10 devices. A truly wireless camera system is not cheap.
Overall, the Arlo Pro4 Wireless Security Camera is a great product, and great if you have the resources to go that route, but until the unit price comes down I struggle to recommend it as anything other than a one-off purchase, and therefore not a full security system.
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