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Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell review: A good doorbell, but strong Wi-Fi is a must

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : 180
inc VAT

Easy to install, with a wide angle lens, loud siren and AI tricks up its sleeve but this wireless doorbell is not without its weaknesses

Pros

  • Good video quality
  • Wide, 180-degree lens
  • Quick and easy to install

Cons

  • Requires strong Wi-Fi
  • Notifications could be quicker
  • Some features require a subscription

The Arlo Wire-Free Video Doorbell is a product that’s true to its name. It’s a battery-powered doorbell, which means it does not need to be connected to your existing doorbell wiring, making installation easier. It also delivers a live video feed to your smartphone over your wireless network, so you can see – and converse with – whoever comes calling, whether you are at home, down the street or on the other side of the world.

As well as being a doorbell, the Arlo acts as a security camera, complete with motion detection, activity zones and a built-in siren. But just as with many other video doorbells, extra features like cloud video storage require you to pay an extra monthly or yearly subscription.

Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell review: What do you get for the money?

The Arlo Wire-Free Video Doorbell retails for £180, which is a little more expensive than our favourite doorbell, the TP-Link Tapo DS230S1, but around the same amount as the Ring Video Doorbell Plus. However, it is currently on offer at Amazon for £128.

Like the Ring Video Doorbell Plus, the Arlo Wire-Free captures 1536p colour video with a square aspect ratio of 1:1 and a 180-degree field-of-view. This means you can see both the visitor’s face and also the ground around them – handy for spotting parcels left on the doorstep.

There’s also grayscale night vision to improve image quality in low light, and the doorbell can act as a security camera, alerting you, playing a siren and recording video when motion is spotted nearby.

As with so many smart video doorbells, the Arlo gains additional features if you pay for a monthly subscription. These extras include cloud storage, where recordings are saved online and made available to view and download through the app for 30 days. Subscriptions cost from £3.49 a month, or from £9.99 if you want the plan to cover more than one Arlo security camera/video doorbell.

Subscribing also unlocks artificial intelligence-powered features, such as the ability to tell whether a person, vehicle or animal has caused a motion alert, and the option for creating “activity zones”, where the doorbell only alerts you when motion is spotted in certain areas of the frame, thus preventing a barrage of false-positive notifications.

Ring operates a similar subscription model but it is worth noting that not all doorbell manufacturers lock down their products in this way. The TP-Link doorbell mentioned above, for instance, can be used largely restriction and subscription free, storing videos to local storage and allowing motion zones to be set up without having to pay.

It’s worth remembering that the Arlo Wire-Free Video Doorbell does not come with a chime. Priced at £45, this is basically a speaker that plugs into a wall outlet and plays a sound when the doorbell button is pressed. Without the chime, you’ll only be alerted to visitors (and nearby motion) via smartphone notifications.

Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell review: How easy is it to install?

The Arlo comes with a couple of screws and wall plugs, plus an optional wire extension kit for powering it from your existing doorbell chime. There’s also an extra mounting plate for fitting the doorbell to your wall at an angle and a metal tool for opening the doorbell when its battery needs charging. Finally there’s the battery, which Arlo says lasts up to six months, and a microUSB cable for charging it.

Installation is simple and all you need is a drill, a spirit level and a screwdriver. Once you have the base plate secured, you simply charge the battery, inserting it into the doorbell and clip it to the wall plate. It locks into place with a click and can only be removed with the metal pin mentioned earlier, which is just like a smartphone’s SIM tray removal tool.

After that, it’s time to open the Arlo Secure app, create an account if you don’t have one already, and follow the installation process. From there, you can adjust video brightness, enable or disable HDR and night vision, change the audio settings, check the battery life and create up to three activity zones (assuming you have paid for the subscription service).

I must stress at this point that the Arlo doorbell needs a strong and stable Wi-Fi connection to work properly. I found it struggled to maintain a connection to my router when only one storey away, so I urge readers to experiment before reaching for the drill. You might need to invest in a Wi-Fi extender as well.

READ NEXT: The best video doorbells to buy

Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell review: What does it do well?

I like the design of the Arlo doorbell. It feels quite large at first, but didn’t look out of place when installed next to my front door. Installation was quick and easy, and shouldn’t take anyone more than a few minutes, providing you have a drill and the right bit for the surface you’re drilling into.

Another strength is that, when the doorbell button is pressed, the Arlo app makes it look like you’re receiving a phone call. Swipe to answer and a live video call between you and the doorbell is created, ready for your conversation with the visitor. It’s slicker and a little more intuitive to use than most.

Two-way audio is also impressively responsive and feels akin to having a normal phone call, with minimal delay and decent audio quality on both ends of the line. Naturally, call quality will depend on the Wi-Fi connection of the doorbell and the Wi-Fi or cellular signal of your phone.

The doorbell can act as a security camera, alerting you to motion, recording incidents and even sounding an alarm to scare off potential burglars. These are all welcome extras, but if you live on a busy street, or especially if neighbours pass closely by your door, you may want to disable the siren.

I should also mention the price. The doorbell normally costs £180, making it more expensive than several alternatives from Ring, Eufy and TP-Link. However, it is currently reduced on Amazon to £128. This made the Arlo doorbell slightly cheaper than the agein, second-generation Ring Video Doorbell, and therefore great value for money. If you can find it at that reduced price, you’re onto a winner. If not, it feels rather pricey.

One last positive is how the Arlo works with Alexa, Google Home, SmartThings and IFTTT. This means you can have live video appear on a compatible smart display, which in some cases could be more convenient than reaching for your phone.

Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell review: What could it do better?

Call quality is good but I wish the Arlo app would initiate the call more quickly. The whole process – from the doorbell button being pressed to the video call starting – takes between five and eight seconds, assuming you answer immediately.

This is a couple of seconds longer than I’d like it to be and could mean you’ll be greeted by the sight of a delivery driver walking away when you eventually make it to the front door, instead of standing there with your parcel. Thankfully, the wide angle lens means you can check to see if the delivery was left on the doorstep.

The biggest issue I have with this doorbell, however, is its Wi-Fi connection. It struggled to stay connected to my wireless router just one storey away, so for many properties, I would say a Wi-Fi extender is a must.

Compounding this is how the doorbell suggests all is well – that it is connected to Wi-Fi with a half-decent signal – when it’s actually on the brink of disconnecting. When this happened, movement notifications came through to my phone, but the live video feed could not be opened and footage of the movement wasn’t saved (the doorbell doesn’t have internal storage).

I would much rather the Arlo app was less optimistic, like the Ring app, instead of soldiering on unsuccessfully. Thankfully, relocating the router solved all this, or if that isn’t possible, a cheap wirless extender should do the trick, too.

Lastly, a criticism shared with most other video doorbells: subscriptions. As with many others, the Arlos doorbell locks some features behind a paywall. These include online video storage and a more advanced movement detection system, where AI is used to differentiate humans, pets, packages and vehicles from other, less important types of movement.

You still receive smartphone alerts without paying, and you can watch a live stream from the doorbell. But video is not recorded and cannot be viewed later, so without the subscription you’re essentially buying a video doorbell alone, not one that doubles as a security camera.

READ NEXT: The best wireless doorbells to buy

Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell review: Should I buy one?

As long as your Wi-Fi network comfortably reaches the front door, then it’s certainly an option and it has plenty of things going for it.

I like how the doorbell notifies your phone as if a call is coming through, rather than a standard notification. I also like how the Arlo can function as a security camera, complete with motion alerts and a siren, and how it integrates with smart home systems like Alexa and Google Home.

And if you already own an Arlo security camera, buying an Arlo video doorbell makes some degree of sense. It connects to the same system and works with the same subscription options.

However, for me, there are a few too many weaknesses for a wholehearted recommendation. It’s quite pricey, doesn’t handle weak wireless signals particularly effectively, it doesn’t come with a chime included and it effectively forces you to pay a monthly subscription.

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