Arlo Q Security Camera Review
Like most things I buy, I had spent a while looking at various options for indoor security cameras, but I kept dragging my feet. For a long time, the Canary All-in-One system was the one I was pining for. It appeared to have everything I wanted: crisp HD video, night vision, motion-activated recording, and many more. But I kept delaying, thinking, “you don’t REALLY need this.”
Then, my wife and I adopted a dog, and (many) things changed. I now had a very compelling reason to invest in a cloud-based security cam: so I could check in on my Lucy girl throughout the day and get instant notifications if there was a problem, if she was barking excessively, etc. So I renewed my search and started at Canary.
Beware Recurring Subscription Fees
By the time I was ready to buy, they switched to a model where most of the best features were put behind a subscription paywall. I get it – they’re trying to be a services company that creates recurring revenue by not just selling a product once and ending it there, but providing continuous value-added services. And if Canary is your sole alarm system, I think that makes perfect sense, but it wasn’t what I was looking for.
My research lead me to a few different options, but I ultimately settled on the Arlo Q indoor security camera by Netgear. Here’s why I like it.
Just Plug It In
First, I wanted something that was wired in terms of AC power. While battery-powered cameras might give you more freedom and flexibility in their positioning, I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of recharging them. I just wanted something that worked. Arlo checked that box well, with a long cord enabling me to put it high on a shelf where I wanted it. I was looking for an indoor-only camera – I had (and still have) no interest in putting a camera outside.
Motion / Sound Triggered Recording
Next, I wanted something with motion and sound detection that triggered automatic recording. I didn’t really care about continuous recording – I only wanted to capture anomalies. The Arlo Q has adjustable sensitivity sliders in terms of how much noise or movement triggers recording, and the ability to create motion capture zones without an extra fee was definitely attractive. For example, I don’t want a notification / recording if Lucy moves around in her crate – I would only want an alert if there’s motion anywhere else, signaling a problem. So I’ve created zones that exclude that area, which is impossible to get to without crossing through a zone that is set to trigger.
See in the Dark
Night vision was also a feature I was looking for – the ability to check on Lucy in the middle of the night without leaving the comfort of my nice warm bed was a big attraction.
Powerful and Simple App Control
Next, I wanted something that had a good smartphone app to manage the system remotely and review alerts / recordings. I’ve found the Arlo app to be pretty great in that regard. It’s undergone some big updates since I first started using it, and I find it to be intuitive to get in there and do what I want. Sometimes it takes a little while to pull up the status of the camera, but that’s forgivable, in my opinion. Another cool thing is you can log in to your camera via any computer web browser – I use my phone 99% of the time but nice to have.
On that note, the whole Arlo ecosystem is big on building bridges with other systems: you can use Alexa to access video feeds on Alexa Fire TV or Fire TV Sticks (which I recommend everyone should have at least one of) as well as Samsung SmartThings and IFTTT. I haven’t found of ton of use cases for this yet – but I could imagine if you have a large home with multiple levels and want to check on various camera feeds quickly while watching your Fire TV, this could be a really cool feature.
Yell at Burglars (Or Your Dog)
In terms of audio – it has a mic and a speaker, which means you can both hear what’s going on, and actually talk through the speaker using your smartphone as a microphone. This latter feature could be useful for pranking your kids or making your pets very confused, but honestly I haven’t used it. I don’t care to yell at a burglar, I just want to get the notification, record the video and call the police ASAP.
Avoid Aforementioned Subscription Fees
What about cost? 7 days of cloud recordings are free, after which point they are deleted from your account. However, you can choose to download a video at any time and hang on to it past the 7 days, so I’ve never seen the point in upgrading for a longer stretch of time – if something serious happens, you’re gonna want copies of it anyways, and won’t procrastinate on pulling it down from the cloud if you need it for evidence.
So, are there any downsides? A few, but none substantial enough to knock it out of the stuff I like category. I’ll elaborate.
At times, managing the arming / disarming of the camera can be annoying. There’s a scheduling feature that will automatically arm and disarm the system based on predetermined start and end points on a daily basis. So you could automatically have it turn on about the time you usually go to bed, and have it turn off a little before you usually get up. Then have it turn back on about the time you usually go to work, and then back off again about the time you usually get home from work.
Scheduling / Geofencing Complications
The challenge is, however, that life is never so neat and tidy, unless you’re the kind of person who sticks to a routine with military precision. So, even though I run my Arlo mostly on a schedule, my actual schedule is fairly unpredictable, so my wife and I find ourselves manually arming / disarming a fair bit. One feature meant to help some with this is the Geofencing option, which will automatically arm the camera after you leave a predefined radius from your house. My reluctance here is you have to enable Always On location privileges on your phone, which may impact battery life (not to mention the good people at Netgear can know where you are at any given moment, which is probably a foregone conclusion from an overarching privacy perspective, but at the same time, why feed the flames?). To be clear, this is a total first world problem, but just good to know what you’re getting yourself into as a trade off for increased peace of mind (which I personally find to be worth it).
Another potential downside is the amount of false positives the system throws off, depending on how sensitive your audio and motion settings are. To me, this is another one of those peace of mind vs inconvenience trade offs that you must weigh for yourself. You can make the settings more sensitive to ensure that nothing is missed, and have to deal with more notifications, or set the threshold a bit higher and hope the system triggers when something serious is going down, therefore getting fewer notifications for things that don’t matter.
We live near a major road where ambulances drive by, and the flashing lights hitting the curtains in view of Arlo can trigger the motion sensor based on our sensitivity levels. Yes, I could adjust the zone to not encompass that area, but that’s also where a sliding door is, so I’m fine with the trade off of clearing false positives every once in a while. Then there’s a whole range of “interesting but I didn’t need to know” types of false positives, including motion when lights on timers automatically turn on, sound notifications when Lucy is chewing her nails in her crate, etc. Again, useful to know, but don’t need to freak out about either – there’s no accompanying action necessary.
So, the downsides are really nothing to write home about – there are some limitations, like variance in one’s schedule, that are not the product’s fault, and I’d rather have a system that was a little too sensitive (again – these are settings you can adjust in the app) than one that missed the big event they were intended to be there for in the first place.
Arlo for Babies
Two random notes: if this sounds like a great baby monitor as well, it absolutely is – but they make a special version of Arlo just for baby monitoring purposes; check it out. Last, another huge point in the Arlo Q’s favor is you can add more Arlo cameras, including outdoor / waterproof, etc, to create a net of coverage for various parts of your home, inside and out, and then control and view them all from the app, which is good to know as you consider scalability.
Can Arlo Stand Alone?
A final question to consider: is Arlo Q enough of a security system on its own, or do you need to consider something with professional monitoring as well? For over a year, we used Arlo as our main security system, and fortunately, nothing happened. We did, however, eventually invest in a SimpliSafe security system, keeping Arlo and still using it daily. You can read more about that in my SimpliSafe review.