Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wireless
“A great software experience is compromised by cheap looking hardware that doesn’t match the price.”
Great software with lots of options
Good video quality, day and night
Inexpensive looking hardware
Prominent fisheye effect
Package deliveries are becoming more and more common these days. I received two separate deliveries to my door on the day this was written. Arlo recognizes this and wants to help. The newest doorbell, the Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell, has a 180 degree field of view and packet detection, and doesn’t need any cables at all if you don’t want or already have them. Arlo’s successes are ingrained in its line of home security cameras, such as the mighty Arlo Pro 4. Does the new video doorbell have a chance to stay a relevant gamer in space?
This doorbell is all about choice
You can install the Essential Wireless doorbell with or without a cable. If you have a wired doorbell, the Essentials button will ring in your interior. Otherwise, you can wirelessly mount this battery operated doorbell anywhere. Arlo claims this doorbell will last for six months on a single charge. My tests show a little closer to two or three, but in fairness it was crazy cold outside so battery efficiency can be affected. That said, it’s nice to have a doorbell that you can just put whatever space you need on it.
When you set up the app, the doorbell needs to scan a QR code to get the Wi-Fi credentials. I only mention this because the process worked very well which is unusual in my experience. Well played, Arlo. During the set up process, you will be asked what type of subscription you would like to sign up for, which was a bit off-putting.
There’s no other way to put it: it’s huge
The Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell is a large piece of a doorbell. It’s the biggest doorbell I’ve tested so far. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if your door invites you to a leaner offering, it’s important to keep that in mind. The doorbell is 47mm x 143mm x 37mm which is pretty massive. For comparison: The Netatmo doorbell that I tested a few weeks ago is also huge, but smaller than this doorbell (45mm x 135mm x 29mm) in every dimension.
The doorbell hardware is a combination of matte and glossy polycarbonate that feels solid and sturdy, but exudes a cheap aesthetic. The camera protrudes a little from the top of the bell and gives it a diagonal field of view of 180 degrees. At the bottom is a round button with a ring of LEDs that light up when you approach. The LEDs are not bright enough to illuminate the area. They’re only there to indicate where to slide. The 6,500 mAh battery is located in the plastic housing. With the pen supplied, similar to a SIM tray pen found on most telephones, you can detach the doorbell from the mounting plate, remove the battery and connect it to a micro-USB cable for charging.
The video feed (resolution 1536 x 1536) is pretty good during the day and night, although a very noticeable fisheye effect can be seen on the periphery of the feed. There is also a noticeable delay when the camera is transmitting audio and video, often up to three seconds. This can make conversations difficult, but not impossible.
The software lights up
On the software side, the app is very comprehensive. You get the usual options like activity zones, notification configurations and the like. What impresses me about Arlo software is the wealth of options it gives you. The doorbell can recognize people, animals, vehicles, movements and even the parcel delivery. This last option is limited to only one Arlo camera at a time for some reason. You can’t let your front door camera and doorbell detect a package, which is an weird limitation.
You can also set up an E911 notification and phone friend option. If an intruder appears at your door, the doorbell can contact emergency services. If a package is displayed during your vacation, the app can choose a designated contact for you. You can also activate a built-in siren. The siren isn’t particularly loud, but it’s deafening. Passers-by on the sidewalk in front of your house will hear it. Your neighbors may or may not.
The Arlo Essential video doorbell also works with Alexa, Google Assistant, and even Samsung SmartThings and IFTTT. Silent mode bypasses app notifications and / or the physical chimes. This is valuable when young children are sleeping. There are call settings, video settings, motion detection sensitivity settings, and more. Overall, I am impressed with the software experience as it has a ton of features.
While the software is one of my favorite software to date, the hardware leaves a lot to be desired.
This can also be a weakness as the app contains two settings areas. There is one for device-specific settings and one for general settings for Arlo. It takes a while to wrap your head around everyone, but that also ensures that you can really make this doorbell your own.
Overall, this doorbell offers a great software experience with great video capabilities, but with less than impressive hardware. In the software, this doorbell really stands out. The audio and video lag, while not great, isn’t terrible either. But the abundance of settings and functions that this bell has to offer makes it very convincing. It’s also $ 200. The last two doorbells I checked were $ 30 and $ 60, respectively, and this doorbell seems to go against the grain in that regard.
Is there a better alternative?
The 180-degree diagonal field of view is great, but the Vivint Doorbell Camera Pro has a 180-degree vertical and horizontal field of view, making it bigger and wider. Also, the Arlo Essential Wireless doorbell is just huge and difficult to place next to some doors. While the software is one of my favorite software to date, the hardware leaves a lot to be desired.
Will it take?
The Arlo Essential Video doorbell has a 30-day return policy and a one-year limited warranty. The construction is durable and solid. The operating temperature range is -4 to 113 degrees Fahrenheit, which is good. You can even replace the battery (for an additional $ 50) if the original battery runs out over time.
Should I buy it?
No. Video doorbell prices are falling, and considering this doorbell retails for $ 199 and requires a subscription, that’s too high. For this price, I want a premium look and feel and software experience. In this case, I only get one of those three. The upcoming Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 offers radar sensors and a bird’s eye view for a little more. The more economical Ring video doorbell with cable also offers you a first-class software experience and costs less than half the price. The software experience here is great, but the hardware really pulls it down.