Arlo is easily among the most prominent, and best, companies around when it comes to smart home devices. Particularly when it comes to smart home security cameras. When Arlo offered to send out its Essential Indoor Security Camera for review, whether or not I’d test it out wasn’t in question.
This camera does, after all, come with some of the best features available in the space. That includes a strong Night Vision mode. And everything else from smart home integration for footage viewing or streaming and two-way talk interactions. It also ships with a built-in privacy shutter.
Arlo built the Essential Indoor Security Camera to be wired. That’s as opposed to the current trend toward battery-powered devices. That could present an issue for some users. And its low cost will also be a cause for concern for users too. So we’re taking a closer look at how the Arlo Essential Indoor Security Camera features work and the hardware performs under review.
Build quality for the Arlo Essential Indoor Security Camera doesn’t feel cheap
Now, I was already aware of one of the best features of the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera before this review. And, perhaps surprisingly, it’s a hardware feature. One that’s predominantly unique to Arlo in this price bracket or well above it. Of course, I’m talking about its built-in privacy shutter.
Other companies do offer software-based camera shut-off and the ability to set schedules. But this Arlo camera has a physical shutter that closes. You can close that in conjunction with scheduling and geofencing. So, for example, if I was at home, I was able to have the camera automatically shutter itself. And there was no question, as a result, that my cameras weren’t actively streaming footage.
That peace of mind is not necessarily there with software-based solutions. Most of those rely on tiny LED lights to indicate whether streaming or recording is happening.
In terms of pure hardware quality, Arlo didn’t shirk on that front either. Initially, upon unboxing my Arlo Essential Indoor Security Camera review unit, I was concerned about the built-in stand. It’s designed with a ball-style joint for positioning. And that means it should be relatively durable. But the point of connection between the stand and the ball joint is incredibly thin. And that was cause for some initial concern.
After using the camera for a while, including several sessions to find the right position, that no longer concerns me. Although this Arlo camera is built from plastics, it doesn’t show any signs of breaking anytime soon.
Best of all, all of the appropriate hardware for mounting the camera to a wall is included. Making it even less unlikely that something will happen to damage the camera. The hardware is going to be well up and out of the way.
Taken in combination, it’s safe to say this is one of the more well-designed cameras in its price bracket.
Image quality was on point, with easy-to-make adjustments as needed
It’s worth pointing out that this camera supports three levels of image quality. But, as a budget-friendly smart camera, that’s only up to 1080p. The lower resolution will undoubtedly be useful for those with slower connections. Each level of resolution worked as expected under testing. I kept the quality at 1080p for the duration of my review.
In terms of pure image quality, the Arlo Essential Indoor Security Camera more than lived up to expectations during my review. And that’s likely down to just how massive the lens and sensor are, as shown in the images here.
Details were crisp. And Arlo set the camera so that its brightness could be adjusted across more than four levels. So the contrast wasn’t too far off during recording. Even zooming in didn’t seem to cause too much distortion. Putting this camera, during my use for this review, right about on par with Google’s more expensive new Nest cameras.
The Night Vision needs work
I only noticed one issue on the image quality front during my review of this Arlo Indoor Camera. And that was with Night Vision activated. Ordinarily, I’d expect night mode to automatically kick in when the lights in the room are turned off. That’s, typically, at the start of the day and after the lights go off late at night. Particularly, since the light used in the installed room was relatively bright.
But that wasn’t the case. The Night Vision mode seemed to come on as soon as the light filtering in from the window diminished. That’s after my room light came on and hours before darkness set in. As a result, the camera showed shots that clearly should have been in color in black and white instead. And the light caused washout and blind spots in the camera’s vision without significant adjustment.
Those issues were likely made worse by my positioning the camera. I had it placed at the same height as the light and pointing in its general direction. But it wasn’t promising since Night Vision shouldn’t have been on, to begin with.
When Night Vision did function properly, it displayed the image clearly. And brightness could be adjusted in-app, just as with daytime mode. However, camera positioning is obviously going to be very important with this camera.
No battery life to worry about with this camera and it’s loaded with features
Now, to say Arlo cameras are feature-rich would be an understatement but not every camera has the same features. So we’ll cover the features found in our review of the Arlo Essential Indoor Security Camera here. It’s worth noting right from the start that Arlo camera features are more reliant on a subscription. That’s compared to other cameras that are available. Specifically, you’ll need an Arlo Secure subscription.
Without that, most of the features won’t work. In fact, you only get up to seven days of recording in cloud storage, for events. In addition to limited support for three months, a five-camera limit, and standard generalized motion alerts.
Arlo doesn’t give you precise motion alerts separated by category without a subscription. You also won’t get activity zones, 24/7 recording, up to 4K cloud recording for 30-days of history, or other features. Such as emergency services response.
Those features do exist with the Arlo Essential Indoor Security Camera if you do have a subscription. And the subscription is relatively inexpensive. Arlo priced its Essential series cameras inexpensive enough that the subscription should be considered a must for these cameras. Especially for those who go with the pricier option for unlimited cameras at just $10 per month. Although $2.99 for a single camera isn’t bad either.
That’s setting aside that a three-month free trial is on offer for first-time subscribers.
Each feature, as well as built-in ones such as Night Vision or two-way talk, works exceptionally well. Performing exactly as I’d have liked without hiccups. The speaker was crisp and clear if delayed by a moment or two. And the mic worked better than I’d expected for the money, as well.
Better still, the Arlo Essential Indoor Security Camera is wired. So you can use all of the features without concern about whether they’re draining the battery.
Installation is genuinely easy, even if you wall-mount the Arlo Essential Indoor Security Camera
To say that installing the Arlo Essential Indoor Security Camera for this review was easy would be a massive understatement. At the very least, it’s as easy as any other indoor camera. You can install it simply by placing it on a counter or other surface. And then, of course, by plugging it in. Or by using the included wall-mount hardware.
Arlo ensured that installation is far easier than might be expected, for mounting too.
The company marked the mount itself with an “Up” arrow so it’s easy to tell which side goes up. The holes in the mount itself for screws are easy to use for marking the wall before drilling. Arlo includes drywall anchors and screws, too. The company effectively left no guesswork. The entire process took around 5 minutes.
The installation was easy, the but setup wasn’t
Setup, on the other hand, was less straightforward. Or less than it would have been if the unit I received would have connected easily. It didn’t, for the first several hours of trying. The networking of the Arlo Essential Indoor Security Camera requires a 2.4GHz connection. And that didn’t seem to work properly either. Even after going through the process of ensuring my setup device and the camera were on a 2.4GHz network, it wouldn’t connect.
Hours later, I attempted the process again and it connected. Now, it’s unreasonable to expect that no defective units will slip through. No manufacturing process is perfect. So no company can guarantee that never happens. I can’t say for sure if that’s what happened here. But it was an annoying process up until it started working properly.
Once it started working, the setup was quick. It was just a few steps and a QR code used by the camera to discover and connect to WiFi. Then, it was a simple matter of following the setup wizard.
Should you buy the Arlo Essential Indoor Security Camera?
The primary issues of note with this Arlo camera came mostly during setup. The app behind Arlo smart home products, frankly, needs work. Whether that’s because some features don’t always load up when the app does. Arlo limits the type of connectivity that you can use for setup as well. Namely, a 2.4GHz network. And that presents another potential problem. Although that could come down to keeping the price low.
Night Vision could also use work; although it works well providing a clear image and plenty of detail when it does work. It simply turns on prematurely and doesn’t shut off necessarily when it should. So there appears to be some issue with how it reads the light of the room. That’s either on the hardware or software side.
Arlo could potentially fix all of the issues via a software update. Moreover, not every user will necessarily experience the issues. And, setting those aside, the camera itself performs very well.
As smart home products go, the Arlo Essential Indoor Security Camera sits squarely at the lower end of the budget side of the spectrum. But, as shown throughout my review, it certainly doesn’t perform like one. Instead, it performs at least as well as any other 1080p camera on the market. And at a much lower price than many competitors.