Netgear Arlo review: The best home-monitoring system money can buy

Price when reviewed

Netgear Arlo review: The best home-monitoring system money can buy

Setting up the system

With the rise of the Internet of Things and smart-home technology, complicated browser-based setup is fast becoming a thing of the past, and Arlo shows the way forward.

It’s a doddle to set up: find a spare Ethernet socket on your router, connect the base station to it, pair the cameras with it – which takes only seconds – and once you’ve downloaded the Arlo app and set up an account, you’re ready to go.

This is the point at which I’d normally bemoan the fact that the system can’t be used to its fullest without you having to pay a monthly fee. However, another of Arlo’s strengths is that the basic account – which will store video for up to five cameras, for seven days – is free. For the Nest Cam you pay £8 per month for seven days of footage.

Netgear Arlo: Base station

If you want to hook up more cameras, or you’d like to keep your recordings for longer than a week, you’ll have to move up to the Premier or Elite subscriptions. Premier costs £6.49 per month (or £64 per year), supports up to ten cameras and stores your cloud recordings for 30 days. Elite supports up to 15 cameras and three base stations, and lets you store clips for 60 days.

The only gap in Arlo’s long list of capabilities, is that there’s currently no way of recording video to local storage. However, Netgear promises that this will soon be resolved via a firmware update, and that Arlo will be able to record to ReadyNAS network storage devices and USB thumbdrives via the USB ports on the rear of the base station.

Using Arlo

It’s certainly a feature-packed system, but what makes Arlo truly useful is the wireless technology that the cameras use to communicate with the base station.

The battery-powered smart-home networking gear I’ve used so far has employed either the Z-Wave or ZigBee low-power wireless-networking standards, but I haven’t been impressed with the range of such equipment.

Arlo review: Base station pictured from the side

Instead, Arlo’s cameras and base stations use a low-power variant of the 802.11n Wi-Fi standard, and the range is far more impressive. I had one camera mounted in the garden on a tripod trained on a bird table, and despite the fact that the signal had to travel through a double-glazed patio door, a floor-to-ceiling cupboard and two plasterboard walls to reach the base station, it was able to maintain a reliable enough signal to stream live footage to my phone at work.

The other advantage of using a variant of 802.11n Wi-Fi is the potential for direct compatibility with your wireless router. Indeed, this is precisely what Netgear is promising to deliver to owners of its Nighthawk R7000 router via a firmware update later in the year. This will allow Arlo cameras to connect directly to the router, cutting out the need for a separate base station.

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