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Security camera worth its price

Features of the Arlo Pro 3 security camera system (above) include a higher 2K video resolution and a wider field of view compared with its 2017 predecessor.
Features of the Arlo Pro 3 security camera system (above) include a higher 2K video resolution and a wider field of view compared with its 2017 predecessor.

Arlo's wire-free security cameras are arguably the best in their category.

Simply place these battery-powered, weather-proof and motion-activated wireless cameras anywhere inside or outside your residence and within range of a Wi-Fi network, and you can monitor your home from anywhere in the world with a smartphone.

The latest Arlo Pro 3 security camera system sports several improvements over its 2017 predecessor. They include a higher 2K video resolution (2,560 x 1,440 pixels, up from 1,080p), a wider field of view (160 degrees) and an integrated spotlight that is said to be able to deter intruders as well as provide illumination to capture videos at night in colour.

Except for the 2K video resolution, these upgrades were first introduced last year in the flagship Arlo Ultra camera, which offers a 4K video resolution, albeit at a higher starting price of $1,199 compared with the Arlo Pro 3's starting price of $899 for a two-camera pack.

I tested the two-camera Arlo Pro 3 kit, which comes with a smart hub that connects to a router via Ethernet cable and two Arlo Pro 3 cameras, as well as accessories such as camera mounts and a battery charger. There are also three-and four-camera kits available at $1,249 and $1,599 respectively. An add-on camera costs $399.

The Arlo mobile app (available for Android and iOS) and a free Arlo account are required to set up the cameras. This process has never been easier - the app found my two cameras automatically, unlike with other models for which I had to manually add each camera.

With its support for high dynamic range, the videos captured by the Arlo Pro 3 are not as washed out as those taken by other security cameras. Each camera also comes with a spotlight for colour night vision and a siren to scare off intruders. These features do enough to justify the Arlo's higher price compared with its competitors.

Bundled with the Arlo Pro 3 is a three-month trial for Arlo Smart, a subscription service ($4.49 a month) that uploads video clips to the cloud - they are kept online for 30 days - so you can share, view and download them.

But gone is the free seven-day cloud storage feature that was available for the Arlo Pro 2 and older models. Instead, users without a subscription can store videos clips on an external storage drive connected to the Arlo smart hub's USB port. The downside is that these locally stored videos can be viewed only when you connect the storage drive to a computer.

Without a subscription, you will still receive motion-activated notifications from the cameras and you can stream live video in real time and talk to people on the other side of the camera via the Arlo's two-way microphone.

  • FOR

  • • Excellent video quality with HDR support and colour night vision

    • Set-up is easier than before

    • USB port for local external storage drive

  • AGAINST

  • • Expensive

    • Package detection feature remains hit and miss

    • Paid subscription required for cloud recording

  • SPECS

  • PRICE: $899 (two-camera pack, version tested), $1,249 (three-camera pack), $1,599 (four-camera pack)

    VIDEO RESOLUTION: Up to 2,560 x 1,440 pixels

    VIDEO FORMAT: H.264 and H.265

    FIELD OF VIEW: 160 degrees diagonal

    NIGHT VISION: Yes, in colour

    MOTION DETECTION: Yes

    MOBILE APPS: iOS and Android

    WEIGHT: 316g

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 4.5/5

    DESIGN: 4.5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4.5/5

    VALUE: 3.5/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

But you will lose out on several smart features. For instance, Arlo Smart can distinguish among people, animals, vehicles and packages. This feature has its uses - for instance, to reduce false alarms by ignoring motion activity triggered by your dog.

While I did not test the feature with animals, the person detection was spot on. But the package-detection feature did not work despite me placing large boxes in the camera's view and walking in front of it while carrying a box.

Arlo Smart is also required to create activity zones, which are areas within the camera's view that will trigger a notification alert when motion is detected. This feature reduces false alarms as you can restrict the camera's focus to, say, your doorway rather than the entire room.

In other words, Arlo Smart seems like a necessary service rather than an optional one, which obviously adds to the overall cost.

Despite the cheaper alternatives in the market, the Arlo Pro 3's ease of use, rich features and excellent performance are probably worth its premium price for some users.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 29, 2020, with the headline 'Security camera worth its price'. Print Edition | Subscribe