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Smart doorbell answers the call of great video quality

The Arlo Video Doorbell has night vision up to about 6m.
The Arlo Video Doorbell has night vision up to about 6m.

Too tired to get out of bed to answer the doorbell? Perhaps you need a smart video doorbell such as the Arlo Video Doorbell, which lets you view and talk to visitors through a smartphone app.

Launched in Singapore at the end of June, the Arlo Video Doorbell is the first smart video doorbell from Arlo, which is known for its home security cameras.

Unlike most video doorbells that have cameras with a 16:9 aspect ratio, the Arlo's camera has a 1:1 aspect ratio that produces a square image with a greater vertical field of view.

Assuming you mount the doorbell at shoulder height, you should be able to see packages left in front of the door.

In my testing, I was able to see most packages except thin and small ones such as a letter - with the camera mounted shoulder height at the side of my door.

The Arlo Video Doorbell is a wired model that uses the wiring of your existing doorbell for power, as well as tapping your chime for audio.

Hence, it is trickier to install than its battery-operated peers, as you have to remove your existing doorbell and connect the electrical wires to it. Although the Arlo app provides a thorough walk-through of the installation process, I recommend hiring an electrician if you are unsure.

It uses the same user-friendly Arlo app (available for iOS and Android) as Arlo's cameras. But unlike them, it does not require an Arlo SmartHub or base station - the doorbell connects directly to your home router via Wi-Fi.

There is, however, a good reason to want an Arlo base station - you can pair the doorbell with it to record and store videos in a USB-connected drive or microSD card (depending on the model of the base station).

The doorbell lacks any local storage for videos and you can view videos only in real time. But it comes with a three-month trial for the Arlo Smart service (from $4.49 a month), which provides 30-day rolling cloud video recordings and smart notifications that can, for instance, distinguish between a person and an animal.

The video quality is excellent, especially with high dynamic range (HDR) enabled, but objects look slightly curved from lens distortion.​

  • FOR

    • Wide vertical viewing angle

    • Clear video and audio

    • Competitive price

    AGAINST

    • Not plug-and-play

    • Arlo Smart subscription or Arlo base station required for video recordings

    SPECS

    PRICE: $279

    VIDEO RESOLUTION: 1,536 x 1,536 pixels with night vision (up to 6m)

    FIELD OF VIEW: 180 degrees (diagonal)

    CONNECTIVITY: Wi-Fi (2.4GHz)

    PLATFORMS: iOS and Android

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5 PERFORMANCE: 4.5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The camera has night vision up to about 6m, but I did not test this as my doorway is well-lit.

When the camera detects motion, it sends an app alert to your phone. If the visitor proceeds to press the doorbell, you will receive a phone call.

You can either answer the call and talk to your visitor or respond using five pre-recorded messages that cover most common scenarios, such as asking a courier to leave the package outside. There is also an option for the visitor to leave a message if he does not get a response to a call after 20 seconds.

The doorbell speaker is loud at the maximum volume. I recommend setting it at 50 per cent or lower so as not to startle your visitor.

Like Arlo's cameras, the doorbell supports Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. You can speak to these virtual assistants to get the doorbell to perform a handful of tasks, including streaming the live-camera view on a smart display such as Amazon Echo Show or Google Nest Hub.

At $279, the Arlo Video Doorbell is priced competitively against the smart doorbells from market leader Ring, which are in the $300 range.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2020, with the headline 'Smart doorbell answers the call of great video quality '. Print Edition | Subscribe