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Netgear Arlo Review

After Thinking of Home Security, I started looking at fake and real video surveillance systems on the market. At the same time, my brother learned of my family's encounter with a burglar and decided that video surveillance is necessary. I agreed with him that video surveillance is a great deterrent and useful for the capturing of evidence. He proceeded to order me a set.

In this article, I am going to review the Netgear Arlo VMS3330, which includes three video cameras. The Netgear Arlo is marketed as 100% wireless video camera home security system. My family is going to put it through the pace starting with installation. I will update this article over time as we integrate it into our home fortress.

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Package (Unboxing)

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Cost

Netgear Arlo is not the most inexpensive video surveillance system out there. In fact, looking at the home video surveillance market, there are numerous wired four camera video security system within the $100 to $200 range. A single Arlo add-on camera is $159.99. One camera, two cameras, and three cameras Arlo systems are $199.99, $349.99, and $449.99, respectively.

A wired security camera costs about $20 on Amazon. A single Arlo camera costs $159.99 begs the question on whether the video surveillance equipment itself will tempt a theft situation, which it is used to prevent. My brother's argument is that you'd likely mount it high (outdoors) and the thief will have to bring a ladder. I will mount this system and time will tell if anyone will steal the Arlo cameras.

Plus, the Arlo cameras run on batteries (which we will review in detail in a later section). New batteries are included in the package, but you will incur future battery costs.

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HD Security Camera

The Arlo HD Security Camera looks very futuristic, or modern. Its laboratory white body and black face reminds me of characters in recent robot movies, like "I, Robot", "WALL-E", "Big Hero 6", etc. Aesthetically, it's nothing to rave about, but it's definitely a huge improvement compared to traditional, clunky, boxy video camera. Compared to the black dome security cameras of the modern age, the Arlo white/black cameras look more futuristic.

These cameras produce 720P HD quality videos. That could be considered as overkill for video surveillance around your home. But with wireless cameras this small, it makes you wonder if you could use it as an action cam around your home as well. The lens captures 120 degrees of view, which is on par with many action cams on the market.

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Weathering the Elements

Upon receiving the package, my first impression is that these look like typical iPhone, tablet, and other consumer electronic products. The cameras, although hefty, doesn't look like they can stand sunlight or rain.

But as I researched about the product some more on the Arlo support site, I saw this question, "Are Arlo cameras weatherproof?". The answer is "Yes, Arlo cameras are weatherproof. They work in a wide variety of weather conditions, including sun, wind, rain, or snow. Operating temperature is 14� F to 122� F (-10� C to 50� C).".

Now, I feel a lot better. Because I have been concerned about the product failing under the sun. Knowing its weatherproofing capability, I can basically mount it anywhere in the open. I want intruders to see it and use it as a deterrent.

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Placement

Just because Arlo's HD security cameras are wireless, doesn't mean placing them is any easier than wired video camera. In fact, it can be just as hard or even harder in your situation. It's true, wireless cameras mean you don't have to drill holes and run wires everywhere. That part is definitely easier. But for wireless devices to work, there are strict placement requirements that you have to meet.

Arlo camera has to be within 300 feet from the base stations. Range could be shorter through metal and thick walls. This maximum distance is probably no problems for most home owners. But if you have a ranch or a huge plot of land, be ready to deal with this limitation.

What's more restricting for a typical home owner is that the Arlo camera should be at least ten feet from the base station. And each camera should be at least 6.5 feet away from each other. Because the base stations uses wired Ethernet, not WiFi, you can be even more restricted, unless your Internet router happens to be in the middle of your home.

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Camera Mount

Arlo cameras come with metallic ball-like magnetic mounts. Using it, you can place the Arlo camera in any position on this half-dome layout. It's an ingenious innovation created by Avaak for its Vue security camera system, which Netgear purchased. Netgear turned the Vue into VueZone, which is similar to the Arlo. But only the magnetic camera mount is reused in the Arlo line.

The magnetic camera mount is quite handy for use indoors, because you can quickly and easily pull the camera off for battery change or temporary relocation. The magnet seems strong and firm. A future California earthquake will let me know if it is strong enough.

But if the magnetic mount is too restrictive for you, you can use the tripod screw mount below the camera. Then you can use practically any tripod camera bracket on the market. I'm glad Netgear did not skimp on this feature.

Theoretically, a thief can throw a ball at the magnetically mounted Arlo camera to knock it to the ground. So if you are afraid of someone stealing the Arlo camera, go with a tripod mount. At least, then, the thief would have to use a ladder and unscrew the camera from the mount by hand.

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Power Source

Each Arlo camera is powered by four CR123 batteries. New Energizer batteries are included in the package. Each batteries supply 3 volts. Four of them provide 12 volts total. The CR123 batteries are necessary to provide a camera package this small. Using eight AA batteries means the Arlo camera has to be bigger.

One of my biggest concerns with electrical gadgets today is whether they work with rechargeable batteries. Fortunately, Netgear Arlo cameras work with rechargeable batteries. The form-factor for CR123 size batteries are RCR123A and 16340, so look for this size battery with either Li-Ion or LiFePO4. Netgear specifies at least 650 mAh and as much as 2000 mAh. It's unclear why you can't get even higher capacity batteries. Netgear Arlo cameras can handle battery voltage up to 4.2v.

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Night Vision

The Arlo HD Security Cam has build in 850nm infrared (IR) LED's. Its digital sensor is also sensitive to 850nm IR light.

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Motion Detection

Unlike traditional security cameras that is already recording video, Arlo HD Security Camera has built in motion detector. When there is no motion, the camera stays in low-power battery conservation mode. Once it detects motion, it wakes up and starts to shoot videos. When used in this manner, Netgear claims that fresh new batteries lasts 4 to 6 months.

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No Audio

Like many video security systems on the market, the Arlo cameras do not capture audio. Even though that's the norm for the market segment of this product, I am disappointed to learn of this missing feature.

Arlo looks so futuristic, advanced, and pleasing compared to industrial grade video surveillance cameras, I just naturally assumed that it could capture audio. Plus, I may want to use it as an action cam around my home. Without the microphone, it cannot serve as an action cam at all.

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Base Station

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Setting Up

Netgear claims that setting up the Arlo is simple: connect the base station to the router, turn it on, sync the cameras, and run the Arlo app. That implies it uses DHCP, which is not so simple for my home. Due to security reasons, DHCP is disabled on my home router. Only static IP is allowed. Arlo's base station is unforgiving in this manner. If forces me to enable DHCP and fixing its IP using MAC address.

Although doable, it requires enabling DHCP. And on less sophisticated routers, it means you are opening the router up to the rest of the world. If my router does not allow DHCP restrictions, Netgear Arlo would be a no go for me and earn itself a return to the store.

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Service

Netgear Arlo is designed around Netgear's cloud recording service. That means all the video clips goes out to Netgear Arlo server before it comes back to you. That translates to remote off-site storage right off the bat, so you don't have to move any data off site yourself. And you don't have to maintain on-site recording equipment. This feature guards against criminal who tries to destroy on-site evidence and arson that could destroy on-site recording.

However, it means you are stuck with Netgear's Arlo cloud service without any other choice. Netgear provide three service levels. Fortunately, its "Basic" service is free. The "Basic" service includes 1 GB of cloud storage, recording of 5 cameras, 1 base station, motion detection alerts, smart mode and rules, download and share video clips, and access from iOS, Android, and desktop. Arlo's web site claims the 1 GB of cloud storage is sufficient for 7 days of recording. I suspect that's enough for most home users. If your home is robbed and you can't get to your remote video storage to download the evidence, then you probably need to pay for a higher level service.

To get more storage, recording from more cameras, and connecting more base stations, you'll need its "Premier" or "Elite" service. "Premium" service provides 10 GB of cloud storage and recording from 10 cameras. Currently, "Premium" service costs $9.99 per month or $99 per year. "Elite" service provides 100 GB of cloud storage, recording from 15 cameras, and connection from 3 base stations. Currently, "Elite" service costs $14.99 per month or $149 per year. Both "Premier" and "Elite" services also provide scheduler and camera sharing.

Another drawback to the remote storage service is that you are at the mercy of Netgear maintaining the service and your Internet provider keeping its server running. Much like your Internet service going down, Netgear's recording servers could go down. In fact, I have read several reviews of such occurrence.

But the biggest question is what would you do if Netgear ever cancels its Arlo online servers? Does that mean the Arlo security system will become useless?

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