Arlo’s full suite of security products rests on two key selling points: complete home security and flexible, easy setup. Each time we test and review Arlo’s products, we tend to come to the same conclusion: they do both of those things really, really well.
So when we geared up to review the Pro 3, Arlo’s 2K wireless camera system released in 2019, we wanted to see if that same flexibility, ease of use, and seamless functionality were as evident as in previous Arlo models like Arlo Pro 2 or Arlo Ultra.
After all, these are not cheap cameras. The Pro 3 starts around $500 for just a 2-camera package, and that doesn’t even include subscription plans for storing all the data these cameras generate. It can really add up! But then again, we’ve found that for the most part, you get what you pay for with home security products.
If you’re going to make the investment, you want to be sure it’s worth it. That’s why our team decided to take a good, hard look at Arlo Pro 3 for this hands-on review.
You might be surprised at what we found.
At first glance, we confess, we were charmed by the packaging. We admired the smooth veneer of each camera in our 3-camera pack and the impressive Smart Hub (aka base station) with its many ports. We also appreciated that there weren’t any wires to untangle or paperwork to organize.
Clearly, we thought, this is going to be a breeze. Nothing to assemble, no unwieldy instructions to confuse us, and – we really love this – the hardware is magnetic. That’s how you put it together, basically – with magnets. Pretty nice!
But before you get started, a heads up: you’ll have to download Arlo’s mobile app1 right away. In keeping with Arlo’s style of clean lines and simple sophistication, the one-page leaflet in the box directed us to the Arlo app. Once we got the app, it opened with a series of step-by-step installation instructions. This walked us through the setup process and helped us get comfortable with the app.
We then turned our attention to the SmartHub, which reminded us of a Wifi router but with fewer lights. You’ll start bringing your system online here.
Now, keep in mind that you’ll need to connect the SmartHub to your Wifi router using the provided ethernet cable. This is essential for the system to work properly; you can’t use the SmartHub without it. If you don’t have a Wifi router with an ethernet port, your modem might. Failing that, you could purchase a Wifi extender with an ethernet port.
One word of caution: Don’t power on the SmartHub before you connect the ethernet cable; otherwise, you might have trouble connecting. Plug first, power second!
Then, you can pick your plan. We took advantage of the three-month free trial and activated Arlo Smart right away (highly recommended). From there, we could unlock a world of Arlo advanced features.
FYI: Allow yourself at least 50 minutes to get Arlo Pro 3 up and running. This system is easy to install, but like other smart home devices, it runs off of a Wifi network, which can be occasionally glitchy. The system needs time to sync up with your phone, its network, and your home’s Wifi. So patience is a virtue.
Now back to the hardware, which is where the magnets come in. Once you affix the mounting bracket to your desired camera location inside or outside your home, you’ll then attach the camera itself. We liked being able to twist and turn the camera angle pretty much any way we wanted, since the magnetic force is so powerful. It’s a solid, air-tight configuration that we think you’ll appreciate.
Once we had everything in place and named the cameras within the app, it was time to watch Arlo work its magic. So let’s see what kind of tricks Arlo has up its sleeve.
As we settled in with Arlo, we really grew to love the flexibility this system offered. It paired easily with our smart home devices, like Google Home and Amazon Alexa.2 And, since we’re always on our smartphones anyway, we liked that the system immediately started sending us mobile notifications.
For example, as soon as we realized how sensitive the motion detection was, we knew we’d be flooded with alerts for our front door camera. So we went into the app, opened settings, and clicked on Smart Notifications, which is under our Arlo Smart subscription. This is where we managed our individual cameras. Similar to other top cameras on the market, like the Nest Cam IQ, we were able to adjust motion alerts to remove vehicles, people, animals, etc.
Now, about those pesky notifications: You don’t have to let them get out of hand. You can easily customize notification settings in the app. Do you want to receive notifications while you’re home, or just while you’re away? Do you want only one camera to detect motion at night, or all three? There’s lots of fine-tuning you can do in the app which is a wonderful feature.
It wasn’t all roses and rainbows, though. We started experiencing sporadic delays from alert to playback, and in some cases the playback failed or was distorted. Initially, we thought the problem was our home’s Wifi connection. We inquired with our Internet provider and discovered that we were running at only 67bps. This is not normal for us, so we knew something was wrong.
Long story short, the issue was fixed the next day, and we started seeing much faster performance, both from the motion detection notifications and the full recordings. Conclusion? If you’re going to own this system, you really need to have a strong Internet connection. Otherwise, you won’t be able to unlock the full potential of Arlo’s system.
Despite the huge improvement, you still have to wait for the recordings to load. So if you’ve got a critter making cameos in your flower beds, you might not catch him in the act. This presented another downside for us: A video that was a minute and a half long took upwards of 45 seconds to load once the activity ceased. So this is something to keep in mind.
Note: These were the (occasional) bugs we encountered when there’s a lot of data being transferred from the cameras to your mobile devices. So don’t be surprised if things start to bottleneck. We’ve seen this before in Ring’s cameras as well; even though it’s 2K HDR video rather than 4K, you’re still generating a ton of data from these cameras and putting a strain on your Wifi connection. Our advice? If you’re really concerned about lag times, perhaps a fully monitored home security system is the way to go, as this issue generally does not happen with those systems.
Speed issues aside, you’re still alerted to the activity immediately, as long as you’ve got notifications turned on; you just can’t always see the activity right away in the app. In our experience, the real-time notifications allowed us to spring into action once an alert came through. The alerts gave us time to make sound, clear-headed decisions about what to do next.
Another thing we appreciated with Arlo were the crisp, clear pictures we got from our 2K HDR outdoor cams; we believe these cams offer the high-level detail that would be extremely valuable in the event of a break-in, so we really appreciated the sharp resolution of the Arlo Pro 3. Note that the resolution was sharp, but it wasn’t quite on-par with Arlo Ultra or some of Lorex’s wired IP cameras (but then you have to fuss with wires!).
FYI: Many middle-of-the-road security cameras use 2K HDR. We won’t lie, it’s not a perfect picture; it’s certainly a noticeable downside compared to Arlo Ultra, which equips its cameras with 4K HDR. If video perfection is what you’re after, you might want to spring for the Ultra.
After getting a good feel for the cameras’ performance, we turned to the app. We had downloaded it on two phones, but soon discovered that only one of our accounts could act as the administrator. That means only one account had the full selection of customizable features, like the ability to remove/ignore vehicles from the motion sensor. The other can act as a shared device, but the shared user is limited in what they can control. For instance, a shared user can arm and disarm any or all cameras, but not much else.
All told, here are the pros and cons we found with Arlo Pro 3:
If you’re like us, whenever you’re installing electronic equipment outdoors, you’re inevitably worried about damage from the elements. What if it gets too wet and stops working? What if it falls down on hard concrete after a windstorm? What if it’s vandalized?
We can give you at least one nugget of reassurance: these cameras hold up really well in a storm. In the midst of a strong Midwest howler, we watched the raging winds and sideways rain go toe-to-toe with our Arlo cam. Our camera was thoroughly drenched in the storm, but we must say, the Pro 3 took it like a champ. And it’s all thanks to Arlo Pro 3’s IP-65 waterproof rating,3 which we think is incredibly important for outdoor cameras to have.
Weatherproofing? They’ve got that down.
When our Wifi signal was strong, we enjoyed real-time conversations with delivery folks and visiting friends via the mobile app, from anywhere. The two-way communication works just like many security cameras out there today – you simply open the live feed, tap on the microphone icon in the camera feed, and speak. Note that there was a delay of about five seconds here, as well. This made it a little annoying when trying to have a full-on conversation with someone.
We’ve seen the many iterations of night vision offered by the different camera brands out there; in fact, we’ve tested and reviewed almost all of them. Like its slightly pricier sister Arlo Ultra, Arlo Pro 3 offers color night vision, whereas the Arlo Pro 2 and Arlo Pro provide night vision in black and white. Whether or not you need color depends on how much you want to see at night; we certainly appreciate it, though! Another approach to night vision is by using a built-in light, like the Ring Floodlight Cam and Spotlight Cam offer. A camera with a built-in light also acts as an active deterrent, scaring away potential intruders.
In keeping with Arlo’s theme of simplicity, you’ll notice that it’s super easy to pop out the battery chamber in the camera and ease the included rechargeable battery right in, then pop everything right back into place. No screwdrivers, no sweat, and no fighting with inanimate objects.
Then, once your cameras are armed, you can see how much battery life each camera has left. We observed, unsurprisingly, that the cameras we placed in higher-activity areas lost battery life faster than the others. The front door camera, for example, had to be recharged after about 48 hours, while the others have lasted three days and counting. So just keep in mind that you’ll have to change the battery more often for cameras in high-traffic areas. If you’d rather not have to do that, Arlo has a solar panel battery charger for $79.99 that you can install (in a sunny place, of course) for a consistent power source.
Which brings us to a new feature that we’ve never seen in Arlo’s cameras before: a magnetic charging cable. This thing is slick, we have to say.
What made us giggle about this, for just a minute, was how ultra-sensitive this magnet is. The camera, about an inch away from the charger in the above photo, had been helplessly pulled into its clutches a millisecond later.
While Arlo security cameras don’t have too many of their own home automation features, we found that they play well with third-party devices. We tested them with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and each option gave us voice control over our cameras. It is also supported by IFTTT4 (which stands for If This Then That), allowing you to connect your cameras to many other devices and platforms, like Apple Homekit, SmartThings, Telguard, Stringify, and Wink.
One feature of Arlo Pro 3 that’s a nice improvement over previous Arlo models is the built-in siren. You can activate it manually or set it to activate when motion or sound is detected. Simply open your app and click the shield button at the upper right of the screen. From there, you’ll be able to activate the siren, and deactivate it later if you choose. We appreciate this active deterrent feature.
If you know Arlo, you know they don’t make cheap cameras. Our 3-camera Arlo Pro 3 kit has a $649.99 retail price tag. Sure, there are more budget-friendly camera options out there, but keep in mind that you’ll lose out on picture quality and features if you go with the cheaper models.
|Arlo Model||Price||Video Quality||Field of View||Siren|
|Arlo Essential||$129.99 – $349.99||1080p HD||130°||Built-in|
|Arlo Pro 2||$179.99 – $529.99||1080p HD||130°||In-base|
|Arlo Pro 3||$499.99 – $649.99||2K HDR||160°||Built-in|
|Arlo Ultra||$399.99 – $799.99||4K||180°||Built-in|
Soon after we downloaded the Arlo app, we were prompted to choose from one of two options for a subscription plan: Premier or Elite. Thankfully, the app lists the features of each plan, which helped us make the best choice. But there’s one key thing to remember: If you’ve got an Arlo Pro 3, there’s no reason to spring for the Elite plan, because it promises 4K quality, and you’re not getting that in the Pro 3 anyway (remember, the Pro 3 doesn’t support 4K!).
For us, the Premier plan was perfect. And in even better news, we were able to sign up for a three-month free trial. Not bad at all.
Knowing that the installation had gone well, we thought that going through Arlo’s customer service process would be a good first step to getting a few bugs worked out.
Because we’re partial to real humans, we first tried to call the phone number listed on Arlo’s support page to ask one question: is there a way to control the length of the video recordings? In other words, can we tell the camera to only record activity for the first, say, 10 seconds?
After following the prompts to get to the “right” human, a recording told us that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which was in its second wave at the time of our review, callers may experience longer-than-usual hold times. Then, as expected, we were placed on hold.
Five more minutes went by until another voice notified us that we were the 10th caller in line.
Another 10 minutes went by, and we were still No. 10.
Ten more minutes passed, and that’s when we decided to hang up. Under normal circumstances, we probably would have stayed on the line to get our answer. But we are not, after all, living under normal circumstances. We felt better trying to answer this question on our own, because we know that Arlo has other avenues to get support, like its 88,000-strong community of users, as well as live chat and a support page packed with videos, articles and FAQs. And those avenues have worked pretty well for us in the past.
Sure enough, we found an answer in a handy FAQ, using the search function. Turns out that yes, you can adjust the recording times to a fixed length anywhere between 10 and 120 seconds. It’s in settings, but keep in mind you can only access this if you are the account “owner.”
On Day 3 of our life with Pro 3, we tested the Live Chat function on Arlo’s Support page.5 Once we realized that Live Chat doesn’t work on our Samsung smartphone or our brand-new MacBook Pro laptop (it requires Firefox or Chrome browsers, and we had neither), we borrowed a friend’s Chromebook to finally start chatting with someone.
We asked if there was anything they could do about the recording delays.
“How far away is your SmartHub from your front door?” they asked.
“About 20 feet,” we replied.
Next question: “Do you have aquariums, microwaves and other Wifi-using devices in your home?”
We realized they were trying to understand which devices we had in our home that might be interfering with our connection. But … an aquarium that runs on Wifi? Can we get one of those?
After answering a few more questions, we eventually got to the heart of our issue.
Essentially, the delays we described are standard. Our chat representative explained that it is usually caused by “the communication of the Arlo camera and the cloud in filtering the video and distinguishing what it saw.”
As much as we appreciated getting a clear, honest answer to our question, we were left feeling a bit unfulfilled. Are they working on a fix, we wondered? We would love to see this issue addressed in the future; a simple “that’s the way it is” answer seems hollow for such a user-friendly system.
When it comes to reliable, complete home security camera systems and seamless DIY setup, we found that Arlo excels in many ways. From the color night vision to the 160-degree viewing angle, we were very pleased with the picture quality and coverage these cameras provide. Its attractive design is another big plus; you don’t want awkward, clunky equipment displayed around your home.
In all respects, Arlo Pro 3 is tailor-made for people who don’t want the hassle of a traditional, hardwired security system. Whether you’re the tech-averse grandfather or the on-the-go millennial, these are truly no-fuss cameras that gave us a clear and thorough picture of anything and everything going on around our home.
The trouble spots, however, lie in how fast that information can be delivered to you, the user, which we know other top camera companies also deal with. With that said, recording delays of even a few seconds can be detrimental in a real emergency, so we really hope to see this improved.
All things considered, we’re quite impressed with these stylish cams. Overall, we recommend Arlo Pro 3 as a reliable yet low-maintenance option that packs plenty of power and peace of mind.
No. Arlo has an option for local storage through a micro SD card, so you can use their cameras every day without paying any monthly fees to store video history to the cloud. We do recommend signing up for Arlo’s premier monthly subscription plan, since this unlocks a few advanced features like 2K and 4K cloud recording.
Arlo is considered a high-end brand, and the prices do bear this out. Arlo’s wire-free spotlight camera, Pro 4, starts at $179.99, which we consider pretty pricey for one singular camera. The bottom line with Arlo is this: If you’re willing to pay more for stylish construction and advanced features, Arlo will be a great choice for you.
Arlo is a wire-free security brand, which means their cameras run on rechargeable batteries and don’t need to be plugged in. Rival security cameras, such as Lorex and Ring, are considered “wireless,” which means they don’t need to be hardwired into your home’s electrical wiring to work in your home, but they still require a cord for continuous power.
It’s a big company, and it’s not always easy to get help in a timely manner with Arlo customer service. In our tests of the cameras, we had a few misfires in communication with Arlo’s live chat, which prompted us to call the brand’s phone support line to get an answer to some recording delays we experienced with Arlo’s Pro 3. Though we waited a bit longer than we would have liked, we were eventually helped by a friendly, informative agent.
Arlo says that normal usage for their cameras is about five minutes of recording each day. Under this usage, you should get four to six months out of your cameras before needing to pop out the batteries and recharge them. In high-activity areas with all alerts turned on, battery life will be shorter, but remember that you can also shorten the length of your motion recordings in the Arlo app to preserve battery life.
Apple App Store: Arlo Technologies, Inc. (2020).
Shulevitz, J. (2018 November). Alexa, Should We Trust You? The Atlantic.
DSMT.com. (2020). IP Rating Chart. http://www.dsmt.com/resources/ip-rating-chart/
Martin, J; et. al. (2019, January 31). What is IFTTT: How to use If This, Then That services. Computerworld.com. https://www.computerworld.com/article/3239304/what-is-ifttt-how-to-use-if-this-then-that-services.html
Arlo.com. (2020). Welcome to Arlo Support. https://www.arlo.com/en-us/support/