Arlo|Smart Home Security|Wireless HD Security Cameras

My thoughts on the Ultra 2

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SinisterStairs
Guide
Guide

I got an Ultra 2 two-camera pack about a 1-1/2 weeks ago, and wanted to share my thoughts on it.  It came with the VMB5000 smart hub, which uses microSD cards.  (Don't accidentally buy the standard size SD card like I did!)  Not counting baby monitors, this is my first foray into security cameras and TL;DR, I'm still on the fence with Arlo and its ecosystem.

 

As others have noted, setup is really easy:  I had zero hiccups with the initial setup, and it was actually kind of fun being guided step-by-step by the app.  Note that the VMB5000 creates its own wi-fi network for the cameras:  the cameras do not join your existing wi-fi networks, and the VMB5000 must be wired to your existing networking (RJ45).

 

The 4K recording is fantastic, but note that if you enable auto-zoom & track, it won't be in 4K.  That's not a huge loss though, because the Ultra 2s only have digital zoom, which doesn't look good; IMO, it's better to leave auto-zoom & track off.  "Color night vision" is sort of a misnomer:  what it actually does is turn on the built-in spotlight so the camera can record without night vision (i.e. not infrared).

 

As a side note, because there is no optical zoom, it's insufficient for birdwatching our feeder which is roughly 15' from the camera.  (No, I didn't buy the cameras for the express purpose of birdwatching, but it would have been icing on the cake.)

 

Temperatures have been in the teens here (F), and the batteries have been draining at roughly 7% a day.  Of course, YMMV depending on your camera usage.  Doing the math though, I'll be charging the cameras every few weeks -- not even close to the estimated 3-6 months.  Personally I find that acceptable, but our cameras are located by AC outlets, so charging overnight with the outdoor cable is convenient for us.

 

Speaking of batteries & cables, you can only watch a camera live for 30 minutes before it disconnects you [with the web interface; I presume the app has the same limitation].  I've read in these forums that's for battery conservation; I'll try and test if that limit is removed when the camera is connected to a charging cable, but that limitation isn't enough to sway me one way or the other, so I haven't made it a priority to test out.

 

And speaking of the web interface, until I had local storage/recording set up, I had problems viewing the cameras using the web interface.  Once I popped a microSD in and began local recording, the web viewing issue went away.  Since it was working, I didn't investigate the root cause further, but it was probably related to our network firewall.

 

And speaking of the network, that is my biggest disappointment with the Arlo ecosystem, and why I may return the cameras:  Everything goes through the Arlo network, even if you have local storage/recording enabled.  That means what I'm seeing/hearing already occurred up to ~7 seconds ago, so using the two-way speaker/mic for conversation is practically useless.  Example: When I see DoorDash pull up in their car, in reality they're already at the porch.  If I wait until the camera shows the DoorDasher at the porch to acknowledge them, in reality they're already getting back into their car.

 

For the various smart alerts (people, vehicles, animals, packages), it seems to work reasonably well.  The cameras detects delivery people and packages; my family coming & going; and it also detects our dog.  The cameras don't detect birds as animals, though (yes, I realize these aren't birding cameras); but may detect them as general motion.

 

Overall, I like the cameras, but I don't love them.  The biggest drawback for me is that they're not responsive enough to talk to people at the door; or even responsive enough to alert me in a timely manner that there's someone at the door so I can acknowledge them before they ring the doorbell/knock and wake the dog, whose barking will wake the baby.

 

What I do like about these cameras, and why I might keep them, is:

 

  • They're totally wireless and can be mounted anywhere.  (I'm toying with the idea of attaching a camera directly to the tree, next to the feeder.)
  • The batteries, although they clearly won't reach the estimated runtime, are good enough for our situation.
  • I'm more likely to trust Arlo's privacy policies than foreign-owned competitors.

What I don't like about these cameras, and why I might return them, is:

 

  1. The dealbreaker for me is the delay between what I see/hear on the camera, and what's already occurred.  The mic is not practical for visitors, except maybe as in-house intercom.  (FWIW, my cameras show "3 bars" in the Arlo app and have line-of-sight (through glass windows) to the VMB5000; and the VMB5000 is hardwired with CAT6a to my router).
  2. I wish the cameras had optical zoom.  I knew this wasn't the case, but having it would have been a bonus that could have offset #1.
  3. Smart sensing only works if you pay for a subscription.  The Arlo ecosystem is clearly intended that you pay for a subscription, and local storage/recording is a second-class citizen.  If I could set up a local "Arlo server" and run it LAN-only, I don't think I'd have any complaints.

These are just my experiences, and I know people have different needs so my complaints may not matter to you.  But if you have any suggestions on improving/working around what I see as drawbacks, I'd appreciate any advice!

SinisterStairs
Guide
Guide

[Sorry if this is duplicate, my original post seems to have been lost -- or does it really take 2 days for discussions to be approved?]  Updates since my original post have been noted.  This post is primarily intended for people thinking about purchasing the Ultra 2; but also for experts who might be able to tell me what I'm doing wrong.

 

I got an Ultra 2 two-camera pack about a 1-1/2 weeks ago, and wanted to share my thoughts on it.  It came with the VMB5000 smart hub, which uses microSD cards.  (Don't accidentally buy the standard size SD card like I did!)  Not counting baby monitors, this is my first foray into security cameras and TL;DR, I'm still on the fence with Arlo and its ecosystem.

 

As others have noted, setup is really easy:  I had zero hiccups with the initial setup, and it was actually kind of fun being guided step-by-step by the app.  Note that the VMB5000 creates its own wi-fi network for the cameras:  the cameras do not join your existing wi-fi networks, and the VMB5000 must be wired to your existing networking (RJ45).

 

[Side note:  I used the web UI (my.arlo.com) to set up local storage/recording; it prompted me to format the SD card.  In another discussion, someone noted that the Arlo mobile app does not prompt you to format the card, and may not be recognized if you format it incorrectly.]

 

The 4K recording is fantastic, but note that if you enable auto-zoom & track, it won't be in 4K.  That's not a huge loss though, because the Ultra 2s only have digital zoom, which doesn't look good; IMO, it's better to leave auto-zoom & track off.  "Color night vision" is sort of a misnomer:  what it actually does is turn on the built-in spotlight so the camera can record without night vision (i.e. not infrared).

 

As a side note, because there is no optical zoom, it's insufficient for birdwatching our feeder which is roughly 15' from the camera.  (No, I didn't buy the cameras for the express purpose of birdwatching, but it would have been icing on the cake.)

 

Temperatures have been in the teens here (F), and the batteries have been draining at roughly 7% a day.  Of course, YMMV depending on your camera usage.  Doing the math though, I'll be charging the cameras every few weeks -- not even close to the estimated 3-6 months.  Personally I find that acceptable, but our cameras are located by AC outlets, so charging overnight with the outdoor cable is convenient for us.

 

Update:  Last night the camera shut itself off, reporting the battery was at 0% and that I need to recharge it.  I connected the outdoor charging cable, and instantly the camera powered back on and reported the battery at 56%.  No idea what happened there.  I don't remember the exact status the camera displayed on the app after it shut off, but it was about battery and not about temperature.

 

Speaking of batteries & cables, you can only watch a camera live for 30 minutes before it disconnects you [with the web interface; I presume the app has the same limitation].  I've read in these forums that's for battery conservation, but [update] even with the charging cord connected, the live feed still stops after 30 minutes.

 

And speaking of the web interface, until I had local storage/recording set up, I had problems viewing the cameras using the web interface (connection time out).  Once I popped a microSD in and began local recording, the web viewing issue went away.  Since it was working, I didn't investigate the root cause further, but it was probably related to our network firewall.  (FWIW, my VMB5000 is not on a VLAN.)

 

And speaking of the network, that is my biggest disappointment with the Arlo ecosystem, and why I may return the cameras:  Everything goes through the Arlo network, even if you have local storage/recording enabled.  That means what I'm seeing/hearing already occurred up to ~7 seconds ago, so using the two-way speaker/mic for conversation is practically useless.  Example: When I see DoorDash pull up in their car, in reality they're already at the porch.  If I wait until the camera shows the DoorDasher at the porch to acknowledge them, in reality they're already getting back into their car.

 

The various smart alerts (people, vehicles, animals, packages) seem to work reasonably well.  The cameras detect delivery people and packages; my family coming & going; and it also detects our dog.  The cameras don't detect birds as animals, though, but sometimes detect them as general motion.  (Depending on how far away they are:  The birds on the feeder at 15' away didn't trigger the camera.)

 

Overall, I like the cameras, but I don't love them.  The biggest drawback for me is that they're not responsive enough to talk to people at the door; or even responsive enough to alert me in a timely manner that there's someone at the door.  I really wanted to be able to acknowledge visitors before they ring the doorbell/knock and wake the dog, whose barking will wake the baby.

 

What I do like about these cameras, and why I might keep them, is:

 

  • They're totally wireless and can be mounted anywhere.  (I'm toying with the idea of attaching a camera directly to the tree, next to the feeder.)  I've even used a RAM suction mount and claw, for testing purposes.
  • I like that I can also use my web browser to watch live feeds.
  • The batteries, although they clearly won't reach the estimated runtime, are good enough for our situation.  [Update: I'm puzzled why it powered off at 56% claiming it needed recharging, but even that was livable for me, unless that snafu is the norm.]
  • I'm more likely to trust Arlo's privacy policies than foreign-owned competitors.
  • The wide camera angle is fantastic and, just as importantly, I like that I can use a narrower camera angle to remove barrel distortion.

What I don't like about these cameras, and why I might return them, is:

 

  1. The dealbreaker for me would be the delay between what I see/hear on the camera, and what's already occurred.  The mic is not practical for visitors, except maybe as in-house intercom.  (FWIW, my cameras show "3 bars" in the Arlo app and have line-of-sight (through glass windows) to the VMB5000.)
  2. I wish the cameras had optical zoom.  I knew this wasn't the case, but having it would have been a bonus that could have offset #1.
  3. Smart sensing only works if you pay for a subscription.  The Arlo ecosystem is clearly intended that you pay for a subscription, and local storage/recording is a second-class citizen.  If I could set up a local "Arlo server" and run it LAN-only, I don't think I'd have any complaints.

These are just my experiences, and I know people have different needs so my concerns may not matter to you.  But if you have any suggestions on improving/working around what I see as drawbacks, I'd appreciate any advice!

ShayneS
Arlo Moderator
Arlo Moderator

Hi @SinisterStairs

 

I saw your second post, looks like our system held it, but I fixed it for you & we'll communicate here. Thank you for providing your honest feedback. I wanted to note a few things regarding a few of your main concerns.

 

Cold temperatures can affect any battery's capacity, Since your Arlo cameras are outside in cold temperatures, you might notice a shorter battery duration & faster than expected drop in battery life. 

 

I have provided some additional info here: Because of the kinds of batteries your cameras use, the minimum operating temperature for Arlo Wire-Free cameras is 14°F (-10°C), while the minimum operating temperature for Arlo Ultra, Pro 3, Pro 2, Pro, and Go cameras is -4°F (-20°C). The Arlo Solar Panel’s operating temperature range is 32° to 122°F (0° to 50°C). How do I keep my Arlo batteries charged in cold weather?

 

A slight delay is expected with your cameras as the camera must communicate with the Arlo cloud when live streaming.

SinisterStairs
Guide
Guide

@ShayneS Feel free to delete this discussion because I updated the content of this one in the follow-up, and I made more effort to edit that one. 🙂 

HazzMatt
Apprentice
Apprentice
Hello! I was very much looking forward to the Ultra 2 systems. I have several of the original Ultras now and use them both at home and also at a rental property in another state. I am one of those who lived thru at least a full year of various Ultra issues, mostly botched firmware releases. I stuck with it, hoping Arlo would eventually actually work things out. It seems they finally have. I have heard enough negatives with Ultra 2 that I likely won't buy them. Instead I've been buying additional Ultra systems at discounted prices to maintain a stock of spares for the future. Also, the Ultra bases still come with 1 year smart plan. I keep adding unused base stations when the year is up for another year of free service up to 10 cameras. Ultra 2 only comes with 3 free months and so far nobody is raving about better signal range due to the dual band wifi. I keep my Ultra cams on full time AC power when possible and that works good too. Hope my perspectives is also helpful to others. Take care!
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