Arlo|Smart Home Security|Wireless HD Security Cameras

Thoughts on Ultra 2 after owning it for only 18 hours, leaning toward returning

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mrnozz
Tutor
Tutor

This is my first foray into the home camera market and I wanted to share my thoughts and get some feedback from the community. To frame this a bit, I have a background in IT, and run my own home network with multiple access points and subnets to segment IOT devices (smart bubs, plugs, TVs, etc.).

 

Also I purchased the two Ultra 2 kit with VMB5000 kit.

 

First impressions

Arlo have done a fantastic job of creating a simple to use turn key system. Setting the cameras up and getting the app up and running was relatively painless. Mounting the cameras was very easy and I think they're some of the better looking, low profile cameras out there. I would totally recommend this system to people who aren't very technical.

 

Image quality

Like I said, these are the first cameras I've ever owned, but they look fantastic! Quality is great and I'm so impressed with the night mode. Lots of little ambient light sources for one of my cameras illuminate everything just enough that the camera picture looks like day time. Very happy with the image quality from both cameras.

 

Technical impressions

The tech specs on the Ultra 2 web page mention "Networking, 802.11 b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth Low Energy 4.2". What it fails to mention is that you don't control any of this. And this was a frustrating surprise since I bought them to use on my home network.

 

If you're new to the whole Arlo ecosystem, it's a bit confusing how the hub is involved. I understand now very well that you have to use the hub with the Ultra 2. But showing that the cameras are up to WiFi-5 compatible implies you can connect it to your existing Wi-Fi network. You can't, and I think those specs are misleading. There should be clarifying text there.

 

My house is not very big at around 1800 square feet, but the house is comprised of old construction (plaster and lathe, thick wood and stone) which attenuates wireless signal. I've placed the VMB5000 about as centrally as can be, but due to the layout of the house one camera has shown "offline" a few times.

 

I've already solved my personal wireless problems by placing multiple access points throughout the home. Wish I could just attach these "802.11 b/g/n/ac" cameras to the network that I've already created! Instead it looks like I have to purchase another hub.

 

And the hub is a black (not literally, it's white) box. Who knows how it works. How do we determine which Wi-Fi channel it's on? How do we configure it to use a different channel to minimize interference in an already contentious neighborhood? This part if pretty frustrating.

 

Battery life

I'm already discovering that battery life at 3-6 months is VERY optimistic. Most people using the Ultra 2 in a high-traffic area are lamenting charging the battery in matters of days, not months. I think this is going to be the case with one of my cameras too. It's aimed at a busier area with foot/vehicle traffic, which is the whole point. I don't want to tune it down to not activate as much because I want to monitor this area.

 

That camera is at 91% battery life after being online for about 18 hours. So doing some basic math it's trending towards 180 hours, or about 8 days of life.

 

Which means I now need to run a power cord to it. But one of the reasons I got these cameras was because of the "3 to 6 month charge time" which seemed amazing. We'll see how these actually play out, but at the moment I'm concerned about having to change the battery every week, or figuring out how to get power to it.

 

HomeKit

I've begun using HomeKit extensively in the house with Hue, Kasa and Homebridge. Arlo is the first product I've had difficulties actually getting to work with HomeKit. It sounds like a lot of people have this issue, and hopefully it's easily resolved once you get your token reset or whatever, but HomeKit was literally a leading reason I went with Arlo over competitors like Nest. If it doesn't work reliably I'll probably have to get rid of these cameras.

 

Conclusions

Arlo is a great system if you have a small house, limited technical expertise, and want something that just works out of the box (and don't need HomeKit). It's a good looking system and easy to setup.

 

If you're a bit more technical, and want control/visibility into how the system works, and want it to connect to your local network you may be disappointed. Also the battery life seems exaggerated, which will require you to run power. If you were looking at Ultra 2's specifically because you didn't want to run power, you should consider other wired options as well because you're probably going to end up going that route anwyay.

 

Also if you have a larger house, or one with difficult Wi-Fi propagation qualities, you'll need to keep in mind the added cost of purchasing multiple base stations to support connectivity to cameras.

 

Next steps for me

At this point I a) can't use HomeKit, b) have to run a power cable and c) may have to purchase another base station. Due to these issues/requirements I'm going to start investigating solutions where I'd have to run a power cable anyway, and possibly use cameras that connect directly to my existing Wi-Fi (possibly Nest, since I already have thermostats).

Model: VMB5000 | Arlo Ultra SmartHub
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LandJS
Mentor
Mentor

a wi-fi analyzer app will show you what 2.4 and 5 channels Arlo is using.  The only way to lock them into a set channel is in the router.  Most have the channel set to auto but allows you to set it then reset the Arlo hub and the analyzer will show Arlo there.  Only thing is now everything on your system is set to the 2.4 and 5 you have chosen, unless you run a second router you can dedicate just to the Arlo hub and lock in your channels of choice.  I would have to check but I think the pro4 is the only one that allows you to use your own wi-fi.

dcfox1
Master
Master

The Pro4, Essential series and the Wire free door bell can connect directly to wifi or Hub. The battery life is depended on use. 3-6 month is with 5 minutes a day of use per Arlo. On Pro3 I get about 1 to 2 months depending on cam with about 5-10 recordings a day and some live streaming. On my least used cam I have gone 3 months. 

Model: VMB4540 | Arlo Pro 3 SmartHub
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