Traditional IP-based wireless security cameras for the home often require you to plug in a power cable, which can lead to limitations in terms of where you can place them. Since Netgear's Arlo Smart Home Security cameras use common replaceable batteries, they don't need to be placed anywhere near a power outlet in order to work, making them a 100 per cent wireless solution to the problem of messy wiring.
They are suitable security cameras for those of you who are renting your home and can't mount cameras in a traditional manner on the walls, or even for those of you who just don't have power outlets in the places that you wish to install security cameras. Four lithium 123-type batteries power the cameras, with Netgear claiming that this can give the cameras a life between 4-6 months with 5min worth of recording per day, 50 per cent during the day and 50 per cent during the night.
Instead of releasing different models of cameras, Netgear has only released one camera (in kits of one, two and three cameras) and only the features that its customers want in an IP camera (according to its research) have been included. This means that the cameras record in HD (720p), they can function both during the day and at night, and they are weatherproof (with an IP65 rating for water ingress). They can be installed outdoors, in addition to anywhere in the home. They don't have any audio functions.
Powerful magnetic wall mounts are provided in the box, and they can be affixed to the wall either with a screw, or with robust double-sided tape (plugs and screws are provided). These mounts allow the cameras to sit securely at any angle without falling, at the same time allowing them to be easily removed so that you can place them anywhere else in your home on a whim when they aren't needed in their primary position. Optional tripod and roof mounts can be purchased.
The only wiring that's needed in this home security set-up is for the base station. It's the base station that allows the cameras to get on the Internet in order to upload their recordings to Netgear's Web server, and you need to plug it into your router using an Ethernet cable. Once it's connected to your router and switched on, you'll have to visit the arlo.netgear site to create an account. You could also create an account through the mobile app on your phone or tablet.
Connecting the cameras to the base station is a matter of pressing the sync button on the base station, and then pressing the sync button on the camera. A blue light on the camera will blink quickly once the sync has been completed. You must repeat the procedure for each camera on the network, and you must do it while the camera is in close proximity to the base station.
For large homes, you will need to figure out the best place for the base station so that it's not too far away from the cameras. Even though they use the 2.4GHz frequency band, which helps with longer distance transmission, factors in your home, such as thick walls and appliances can block or interfere with the signal strength. You might need something like an Ethernet over powerline adapter in order to connect the base station to your router if you want to place the base away from your router and closer to your cameras.
The cameras record video based on motion, using a passive infrared (PIR) sensor that gets activated once it notices temperature changes in its 130-degree field of view from humans and animals. Once motion is detected, it then starts recording video for 10sec (though you can change the frequency and length of the recording in the settings through the Web site or app), and this video is then saved to Netgear's storage server on the Internet.
This means that the cameras themselves don't have an SD card in them to store recordings, and it also means that you don't need to set up any local storage on your home network for those recordings. The recordings are accessible from anywhere you have an Internet connection to view them.
However, it also means that you have to sign up to a plan in order to use the Netgear server. Apart from the free, default plan, which offers 200MB (or 7 days worth of recordings, whichever comes first), you'll have to pay on a per month or per year basis for more storage and the ability to record from more cameras.
An email alert can be sent to you whenever a new video is captured, and it lets you see a screenshot from the video. A link to download the video directly is provided in that email alert, and we found the file size to generally be around the 500KB mark, allowing files to be viewed easily on mobile devices (they are in MP4 format). You could also log in to your Arlo account using the Web site, or log in to the phone app in order to see all recorded videos.
It's important to delete recordings from your Netgear storage space so that new recordings can continue to be stored.