Arlo’s security cameras often feature in our best security cameras guide: they offer an impressive mix of technology and convenience and they’re brilliantly made. The new Essential range promises to deliver the same impressive performance and excellent smartphone app at more affordable prices.
There are two key products here: the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera and the Arlo Essential Spotlight Camera. The latter is designed for both indoor and outdoor use, while as you’d expect the Indoor camera is indoors-only. As we’ll discover, their core specifications are very similar but there are some crucial differences between them.
Arlo Essential Spotlight Camera vs Arlo Essential Indoor Camera: price and features
The Arlo Essential Indoor Camera is $99 / £119.99 / AU$TBC. It’s a unit with wired power, with 1080P HD resolution, a 130-degree field of view and colour night vision, and unlike more expensive Arlo devices it doesn’t need a hub: just connect it to your Wi-Fi. Like most such cameras, it works on the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band.
The Arlo Essential Spotlight Camera is $129 / £129 / AU$199. It too has 1080p and a 130-degree viewing angle, 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, hub-free connectivity and colour night vision, but it also has a built-in LED spotlight that makes night vision much clearer (albeit not at huge range: it’s a very small spotlight, and Arlo makes floodlight cameras that are designed to illuminate much larger spaces). The camera is battery-powered and can run for up to six months before requiring a recharge. It’s important to note that that quoted battery life will be considerably lower if your camera is frequently triggered by its motion detection, so you might want to take that into consideration when deciding where to put the camera.
Both cameras can be connected to Arlo’s SMART security subscription plan, which enables additional features such as package detection, cloud video storage and the creation of custom activity zones and alerts. The standard plan is $2.99 / £2.49 / AU$4.49 a month for one camera and $9.99 / £7.99 / AU$14.99 for up to 5 cameras. There’s a three-month free trial.
Arlo Essential Spotlight Camera vs Arlo Essential Indoor Camera: setup and app
The indoor camera is more limited because of its need for mains power, but the cable is reasonably long and you shouldn’t find it difficult to place the camera in a good spot. The outdoor camera is easy to install and comes with the necessary mounting screws.
Both cameras use the same Arlo app, which enables you to see live image(s) from your camera(s) as well as their status and battery life. You can see footage of every time a camera’s motion detection was triggered (this requires a subscription once your free trial is up) and you can arm, disarm or enable geofencing for specific cameras.
You can create custom rules to trigger multiple actions when motion is detected, and if you’re a subscriber there’s package detection to prevent false alerts. You also get rich notifications, so when your smartphone pings you’ll see an image of whatever has alerted the camera.
Arlo Essential Spotlight Camera vs Arlo Essential Indoor Camera: image quality
These are not Arlo’s best image sensors: they’re 1080p compared to more expensive models’ 4K or QHD, and they lack HDR. We found that daytime performance was very good but night vision wasn’t fantastic. In the case of the Spotlight Camera, the LED worked fine for close-up things such as somebody approaching the front door but it had little effect on anything further away. We also found that the Spotlight Camera struggled a bit with light from sources such as neighbours’ windows, with even fairly dim ambient lighting appearing as if it were spotlights.
The night vision here is colour, not the black and white of many rivals, and that’s useful: it makes the footage easier to watch and objects easier to identify. The trade-off is picture quality at range: other cameras we’ve used, such as the Tapo C310 Outdoor Security Camera, don’t do colour but deliver a much better night vision picture with much longer range.
Like most affordable security cameras both of these cameras stream video on the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band, which is very cluttered: we live in a block of flats where there are nearly 20 Wi-Fi networks competing in the same frequency bands, and we found that both cameras’ signal strength and image quality dropped quite significantly even over fairly short distances. This is more of a consideration for the Spotlight camera if you’re mounting it outdoors: you don’t want it to be too far away from your wireless router or extender.
Arlo Essential Spotlight Camera vs Arlo Essential Indoor Camera: verdict
These are very similar devices with three key differences: the Arlo Essential Spotlight Camera is weather-proof, doesn’t need to be connected to a power supply and has an integrated LED spotlight. The price difference is tiny, particularly in the UK, so we think it makes sense to go for the Essential Spotlight Camera: it gives you more flexibility in terms of where you can put it, and while the LED is short range it’s still very effective at illuminating intruders.
It’s interesting to look at these cameras in the context of their rivals. If you compare the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera to the Tapo C100 Home Security Camera, the latter has a very similar specification, albeit with a narrower field of view: it’s less than a fifth of the price and doesn’t require a subscription. There’s also Amazon’s Blink Mini, which is also a fraction of the price of the Arlo. If you’re not already part of an Arlo ecosystem that makes the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera a tough sell.
That’s not the case with the Spotlight Camera. It’s competitively priced, as is the SMART subscription, and with all the options enabled the app is one of the best security camera apps out there. If you haven’t picked a security camera ecosystem just yet then the Arlo Essential Spotlight Camera deserves a place on your shortlist.