Arlo Essential 2K Outdoor Security Camera review: a premium, dependable choice

Another winning model from Arlo – but some features require a subscription

Arlo Essential 2K Outdoor Security Camera
(Image credit: Arlo)
T3 Verdict

Aside from the monthly subscription required for cloud recordings and advanced features, the Arlo Essential 2K Outdoor Security Camera is simple to configure, really intuitive to use, and capable of delivering very decent video and audio – while offering some handy extras too.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    High-quality hardware

  • +

    Decent price point

  • +

    Straightforward app

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Optional subscription

  • -

    No 5GHz Wi-Fi

  • -

    Lacks local storage

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The Arlo brand is usually there or thereabouts when it comes to guides like our best security cameras, and this Essential 2K Outdoor Security Camera is one of the newer models in the Arlo range – a high-resolution option for outdoor use, as the name tells you.

I've been putting the Arlo Essential 2K Outdoor Security Camera to the test for the past couple of weeks to see if it matches up to the Arlo cameras that have come before it in the categories that matter: video quality, features, app support, ease of use, and more besides.

This review should give you all the information you need to decide whether or not this is the right security camera for you. As with every T3 review, it's based on hands-on experience and real-world testing with the device and the capabilities that it offers.

Arlo Essential 2K Outdoor Security Camera review: price and availability

You can buy the Arlo Essential 2K Outdoor Security Camera right now, either on its own or in a 2-pack or 3-pack (it's the 2-pack version I'm reviewing here). Prices start at £109.99 / $99.99 for the single camera, and if you're in the UK you can pick up the device from retailers including AO and Comet, as well as direct from the Arlo website.

Arlo Essential 2K Outdoor Security Camera review: design and setup

Arlo Essential 2K Outdoor Security Camera

(Image credit: Future)

The design of this camera is very Arlo-esque, and follows the trend of most of its recent models: a black plate on the front, and a bulbous white casing around the back. It's hardly the most stylish piece of hardware I've ever come across, but it's pretty inoffensive in its aesthetic, and the camera is nice and compact, as well as being lightweight.

Specifically, it measures 53.05 x 59.32 x 93.37 mm, and weighs in at 203 grams – it's roughly the size of a squashed pack of cards, to give you some idea. That means it's going to be small enough to fit just about anywhere you need to put it, and with IP65-rated protection against snow and rain, you don't have to worry about leaving it out in the elements (just don't drop it in your pond).

Setup couldn't really be much easier, and you're going to be up and running in just a few minutes with the Arlo Essential 2K Outdoor Security Camera. You do the software setup first, and as normal this is handled through an accompanying mobile app: the Arlo app is slick and intuitive, and it certainly doesn't feel like an afterthought as it does with some home security camera manufacturers.

As for the hardware, there's a mounting bracket that you screw into a suitable surface, then a moveable ball joint to screw into the back of the camera – you don't have to be a DIY expert to get the job done. The battery isn't removable though, so you do need to take the camera down every few months for charging, and this is handled through a standard USB-C port on the underside of the camera.

Arlo Essential 2K Outdoor Security Camera review: features and operation

Arlo Essential 2K Outdoor Security Camera

(Image credit: Future)

The Arlo Essential 2K Outdoor Security Camera brings with it a video resolution of up to 2560 x 1440 pixels, a 130-degree field of view, a motion detection range of seven metres, a built-in spotlight, and a built-in 80 db siren for scaring trespassers away. There's two-way audio here, as you would expect. as well as colour night vision (which is actually just normal vision, with the spotlight turned on). It's a very decent specs sheet that's hard to complain about.

The good news is that the camera's performance mostly lives up to the promise of the specs. Everything comes through crisp and clear on the video feed, and while the colour night vision isn't quite as impressive as the black and white option you can fall back to, it definitely does the job – you can absolutely see what's happening in colour, it's just that the monochrome mode adds a little more clarity.

Audio comes through well too, though strong winds can be an issue – perhaps something to think about when you're positioning your camera. I managed to connect perfectly well to the camera every time, with very little in the way of latency, though of course this is partly dependent on your Wi-Fi network and hardware as well as the camera. Only 2.4GHz Wi-Fi is supported, which means it'll work with just about every router, but may not hit top connectivity speeds with the latest networking kit.

Arlo Essential 2K Outdoor Security Camera

(Image credit: Future)

During my time testing the Arlo Essential 2K Outdoor Security Camera I couldn't really fault it in terms of getting connected or having it pinging me when something was happening outside. All of the options within the app are simple to configure, whether you're tweaking the brightness or setting different modes (you can have the siren muted when you're in your home, but set it to ring when you're away, for example).

The camera will work with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa smart home systems, though not Apple HomeKit. As usual with Arlo, while you can view live video and get basic motion alerts for free, to save clips to the cloud and keep a history of them you need a subscription: these start at £4.49 / $4.99 a month and offer extras such as intelligent detection (differentiating between people, pets, and vehicles), and the ability to zone off parts of the field of view (like a nearby road) and disable motion detection for them. The price goes up for each camera, too.

Arlo promises between four and six months between battery charges, depending on how often you're accessing it and using its features. I wasn't able to put this to the test directly, but a battery level drop of 10% during our two-week testing period suggests four months or so is about right. You're only going to need to take it down a couple of times a year, and it takes around four hours to charge up fully.

Arlo Essential 2K Outdoor Security Camera review: verdict

Arlo Essential 2K Outdoor Security Camera

(Image credit: Future)

It's another top-notch camera from Arlo, and if you think about the core functionality you want from a smart security camera, it ticks all the boxes: it's easy to set up and to use through the app, the video and audio you get through the app are more than satisfactory, the motion detection alerts work well, and the features such as the spotlight and siren are welcome added bonuses.

What's less appealing is that you have to sign up for a monthly subscription to keep any kind of recording log or to go beyond the basics with the motion alerts – though this is also true with other Arlo cameras, as well as rival models from the likes of Amazon and Google. Offering local storage as an option would be welcome, and this is something you get from some security camera manufacturers.

Overall though, it's hard to be critical when the day-to-day experience is so smooth and of a high standard all round. Ignore the subscription and the Essential 2K Outdoor Security Camera is competitively priced as well, and if you're picking up two or three cameras at once to cover your entire property, it starts to become even better value. This is definitely worth considering for your next smart security camera upgrade.

Arlo Essential 2K Outdoor Security Camera review: alternatives to consider

You certainly don't have to look far to find alternatives to the Arlo 2K Outdoor Camera: it's a very busy product category. The Eufy S220 SoloCam will work outdoors, offers local storage so you don't need a subscription, and can even be powered by the integrated solar panel that sits on top – though it is slightly more expensive than the Arlo camera reviewed here, and doesn't have an integrated spotlight.

Another camera worthy of your consideration is the EZVIZ H3C 2K, which matches the resolution of this Arlo cam. The video and audio are more than adequate on this camera, and it brings with it just about all the features that you're going to be looking for, but what really appeals is how much you have to pay for it: it's less than half the price of the Arlo Essential 2K Outdoor Security Camera, and it has a local storage option too.

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.