Arlo’s Essential Spotlight Camera does a lot for 130 bucks

I’ve been waiting for Arlo to offer more affordable outdoor security camera for a long time – and it’s finally here. The new $ 130 Arlo Essential Spotlight camera isn’t as cheap as the $ 50 Wyze Cam outdoors or the $ 100 Video doorbell doorbell, but there is yet another example of the growing trend towards cheaper home security cameras.

To like

  • It’s affordable (for an Arlo camera)
  • It has a lot of warning options and extra features (if you pay for Arlo Smart)

I do not like it

  • The battery is not removable

The Essential spotlight camera has a lot of things that i like Arlos Pro range of outdoor cameras – Live streaming and many alarm customizations and other advanced features via the optional Arlo Smart Cloud service. That said, that $ 130 camera removes a few things as well. Instead of a swappable battery, you’ll have to bring the entire camera with you to charge, and the USB charging cable provided by Arlo is weirdly short.

Unlike most other Arlo outdoor cameras, this model does not require a base station. It is not sold with one, but is compatible with select Arlo base stations as an optional add-on (specifically, base station models VMB5000, VMB4540, VMB4500, and VMB4000). Arlo base stations are designed to help extend the battery life of the camera and the WiFi range of your router. I tested my Essential Spotlight camera without the optional base station and noticed a slightly longer delay (up to 10 seconds) between a motion event and the notification on my phone. (I’m testing long-term battery life, so check back for updates.)

The $ 130 Essential Spotlight Camera is a decent entry point into Arlo’s range of battery-powered weatherproof cameras that is worth considering, but the inconvenience of having to remove the entire camera to charge it, and the alarm delays I experience hold something back.
arloessentialspotlightcamera3I mean it works, but you probably have a better micro USB cable in your home trash drawer. Megan Wollerton

Another Arlo

Despite the different battery designs, the Essential camera is similar to Arlo’s other battery-powered outdoor cameras. You can buy it in either glossy white or black. The camera comes with an optional stand and hardware for installation.

Instead of a button on the bottom of the camera that you press to remove the battery, it opens a tab that gives you access to the micro-USB charging port. According to Arlo, this camera can last up to five months on a single charge, while Arlo Pro cameras, which require base stations, can last up to six months.

I started testing my Essential camera on a fully charged August 11th and the battery is 95% empty two days later at the time of writing. Extreme temperatures, lots of activity alerts, and other factors can cause the battery to drain faster. So expect your results to vary too.
arloessentialspotlightcam1

Screenshot by Megan Wollerton

Setting up the camera in the Arlo app is straightforward. Choose Add new device, Cameras and Essential Follow the quick instructions to connect your Essential camera to Wi-Fi. This process should only take about five minutes. Allow more time for drilling holes and installing your camera more permanently.

This camera comes with three months of free Arlo Smart Cloud service. Arlo Smart is optional after the three month period has expired, but required if you want to view saved video clips in the app, create motion activity zones, and receive custom notifications about people, animals, vehicles, and packages. The service starts at $ 3 per month. Read more about Arlo Smart here.

Everything else about the Essential Spotlight camera was pretty similar to the Pro cameras. I have most of time accurate movement warnings, with a few exceptions. One time I took the camera to reposition it and got a vehicle alarm. Another time a bird flew in front of the camera and sent a genetic motion alert rather than an animal alert. But for the most part, I got person-to-person notifications when my husband Kevin or I ventured into the back yard – and animal notifications when our dogs were outside.

I put the camera on the back deck railing where our Wi-Fi network was good but not great, and got warnings between three and ten seconds after the move. I later set up a movement zone to reduce the coverage area to our little back yard to make sure no more pests steal our tomatoes (I had no idea squirrels ate tomatoes, but apparently they do). This has helped reduce the number of warning messages and drain the battery.

I asked Kevin to test the camera’s two-way talk functionality, and it was remarkably clear. There was a second or two delay and we talked about it occasionally, but I was surprised how clearly I could hear him, both on my phone and on the camera on the back deck.

The Essential camera has customizable enabled and disabled modes, including the ability to set rules such as “When motion is detected (and the camera is armed), record video and turn on the camera’s built-in siren”. If you don’t want the siren to sound every time motion is detected (and I don’t because neighbors), you can turn it on manually in the app. As the name of the camera suggests, the Essential Spotlight camera also has a built-in spotlight. If the headlight is activated in the app, it will blink or pulsate when motion is detected at night. I forgot to tell Kevin about this function and it terrified him when he took out the dogs one evening. You can disable this feature or adjust the brightness in the app as needed.

This camera is compatible with Alexa and Google assistant. I don’t have a smart display at home to test this with the Essential camera, but I successfully viewed live feeds on smart displays while testing other Arlo cameras on the Tips Clear Smart Homequarantine.

Data protection is playing an increasingly important role If you are thinking of buying a smart home device, especially one with a camera and / or microphone. For more information about the data Arlo collects and shares, please see Arlo’s privacy policy here.

The judgment

At $ 130, the Arlo Essential Spotlight camera isn’t accurate cheap. But considering that a single Arlo Pro 3 camera costs $ 200, the Essential camera is pretty good business. This model had a lot of things that make other Arlo cameras great – HD live streaming and tons of options through Arlo Smart.

Unfortunately, like the Wyze Cam Outdoor and Ring Video Doorbell, you’ll need to bring the entire Essential Spotlight camera with you to charge them. And since no base station is required, this camera can have a shorter battery life. I am now testing the battery life and will be in touch with all of you with updates.

You may also find that this camera has a shorter WiFi range without a base station. While I can’t say for sure that the lack of a base station was to blame for the slightly longer delay in motion alarms, it certainly can. If you are experiencing these issues, you can connect your Essential camera to the compatible Arlo base stations listed above. This can be helpful.

Overall, the Arlo Essential Spotlight Camera is a good camera at a good price. I wish you could remove the battery to charge it, but that probably won’t be a big deal-breaker for most given the lower price point.

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