Arlo Pro 2 review

It's not cheap, but this is the best home security cam we've ever tested

The Arlo Pro 2 is simply the best smart home security camera system you can buy.
The Arlo Pro 2 is simply the best smart home security camera system you can buy.
The Arlo Pro 2 is simply the best smart home security camera system you can buy.

Highs

  • Advanced scheduling and geofencing controls
  • 7 days of free cloud storage
  • Optional local backup via USB
  • Backward compatible with Arlo Pro
  • Scalable multi-camera plans for businesses

Lows

  • App interface a little convoluted

The Arlo Pro 2 may be more of a refinement than a reinvention of the original, but it remains one of the best smart home security systems money can buy. While a wave of low cost, standalone smart cameras — like the $20 Wyzecam — have sprouted up recently, Arlo has forged ahead at the high end of the market, targeting serious home security DIY-ers and small business owners.

As such, the Arlo Pro 2 is available only in two or four-camera bundles, priced at $480 and $800, respectively. As Arlo explained to Digital Trends previously, Arlo Pro customers simply weren’t buying single-camera packages, so the company did away with that option for the Arlo Pro 2. However, add-on cameras can be purchased individually, and they are backward compatible with the original Arlo Pro.

Yes, $480 sounds like a high cost of entry, but the Arlo Pro 2 is loaded with features that make it stand out from the crowd. Additionally, Arlo’s Basic plan includes seven days of free cloud backup; most competitors offer just 24 hours, requiring paid subscriptions for more. Add in the wired or wire-free operation, weatherproof design, and robust scheduling and geofencing capabilities, and you’ve got what is the most versatile and complete smart home security solution on the market.

The benefits of a base station

The Arlo Pro 2 isn’t the only security system to take the base station approach. As evidenced by D-Link’s recently announced DCS-2802KT, this setup may indeed be growing in popularity. But if the cameras all connect over Wi-Fi, what’s the point of a base station?

There are two major advantages of a dedicated base station. The first is simply more efficient management of wireless communication with the cameras. The Arlo Pro 2 base station connects to your router directly via Ethernet, then broadcasts its own Wi-Fi signal to any connected camera. Regardless of traffic on your home network, it ensures the cameras receive the bandwidth they need. It has the additional benefit of significantly increasing battery life: Depending on the level activity, a camera can last as long as six months.

Arlo’s Basic plan includes seven days of free cloud backup; most competitors offer just 24 hours.

The base station also adds features that would be difficult to install on the cameras themselves. It includes a 100-plus decibel siren (about as loud as a smoke alarm) and offers two USB ports for connecting external hard drives for local backups. Sure, some cameras have MicroSD cards for local recording, but a centralized hard drive, in addition to having much larger capacity, can store footage from multiple cameras in one place. Also, while a security camera could be stolen by a burglar (potentially taking the incriminating evidence with him), the base station and attached drive could be locked in a secure location.

Of course, Arlo also keeps your footage secure in the cloud, and if the seven-day Basic plan just doesn’t provide enough peace of mind, you can purchase a 30-day Premiere or 60-day Elite plan for $100 and $149 per year, respectively. We’ve often griped about smart cameras that go all-in on either cloud or local storage, and it’s nice to see a system that offers robust options for each.

Advanced customization features

Beyond the standard set of security features (motion detection, sound detection, night vision, two-way audio), the Arlo Pro 2 has a wealth of advanced settings that are a step above most of its competitors. First, it offers both geofencing and scheduling, and the two can be combined perfectly. If you want the camera to be active any time you’re away from home, but only for certain hours when you are home, you have complete freedom to set it up that way. This seems like a simple thing to ask for, but many other cameras have gotten it wrong, or hidden these features behind paid memberships.

Netgear Arlo Pro 2 review
Daven Mathies/Digital Trends
Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

Another thing that often plagues smart cameras is exposure. A bright window or light can throw it off. The important areas of a scene might turn out too dark or too bright depending on the surrounding areas. While the Arlo Pro 2 doesn’t boast the high dynamic range of the dual-exposure Nest Cam IQ, it does offer a simple brightness slider. This works just like the exposure compensation dial on a camera, letting you tune exposure up or down to get the best possible image.

The Arlo Pro 2 has a wealth of advanced settings that are a step above the competition.

The one downside of all of this power and flexibility is that the Arlo app (iOS and Android) is a bit cluttered. It is definitely not the friendliest interface we’ve used, so be ready to put some time into figuring everything out. The live feed also cut out on us a couple times when viewing full screen, and didn’t always respond to changes made to the brightness slider. That said, these issues were intermittent and easily fixed simply by reloading the live feed.

The Arlo Pro 2 also has Amazon Alexa and If This Than That (IFTTT) support for integration with other smart home devices, allowing you to view camera footage on an Amazon Echo Show or Amazon Fire-connected TV. Apple HomeKit and Google Home support are missing, but Arlo announced support for Google Assistant is coming soon, and that the Arlo Baby will support HomeKit, which suggests potential support in other Arlo cameras in the future. If you’re familiar with IFTTT, you could use that platform to make Arlo work with Google Home.

Full HD 1080p is nice, but probably not important

From movies to TV shows and even YouTube unboxing videos, Full HD 1080p is about the minimum resolution we’ll accept for watching videos today. However, when it comes to security cameras, we have yet to truly be impressed by any that advertises “Full HD 1080p.” The Arlo Pro 2 is no different.

Netgear Arlo Pro 2 review
Daven Mathies/Digital Trends
Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

The original Arlo Pro was limited to 720p resolution, and the jump to 1080p for the Pro 2 was a pretty obvious specification bump to make. We’re pleased with the addition, especially given that Arlo didn’t reduce its seven days of free cloud storage despite the added file size requirements, but we can’t say that viewing security camera footage in 1080p really adds anything to the experience. You can zoom in up to 8x, but as we’ve seen on virtually every other security camera, edges are very over-sharpened and heavy compression limits the picture quality to something well below what we’d expect from a camcorder or even a smartphone camera.

The Arlo Pro 2 may carry a high cost of entry, but it pays off.

That said, image quality is good for this class of product, and the 130-degree wide-angle lens is perfect for most applications. Some cameras offer up to 180 degrees of coverage, but in our experience, rarely is that needed — and it tends to significantly distort the image.

More important than image quality, however, is simply clip length. Many cameras save space and bandwidth by only recording a few seconds of footage after a motion or sound-triggered event. With the Arlo Pro 2, we saw individual clips run up to 5 minutes and were able download them in a matter of seconds. Plus, there was virtually no “cool down” time between clips; subsequent motion events triggered the camera immediately, even if a previous clip had been saved just seconds before.

When a camera is plugged in, you also have the option of using the new “look back” mode. This continually buffers 3 seconds of video which is saved whenever the camera is triggered, giving you a glimpse at the scene just prior to the moment motion or sound was detected.

Built for business

While the Arlo Pro 2 is designed to be a powerful home security system, it offers several features that make it appealing to small and medium businesses, as well. First, business customers still get seven days of free cloud storage for up to five connected cameras, but Arlo also offers business-specific cloud plans for further expanding the system. The $129-per-year Advanced plan allows for up to 16 cameras and 14 days of cloud storage, while the $249 Professional plan boosts that to 24 cameras and 30 days of backup. Still not enough? The $499 Enterprise plan offers 60 days of a storage and up to 40 cameras.

If you’d rather run the Arlo Pro 2 like a traditional always-on security camera setup, you can do that, too. Arlo offers continuous video recording (CVR) storage plans, and so long as a camera is plugged in, it can be used in CVR mode. A CVR plan is sold as an addition to the standard cloud plan, at $99 per year for 14 days of backup or $199 for 30 days.

Warranty

Arlo offers a one-year warranty on the Arlo Pro 2 and three months of customer support for Basic plan members. Paid membership plans come with unlimited support.

Our Take

The Arlo Pro 2 may carry a high cost of entry for anyone looking for their first smart home camera, but it pays off. It is the most full-featured home security system we have yet tested. We are particularly impressed with the sheer amount of included features, and Arlo’s generous cloud storage plans and clip length limits set a bar for the industry.

Is there a better alternative?

Not really. From a simple matter of cost, some users may be better off with a single-camera system. The Logitech Circle 2 also offers much broader smart home integration; with the Arlo, you’re more or less out of luck if you chose a smart home hub other than Amazon Alexa (at least, for now). That said, we’d take Arlo’s robust features over Apple HomeKit or Google Home support, any day.

How long will it last?

This is the most full-featured smart home camera system we have ever tested, so we expect it will last for some time to come. Arlo is an established name in this space, so the Arlo Pro 2 is likely a safer bet than gambling on one of the many less-known players in the smart home arena.

Should you buy it?

Yes. There are cheaper alternatives out there, but we truly have not found another smart camera that offers the same power, versatility, cloud storage, and value as the Arlo Pro 2.

Updated October 18, 2018. When this review was written, Arlo was a Netgear brand. The brand has since spun off into its own company. This review has been updated to reflect this.

Product Review

The Black Shark gaming phone takes a big bite out of your free time, but the software sinks it

The world is being treated to an ever-increasing number of high-powered gaming phones. With so many great options already out, is there room for another? The Black Shark thinks so. But is it any good? We find out.
Deals

Get electronics gifts for high-tech homes for under $100 with these deals

The holiday season is in full swing with Christmas just around the corner. New deals on interesting, fun, and practical electronic gifts under $100 from major online retailers can convert last-minute shoppers to savvy bargain hunters.
Smart Home

Knock, knock. Who's there? With a video doorbell, you'll never have to guess

When it comes to knowing who's at your door before you actually open it, there's nothing better than a video doorbell. Plus, you can "answer" the door even if you're not home. Here are some of our favorites.
Mobile

Sprint’s 5G rollout: Everything you need to know

Sprint is building its next-gen 5G network in preparation for a 2019 rollout, but it's taking a decidedly different approach than some of its competitors, including Verizon and AT&T. Here's everything you need to know.
Smart Home

Dog or cat shedding? These vacuums do a great job of sucking up pet hair

Got a pet hair problem? Fortunately, there's help for you and your furry friend. We tested out a bunch of vacuums that promise to remove pet hair. Here are a few of the best you can buy.
Product Review

Hue who? Nanoleaf Canvas brings a riot of color and vibrancy to the smart home

Fun and festive, Nanoleaf Canvas feature lighting adds personality and vibrancy to any room. Nanoleaf Canvas features squares that you can connect in any configuration you’d like. Sync to music, play games, or relax in soothing light.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Smart Home

Rocco wants to rock out. Parrot learns to use owner’s Amazon Alexa

Rocco, an African gray parrot, fell in love with his owner's Alexa unit and ordered himself treats and other goodies, but mostly uses the smart assistant to rock out to his favorite music.
Smart Home

The Echo Wall Clock can help you keep track of multiple Alexa timers

Amazon just released the Echo Wall Clock that was announced at its September new hardware device event in Seattle. The Echo Wall Clock is an analog clock that also indicates the minutes remaining on one or more Alexa timers.
Product Review

Ring Alarm makes DIY home security simple and affordable enough for everyone

Ring first made waves with its video doorbell, and now the Amazon-owned company is moving on to home security with the Ring Alarm. You can install the sensors and keypads yourself, then have Ring professionally monitor your home.
Smart Home

Espresso On Demand: The five best Nespresso machines

Most people still trek down to their local coffee shop to get an espresso or a cappuccino, but you don't have to. A Nespresso machine can put coffee shop quality espresso on your kitchen counter.
Smart Home

This device detects when your pet is at the door and opens it for them

Tired of waiting for your dog to come inside, or running home in the middle of the day to let your four-legged friend out? Wayzn automatically opens sliding doors for your dog and gives you remote control.
Smart Home

Put away that sponge and let us help you pick the best dishwasher for your buck

Tired of doing dishes by hand? Take a look at our picks of the four best dishwashers currently available and let a machine do the dirty work for you. They’ll do a much better job, anyway.
News

Canary home security company sued over $10 monitoring fee

A class-action lawsuit claims home security startup Canary offered free monitoring features to entice people to purchase their cameras, then started charging a monthly fee to continue using them.