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 iPad Pro is the best tablet ever. But don't sell your laptop just yet

Apple has unveiled a big redesign for the iPad Pro, slimming down the bezels, adding Face ID, and the ability to attach and charge the Apple Pencil. All of this comes at a high cost however, as the iPad Pro starts at $799.
Smart Home

Ring Alarm vs. Nest Secure: Which one is right for you?

Thanks to the advance of technology, it's become really easy nowadays to secure your home and protect it from thieves, intruders, and unwanted guests. Which one of these two top contenders is right for you?
Deals

Best deals on home security cameras to save you from package thieves

Home security camera systems can help keep your home and your family safe. Amazon's deals on Blink security cameras and Ring Video Doorbells also help you save money on devices you can access regardless of your current location.
Smart Home

ConnectSense’s next plug iteration makes a home smart without a hub

The newest smart outlet in the ConnectSense line of smart home products not only provides a dual plug but can also operate independently of a smart home home, allowing users to control devices directly through an app.
Deals

Best deals on smart locks so you’ll never have to worry about unlocked doors

Is your front door locked? We found the best deals on smart home door locks that take the worry out of wondering if your home is secure. You can lock or unlock your doors remotely and some models let you control locks with voice commands.
Deals

These Amazon kitchen deals are perfect for Christmas gifts and healthy eating

Today is day 10 of Amazon’s “12 Days of Deals,” and it’s all about kitchen. From blenders to Instant Pots to KitchenAid mixers and more, practical yet highly coveted small appliances are available for up to 50 percent off.
Product Review

The Brava Oven takes all the thinking out of cooking

Using bulbs to cook food at different light frequencies, the Brava Oven lets even the clueless cook a tasty meal. But your own smart chef doesn’t come cheap.
Smart Home

The Apple HomePod gets a whole lot cheaper today at Target

Apple's HomePod hasn't been the most popular smart speaker on the market but for users who are all in on Apple's heavily policed ecosystem of devices, this smart speaker is on serious sale at Target this week.
Cars

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…
Smart Home

Uber Eats is testing a system for cheaper meal delivery

You know how Uber Pool offers cheaper trips if riders share a car? Well, Uber Eats is currently testing the same idea for meal delivery, and it could mean cheaper orders for customers.
Smart Home

Dear Instant Pot Smart: I love you. Thank you for changing my life

After taking the Instant Pot Smart WiFi Programmable Pressure Cooker for a spin, one long-time product reviewer finds much to love about the device she long coveted, despite that it’s not really that smart.
Deals

Brew, drip, or press a fresh cup of joe with today’s best deals on coffee makers

To kick off the day with a fresh cup or upgrade your home coffee machine to accommodate the preferences of dinner guests, check these hot deals for drip coffee makers, espresso machines, and single-serving devices on Walmart and Amazon.
Smart Home

People are stealing Ring doorbells (and it’s no knock-knock joke)

Ring Video Doorbell thefts in a Denver neighborhood raise questions about how much security the smart home devices actually provide. One homeowner and the police have a video of the theft. Here's what to do if your Ring device is stolen.
Smart Home

Alexa’s latest skill helps patients manage high blood pressure

People who need some help managing their high blood pressure are getting some help via a new Alexa skill developed in partnership with Omron Healthcare that will work directly with the manufacturer's monitors.