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Arlo Pro 3 vs. Arlo Essential Spotlight: Which is the fan favorite?

Arlo’s been keeping busy over the last year, adding several new cameras to its growing portfolio of security cameras. Considering how the company has a solid reputation in the space, it comes as no surprise to know that there are cameras for all sorts of purposes and budgets. The Arlo Pro 3 has long been a fan favorite for its excellent performance since it was released last year, and now we have the company’s latest cam, the Arlo Essential Spotlight, that follows the tradition of top-notch security — but on a budget!

With so many new cameras in its portfolio, it can be tough trying to understand the differences among them. We’re going to break down these two cameras and find out how they stack up against one another.

At a glance

Arlo Pro 3 Arlo Essential Spotlight
Design Rectangular, 3.5 x 2 x 3 inches, 316 grams Rectangular, 3.496 x 2.047 x 3.047 inches, 238 grams
Features Live video, color night vision, integrated spotlight, 12x zoom, 2-way audio, noise and echo cancellation, built-in siren, connects to SmartHub. Live video, color night vision, integrated spotlight, 12x zoom, 2-way audio, noise and echo cancellation, built-in siren, connects directly to Wi-Fi.
Specs 160-degree field of view, 2K QHD video 130-degree field of view, 1080p HD video
Price $500 retail (2 camera system with SmartHub) $130 retail (1 camera)
Subscription Starts at $3 per month, highest tier is $10 per month Starts at $3 per month, highest tier is $10 per month
Install Requirements Runs on a rechargeable, quick-release battery pack. Magnetic charging cable can be attached to supply continuous power. Comes included with a standard wall mount that can articulate. Runs on an internal rechargeable battery. It comes with a Micro USB cable that recharges the camera, but you can use the optional solar charger. Attaches using the included wall mount.

Design

Arlo’s cameras feature a distinctive design that easily distinguishes them from others, plus they’re relatively quick and simple to set up. For the most part, they’re very similar in size and shape — boasting a slightly rounded, rectangular design. The Arlo Pro 3 is technically heavier, but it shouldn’t influence your decision because they’re going to be stationary.

What sets these two apart is mainly how the Arlo Pro 3 has the ability to swap out its internal, rechargeable battery, for a fresh new one. You can’t do that with the Arlo Essential Spotlight because it features an integrated one that can be removed. They’re able to withstand whatever the great outdoors dishes at them, thanks to their weather-resistant construction and operating temperature range of -4 to 113 Fahrenheit.

The advantage has to go to the Arlo Pro 3 for its swappable battery design, which doesn’t require you to completely remove it from the wall mount to charge.

Winner: Arlo Pro 3

Installation

Since both cams are designed almost identically, their installations don’t differ a whole lot. The included wall mounts allow them to quickly be placed just about anywhere outside. With a fair degree of articulation, you only need to tighten the knobs to fasten them.

Arlo Pro 3 – Wire-Free Security Add-On Camera

However, there’s the option to use the magnetic wall mount with the Arlo Pro 3. This allows the cam to conveniently fasten to the mount with a firm magnetic connection, so removing or adjusting the vantage point is quickly achieved. Then again, the magnetic wall mount does incur an additional $40 cost in addition to the camera system.

Winner: Tie

Features and specs

Hands down, the Arlo Pro 3 has the upper hand with its top-notch specs and performance. The most important aspect is its camera, a 4-megapixel one-third-inch sensor with a 160-degree field of view. It’s capable of producing crisp and sharp video at a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels, with advanced features such as HDR and auto-track and zoom. Not only will you be able to discern faces, but you’ll also be able to distinguish other finer details thanks to the 2K video resolution. HDR means superior dynamic range, allowing for better exposure when there are high-contrast scenes.

Meanwhile, the Arlo Essential Spotlight’s camera tops out at 1080p video with a narrower 130-degree field of view. For most people, 1080p footage suffices, but the narrow field of view means that it won’t be able to cover as much horizontally.

Arlo Essential full shot
Alina Bradford/Digital Trends

Under low light conditions, both offer color night vision and spotlights to help out. The latter is also useful in drawing attention, especially when combined with the sirens — so chances are, you’ll more than likely scare off any potential threats.

When it comes to battery life, it’s going to mainly hinge on how often they’re activated. The Arlo Pro 3 is rated for three to six months, while the Arlo Essential Spotlight goes the same distance at six months. Their battery life will vary, of course, but it’s worth noting that the Arlo Pro 3 requires it to be connected to the SmartHub — whereas the Arlo Essential Spotlight bypasses that and connects directly to your Wi-Fi network. Generally speaking, cameras that connect directly to Wi-Fi have to compete against other devices on the network for bandwidth, which can negatively impact its battery life.

Winner: Arlo Pro 3

Price and subscription model

Both cameras come with three months of Arlo Smart, the company’s cloud storage subscription that provides for 30 days of video history — plus some other advanced features like advanced object detection (people, vehicles, and more), package detection, and intelligent alerts.

Arlo Smart is broken down to a $3 per month plan for a single camera, or $10 per month for up to five cameras. Local storage is available out of the box for the Arlo Pro 3 because it includes the SmartHub. For the Arlo Essential Spotlight, you’ll need to purchase the SmartHub separately at $100.

Winner: Tie

Other variants to consider

Arlo’s portfolio doesn’t end with these two particular models, seeing that each one has its own variants. They offer basically the same base specs, but throw in some additional features that make them stand out on their own.

Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight

Arlo Pro 3 Flood Light on white house
Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight

As the name implies, the Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight has the same specs as its sibling, but it’s fashioned with an exceptionally bright floodlight. The difference between its floodlight and the Arlo Pro 3’s spotlight is night and day! The floodlight is more than capable of lighting up large spaces at night with its 3000 lumens of light, which can certainly stop would-be burglars and perpetrators in their tracks. It retails for $250.

Arlo Essential Spotlight XL

Similarly, the Arlo Essential Spotlight XL takes everything we have with the standard Arlo Essential Spotlight, but it goes the distance by extending its battery life to a full year. Obviously, it’ll vary depending on usage and environmental factors, but double the battery life means less to worry about recharging it. Even though it’s not out yet, you can pre-order it for $150.

Overall winner

Before we proclaim the victor, let’s talk about their price. The Arlo Pro 3 comes in at $500 for a 2-camera set with the SmartHub, while a single Arlo Essential Spotlight costs $130. Now, if you’re to add another camera and the SmartHub, the total cost for a similar 2-camera Arlo Essential Spotlight kit is $360, which is still substantially less than the Arlo Pro 3 kit.

For the price difference, the Arlo Pro 3 is still the superior camera for its better video performance, 2K video recording resolution, HDR, and removable battery design. Subscribing to Arlo Smart unlocks advanced features for the two cameras, but it’s hard to overlook the superior video capture of the Arlo Pro 3. And since it’s connected to the SmartHub, its connectivity to the home’s network won’t be adversely affected.

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