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Arlo Essential XL Spotlight Camera review: Above-average smarts

Arlo Essential XL Spotlight Camera

Arlo Essential Spotlight XL

“It's ideal for when home security doesn't need to be micromanaged all the time.”
  • Smart detection features
  • Color night vision adds more detail
  • Wi-Fi direct connection ditches the hub
  • Tough weather-resistant construction
  • 3-second live feed delay
  • No removable battery
MSRP $150.00

Arlo has remained one of the leaders in the security camera sphere, offering exceptional cams packed with premium features that produce excellent results. Rightfully so, they fetch a premium price, but with the introduction of its new Essential line of cameras, the company is aiming to appeal to a broader audience without sacrificing its core philosophies.

The Arlo Essential XL Spotlight Camera is one of the cameras to come out of this new line. It boasts a one-year battery life, color night vision, and a distinguishing quality of the Essential line — a direct Wi-Fi connection that doesn’t require a bridge. Can it live up to the expectations?

One-year battery? Not so much

Let’s talk about the most intriguing spec of the camera, its battery life. Arlo claims that it’s capable of offering a year of battery life, but you have to take such an exorbitant claim for a battery-operated camera with a grain of salt. Even though it’s an outdoor camera with a weather-resistant, tough plastic body, I used the Arlo Essential XL indoors in a high-traffic area — right by the front door, to capture all comings and goings.

Arlo Essential XL Spotlight Camera
John Velasco / Digital Trends

Bear in mind that the one-year rating is based on 4,000 seconds of recording per month, which boils down to a little over two minutes per day. On average so far, it’s been recording a total of seven minutes per day. That’s well over the anticipated usage, but that’s the realistic figure for my particular situation. After getting it charged up, its battery life has gone down to 70% after 14 days of usage — a dissipation of about 2.1% per day. If that trend continues, its battery would be depleted after 47 days of usage, which is nowhere the realm of its rating. But then again, I will admit it’s better than average compared to the outdoor cams I’ve used, so in that regard, it’s nice that it doesn’t require a recharge as frequently.

I really enjoy how color night vision adds color to the footage.

Unlike Arlo’s Pro line, the Essential XL doesn’t feature swappable batteries. That means it needs to be removed from its mount, so you’ll be without security for a period of time.

Color night vision clarity

The Arlo Essential XL Spotlight Camera has what it takes to deliver usable footage. There’s a 130-degree field of view that captures clips in 1080p resolution, which are then stored in the cloud. It does come with a trial for Arlo Smart, but you’ll want to subscribe to the $3-per-month plan for continued cloud storage and advanced detection. The quality is good enough to make out some details, but there are some artifacting elements that spring up during its recording that soften its quality; these are most apparent when there’s a lot of movement in the scene. Dynamic range is on the weak side, evident by how highlights are overblown in contrast to the neutral exposure of the scene.

Arlo Essential XL Spotlight Camera
John Velasco / Digital Trends

With a pair of dual 850nm LEDs, its night vision range easily covers around 25 feet. The performance is good, but I really enjoy how color night vision adds color to the footage. It’s obviously extremely useful in being able to distinguish colors, versus just your traditional black-and-white footage, but the spotlight is required for this feature to work. From the looks of it, the more ambient light in the shot, the more colors are accurately represented — and that’s why the spotlight is necessary. It would be great if the cam could bypass this, especially when there’s some kind of ambient light source already, but it’s a useful deterrent nonetheless.

Smart security without the second guess

One of the most overlooked aspects of Arlo’s security is the intelligence of Arlo Smart. It helps to mitigate some of the overabundant notifications other cams send out due to triggers. Using the app, it’s useful to see what triggered the recordings — plus you choose what you want it to detect. I have it set to detect people, which helps to eliminate triggers due to my cats.

Two-way audio is available if you have the need to converse with whoever’s in frame. The speaker is loud enough for people to hear it, while the audio on my end is audible enough to make out and send a response. However, there is a delay of about three seconds between what’s happening and what you see in the app — so conversations tend to be one-sided affairs that require a little bit of pause.

Still, the advanced security features present here can’t be overlooked. It even features package detection for those precious deliveries left by your front door, an e911 feature to get help directly through the Arlo app, and a siren that’s good enough to grab attention.

Our take

The Arlo Essential XL Spotlight Camera is a good camera that offers excellent security for the home, and it’s paired with a better-than-average battery life. While it offers some unique features, like advanced detection and color night vision, its $150 cost may still be a bit too rich given some of the recent options in the space. If you’re able to cough up that amount, you won’t regret its smarter security coverage.

How long will it last?

With its weather-resistant construction, it’s able to withstand a temperature range of 4 degrees F to 113 degrees F. It’s unlikely to have isues, but if it does, there’s a one-year limited warranty that covers against defects in material and workmanship.

Is there a better alternative?

You can retain the same performance while saving some money by going with the $130 Arlo Essential Spotlight Camera. It has all the same features and performance, but with a shorter battery life rating of 6 months.

For those looking for substantial savings, the Wyze Cam Outdoor offers phenomenal value at $60 with its local storage option, sharp footage, and offline mode.

Should you buy it?

Yes, especially if you don’t want to be bothered by constant false notifications.

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