The Netgear 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, Netgear 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 Netgear 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, Netgear’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.
Netgear’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, Netgear 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.
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 Netgear 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.
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 Netgear 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 Netgear 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. Netgear 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.
Netgear 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 Netgear’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 Netgear’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. Netgear 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 Netgear Arlo Pro 2.