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Arlo Camera Review [Arlo 1 – First Generation]

Smart Cam on a Budget

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Arlo Camera

The Arlo Camera is Arlo’s most basic security camera in their lineup. It’s budget-friendly, comes with a rolling 7-day video storage for free, and can be paired with any additional Arlo devices for a whole-home setup. Keep in mind, all Arlo cameras require the Arlo SmartHub or other base station to work properly. The Arlo 1’s camera sensor quality was okay at best. However, it’s inexpensive and value packed with the 7 day cloud storage for free. Still a good option on a budget.Check Price

Pros

  • Easy install and magnetic mount is a unique accessory
  • Pairs well with other Arlo devices
  • Free rolling 7-day video storage

Cons

  • Only 720p video quality
  • Does not have audio detection or 2-way speakers
  • Camera sensor isn’t great (color, clarity, and contrast issues; see examples below)
  • Batteries are not rechargeable

Performance

Video: Day

Okay

Video: Night

Okay

Audio

N/A

App

Great

10 SECOND SUMMARY: Overall, the performance is of the Arlo 1 camera is good, but not great. The video quality is a little grainy and colors get washed out easily. We also noticed a bit of a lag when activating live view (ranged from 5-30 seconds). Proximity didn’t seem to be the issue in our case, as the camera was very close to the router. Even so, we love the free 7 days of cloud storage (huge value add).

Video: Day vs. Night

During the daytime, video quality is okay. Areas with bright lights tend to get washed out, like around light fixtures, fans, lamps, etc. Daylight coming in through the windows didn’t seem to be as big of an issue, but still not great.

Arlo 1 camera - daytime video
Arlo 1 camera – daytime video

As figures get further away, general clarity and facial recognition deteriorates. The Arlo 1 only has 720p video quality so this was a consistent issue we noticed for day and night time shots.

Arlo 1 camera - video quality at night indoors
Arlo 1 camera – video quality at night indoors

For nighttime shots, we saw a similar issue with coloration, as shown above. The yellow light tended to wash out details and ares of darkness were hard to see any details.

Arlo camera review - night mode
Arlo camera review – night mode

In true darkness, the Arlo does switch to a grayscale mode, which does make it easier to see figures. The grayscale isn’t as contrasted as some other video feeds I’ve tested, but the lack of contrast does seem to help Arlo in this case.

Arlo 1 night vision mode
Arlo 1 in near complete darkness

In near complete darkness scenarios the sensor really struggles. Above is an image looking out into our back yard. There is enough ambient light for a human to see clearly, but the Arlo struggles to create much depth of view.

Arlo 1 night vision mode inside

Audio

The Arlo 1 camera does not have any audio capabilities; no sound detection, no 2-way audio, and no on-board speaker.

There is also no smart siren on the Arlo 1 camera. To get this feature, you’ll need to upgrade to the Arlo Pro or newer.

The Arlo App

Using the Arlo app, you can perform the following features:

  • View live feed
  • Set up modes
  • Timeline viewer (24-hours for free)
  • Add a new device

How user-friendly is the Arlo app?

Overall, I would say that the Arlo app was easy to use and intuitive. There are a few options in the setup for different modes like “Armed”, “Not Armed”, “Scheduled”, and others.

Arlo app mode screen
Arlo app mode screen

That being said, there were a few limitations in terms of flexibility.

Notifications are pushed right to your smart device through the App. Without using the modes, the notifications can be bombarding and repetitive.

arlo app - setting and video

Of course, there’s an option to turn notifications off, but that seems counter-intuitive for if there’s an actual emergency.

There’s also an option to view the timeline, which shows a view of past history.

RELATED – See our complete list of home security camera tests here.

Arlo Design

The Arlo camera is a modern security camera with a wireless design. It is made to work as two parts. You’ll need the Arlo SmartHub (or the base station) and the camera itself.

Arlo 1 security camera side view

Together, these two devices communicate and help to expand the reach and effectiveness of your Arlo setup.

Arlo SmartHub vs. Base Station

All Arlo cameras need a “home base” to run their signals through and help with extra features. The older bases are called “Base Stations” while the newer ones are called “SmartHub”.

Arlo Smart Hub (VMB5000)
Arlo Smart Hub (VMB5000)

There are a number of different models out there and features may vary slightly.

Some have USB local storage while others rely on Micro SD or remote Cloud storage. Other differences include the inclusion or omission of the Smart Siren. (The siren may or may not be a deal breaker.)

You can view the Arlo base station comparison chart below for more information:

 Arlo SmartHubArlo Base StationArlo Base Station
arlo smart hub
Arlo SmartHub
arlo base station
Arlo Base Station (newer)
arlo base station
Arlo Base Station (older)
ModelVMB5000VMB4000VMB3500
Generation3.02.01.0
CompatibilityArlo, Pro, Pro 2, Pro 3, and UltraArlo, Pro & Pro 2 CamerasArlo, Pro & Pro 2 Cameras
Local StorageYes; Connect a Micro SD to hubYes; connect USB drive to baseNone; connect to router for cloud-based storage
Smart SirenYesYesYes
PriceCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price

The hub connects to the cam to the internet via your home’s router and provides connectivity and battery life for your camera.

The camera itself is wireless and can installed basically anywhere.

What does it do?

The Arlo cam provides 24/7 home security by sending you push notifications to your smartphone when motion is detected within the view range.

Arlo app notifications
Arlo app notifications

You can modify settings or engage different modes (like “armed” or “disarmed”) to help manage notifications and keep the alerts for when you really need it.

This camera can also pair with any existing Arlo devices for a whole-home security system.

What does Arlo look like?

The Arlo cam is small and easily fits in the palm of your hand. It has a white glossy shell with a black face where the camera lens is located.

Arlo 1 camera
Arlo 1 camera

There is also a slim silver accent trim that provides a bit of contrast between the two materials.

How you control it?

All controls for the Arlo camera are accessed through the smartphone-based Arlo app. The app can provide a live video feed or allow you to review past activity that was documented by the cam.

Arlo app settings
Arlo app settings

Top Features

Some of the top features of the Arlo 1 camera include:

  • Motion Notifications: sends a push notification to your smartphone when the camera detects motion in the camera’s view
  • Flexible Use: designed to be used indoor or outdoor and can sit upright on a shelf or be mounted to a vertical surface
  • 24/7 Live Video: can record footage for 24/7 live video playback
  • App Control: view the camera footage from your smartphone or other device using wifi pairing and cloud video storage
  • Multiple Pairing: pair multiple cameras together (indoor or outdoor) for whole-home security

What’s in the Box?

The Arlo 1 camera is the most basic camera that is currently offered by Arlo and comes with basic parts and accessories for quick startup.

Arlo 1 camera and accessories
Arlo 1 camera and accessories

In the box, you’ll get:

  • Arlo 1 wireless camera
  • Batteries (not rechargeable)
  • Mounting screw (optional)
  • Drywall anchor (optional)
  • Magnetic mount

The magnetic mount allows you to face the Arlo a variety of directions and angles. The process would be:

  1. Screw the magnetic mount into the wall.
  2. Magnetically attach the camera to the mount and set up designed position.

Setup & Usability

Setting up this camera system is pretty straightforward and involves just a few quick steps.

  1. Unbox the Arlo and remove all original packaging.
  2. Unlock the battery compartment and insert batteries (included).
  3. Bring the camera close to the base station or SmartHub.
  4. Sync camera to base station.
Arlo camera battery insert

There are LED prompts along the way that help you to make sure the camera is working properly.

How to Pair the Arlo to the Smart App?

  1. Install the Arlo app to your smartphone.
  2. Follow the prompts as the app tries to locate your camera.
  3. Once the app locates it, the devices should pair seamlessly.
Arlo app camera setup

How easy is Arlo to install?

Install of the Arlo is about as easy as the initial setup and takes just a few minutes (outside installation may take longer). First, pick the location where you want the camera.

If you want it freestanding, like on a shelf or piece of furniture, you can simply just place it there.

Arlo 1 camera sensor

The camera is wireless so once you have the view you want, it’s good to go. For permanent installs using the mounting ball, here are some steps below:

  • To mount in the corner of a room, you’ll need to use the magnetic mount and screws or anchors.
  • If you’re installing in drywall, use the provided drywall anchor and metal screw to secure the mounting ball to the substrate.
  • To install into solid wood, siding or other dense material, you can use the threaded screw by itself.
  • For install into brick or other masonry, you may need a specialty masonry screw for the best install.

Outdoor installs may also require an Indoor/Outdoor mount, which screws into the base of the camera and is more permanent than the magnetic mount.

How easy is it to use?

The Arlo camera, SmartHub (or base station) and the Arlo app all work together to create an integrated, connected, and easy to use smart security system.

Arlo 1 camera magnetic mount
Arlo 1 camera magnetic mount

The SmartHubs are a little easier to use than the traditional base station so if you’re now sure which to go with, I recommend this SmartHub (Vmb5000) with the Arlo cam.

Arlo Smart Hub
Arlo Smart Hub

The Arlo Smart Hub is the newest generation base station hub. It has the most features and is compatible with the most Arlo camera models.

Does Arlo require a subscription?

Arlo doesn’t require a subscription, but they do offer a couple plans if you want extra features.

Without an Arlo paid subscription, you would still have access to the following features:

  • Live remote video streaming
  • 7 Days of secure cloud DVR storage
  • Email motion alerts & push notifications
  • Support for up to 5 cameras
  • Custom activity zones

With a paid Arlo subscription, there are a couple different options:

NOTE: The prices below are shown as USD.

Arlo Smart Premier

  • Cost (single camera): $2.99 /monthly
  • Cost (up to 5 cameras): $9.99 / monthly
  • Description: offers rolling 30 days of video storage with up to 2K video resolution for 1 or 5 cameras

Arlo Smart Elite

  • Cost (single camera): $4.99 / monthly
  • Cost (up to 5 cameras): $14.99 / monthly
  • Description: offers rolling 30 days of video storage with up to 4K video resolution for 1 or 5 cameras

Arlo 1 Specifications

 Arlo
TypeIndoor/Outdoor
Video Quality720p
Night VisionBlack/White
Field of View110°
Motion DetectionYes
2-Way AudioNo
Local StorageYes; USB in base storage
Smart SirenNo
Wireless RangeUp to 300'
GeoFencingYes
Amazon AlexaYes
Google AssistantYes
Apple HomekitNo
SmartThingsYes
PriceCheck Price

Should you buy the Arlo Camera?

I would recommend the Arlo if you’re looking for the following in a security camera:

  • Wireless indoor cam: For indoor use, the Arlo cam is one is the sleekest we’ve reviewed to date. There’s no stand or complex base. And if you want to mount it on the wall, there’s a magnetic mount, which is an approach that is pretty unique to Arlo.
  • Already have other Arlo devices: Since all Arlo devices use the same base station or SmartHub, if you’re already invested in one of these devices, it would make sense to go with the Arlo 1 as a way to get a better value out of the hub.
  • You don’t need the absolute best clarity: The Arlo 1 camera sensor just isn’t incredible. It’s only 720p resolution and has issues with contrast, coloration, and night vision mode (especially when it’s incredibly dark). People and objects are still visible, but not as much as on newer model cameras.
  • Free local storage for up to 7 days: Not many other companies offer extended free video storage without a fee. If you’re looking for security on a budget, Arlo could be the way to go as it offers this free 7-day rolling video storage.

Click here to learn more about or to buy the Arlo Cam.

Okay Performance, Great Value
  • 96%
    Design - 96%
  • 85%
    Performance - 85%
  • 96%
    Quality - 96%
  • 97%
    Usability - 97%
  • 96%
    Value - 96%
94%

Summary

The Arlo Camera is the most basic cam in the Arlo lineup. It offers smart home security on a budget, although it lacks some of the advanced features from newer or more expensive models. To run any Arlo cam, you’ll need to invest in the Arlo base station or SmartHub so be sure to take that into consideration when making your selection. That being said, Arlo has a fantastic collection of cameras so if you’re looking for a system that easily can be used across the house (indoor or outdoor), Arlo is a great option.

About Derek Hales

Derek HalesDerek Hales is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ModernCastle.com. He has been featured in Fast Company, Reader's Digest, Business Insider, Realtor.com, She Knows, and other major publications. Derek has a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from Kansas State University. Hales has been testing and reviewing products for the home since 2014.

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