Arlo’s latest Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free adds a rechargeable battery, making it more accessible for homeowners that lack the electrical hardwiring required for its previous doorbell. Like the older model, which is still being produced, the Essential doorbell’s video camera offers a squarish 1:1 aspect ratio with more vertical field of view. This means users can easily view packages left on their doorstep. You’ll need the Arlo app (for iOS and Android) to set up the doorbell. No hub is required, unlike some older Arlo cameras.
- Max video resolution of 1,536 x 1,536 pixels
- 180-degree diagonal viewing angle
- Built-in siren
- Use either rechargeable battery or wired mains
Since I am only reviewing the Essential, I did not go the whole hog and drill holes in my wall to permanently mount the doorbell. Those with an existing wired doorbell can reroute the electrical wiring (voltage between 8V AC and 24V AC) to the Essential for continuous charging. An angled mounting plate is also included if you need to tilt the horizontal angle of the video doorbell.
But the whole point of this wire-free model is the rechargeable battery. Arlo provides a special tool (similar to a SIM card tool) that you insert into an opening at the top to access the battery. Battery life is said to be six months, but your mileage will vary based on the number of visitors (and the motion detection sensitivity setting). Heavy users may want to buy a spare battery (S$79).
What I liked about the Essential is that when someone presses the doorbell, it actually video calls my smartphone (there’s a 5-second lag). If you are occupied, you can reject the call and use a pre-recorded reply (there are five non-customisable choices). Visitors can also leave you a voice message. Video quality is decent. HDR is supported so videos are less washed out. Night vision is also supported, though there’s no colour. And while the siren isn’t very loud, it is an annoying and uncomfortable high-pitch whine.
Arlo also has a subscription-based Arlo Smart service (S$4.49 a month for a single camera) with more advanced features. For instance, it can distinguish between people, vehicles, animals and packages. In my testing, Arlo Smart actually did a better job of detecting packages than my previous experience with it. A 3-month trial for Arlo Smart is included with the Essential video doorbell. I feel Arlo Smart is necessary to get the best out of the doorbell. But it adds to the cost of a premium and polished product. To be fair, the Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free is priced at S$329 on Amazon, Lazada and Shopee, which is similar to its closest rival, the Ring Doorbell 3. Both are excellent choices, but the Arlo would be my slight favourite.
Note: Review unit provided by Arlo.