Thursday, 02 June 2016 17:47

Arlo Q – will snoop anywhere, anytime (review)

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Netgear’s original Arlo security was great except that it was battery powered. While that gave it greater flexibility in placement, the Q is USB powered for 24/7, HD use.

The Arlo Q is designed as a security camera with features such as 1080p recording, two-way audio, enhanced night vision, motion activation (with inclusion/exclusion zones), smart alerts (excludes false positives), and 24/7 cloud recording.

iTWire’s Alex Zaharov-Reutt reported on the original Arlo in March 2015 calling it awesome, and I won’t repeat what he said here except to remind you that there is a battery powered version.

After a few weeks of use, I can offer some tips and tricks for this — on the whole  amazing little camera.

Let's get the specifications out of the way.

  • Resolution: 1080p, 1/3”, 4MP sensor takes stills and video stills, colour but you can, and probably should use a lower resolution to save data
  • Field of view: 130° (imagine seeing a 10m room from diagonal corner to corner)
  • Night vision: 10 infrared LEDS provide up to 8 metres
  • Zoom: 8x digital
  • Motion detection range: 5 metres with three user-defined detection zones
  • Alerts: Instant email
  • Audio: 2-way speaker and microphone – potential for use as an intercom, baby monitor, etc.
  • AC powered by a standard 5V/2A USB charger and 3m USB-A to right angle micro-USB (provided)
  • Wall mount plate – provided and required if you want to wall mount. Otherwise, it has a flat desktop base, but there are other optional mounting options
  • Wii-Fi N600 2.4 and 5Ghz dual band for up to 100 metres connection to a router
  • Recording: only to the Arlo cloud. Free 24/7 x 7 days (loop) for up to five cameras, or optional at extra cost CVR (continuous video recording) in the cloud
  • App for iOS, Android, Kindle Fire and web browser (Mac/PC)
  • Weather-resistant for indoor or outdoor use (recommended protected placement)

Setup

There is no base station. Load the Arlo app, set up the Arlo Cloud account (claim your camera by inputing email, password, name, and security question) and connect the camera to Wi-Fi. It is easy. I am told that NetGear NightHawk routers may act as a base station later in 2016.

There is a catch  1080p recording will chew up 1500Kbps  at 720p about 700kbps and 360p about 200kbps. The camera will auto-adjust to record at the maximum available rate. What this means is 1080p recording uses 11.25MB per minute or 675MB per hour or 16.2GB per day! There is no "record to a Mac/PC" and for that reason alone it does not get a full recommendation.

That’s a theoretical maximum because you would turn on motion detection and only record when you have an "incident" that sets it off. Similarly, you will use data to view the cloud from a smartphone or computer.

Video quality is exceptional for a small camera. It's great in the day and provides reasonably intelligible black and white for night viewing. I did get some pixellation when the test subject ran past the camera at night.

The App

It is well designed and easy to use. The live feed button will be what you use most until the novelty wears off – or you exceed your data.

It uses icons for better at-a-glance system management and includes a running man and microphone icon that indicate motion and sound detection status for each camera. Solid icons mean motion and sound detection are on. Dimmed icons mean those functions are off. Amber icons mean motion or sound are currently being detected by your system.

Push notifications can be set by rules – kind of "if this then do that" (ITTDT). You can set privacy features as well. The ITTDT rules may be useful in future to work with other smart home devices.

Multiple cameras

Being IP-based, in theory you could have as many of the $349 units as you can afford and data bandwidth that you have. It says you can manage up to 15 cameras in the app.

Motion detection

I found it excellent with no false positives. Activity Zones let you define sound and motion detection areas by drawing a square over the camera image. This reduces false alarms to an entry point instead of an entire room.

The other features are modes and custom modes. Modes are sets of rules that tell the camera how to respond when it detects sound and/or motion. This has three default modes: armed, disarmed, and schedule. The first two turn sound and motion detection on and off, and the third schedules it for specific days and times. Custom Modes can be created.

Did it work?

As advertised – it is probably the simplest setup and the most comprehensive app I have seen. I was shocked at the data use and settled on 360p when recording a high activity zone. I would prefer it to record to a NAS, but Netgear says there are plenty of IP cameras that do that – this is the Arlo system.

Another minor issue is that it requires power, and a professional thief can easily disable power in a home. It also uses Wi-Fi, and a professional would simply block it. Most thieves are amateur, spur-of-the-moment types, so it will catch them.

There is occasionally a lag between live images and up to the cloud. It can be annoying when using the two-way audio feature.

Conclusion

Good build and picture quality, easy set-up, does what it claims. Due to data use, it's more suited to occasional monitoring of zones than 24/7 but if you want it then get more data.

Highly recommended as an ecosystem.


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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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