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Review: Arlo's wireless video doorbell is the best of the bunch

Taking the best features from its wired doorbell — sans the annoying wire.

Arlo already makes the best video doorbell that supports Google Assistant, but there is one major thing they could improve: adding the option to go wireless. That's where Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free comes in. Offering basically everything the standard Arlo Video Doorbell offers, Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free gives users the ability to use it wirelessly — by utilizing the built-in rechargeable battery — all while offering the ability to wire it up if dedicated power is available.

When compared to most other wireless video doorbells, like the Eufy Video Doorbell or Ring Video Doorbell 3, Arlo offers a truly compelling product that often out-does the competition in almost every area. Arlo's unique 1:1 aspect ratio shines when compared to other video doorbells thanks to its ability to see more important parts of your front porch. It's also got a brilliant object detection algorithm powered by AI in the cloud that doesn't miss a thing. The subscription will set you back $3 per month, but it's very much worth the extra minor cost.

Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free

Bottom line: No matter what virtual assistant you might be rocking on Android, Arlo's wireless doorbell will work beautifully with nearly everything in your smart home. Advanced AI-based object detection that works unbelievably well, lightning-fast notifications, and the ability to run on battery or hard-wired make this a no-brainer choice for the best wireless video doorbell.

The Good

  • 2-3 month battery life
  • Can be optionally hardwired
  • Person, animal, vehicle, and package object alerts
  • Built-in alarm and e911 support
  • 1:1 aspect ratio with 180-degree FoV
  • Supports almost all virtual assistants

The Bad

  • Subscription required for advanced features
  • Local storage requires a hub
  • Micro-USB charging
  • No official Apple HomeKit support

$180 at Amazon $180 at Best Buy $200 at Lowes

Sees what it should

Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free: What I like

Everything that makes the Arlo Video Doorbell the best video doorbell around applies here. The ultra-high quality HDR video, 1:1 aspect ratio — an understated feature that simply sees your porch more effectively — incredibly smart AI-based object recognition with the accompanying lightning-fast notifications, and an app that's dirt-simple to use. You'll need an Arlo Smart Plan to get those AI-based object recognition features, but for $3 per month, they're totally worth it. Plus that comes with cloud storage that will keep all your recordings in one easy place.

The AI-powered object detection is quite possibly my single favorite feature — only matched by the ability to run the unit hard-wired or battery-powered without losing any functionality — as it truly feels like magic most of the time. An Arlo Smart subscription allows the unit to deliver alerts when it sees specific objects. As of this writing, those include animals, vehicles, packages, and people.

While there are other companies that offer this type of functionality, I found Arlo's to be not only correct every single time, but also lighting fast. In one situation, one of my backyard chickens had made its way to the front yard and was mulling around the front porch. Needless to say, in a neighborhood full of dogs, having a chicken get loose isn't the best situation. Because of Arlo's accurate "animal" identification and the subsequent instant notification of the detection, I was able to run outside and get her back in the backyard safely.

Arlo sets itself apart by delivering motion notifications when something actually important happens

I also found the package detection to be impeccably good at seeing packages when they're being delivered, despite the fact that it cannot see the floor directly in front of my front door. It did this by seeing the package in the delivery person's hands as they were walking up to the door. This wasn't a one-off happenstance thing either; it happened almost every time I had a delivery. Talk about intelligent AI!

Arlo's got great integration into Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and IFTTT, going so far as to automatically use any smart speakers you have in your home as a doorbell chime when linked to the appropriate service. For instance, the Google/Nest speakers in my house all ding when someone rings the doorbell now, which is just ridiculously handy since I've got several throughout my house.

Arlo's night vision quality is just plain better than many other video doorbells

While it's probably taken for granted that all video doorbells have night vision, Arlo's night vision is considerably better than most other video doorbells I've used. For example, putting it up against the August View Video Doorbell, which I have attached right above the Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free, shows a substantial difference in night vision quality. Arlo's night vision LED array was able to see past the wall next to my door without issue and perfectly balanced the scene beyond. The August View, not so much.

The biggest advantage Arlo Essential has over the regular Arlo Video Doorbell is, of course, the option to run completely wire-free via the included rechargeable battery. Arlo also supports traditional doorbell wiring via standard prongs on the back, if you'd rather not have to worry about charging the battery constantly. That'll give the doorbell constant power for regular use, and an incredibly long-lasting battery backup just in case.

The battery can be used as the primary power source or a backup when the power goes out

Based on my usage, the battery life for Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free is about 3 months. Arlo says it should have a 6-month battery life, so your mileage may vary. This likely depends largely on how many motion events you have, and I've had a significant number since I enabled all the different types of notifications you can in the app.

Despite being run on battery power, I noticed no palpable difference in notification times between a wired or wire-free experience. Wired doorbells can detect movement slightly earlier since they won't have to wake up from a low-powered state, though.

Subscription fatigue

Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free: What I don't like

While it's true that you can operate the Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free without a subscription, you'll lose a significant amount of functionality by choosing so. Namely, the advanced object detection I so love, the ability to customize where motion detection happens on-screen — done by adjusting the zones where motion might happen within the app — and the simple automatic cloud storage. $3 a month isn't much to ask for to get all these features, but it's yet another thing to pay money for monthly.

Without paying for anything extra, Arlo Essential Video Doorbell will deliver notifications when movement is detected or when someone presses the doorbell. If you've got an Arlo hub, it can also store any recordings or motion detections locally via the many storage options offered, so it's not impossible to keep from paying the subscription fee if you don't want to.

$3 a month isn't much, but it is yet another subscription to keep up with

While I enjoy having my smart speakers say that someone is at the door, I couldn't find any such options to disable this functionality on specific speakers — or entirely, for that matter — when connected to my Google Home account. While that's not an issue in my home, some folks may want to exclude specific speakers in case a doorbell press could wake kids up at inopportune times.

Also, this unit is a bit of a chonk when compared to the regular Arlo Video Doorbell. Obviously, there has to be a place to put the battery, so this is forgivable, but it's definitely a noticeably thicker device than the wired-only version. To be fair, though, I'm not sure how many people will care about how thick their video doorbell is, so this is a minor aesthetic note.

The competition

Ring Video Doorbell 3 is the most obvious competitor, as it offers the same wired and wire-free functionality as Arlo. That doorbell is much more expensive though and still requires a subscription for advanced features. It also doesn't offer any local storage options at all. On the positive, the battery is easier to remove than on Arlo Essential and there are more accessories than what's available for Arlo's doorbells at this time.

Eufy is the unsung hero of value among the big-name brands, and that's because they not only offer incredibly high-quality 2K video with HDR on the Eufy Security Wi-Fi 2K Video Doorbell, but all of it is stored locally and doesn't require a hub or subscription to access. On top of that, Eufy offers on-board people detection, so it doesn't need to be processed by servers in the cloud, as well as customizable motion zones and notifications — again, all without a subscription.

Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free: Should you buy?

You should buy this if ...

  • You want a wire-free video doorbell that doesn't cut out any of the features (but still has the option to hardware if you'd like)
  • You like the idea of a video doorbell that can give you specific notifications when it sees people, animals, vehicles, and even packages
  • You've got an Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant household and want a video doorbell that integrates well with your other smart devices

You should not buy this if ...

  • You don't want to subscribe to a monthly plan for all the features
  • You're deeply invested in Apple's HomeKit ecosystem

While it'll cost more in the long-run than the Eufy Security Wi-Fi 2K Video Doorbell, Arlo's unbelievably intelligent AI-powered object detection and unique 1:1 aspect ratio really help set Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free apart from Eufy's best. Optional local storage via a hub means you can keep footage long term — if that's something that appeals to you — and the ability to use the doorbell wire-free or wired makes it one of the most versatile video doorbells on the market.

4.5 out of 5

Really, when it comes down to it, there's almost no reason to choose any other video doorbell. Subscription fatigue aside, $3 per month really isn't much and the extra features you get are a considerable added-value over what other video doorbells offer. Arlo has, once again, outshone the competition by not only offering a more competitive price and better features but an object-detection algorithm that sees what you were hoping it would see. Arlo's doorbells aren't just another way to get more unwanted notifications on your phone; they actually tell you when something important is happening, which is more than many other products can claim.

Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free

Bottom line: If you ever wanted a video doorbell that understands what it sees instead of just seeing things more clearly, Arlo has the doorbell for you. Brilliant AI-powered object detection can spot a vehicle, animal, package, or person and notify you immediately. Not only that, but it can do all of this with an impressive 3-6 month battery life.

$180 at Amazon $180 at Best Buy $200 at Lowes

Source: androidcentral

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