Arlo Video Doorbell review: Arlo ousted Nest as my favorite video doorbell


Arlo made us wait a long time for its first video doorbell, but I’m happy to say it was worth it. The Netgear spinoff Arlo has essentially transformed its excellent Arlo Pro series of outdoor security cameras into a doorbell — a great doorbell — for just $150.

Like

  • 180-degree viewing angle and 1:1 aspect ratio shows packages left by your door
  • Built-in siren makes it more like a home security camera than Nest and Ring

Don’t Like

  • No free cloud storage — you have to pay for the $3 per month Arlo Smart plan
  • Bigger than most of its competition, including the large Nest Hello

When you consider that the Nest Hello clocks in at $229, Arlo’s $150 Video Doorbell starts to sound like a pretty good value. While many of Arlo’s own cameras are expensive, if not overpriced, the company has made significant strides in the past year to introduce more affordable options, including the Arlo Video Doorbell.

It’s priced well, it performs well and the Arlo Smart cloud service is competitively priced, starting at $3 per month. With Arlo Smart, you get a ton of features, from advanced motion alerts to 30 days of cloud storage and much more. 

Yes, I wish this buzzer had free cloud storage and that the doorbell itself was smaller (it looks nice, but it’s over 5 inches tall — even bigger than the Nest Hello). But I strongly recommend the Arlo Video Doorbell, enough to give it an Editors’ Choice Award and enough to say that it’s my current favorite video doorbell. 

Finally, an Arlo doorbell with live streaming

This is Arlo’s first video doorbell, but it isn’t the brand’s first doorbell. I reviewed the $80 Arlo Audio Doorbell back in April 2019 and was… confused. As the name suggests, the Arlo Audio Doorbell doesn’t have any video capabilities. Instead, you’re supposed to use it with an Arlo Pro series camera. 

The Audio Doorbell had two-way talk, but a nearby Pro camera was supposed to provide the live video stream. Since then, I’ve been waiting for Arlo to introduce a video doorbell — a device that didn’t require a Pro camera to perform the functions of a regular smart buzzer.

Now, Arlo has delivered with the hardwired Video Doorbell. 

Follow the step-by-step guide to install your doorbell. As always, consult a professional electrician if you have any questions.


Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

The Arlo app lays out the Video Doorbell setup process from the beginning, making it easy to install the doorbell and to complete the initial configuration. 

Start by downloading the Arlo app and creating an account, if you don’t already have one. Follow the steps in the app, from turning off power at your circuit breaker to installing the Power Kit (an adapter that connects to your doorbell chime to regulate the power going to your Arlo Video Doorbell) — and installing the Arlo Video Doorbell itself. Unlike some of Arlo’s cameras, the doorbell connects to your wireless network directly, no expensive hub needed. It will also work with either a mechanical or a digital doorbell chime.

Be sure to consult an electrician if you have any questions about your particular home set up, but it only took about 20 minutes from start to finish to install the Power Kit and the Arlo Video Doorbell at the CNET Smart Home.

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The Arlo Video Doorbell is a bit oversized (pictured next to the Google Nest Hello). 


Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The Arlo Video Doorbell has a decent design, but I do wish it was a little smaller. At over 5 inches in height, it dwarfs most of the other smart doorbells I’ve tested, including the Nest Hello. Still, it looks nice — just think about the spot where you plan to install your doorbell and whether it will fit. 

Using the Arlo Video Doorbell in the app is easy too. Like the Arlo Pro and Essential security cameras, you can arm or disarm the Arlo Video Doorbell, not unlike a traditional security system. When it’s armed, motion detection and video recording is active. When it’s disarmed, you won’t receive alerts.

You can also set an automated schedule when you want your doorbell to be armed or disarmed — or even set it to work within your own geofencing range, which controls the doorbell’s mode based on the location of your phone. When you’re home, it disarms the system and when you’re away, it arms the system. You can set the radius to small, medium or large, although the app doesn’t specify the size of each range. I used large and it successfully armed and disarmed the doorbell for me as I arrived and left the CNET Smart Home. 

Without the Arlo Smart subscription plan, starting at $3 per month (read more here), you can’t do much in the app. You get alerts when the system is armed and motion is detected, but you won’t get saved clips of any of the other advanced features Arlo offers. 

When your system is armed — and you have an Arlo Smart subscription — you’ll get custom alerts that tell you whether the motion was a person, a car, an animal or a package being delivered. 99% of my alerts were from people walking in and out of the front door — and the doorbell correctly identified them every time as person alerts. One alert I received was a generic motion alert from a bird that flew very close to the doorbell — it should’ve been an animal alert, but I’ll give it a pass on this one given how close the bird was to the doorbell itself.

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You can activate the doorbell’s built-in siren on demand — and the doorbell’s 1:1 aspect ratio (bottom image) makes it possible to see more of your front stoop.


Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

If you want to customize the area where you get alerts, you can set up a motion detection zone. This enables you to draw a “zone” where you want motion to be detected; the doorbell will then ignore motion that happens outside of that zone. 

The doorbell also has a built-in siren — and an option in the app to “Activate Siren” if you see something fishy going on at your home. You can also call a friend or use the E911 service to dispatch local law enforcement to your home if needed.

I particularly like this doorbell’s square aspect ratio, making it possible for me to see the front stoop where packages get delivered. Some doorbells display live feeds and recorded clips in a more traditional landscape mode, leaving out critical areas that you want to track.

The verdict

For $150, you get a solid hardwired doorbell that, yes, is a bit oversized, but works extremely well. It has a lot of advanced features, and its essential features — like livestreaming, motion alerts, two-way audio and cloud storage — also work as expected. 

The square aspect ratio is one of my favorite features of this device overall, because it clearly addresses how people often use their front door nowadays — to monitor when packages are delivered. And with that 1:1 aspect ratio, you can easily see everything that gets delivered. 

I still wish Arlo offered a basic, free cloud storage option, even just a few hours of saved clips, but I’m slowly starting to come around on the $3 per month price for cloud services, especially when they work as well as the Arlo Video Doorbell. 

First published Dec. 24, 2019.



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