Verdict: The Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell is an excellent solution for homeowners who want to add security and peace of mind to their home without having to run power to the location. The battery lifespan can last months on a single charge and motion zones allow you to customize when to get alerts.
- Rechargeable battery
- Set Motion Zones for alert triggers
- Fairly easy to install
- Black or White casing choices
- Good night vision
- Videos stay in cloud only 30 days
- Depending on internet connection, delayed alerts to your phone
- Out of service while recharging battery
- More expensive than wired version
Once considered a luxury smart home feature, video doorbells are now an essential part of a connected home, and the Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell ($199.99) is a great upgrade from its predecessor, allowing you to add extra security to your home or apartment without having to run power to the location.
TWICE was able to test out this video doorbell over the past six months, giving it a real workout on our front door with delivery drivers, unexpected visitors, solicitors, animals and neighborhood kids constantly dropping by. The Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell is virtually the same as the Arlo Video Doorbell, but with the convenience of a rechargeable battery that Arlo claims can last up to six months - depending on usage, of course.
The wireless aspect of the Essential Video Doorbell opens up a new world of possibilities for video doorbells, which traditionally are limited to front or back doors where power is usually found. The rechargeable battery pack lets you install a single or multiple cameras around your home or property, including entries to sheds, barns, garages, gates and more. The camera also works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, SmartThings and IFTTT.
Testing & Performance
We decided to install the Arlo Essential at our front door, since that is where the most foot traffic is. Wireless installation took about 20 minutes from start to finish - including activation and initial setup with the Arlo app - and when we reinstalled it a couple months later to run off of the original doorbell wires, it only took about 10 minutes more, with the majority of time being spent on cleaning up the wires.
The doorbell kit comes with the Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell unit, rechargeable battery and USB recharge cable, installation hardware and an angle plate to help you position the doorbell at the best viewing angle for your location. You also get a three-month trial of Arlo Secure, Arlo’s subscription service.
While the Arlo Essential isn’t super thin, it looks classy with its black or white casing. The camera is located at the top of the unit, with a round doorbell button at the bottom. The HDR camera’s field of view has a maximum of 180 degrees and you can see the whole length of someone on your doorstep, thanks to the 1:1 aspect ratio.
Initially, we installed the doorbell a couple inches too high, cutting off the feet and doormat area where we wanted to be able to see delivered packages. After finding the right height, we could clearly see even our tallest 6’ 8” friend from head to toe, although with a slight fisheye lens effect up close. The video is crisp and clear, and we are pleased with the resolution and viewing angle of the Arlo Essential.
Besides being wireless, the ability to set multiple motion zones in the Arlo Smart app is one of our favorite features. With motion zones, you select specific areas of the camera view that will alert you when motion is detected in it, rather than alerting every motion that happens into the camera’s field of view. In our case, we have a long entryway to the front steps, but we excluded the street so we didn’t receive an alert anytime a car drove by. Thank you, Arlo!
At night, a ring of LEDs light up around the doorbell button when motion is detected, or when the doorbell is pressed. The night vision capabilities of the Arlo Essential is pretty good, compared to other video doorbells like Ring or Google Nest Hello, and we were impressed with how clear the image was, even though the night vision is in black and white.
Alerts & Notifications
Alerts are received on your registered mobile devices when motion is detected or the doorbell is pressed, but how quickly you receive the alerts depends on how robust your Wi-Fi connection is. During our tests, we often laughed as we were alerted that we were home up to a minute after we had come through the front door, but overall, the response time of the alerts is pretty close to real time, and always immediate when the doorbell was pressed.
Additionally, the Arlo Essential can identify if the motion is either a vehicle, person, animal or even a package, if it is on the doorstep by itself. In our tests, we noticed that beyond the initial alert of the delivery person coming up to the porch, we weren’t notified if packages were placed behind pillars or porch decorations. Fortunately, you can view in real time through the app to check and see if something is there.
Another security feature that is handy is the ability to sound an ear-piercing siren through the doorbell from your mobile device if you have unwanted persons trying to steal your packages, or access your home. The siren is very loud and uncomfortable, and is a great feature that we hope you never have to use.
The Arlo app is easy to navigate and use. Once installed, you have access to the doorbell’s real time video feed in the Devices tab, create schedules to arm and disarm your devices in the Mode tab, and, if subscribed to an Arlo Secure plan, view and download previously recorded footage from the past 30 days in the Library tab. We wish that recordings would be stored on the Arlo cloud servers for longer than 30 days, but you can download a copy to your mobile device - just don’t forget to do it! Adding another Arlo device is simple in the app, and you can easily control them all and adjust their settings.
You can use the app without subscribing to Arlo Secure, but you will only be able to access the live video streaming and motion alerts. At time of writing, a monthly subscription to Arlo Secure starts at $2.99 for a single camera.
The star of the Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell is the rechargeable battery. Without being tethered to existing wires or having to run power to a location the usability of the Arlo Essential is nearly limitless - as long as you have a strong Wi-Fi network to connect to. Arlo states that the battery can last up to six months, and with fairly steady use (approximately six to 10 notifications a day) we had to recharge the battery only once by the end of the fifth month of our testing.
The one drawback to having a rechargeable battery is that the unit is out of service while you recharge. Fortunately, it only took about six hours to recharge and we were back in business. The Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell can be connected to existing power, with the battery recharging from the wired power after a certain amount of drainage.
Overall, the functionality of the Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell is excellent. We really like the wide viewing angle, sharp HDR video and night vision and the ability to set custom motion zones. The wireless aspect is an exceptional option for homeowners who want better video coverage at non-traditional locations or for anyone who doesn’t want to mess with wiring. If you have a strong Wi-Fi network and don’t mind paying $199.99, we recommend the Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell for its great video resolution, alert system, simple-to-use app and its ability to be installed where you want.
- Max Video Resolution: 1536x1536 resolution
- Video Modes: 1536x1536, 1080x1080, 720x720, 1:1 ratio
- All Video Features: HDR, SIP video call at doorbell push
- Max Lens Field of View: 180-degree diagonal
- Spotlight: No
- Motion Detection: Single Motion Sensor, 110 degree horizontal
- Night Vision: Night Vision, high powered Infrared LEDs (850nm) with IR Cut FIlter
- Indoor/Outdoor: Outdoor UV & Weather resistant
- Digital Zoom: 12x
- Microphone: Single Microphone Array
- Audio: Full duplex 2-way audio, SIP audio/video call initiated at doorbell press, quick reply messages
- Operating Temperature: -20 to 45 degree Celsius
- Dimensions: 1.85 x 5.63 x 1.45 in (47mm x 143mm x 37 mm)
- Weight: 0.55lb (249g) with battery & 0.25lb (113g) without battery
- Installation Requirements: High-Speed Internet Connection
- Hardwiring Requirements: Voltage between 8V AC and 24V AC and existing doorbell and chime electrical wiring, for continuous battery charging.