Arlo Essential Indoor Camera full review
The Arlo Essential Indoor camera is the latest smart security camera in the Arlo family, offering a budget-focused approach to smart home security with the signature Arlo flair. It’s unquestionably a well-built smart security camera in a portable form factor and a handy privacy shield, but with key features locked behind an additional paywall and an expensive price tag compared to similarly specced competition, it’s a bit of a hard sell.
Is the Arlo Essential Indoor camera worth $99/£119? Carry on reading to find out.
Design and build
The Arlo Essential follows the same design language as other cameras in the Arlo collection, sporting a similar rounded shape and a classic glossy white plastic body.
On the front you’ll find the camera sensor, capable of recording 1080p footage with a 130-degree field of view, an indicator LED and a mic, while the rear houses the micro-USB socket required for power and a speaker for two-way talk.
One of the main talking points of the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera is the inclusion of a privacy shutter, which covers the camera when not in use, as well as deactivating motion control and audio capture too. The contrasting white cover on the black front plate makes it easy to tell if it’s covered at a glance, and it's easily activated via the Arlo app - but more on that later.
The dinky-looking Arlo Essential is one of the more compact indoor cameras on the market, measuring in at 52 x 49 x 113mm, but it can’t quite beat the Ring Indoor Cam and its dinky dimensions. Still, if you’re on the lookout for a small camera that’ll blend into your home, the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera should do the job.
Like the Ring Indoor Cam and other smart cameras, the Arlo Essential utilises a ball and socket joint on a stand connected to a circular base plate. The joint allows you to angle the camera with ease, while the circular base plate can be used to stand the camera on a shelf.
There is a mounting kit in the box if you want to secure the camera higher up, but with the relatively short 2m cable required to power the unit, you don’t get the same freedom that you would from a battery-powered camera.
Features and performance
Setup is a fairly simple process, requiring no more than downloading the Arlo app from the App Store or Google Play and following the on-screen instructions to connect the camera to your Wi-Fi network. While some smart cameras are quite complex (and at times frustrating) to connect, the Arlo Essential Indoor was connected and streaming video within a few minutes of being taken out of the box.
Once the camera has been set up, you can simply leave it to do its thing; it’ll automatically start monitoring for motion, and you’ll get an alert on your smartphone once movement is detected.
The Arlo app is well built and simple to use, especially for an entry-level product - a benefit of Arlo first developing high-end cameras then using the same app for its budget offering.
With that in mind, you’ll be greeted by a home menu listing all currently installed cameras complete with a thumbnail previewing the last captured option event. Tapping on the camera provides direct access to the live feed with the ability to communicate with those nearby using two-way talk, along with access to motion events and a Settings menu to tweak camera preferences.
There’s also a Library tab that’ll let you view footage from multiple cameras in chronological order, and there’s also a Mode tab that’ll let you customise how and when the system operates.
Captured events offer a great snapshot, thanks to the 1080p capture and 130-degree field of view, though it’s not quite as expansive as competing cameras that can offer up to 160 degrees.
Generally speaking, the quality of video captured (and streamed in real-time from the app) is great both during the day and night, even retaining some of that quality when digitally zooming, though it’s worth noting that night vision is limited to black and white capture. It can’t compete with more expensive options in the Arlo family, with the Arlo Pro 3 shooting in 2K and the Arlo Ultra going all the way up to 4K, but it should suffice for simple home monitoring.
Like many smart cameras, captured events are stored in the cloud. That means you’ll have to pay a monthly subscription to access recorded events, along with the ability to access some of the advanced features on offer from the camera including AI features like object detection and the ability to customise the area where motion is detected.
While it’s frustrating that some features are locked behind a paywall, rather than simply offering cloud storage, but the £2.49/$2.49 a month subscription is more palatable than most, and you get a three-month free trial too.
What about when you don’t want the Arlo Essential Indoor to capture motion? That’s where the privacy shield comes into play. It’s activated via the Arlo app whenever you ‘disarm’ the system, and it’ll retract once the system is armed. There’s also a geofencing feature that’ll automatically arm and disarm the system based on your location which should make things feel more seamless.
There is a catch though; if you’ve got multiple Arlo products on the app, you’ll have to disarm everything to enable the privacy shield. With this in mind, a physical switch on the camera itself would’ve been helpful, allowing you to quickly disable the indoor camera without, for example, disarming an outdoor camera monitoring your garden.
You can set custom scenes via the Modes menu that’ll allow you to disable the indoor cam while keeping other products active, but it is a bit of a headache for existing Arlo users.
Arlo’s Essential range is the company’s entry-level collection, but the Arlo Essential Indoor will still set you back a rather pricy £119.99/$99.99. While the privacy shield is a massive plus for those concerned about privacy, there are plenty of cheaper indoor-focused cameras with similar, or in some cases improved, features.
Take the Ring Indoor Cam for example; it costs half the price at £49.99/$49.99, it offers a wider 140-degree FOV and colour night vision, plus none of the smart features (aside from cloud storage) are locked behind a monthly subscription.
The Arlo Essential Indoor is a solid smart security camera, offering great quality 1080p streaming and cloud-powered capture with built-in night vision for 24-hour monitoring. The app is well built with great features for advanced users, like setting up custom modes and AI-powered object detection, though the latter is exclusive to those that pay a £2.49/$2.49 a month subscription.
There’s also a privacy shield that’ll disable monitoring as well as audio capture when you’re at home, giving you peace of mind, though enabling it will disable any other Arlo products by default.
The only potential issue is the price; despite the Essential range aiming to bring the Arlo experience to an entry-level audience, a £119.99/$99.99 price tag is almost double that of similarly specced indoor cameras. If the unique privacy shield is enough to justify the spend then great, but if you could live without it, there are better options available in our best security camera chart.
Arlo Essential Indoor Camera: Specs
- 2Mp sensor
- [email protected] video recording with 130-degree FOV
- Night vision (B&W)
- Motion detection with optional AI object recognition
- Wired w/ 2m microUSB cable
- Single microphone
- 1x LED light
- 12x digital zoom
- Wall/ceiling mount included
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