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Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free Review

No need for a base station with the Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free – a high-resolution, battery-powered smart doorbell.

Verdict

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The Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free is a rather chunky battery-powered unit – but it's powerful, easy to configure and shoots high-resolution video to make it easier to see what's going on. This model doesn't require a base station and is the first product we've seen from Arlo not to support one at all, which may put off some people who have invested in one for the security cameras. Even so, if you're looking for a quality alternative to the big names, then this is a great product.

Pros

  • Excellent image quality
  • Calls your phone for incoming doorbell presses
  • Sends notifications via Amazon Echo speakers

Cons

  • Chunky
  • Terse automated replies
  • Can't answer calls from a smart speaker

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £179.99
  • Wireless doorbell
  • 43 x 37 x 47mm
  • 1,536 x 1,536 resolution
  • 180-degrees field of view
  • Cloud (subscription required)
  • Full-colour night vision
  • Battery powered
  • Google Home, Amazon Alexa support

Arlo has started a shift away from its base stations, with recent products working both with them and via a regular wireless network. The Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free is the first product I’ve seen not to offer compatibility with a base station, working solely through a wireless network.

Being battery-powered, this model is easier to install than the company’s wired video doorbell – but you end up with a considerably chunkier product. Video resolution remains the same, and both the wireless and wired models are identically priced. The only real downside is that with 2.4GHz networking only, you might not get as strong a signal with the Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free.

  • A chunky body, although the camera isn’t too wide
  • Easy to install
  • Optional wiring lets you keep the battery topped up automatically

Look at the Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free front-on, and you’d be hard-pushed to notice a difference between it and the wired Arlo Video Doorbell. Both are lozenge-shaped devices, with fairly narrow bodies that should fit on most door frames easily enough.

The big difference is that this wireless model is powered by an internal battery, which makes the whole unit a lot chunkier (143 x 37 x 47mm). In all, this is just about the biggest video doorbell I’ve reviewed – although it’s sufficiently narrow to easily fit on most door frames.

Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free side view

Since it’s battery-powered, this doorbell is easy to install. Simply screw the mount into place and attach the doorbell to it. There’s even an angle bracket included if you need it. Then, to charge, you use the provided tool to uncouple the doorbell. Having to use the dedicated tool to remove the doorbell doesn’t make it completely theft-proof, but it will certainly put off the opportunistic thief.

Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free release

Arlo claims up to six months’ battery life for this model, but in reality this will depend on how often your camera picks up motion. Based on my doorbell’s location and use, I’m likely to get three months’ use out of it.

If you already have a wired doorbell then you can hook its power cables to the Arlo’s connectors. This provides enough power to keep the battery topped up, and also enables the Video Doorbell to sound your internal chime.

Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free rear

If you don’t have an internal chime, Arlo sells a wireless model. However, this system is compatible with Alexa Announcements, so your Echo speakers can be made to ring when someone is at the front door.

Note that you will need something, since the doorbell doesn’t make much noise on its own; bar a simple tone to let a caller know that they’ve pressed the button.

  • Cloud activity zones let you choose the areas to monitor
  • Rings your phone when there’s an incoming call
  • Integrates with other Arlo cameras

Once the doorbell is in place, you’ll need to use the app to get it connected. Every other Arlo product I’ve reviewed has been compatible with Arlo base stations, but this doorbell uses 2.4GHz Wi-Fi only, so will connect to a regular Wi-Fi network.

This means you’ll need decent Wi-Fi by your front door, which probably won’t be a problem for anyone with a wireless mesh system.

Once connected to the app, the doorbell looks and operates much like any other Arlo camera you have connected, showing a thumbnail view of what the camera last saw. If you want to record video, then you’ll need to upgrade to an Arlo Smart subscription.

Arlo Smart Premiere will let you record at full resolution and costs £2.49 a month. You can upgrade to the Multi-Camera option for £7.99 a month, which covers five cameras. The single-camera price is decent, but Nest is cheaper for multiple cameras with its unlimited option, and Ring also has an unlimited option. Video history is for 30 days in all instances.

Arlo Smart also provides access to Cloud Activity Zones, which let you set which parts of the image you’re interested in. Although motion detection is via the PIR sensor, once the camera has woken up, video is analysed to see where the motion took place and if the video should be ignored.

You also receive smart notifications – you can select the movement about which you wish to be notified: people, animals, vehicles and other movements. These are generally very good, with just the occasional misclassification: my doorbell thought two people walking past were a vehicle, for example.

Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free zones and notifications

All footage is accessible through the app, which displays neat thumbnails for each recording; you can filter these by event type (person, animal, vehicle, movement or doorbell ring), device and date. Finding a particular event is super-quick, and you can download any clip to your phone.

Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free library

Of course, the main type of notification you’ll get is when someone presses the doorbell. As with Arlo’s wired doorbell, the Wire-Free doesn’t just send a simple notification, it pushes your phone to actually ring. It’s a much better system, and means you’ll be far less likely to miss a visitor. With my Nest Hello, I’ve missed many a person coming to the door because I’ve just been sent a regular notification.

If you answer from your phone’s lock screen, you get an audio-only call. On my iPhone, I had to tap the Video button to see the caller. Both video and audio were clear, both on my phone and through the doorbell.

Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free incoming call

If you do miss a caller (or don’t want to answer), the Arlo Video Doorbell Wire-Free can be set up to request a message. The doorbell tells visitors to press the button a second time to leave a message – but there’s no audible notification that this has been done, so expect to see quite a few clips of confused-looking people.

As well as answering directly, you can use pre-recorded messages from the app. Note that some (“Not interested!”) are a little terse; the similar feature in the Nest Hello results in more softly worded responses.

If you have Amazon Echo smart speakers, you can turn on Alexa Announcements to have notifications sent around your home – although right now, you can’t answer your doorbell. That feature is only available to people with Ring products. Google Assistant support is available, but only for viewing the video’s live feed.

Finally, you can use Silent mode to turn off incoming calls completely, which is handy if you don’t want to be disturbed.

Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free alerts

  • The high-resolution video looks great during the day
  • At night, you can get full-colour video
  • Square resolution shows you more of what’s going on

As is the case with the wired doorbell, the Wire-Free has a 1,536 x 1,536 image sensor. Opting to go square results in a 180-degree field of view, capturing all the way down to people’s legs, rather than cropping them out as doorbells with a widescreen resolution do.

Image quality is everything I’ve come to expect from Arlo. During the day, the extra resolution compared to rivals, results in clear and detailed video, right into the back of the picture. Note that the camera copes best with slower-moving images, such as people stood at your front door, rather than those walking past. Nevertheless, it’s a clear step up from the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus, for example, which has a 1080p resolution only. Thanks to HDR, you get quality video even if, like me, your front door is south facing and prone to getting the full might of the sun on it.

Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free day sample

At night, if there’s enough ambient light, the doorbell captures full-colour night vision, which is impressively detailed. You lose some viewing distance, but people close-up are extremely clear, with you able to make out detail of what they’re wearing. Again, the high-resolution video helps maintain quality.

Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free night sample

The choice of smart doorbells has exploded, with plenty of quality options available. Which one you opt for will depend on the kit you already have and what you want. If you already own Amazon Echo speakers, then Ring’s doorbells provide the option of answering calls directly; here, you at least receive notifications through your smart speakers, even if you have to use the app to answer.

If you have Google Assistant speakers, then the choice is clearer: the Nest Hello offers better integration.

For everyone else, the Arlo Essential Video Doorbell is a great choice. I love the way that it rings your phone, and the Arlo app is excellent. It’s a particularly good choice if you have other Arlo cameras, such as the Arlo Pro 3, as you can control all security through one app. If you’re looking for a quality, high-resolution video doorbell, then the Wire-Free is an excellent choice – although the slimmer, wired version offers a neater solution if you can have it professionally fitted.

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