This neat and compact IP camera from Netgear offers all of the key features you’d expect from a wireless security camera – Full HD picture quality, motion detection, a slick companion app – plus a few extras. The basic 7-day cloud recording service is free, which is a unique and attractive bonus, and the camera’s design is a cut above the entry-level competition. The Arlo Q retails at £186 (around $230, AU$300).
Design and build
This camera’s compact and crisp white form will help it blend into the background, especially when mounted on a white ceiling or wall, but the smart symmetrical design is not unattractive in its own right. The stand mount uses a metal ball and socket joint that feels stiff and well-made, and there’s a strong magnet in the base plate which lets it grip securely to a metal surface without the need for screws.
There’s no Ethernet port, and no slot for a media storage card (though both are available with the Arlo Q Plus), which makes the camera very compact and especially easy to install. Overall, this camera feels superior to the flimsy D-Link DCS-2530L and the floppy Samsung SNH-P6410NB, models which sell for a similar price.
The only button on the camera itself is for triggering the wireless connection process.
The 130-degree lens is wide enough to take in the whole room if you position the camera well. It can record at three different resolutions, but we’d recommend the best (1080p) if you want to see detail and recognise faces. The Arlo is also fitted with a microphone for sensing sound and a tiny speaker for two-way communication.
All of the other features are accessed via the user-friendly app. Here you can set up the camera from scratch along with your subscription. Then you can choose when you want to receive push notifications – either when motion is detected, or sound, or both (or indeed neither).
The motion detection works at night too, thanks to IR sensors that can see up to five metres into pitch darkness.
The headline feature here is perhaps the ‘Basic’ 7-day storage plan that Netgear is giving away with this camera. This means you can record 24/7 for a full week if you want, before Netgear erases your data from its server. That’s seven days of rolling storage by the way, i.e. every week, not just the first seven days after you start the subscription.
If you want more storage time, the Premier service gives you 30-days for £6.49 per month (around $8, AU$10.50), while the Elite package buys you 60-days for £9.99 per month (around $12.20, AU$16) for up to 15 cameras. What you need, obviously enough, all depends on the size of your business premises and how often you check the footage.
Installation and use
Installing a single Arlo Q is a simple case of screwing the articulated mount to the wall or ceiling. It’s even easier if you’re attaching it to a metal surface, thanks to the magnet. Just be careful not to put the camera down on your laptop because the magnet is strong enough to permanently ruin a spinning hard drive.
Connecting the camera to your network should be a simple matter, but for us, it was anything but. Each attempt requires you to follow the companion app’s setup wizard and then subscribe to Netgear’s service, and each time, it was the very last step that kept throwing up the dreaded error message: ‘Arlo is not available’. Had it worked, building the QR reader into the camera, so that it can read the QR code in the app, seems like a sensible way of getting the two devices to recognise each other.
In everyday use, Arlo Q is one of the easiest IP cameras to access, configure and keep tabs on, thanks to the accessible Arlo app. The live video feed or the latest still shot appears on your smartphone instantly, and from the home page you can quickly scroll through all of your recorded clips. Choose any clip and you have the option to download it to your phone, or share it via email. The settings menu is also widely and logically spaced out on your touchscreen.
When viewed on a smartphone and recorded in Full HD mode in a brightly lit room, the picture quality is impressive. Vivid and detailed, it’s easy to recognise familiar faces and even read the headlines of any newspaper in the room. Dim the lights and, unsurprisingly, a lot of detail is lost and the image becomes grainy. In complete darkness, the infrared camera can pick up objects towards the centre of the image if they’re closer than five metres.
We found that our somewhat overloaded 10Mbps broadband network dropped the connection from time to time, which would have made us switch to a hardwired solution, but with no Ethernet port, that’s not an option. Instead we had to drop the resolution to 720p, which sadly is a noticeable compromise.
The compact and crisp white design looks rather good, and it also tends to blend into the background rather than attract attention. The sturdy, fully articulated stand makes it easy to install and the magnetic base could also save time if you have a suitable metal surface.
Build quality is reassuringly solid and the camera is well served by the slick Arlo companion app. Picture quality is clear and detailed enough for surveillance and the motion detector picked up on all of our attempts to sneak past it. Factor in the free 7-day cloud storage space that you get with the Basic subscription package, and you have a very cost-effective security solution.
We had real trouble with the installation process and the Arlo server simply not acknowledging our camera, but that may not be the case for anyone else. The lack of an Ethernet port also forces you to use a wireless network that might, like ours, be overused already.
Netgear does offer an Ethernet option as a dongle, but that’s reserved for the more expensive Arlo Q Plus. So if seven days is not enough backup time for you, then you are forced into the relatively expensive Premier (or Elite) subscription service.
Likewise, a microSD slot would have been appreciated to extend the capacity of video that can be backed up for free, but it too is only available with the Plus version of the camera.
With its smart, solid and compact design, the Arlo Q has instant appeal as a discrete security camera. And it’s backed up by the user-friendly Arlo app that enables you to access key features, like the push notification settings, without going round in circles.
Our experience with getting the camera online didn’t go well and our Wi-Fi network struggled to stream its 1080p live view, but of course, your mileage will likely vary on these points. In which case, the overall usability of this product, combined with its relatively robust build quality and the generous 7-day free data storage plan, make this camera a good way to start protecting your property.