When my phone alerted me that my Arlo Q camera had detected a person, I was concerned. I had positioned the camera in my bedroom window facing a bird feeder—not a place you’d expect, or want, to see people passing by.
Thankfully, the “person” was just a little bird enjoying its lunch. Security camera-maker Arlo offers smart notifications, which can distinguish animals from humans, but they’re not available on the Arlo Q. I happen to be testing the newer Arlo Ultra in another room, which does support them, but mixing the two in one home presents some wonky results—like mistaking a bird for a person.
The Arlo Q came out in November 2015 and is one of the company’s oldest models. Despite my momentary panic that it found a Peeping Tom, it holds its own among newer Wi-Fi security cameras, even the Ultra, a $400 hub-connected indoor/outdoor model.
It’s one of the cheapest cameras in the Arlo family, but the Q is still pricey, ranging from $130 to $200 depending on the retailer. But if you’re already invested in the Arlo universe or you want something you can trust, the Q is still a good option.
Eye on the Prize
Setting up this camera was quick and easy with the Arlo app, and it doesn’t require a hub so there’s one less thing to set up and find a place for. (The Ultra’s Hub is comparable in size to my Wi-Fi router, which is already an eyesore in my living room.) The best feature is its video alert customization. If you pay a monthly subscription, you can choose sections of the camera’s view you want it to specifically monitor for motion. For example, if the camera is monitoring your living room, you can have it focus on the front door so you don’t get an alert every time your pet jumps up on the sofa.
You can also set how long you want it to record events when it detects motion, from 15 seconds to two minutes, or set it to record “until activity stops,” though that maxes out at five minutes. This doesn’t totally avoid the dreaded gaps in footage that are standard on the free tier of most security cameras, but there’s a better chance of catching most of the action.
There are three tiers of subscription service: free, Smart Premier, and Smart Elite. While free service still gets you seven days of recorded events at 1080p, a live feed, and two-way audio, you will have to pay to contact customer service after 90 days if you run into a problem. Upgrading will get you saved recordings, a higher resolution, and continuous video recording.
This camera may be easy to set up, but it also occasionally disconnects; a quick Google search reveals I’m not the only one who has this problem. Arlo told me there are a few potential reasons for this. The Wi-Fi signal light is blinking on my camera, which means it could be too far away from my router. Also, I have Verizon FiOS, and Verizon’s home network protection program can sometimes block your home security cameras. It usually reconnects if you give it time, but it’d be unfortunate if you got burgled in that short window.
The ability to quickly check in on the live feed is an important factor for any security camera. The Arlo’s 1080p feed is clear, even compared to the Ultra’s crisp 4K. However, it takes several seconds to connect and the feed is a few seconds behind real time. If I’ve taken anything away from watching Scream at least once a year since birth: a video feed delay can cost you. Hopefully, you won’t be running into many life or death situations in your home, but you don’t want to be behind the action if something serious is happening.
Being just slightly behind was a theme. The basic motion alert notifications (not the aforementioned smart notifications) arrive on cue, but even after getting a notification, it takes a few minutes for the video clips to show up in the library so you can actually check what happened. Those minutes can feel like centuries when you’re panicking about an alert.
You can’t talk about security cameras without talking about security from those cameras. No one likes hearing about a breach, but it almost comes with the territory at this point. That said, we recommend buying cameras from reputable brands that clearly outline their privacy policies and make it easy to set up security protocols. Choose strong passwords and always set up two-factor authorization—Arlo makes this easy in the login settings section of the app.
Arlo video clips are also permanently deleted from the cloud if your subscription runs out (you can manually delete them too) and the company claims it doesn’t share your videos with law enforcement without consent, a search warrant, or a court order. Videos are encrypted as well. Be sure to regularly check for updates as well so your camera is running the latest software.
The Arlo Q may be a veteran security camera, but don’t count this old dog out just yet for a shiny new toy. It’s not the security camera to end all security cameras, but it’s got a solid feature set and in my opinion, any tech that’s still good after four years deserves some consideration.