Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • The Arlo Essential Outdoor Camera (2nd Generation) offers advanced features like 2K video, color night vision, and two-way audio at an affordable price.
  • The installation process for the camera is quick and easy, and the companion Arlo app is user-friendly and offers a seamless experience.
  • While the camera has superior video quality and excellent audio performance, it has a narrow field of view, no local storage, and requires a subscription for full functionality.

If you’re looking for a flexible outdoor security camera that won’t break the bank, consider the Arlo Essential Outdoor Camera (2nd Generation). Designed exclusively for outdoor use, the camera is simple to install and comes with many great features for its price point.

Arlo Essential 2K Outdoor Security Camera

Arlo 2nd Generation Essential Camera

Here’s a low-cost outdoor security camera with all the advanced features found on more expensive models. 2K video, phone notifications, color night vision, two-way audio, an integrated siren, and more are included. 


Up to 2560×1440 (2K)

2.4GHz Wi-Fi

App Compatibility

Night Vision

Internal or External

Power Source
Rechargeable battery

Alexa, Google Assistant

Hub Required

Field of view
130° (diagonal)


Integrated Spotlight

Speaker and Microphone, 2-Way Audio

None, cloud-based

Weather resistance

Image sensor
4 Megapixels

Two-way speaker

Motion detection

Subscription required?

Privacy mode

2.34 x 2.08 x 3.67 inches (59.44mm x 52.83mm x 93.21mm)


  • Easy installation
  • Terrific companion app
  • Works well with both Alexa and Google
  • Superior video quality

  • Narrow field of view
  • No local storage
  • Subscription needed to unlock all features

Design: What You’d Expect

Arlo Essential 2K outdoor security camera on a wood table with included accessories.
Sergio Rodriguez / How-To Geek

Measuring 2.34 x 2.08 x 3.67 inches, the second-generation Arlo Essential Outdoor Camera looks like other security cameras. It’s unassuming and small enough to blend into the background—like outdoor security cameras should. It’s an excellent-looking device with a great rounded design.

Technically, this is an outdoor camera, although nothing keeps you from using it inside your home. Since it’s designed for outdoor use, the camera is water resistant, although strangely Arlo doesn’t offer an IP rating. I didn’t use this camera in extreme elements where it would be hit with rain and snow. However, it was installed on a porch where it did experience some modest precipitation and worked as expected.

You’ll find a glossy black plastic on the front of the camera, with the camera housed at the top. Sensors are present above and below the camera; a speaker for two-way audio use is on the lower bottom. On the bottom is a USB-C port for charging purposes. On the back is where you’ll connect the camera to the included mounting plate. At the top is the pairing button. You won’t find a microSD slot, however, since there’s no onboard storage. Overall, the camera feels solid to the touch without being heavy.

Inside the box, you’ll find the camera, a USB charging cable, a wall mount, and screw kit, and a quick start guide. Optional accessories include a 25-foot Essential Outdoor Cable for connected power and Arlo Protective Camera Covers, which add more protection.

Installation: Give Yourself Just a Few Minutes

An Arlo Essential 2K outdoor security camera showing its backside and how it's mounted.
Sergio Rodriguez / How-To Geek

The first step in the installation process is to download the compatible Arlo app for iPhone and Android. The app is essential for setup purposes and for viewing the content coming from the camera. The camera needs 2.4GHz Wi-Fi compatibility since it won’t work with a 5GHz band. (Luckily, most Wi-Fi networks now support both bands.) The process takes a few minutes and a little longer if it detects a firmware update.

Once you go through and complete the process of adding the camera to your home network through the app, you can mount it wherever you’d like using the provided plate and screws. The step-by-step process is explained via the app (through text and video), which makes mounting incredibly easy. Once the camera is secure to the mount, you can pivot it to match your viewing needs.

Once fully charged, the Arlo’s built-in battery is expected to last up to four months between charges. You can charge the camera with or without it mounted, whatever is most convenient.

As noted above, the camera is water-resistant, not waterproof. Therefore, I’d suggest mounting the camera without directly exposing it to water. It can operate in temperatures between -4 degrees Fahrenheit and 113 degrees Fahrenheit.

Video Quality: Mostly Good

Outdoor security cameras often live or die based on the video quality they provide. Unfortunately, it’s been my experience that not all of them live up to their promises. Luckily, this Arlo camera mostly delivers. It offers an impressive 2,560 x 1,440 pixels or 2K resolution. In the daytime, the colors produced are deep and pop—as far as they can in my Northeast location in January.

The camera’s color night vision is less successful the darker it gets at night, however. The images below show screenshots taken during the day, after sunset, and at night. Notice the color is washed out in the nighttime scene. Despite this, I was mostly impressed with the video created, especially at this price point. Though narrower than other cameras, the 130-degree field of view is more than enough to see a large swath of real estate.

Audio Quality: It Doesn’t Like Wind

The Arlo has built-in two-way audio with a microphone and speaker. The functionality means you can communicate directly with someone from your app in front of the camera. Security camera audio systems sometimes produce annoying echoes, but I didn’t find that here. I only noticed some issues under windy conditions, which makes sense and doesn’t detract from the camera overall. Again, at this price point, you can expect certain limitations.

The following audio clip is an example of how the camera (to the app) sounds.

Using the Arlo App: Best in Class

The companion Arlo app for Android and iPhone is among the best I’ve seen for a security camera, thanks to its ease of use. Once you select a device in the app, you can watch a live feed or view previous clips vertically or horizontally. The video will take over the entire screen when you choose the latter. From the main screen, you can record live videos or photos, adjust the volume of the sound, mute it, or adjust the spotlight. You can also speak through the app using two-way audio.

Arming Process

You’ll likely want your camera to act differently whether you’re at home or away. With this in mind, the Arlo app offers three default modes, which you can change to suit your situation. Think of these as three levels of protection.

For example, when set to “Arm Away,” the camera can automatically record video and audio whenever there’s movement, send you a notification, and even activate a siren to scare off an intruder. “Arm Home” can have the same settings, or you can deactivate the Siren. With “Standby,” you can turn the camera off and have it not detect movement or record video.

Do You Need a Subscription?

You’ll receive a free three-month Arlo Security trial when you activate your camera for the first time. This membership includes 30 days of video and event recordings and the ability to see what type of object has been recorded. For example, whether it’s a person, vehicle, animal, or package. An Arlo Security subscription also adds a built-in alert system for police, fire, or medical personnel and more customizable notifications. You also get priority care and support and a theft replacement plan.

Without a subscription, you only get live-view video footage, not recordings. You also keep two-way audio, basic motion detection alerts, battery life warnings, and a few other minor things.

Whether you should subscribe to Arlo Security after the trial is up to your budget and expectations. The basic Secure plan costs $4.99 monthly for one camera or $12.99 for all your Arlo cameras.

There’s also an advanced Arlo Secure Plus plan called Arlo Safe & Secure Pro. These plans most benefit folks with more than one Arlo product. For example, these plans include tools such as 24/7 emergency response professional monitoring and family check-ins. These start at $17.99 per month.

Using Alexa With the Arlo Camera: It Works

The Arlo is compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, and I successfully added it to my home’s Alexa setup. You do so through the Alexa app. After performing a few steps, you can view real-time video from your camera through the Alexa app and also exchange in a conversation using the two-way audio system. You can also perform the same tasks via a supported Alexa-compatible smart display. Video and sound were exemplary through the app and my Echo Show.

Should You Buy the Arlo Essential Outdoor Camera (2nd Generation)?

An Arlo Essential Outdoor Camera on a table with its accessories and box.
Sergio Rodriguez / How-To Geek

The Arlo Essential Outdoor Camera (2nd Generation) packs a bunch and includes a long list of terrific features for just $99. Though some might want a larger field of view and onboard storage, these limits probably won’t mean much to most would-be buyers. My biggest grip is a familiar one: to take advantage of everything the camera offers, you must pay a monthly or yearly subscription. Otherwise, many key features will be turned off, making the camera less helpful.

If you can get past this, the camera is highly recommended and is one of the best outdoor security cameras I’ve seen for under $100.

Arlo Essential 2K Outdoor Security Camera

Arlo 2nd Generation Essential Camera

Here’s a low-cost outdoor security camera with all the advanced features found on more expensive models. 2K video, phone notifications, color night vision, two-way audio, an integrated siren, and more are included. 

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By John P.

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