Tue. May 21st, 2024


Key Takeaways

  • The Arlo Essential Indoor Cam (2K) has clear video, an automated privacy shield, and an integrated siren.
  • Setting up the camera is straightforward, but I had issues getting it to fully connect with an Echo Show device.
  • Arlo Secure subscription offers more features, but less expensive cameras have advantages.


The Arlo Essential Indoor Cam (2K) is an excellent home-monitoring device, even if there are competitive cameras that cost less and do more. But if you’re looking for a solid plug-and-play device, it can definitely get the job done.

The Arlo Essential Indoor Cam (2K)

Arlo Essential Indoor Cam (2K)

$60 $80 Save $20

Enhance your smart home security with the Essential Indoor Camera. It has an Automated Privacy Shield that is designed to protect your privacy by giving you the control to open or close it from the Arlo Secure App. You can also view details with crystal-clear video in 2K resolution and you don’t need to turn on the light to check in on your home, kids, and pets with Night Vision.

Brand
Arlo

Resolution
2,540 x 1,440

Connectivity
Wi-Fi (2.4GHz)

App Compatibility
iOS, Android

Night Vision
Infrared

Power Source
Power cable

Field of view
130 degrees

Two-way speaker
Yes

Motion detection
Yes

Privacy mode
Automated privacy shutter

Dimensions
3.82 x 1.85 x 1.42 inches (97mm x 47mm x 36mm)

Weight
0.21 pounds (0.095kg)

Pros

  • Bright and colorful picture
  • Quick and easy setup
  • Decent nighttime footage
  • Built-in privacy shield
Cons

  • No internal storage
  • No colorized nighttime footage
  • No HomeKit support
  • Less expensive cameras have more features

Design: Like All the Other Small Cameras

The sync button is on the top of the Arlo Essential Indoor Cam (2K)
Jerome Thomas / How-To Geek

I liked that the Arlo Essential was small enough to sit just about anywhere. Whether that’s on a shelf, counter, or windowsill, the camera’s adjustable base lets you hone in on the ideal viewing angle. There’s a threaded insert on the back of the Essential for those planning to mount it on a wall or ceiling, and the camera comes with all the mounting hardware you’ll need.


I’m a big fan of mechanized privacy shields, and the Arlo Essential has one! Whenever the camera is disarmed, a white shutter automatically covers the lens. To retract the shield, arm the cam, or open up a live view in the Arlo Secure app.

Setup: Fairly Seamless

If this is the first Arlo device you’ve ever purchased, you’ll need to create a free Arlo account to register and activate the Arlo Essential. You’ll also need to download the Arlo Secure app (iPhone and Android), and enable Bluetooth and microphone permissions on your host device.

Once you’re logged into the app, tap the “Devices” icon at the bottom of the screen to start adding the Essential. Arlo divvies its products up by category, so you’ll need to tap “Cameras,” “Essential Series,” “Essential Cameras (2nd Generation)” to begin the setup process.


I had some initial Wi-Fi connectivity issues when attempting to place the Arlo Essential on my 2.4GHz network, but once I unplugged the cam and plugged it back in, everything worked correctly.

Video Quality: The Big Takeaway

There are two Arlo Essential Indoor (2nd Gen) models: one that maxes out at 1080p and one capped at 2K (2560 x 1440). My test model was the latter. Other than resolution, there are no other differences between both cameras.

Delivering a 130-degree field of view and 12x digital zoom, I placed the Arlo Essential high up on a bookshelf, getting coverage of my dining room, kitchen, and living room. I thought live views and recordings looked crisp and clear, and I was impressed by the Essential’s ability to adjust ISO and color based on the ambient lighting it was surrounded by.

Here are two images to show you what I’m talking about.

Dining room, kitchen, and living room imagery captured from the Arlo Essential Indoor Cam (2K)


In the first picture, the fluorescent fixture in my kitchen was the harshest light source. The Essential adapted by dialing down on exposure within its field of view. Everything in the kitchen can be seen clearly, and the living room lighting (the table lamp in the corner, lantern on the ottoman, and an unseen floor lamp) effectively took on the warm, dimmer lighting of that space.

Dining room, kitchen, and living room imagery captured from the Arlo Essential Indoor Cam (2K)

In the second picture, the kitchen light is turned off. The Arlo Essential compromised by enhancing the exposure of the light sources still available. Even though my living room wasn’t brightly lit, as it appears in the image, I liked knowing the camera could adapt based on the ambiance of the environment.


As for nighttime footage, the Arlo Essential is only equipped for infrared. It’s not the worst video quality in the world, but other security cams (for around the same price) that are powered by Starlight Sensors certainly have an advantage. There’s just no beating colorized nighttime video.

Dining room, kitchen, and living room infrared imagery captured by the Arlo Essential Indoor Cam (2K)

The digital zoom worked nicely too, with pinch-and-stretch touch controls behaving as they should. Once you get past the halfway point in your zoom, subjects start to get pixelated, but that wasn’t a big surprise.

The Arlo Essential Indoor Cam (2K) at maximum digital zoom
The Arlo Essential Indoor Cam (2K) with maximum digital zoom


There’s about a 3 to 5-second delay when view the Arlo Essential. I tested this by wearing AirPods, having the Essential’s live view open, and snapping my fingers. After about 3 to 5 seconds, I’d hear the snap through my earbuds.

Audio Quality: Middle of the Road

The Arlo Essential has a couple of sound-focused features, including two-way audio and a built-in siren. When testing the former, I asked my girlfriend to stand in front of the camera to chat with me. According to her, my dialogue was clear and balanced. On my end, the Arlo’s mic did a decent job at capturing audio, but playback was a little compressed.

Oh, and that built-in siren gets plenty loud. When signaled, it definitely works as it should (and I’m still recovering). Fortunately, you can adjust the siren’s volume in the app.


The Arlo Secure App: Your Surveillance Command Center

A smart security app should be quick to launch, simple to use, and easy to customize. The Arlo Secure app checks all these boxes, to the point where there was little to no learning curve for me.

When you first open the app, you’ll be on the “Dashboard” screen. The top three page commands should be “Arm Away,” “Arm Home,” and “Standby.” I’m glad that Arlo placed three of the most important controls front and center. On this same panel, you can also create a small or large widget for your Arlo Essential, so you’ll be able to pull up live views and use two-way audio right from the Dashboard screen.


The “Feed” tab gives acts as an up-to-date armed, disarmed, and standby log for your Arlo Essential. Tapping “Emergency” brings you to a page where you can manually sound the camera’s siren, or contact a friend (Arlo Secure subscription required).

The “Devices” tab is where you’ll see all of your networked Arlo devices. Tap the icon with three dots at the top-right of the screen, then tap the gear icon to access your Arlo Essential’s settings. (You can also tap the video thumbnail, followed by the gear icon).

Here is where you’ll be able to adjust everything from resolution, video brightness, activity zones, motion sensitivity, and clip recording length. There’s even a support tab, which I liked far more than I usually do. Not only does Arlo give you phone and one-on-one chat resources, but there’s also a community forum you can ask questions on, or read about commonly discussed topics.

Conveniently, your camera’s model, serial number, activation date, and warranty expiration are pinned at the bottom of this screen for quick reference.


Voice Assistant: Alexa Half-Worked

Bottom of the Arlo Essential Indoor Cam (2K) showing the mounting points
Jerome Thomas / How-To Geek

The Arlo Essential is compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT programming. I added the camera to my Alexa ecosystem, and tested some of its features using the Alexa app and my Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen).

I liked the simplified Alexa app control dashboard for the Arlo Essential. Live views and two-way audio were quick and easy to access, and worked the same as they do in the Arlo Secure. You can even receive motion notifications via Alexa (toggled off by default).

Unfortunately, I had less luck with my Echo Show. When I asked Alexa to “show me the camera” (because saying “Arlo” brought up quick facts about a celebrity named Arlo), the Echo Show would attempt to handshake with the Arlo Essential, but ultimately failed. What made this even more frustrating was I could hear the camera’s audio through the Echo Show; it was just the video that would never patch through.


In the end, Alexa would tell me that it couldn’t find the camera. I even placed the Echo Show as close to the Arlo Essential as possible, and the live view still wouldn’t appear on the smart display.

Like many other smart security cameras and home monitoring tech, Arlo locks some of the Essential’s best and most sought features (like your event history) behind a paywall. The subscription is called Arlo Secure, and there are three plans to choose from.

For $5 per month, a basic Arlo Secure subscription gives you up to 30 days of motion-triggered recordings, up to five activity zones, AI-driven motion detection (people, pets, vehicles, and package detection), and a few other features. If you have more than one Arlo camera and want them all to have these abilities, the $13 per month plan might be a better option.

Then there’s the $18 per month plan, which adds the 24/7 emergency response feature. This connects you to a live Arlo security expert with just the tap of a button.


Considering the Arlo Essential doesn’t have a microSD card slot (no internal storage), I’m betting most folks will at least need to subscribe to the $5 per month tier.

Should You Buy the Arlo Essential Indoor Cam (2K)?

If you already own Arlo cameras and sensors, the Arlo Essential Indoor Cam (2K) is a worthwhile addition to your Arlo surveillance ecosystem. If you don’t own any other Arlo gear though, and only need one cam, I’d suggest the TP-Link Tapo C120 instead.

For $20 less, it adds a Starlight Sensor for colorized nighttime footage, LED spotlights, and the ability to use the cam both indoors and outdoors (it has an IP66 rating).

The Arlo Essential Indoor Cam (2K)

Arlo Essential Indoor Cam (2K)

$60 $80 Save $20

Enhance your smart home security with the Essential Indoor Camera. It has an Automated Privacy Shield that is designed to protect your privacy by giving you the control to open or close it from the Arlo Secure App. You can also view details with crystal-clear video in 2K resolution and you don’t need to turn on the light to check in on your home, kids, and pets with Night Vision.



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By John P.

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