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Netgear Arlo HD Camera review: Stylish, smart, and currently proprietary

Jon L. Jacobi | Jan. 21, 2015
Netgear's Arlo security-camera system could be a great Wi-Fi security system if Netgear makes the right decisions with regard to positioning it.

You get a free "lifetime" (more on that in a bit) account with your purchase that includes 1GB of storage with 7 days of retention and support for up to five Arlo cameras. But some important features, such as scheduling, and camera sharing with other users, end after your first 30 days.

Netgear told me they were reconsidering the timed demise of the scheduling features. I certainly hope so. Having to manually switch motion detection on and off is not something anyone would care to do on a regular basis.

At the moment, if you want to continue using those features you can opt for the $10 monthly/$99 a year plan with 30 days of retention and 30GB of storage, or the $15 monthly/$149 yearly plan with 60 days of retention and 100GB of storage. Those pay plans also offer support for 10 cameras and 15 cameras respectively.

Arlo's product manager informed me that Netgear has decided that Netgear NAS boxes will be able to act as Arlo servers in lieu of the online service. That ameliorates a major worry: pricey hardware that might be orphaned at the whim of a bean-counter. I've been burned on that before, and by companies you'd expect better from.

Setup and Usage
Setting up the Arlo system is simple. Attach the base station to your router with the supplied Ethernet cable, press its sync button, and press the sync button on the Arlo cameras. That is, of course, after you install the CR123 batteries in the cameras. Note that two face up and two face down. This info is in the setup guide, but not on the slide/flip cover where it usually is, so you might miss it and wonder why your camera isn't powering up. You will find the polarity markings inside the battery bay. Start with the two batteries at the back of the camera--the magnet is so strong it will pull them there anyway.

You can use the apps or the Arlo web portal to step through the setup and account-creation process. It's a clean and simple. I found the Arlo's 1280x720-resolution video more than adequate for surveillance purposes. The motion detection was just about spot-on out of the box, though you can tweak it to your heart's delight online or using the apps. Note that the apps will push alerts at you for every event. Unless your camera is in a quiet location, turn those off.

Both the day and night video I captured were more than usable, and when viewing the live images from a camera, there was only about a five-second delay. Of course, I'm in San Francisco where there's very good Internet infrastructure--your lag could  be greater. Video is saved in in h.264 format which is pretty universal at this point. As a web-portal-based video-surveillance system, Arlo provides everything the average user needs right out of the box. At least for the first 30 days.


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