The Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell has a huge field of view and is our favorite battery-powered smart doorbell yet

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Arlo Essential Video Doorbell

  • The Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell offers a very wide, 180-degree, head-to-toe view of your front porch.
  • It can capture high-resolution video with HDR, and the picture clarity is impressive.
  • The Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell has a rechargeable battery and doesn’t require a hub.
  • You can find this doorbell and some alternatives in our guide to the best smart doorbells.

Table of Contents: Masthead StickyEssential Wireless Video Doorbell (small)

Deservedly a big name in home security, Arlo cameras offer high-quality video and impressive reliability. The Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell is the company’s first doorbell that doesn’t have to be wired in for power (though that is an option). With a rechargeable battery and the ability to connect directly to your Wi-Fi, this video doorbell can be fitted in minutes.

The Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell has the widest field-of-view of any video doorbell we’ve tested, as well as a square video format that ensures you get the complete picture of your front porch, including a head-to-toe look at any visitors. With a very smart alert system, multiple customizable detection zones, and some of the clearest two-way audio we’ve encountered, this is a compelling option.

The catch is the relatively high price coupled with the need for a monthly subscription if you want to record video and use the smart features. I’ve been using the Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell for more than a month now, and I’m convinced it’s the best battery-powered video doorbell on the market.

Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell Specifications

Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell

Specifications

Dimensions:

143 x 47 x 37 mm (5.63 x 1.85 x 1.45 inches)

Video:

Up to 1536 x 1536 pixels (also supports 1080 x 1080, 720 x 720)

Field of View:

180 degrees

Audio:

Two-way

Power:

Wired or rechargeable battery

Connectivity:

802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi 2.4GHz

Storage:

Cloud only (30 days video history starts from $2.99 per month)

Extras:

HDR, IR night vision, Alexa and Google Assistant support, and person, vehicle, animal, or package detection.

Design

The Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell is tall, but it’s not as wide as many other video doorbells, so it should fit comfortably on most door frames. As is the case with doorbells that have a battery inside, this is a chunky device. An LED ring around the outer edge of the button pulses gently when it senses someone approaching.

While the Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell is unobtrusive and finished in plastic, it’s better looking than many of its competitors. There aren’t faceplate options here like you get with Ring’s video doorbells.

By default, the LED ring pulses when it senses motion, which is handy in low light. You can turn the LED off if you want to squeeze as much life as possible from the rechargeable battery. This video doorbell can also be hooked up to your existing doorbell wiring, provided the voltage is between 8V AC and 24V AC.

Setup

It took maybe ten minutes to set up the Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell. Simply install the Arlo app on your phone, and grab a screwdriver to fix the mount. Everything else you need is included in the box, including screws, a flat bracket, and an angled bracket. I tested it as a completely wire-free device, but the kit and instructions for wiring it in are there. To charge the battery, you simply stick the provided pin tool into the top of the doorbell, and it pops out.

The setup process for the Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell

It feels secure once fitted, but it wouldn’t be difficult to steal the doorbell. If you live in the US and have an Arlo subscription plan, there is an Arlo Theft Replacement program, though you will have to file a police report before you can make a claim.

The only potential difficulty with the Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell is that you need a strong Wi-Fi connection at your front door, though this is true of every smart doorbell. It connects directly to your router via the 2.4GHz frequency. If you already have an Arlo camera system, you should be able to connect the doorbell to your Arlo SmartHub.

Performance and features

Picture quality is crucial for a video doorbell, and the Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell excels in this department. The 1536 x 1536 pixel resolution ensures sharp and detailed video, and HDR compensates for extreme bright spots and dark areas losing detail. There is a little distortion with the fisheye effect warping the corners, but I haven’t had any issues recognizing who is at the door.

The most noticeable thing about the video from the Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell compared to other video doorbells I’ve tested is the 180-degree field of view and the 1:1 aspect ratio. This provides enough width to take in my whole porch and the surrounding area, and it provides a complete head-to-toe look at visitors, and allows me to see packages on the ground.

Another strength of the Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell compared to some competitors is the quality of the two-way audio. Audio in recordings and live conversations are clear and relatively lag-free. The siren is surprisingly loud, too.

Unlike most smart doorbells, when someone presses the doorbell, your phone rings as if a regular call is coming in. Lag can be a big problem for smart doorbells, but the Arlo is generally a bit quicker to ring my phone and more reliable to talk through. If I’m at home, my phone will ring within five seconds, and answering is immediate. It can take a little longer if I have a weaker signal, but on the whole, it compares favorably to doorbells from Ring and Eufy.

Night vision kicks in automatically when darkness falls to give you black and white footage. It’s a little tougher to see, but generally still sharp and detailed. You can stick with color video if you turn night vision off, but your outdoor lighting must be bright enough.

Motion detection and smart notifications

Interface that accompanies the Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell

With a short driveway, passing traffic on the street, and cats, I appreciate Arlo’s customizable recording and motion detection zones. Importantly, there’s support for multiple activity zones, so you can get precise about the areas where motion should trigger an alert. The video recording area is slightly less flexible, as it has to retain the 1:1 aspect ratio, so it’s a square that you can resize by dragging the corners.

After setting my zones and tweaking the alert system to only notify me when it detects people, the Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell never sends false alerts, which is great. I also love that the rich notifications on my phone or smartwatch include a screenshot with the person highlighted in a green box. You can see who’s at the door at a glance without having to load the app.

As much as I like the smart notifications and the categorization system, it’s frustrating that you can’t adjust whether they trigger a cloud recording. My library of videos is mostly cats, and I wonder how much battery life all these moggies are chewing through.

Response times and cloud video

When I’m sitting at home with a strong WiFi connection, I can tap into the Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell live view in around three or four seconds, and answering a doorbell ring or tapping a notification is even faster. It can take a lot longer with a weaker internet or data connection.

While it’s annoying that you need a subscription to record video in the cloud, I do find that playback is impressively swift. Videos play within one to two seconds, which is consistently faster than doorbells from Eufy and Ring that I tested recently.

Subscription

Without a subscription, you still get notifications when motion is detected, it will still ring when pressed, and you can still jump into a live view and have a two-way conversation, but that’s it. To get the best from it, you need a subscription for cloud storage, rich notifications with screenshots, activity zones, and the ability to detect people, vehicles, animals, and packages.

Plans start from $2.99 per month with the Premier Plan which supports up to 2K video and up to 30 days of recorded video events. If you have a larger system, then you can pay $9.99 per month for up to five cameras. Either way, the Premier Plan is enough to get the best from the Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell. The Elite $4.99 per month plan is only worth considering for 4K cameras.

Smart home integration

It’s easy to add your Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell to Google’s Home app or Amazon’s Alexa app. I had no issues setting up the connection and now my Amazon Echo, Google Home Mini, and Nest Hub all announce when someone is at the door, which is handy since there’s no chime included.

I can also ask Google Assistant to bring up a live feed on the Nest Hub or my TV via Chromecast. It only takes around six seconds to load up, which is relatively quick, but on the Nest Hub, the picture appears rotated as if the doorbell is lying on its side. Thankfully, it appears the right way up on the Chromecast.

Security and privacy

There’s no local storage, so you are uploading videos to the cloud with the Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell. Arlo claims strong security and has a privacy pledge that includes the promise not to monetize your personal data and to delete videos permanently when you want them deleted or leave the service. While Arlo hasn’t suffered any high-profile breaches, security researchers have found vulnerabilities in the past.

Should you buy it?

Up close photos of the Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell

Yes, the Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell is the best battery-powered smart doorbell I’ve tested.

What are your alternatives?

The closest competitor in terms of features and design is the Nest Hello. It’s very reliable and similarly smart, even offering facial detection, but it requires a wired connection, and you need a subscription, which starts from $6 per month.

If you want a doorbell that you don’t have to wire in, the Eufy 2K Video Doorbell is worth checking out. It doesn’t have quite as wide or tall a field of view, and we encountered issues with the audio, but the video quality is excellent and you can record videos locally, so there’s no need to spring for a subscription. Find out more in our Eufy 2K Video Doorbell review.

The bottom line

The Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell is reliable and offers clear video and audio with lots of smart features and the best notification system around. Unfortunately, you need that monthly subscription to get the best from it.

Pros: High-resolution HDR video, expansive field-of-view, no hub required, Alexa and Google Assistant support, wired or rechargeable battery, clear two-way audio

Cons: Video recording and smart features require subscription, bulky body

Essential Wireless Video Doorbell (button)

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