Video doorbells are more common items to have for connected homes these days. They provide not only a way of communicating safely with people outside your home, but some level of surveillance if you’re not home. In recent times we’ve looked at the Ring Video Doorbell 3 and the Arlo Video Doorbell (wired), today we’re taking a closer look at the Essential Video Doorbell wire-free.
For a few weeks now I’ve had the Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free up at my house and it’s an impressive unit. As someone invested in Google, but considering my options; I love the fact that it’s compatible with Google Assistant devices as well as Alexa.
What is it?
I’ve had a couple of Ring Doorbells in the past and that has somewhat set the tone for me. When I opened the box of the box I was pleasantly surprised at the relatively small size of the device. It’s a fairly “tall and slim” device, making it a little more versatile than the larger form factor offerings on the market. The shape of the doorbell also makes it very easy to find the button by touch only. This is a great reflection on the development of camera and battery technology that Arlo is able to get so much function in such a small device.
Something else stood out to me as well, the fact that, if you’re not really looking at it you could easily miss the fact it’s a video doorbell. This could be a good or bad thing depending on your perspective but personally, I like having some cameras visible.
What’s in the box?
The box contents are pretty simple, in fact exactly what you’d expect. You’ll get the doorbell, battery, two mounting plates (1 angled), a security release pin, charging cable, screw kit and (for those who decide to hardwire) a wire extension kit. Perhaps that may be a good idea as I found the battery a little lacking for a high foot-traffic area and through the Micro USB connector frustratingly slow to charge.
The specs and capabilities
The camera runs in Full HD with HDR and a huge 1536 x 1536 resolution and a 180-degree field of view. You’ve got night vision as well thanks to the built-in infrared LEDs making this a pretty good investment to protect the front of your home.
Perhaps the only disappointment for me is the single microphone setup. This does capture sound and voices adequately, but it doesn’t have any capacity to filter noises. So if your doorbell is pointing to a noisy street, you’ll potentially face some struggles with audio quality. On the other side of things, the speaker is plenty loud enough for anyone at your door to hear you pretty clearly even over traffic.
The Essential wire-free video doorbell is a single unit doorbell that can stand alone, or become a part of your expanding system. Interestingly, the capacity has been included to wire this into an existing doorbell system. You can also if you wish add a chime to the setup because notifications go to your phone and not everyone in your home will necessarily be attached to the account.
I’d like to take my hat off to Arlo here, they have provided integration with Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT and Smart Things. It’s in this space, you can — for a cheaper alternative than the Arlo Chime — build some notification options, or “announcements” that you have a guest at the door. Aside from the fruity fans, this covers pretty much everyone who has entered the smart home market.
The other bonus is that you can also use a smart display (or Chromecast) to view your doorbell camera in near real-time. I say “near’ as there is a few seconds delay, usually around 4 – 7 seconds, but it’s fine for the purpose of monitoring a yard if you’re expecting a delivery.
Installation and use
Let’s start with the installation process which is pretty damn simple, it only took about 15 minutes. Perhaps a touch more with some photos, but that’s not a big deal. You’ll need to select a suitable position for the doorbell to have adequate vision around your front door, mark the holes, drill and mount the doorbell. If you’re choosing to hardwire it, consult the provided documentation for more detail.
Before you do clip the doorbell to the mounting, I highly recommend you sit down with a coffee to connect it to your Wi-Fi and run a couple of quick tests first. Much like a security camera, or any other hardware, just taking a moment can save you some headaches later.
Providing it goes smoothly, hooking up the device to your Wi-Fi and into the app is as simple as scanning the code provided and following the bouncing ball. Honestly, there’s nothing remarkable about this device over other video doorbells in this area as they are all very similar setup processes.
Once it’s set up though, using the doorbell is a genuine delight. It reminded me why I’ve been so enamoured of the Arlo cameras I have for so long. They work well, provide great notification speeds and (with Arlo Smart Subscription) the false positives are an absolute rarity.
When someone approaches your door you’ll get an alert as they approach and a more attention-grabbing ring, when they push the button. On connected phones, you’ll be able to answer the doorbell and talk to whoever is there. If you have chosen to connect smart devices, you will get the announcements of someone at the door. Unfortunately, you can’t answer from your speakers just yet.
If you’re someone that gets a lot of deliveries to your home, the 180-degree field of view will be enticing. It gives you visibility right down to your doorstep where your packages can be left, allowing you to know it’s there and monitor it until you can retrieve it.
We have covered Arlo Smart and what the subscription brings you in previous reviews. Essentially you’re looking at:
- Higher resolution storage
- Longer period of storage
- Object (person, animal, package etc) detection and notification
- Activity zones (ability to ignore bushes that move in the wind)
- Customisable and intelligent alerting
All of that costs $14.99 per month for up to 5 cameras storing data at up to 2K quality. If you’re only starting up with your first cameras, it’s $4.49 per camera per month.
There’s plenty to like about the Essential wire-free video doorbell from Arlo. The hardware is pretty slick looking, the setup is simple, the use of the device is just as easy. It’s compatible with multiple smart assistants and at $329.00 it’s not going to completely break the bank either. Honestly, this is one of the best video doorbells that I’ve seen or tested with the biggest frustration being the charging.
For the discerning users who want the full picture, there are a couple of things to consider before buying though. The battery charges slowly via MicroUSB, probably not a deal-breaker but consideration for many. The subscription costs just shy of $54 per year if you use it as a stand-alone device or $179.88 per year for 5 cameras – so the cost will add up over time.
Arlo is a well-established brand with a significant number of offerings in the DIY home security space. This makes them a very attractive option if you’re looking to build a system over time because you know they’ll still be around.
If the essential wire-free video doorbell is sounding like a good buy to you, then check out the Arlo Website for details on their stockists. Spoiler: It’s the usual retail channels, so don’t forget to shop around and ask for a price match if you find it cheaper elsewhere.