Safe as Singapore is, homeowners should never take things for granted when it comes to home security. Now that’s especially true for me when I moved into my own pad last year.
Firstly, I was always thinking about what my pets were doing when I’m not home, and then there’s the issue of dealing with home deliveries when I’m not around to receive them. Thanks to safe distancing measures, most parcels are also left on your doorstep to avoid contact with the courier. It’s a horrible feeling when you are told that the brand new shirt you’d ordered online will be left at your door because you were out, and wondering if it might be swiped away by the time you rush back.
That’s when I started shopping around for home cameras, before realising how much variety there are on the market. Knowing which one to get can be tricky, because there are several factors to consider:
Things to note when choosing a good home camera
- How clear is the camera?
- How is it powered and what’s the battery life like?
- Does it only record or is it also a live feed?
- What is the storage capability?
- Can you be used in poor light conditions?
- Can it be placed outdoors as well as indoors?
- Can the camera be connected to your mobile device? And if so, can you link up more than one camera?
- How much is it going to cost you?
Having tried three other brands of home cameras before I stumbled onto Arlo’s website, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted. The cheapest one I bought had terrible camera quality, it was hard trying to make out details, such as a person’s face or the colour of his or her shirt. And while it could be connected to my phone, the connection was often laggy and the resulting feed became a series of chopped up freeze-frame images.
Another version I tried from a different brand was slightly more expensive, and came with a USB cable, which had to be plugged in all the time. This meant that it greatly restricted the places I could place the camera, especially if I was thinking of placing it outside my door. Furthermore, it also required me to shell out more money buying a data card so I can keep a recording of the feed.
I was beginning to give up hope, until a friend recommended me to check out Arlo. Now Arlo is a company that specialises in developing home cameras and video doorbells for homes, that means they are totally invested into finding solutions to the common issues we face with home cameras.
After going through the various options on the website, I decided to try out the Arlo Essential Spotlight camera, which is currently retailing on Shoppee for $199 (with 30% discount). At that price, it’s pretty competitive when you take a look at the other options available with the same type of specifications. Furthermore, I was attracted to the fact that it was a wireless camera and offers full HD recording in 1080p. I can probably shoot an entire Youtube video with the camera if I wanted to! What’s more amazing, it also comes with colour night vision (goodbye black and white shots) and an integrated spotlight.
Setting up the Arlo was a breeze, first it has to be charged via the USB cable (provided), and while it’s charging I downloaded the Arlo app (available on iOS and android) and followed the steps to connect the camera to the home Wi-fi network, and then my handphone. And that’s basically it!
Right off the bat, I was impressed by several things which set the Arlo apart from the other cameras. The Arlo app had a really user-friendly interface, and it was easy browsing through the options. You can choose to grant access to other members of the family too, so everyone can tune in to check up on what’s happening.
The integrated spotlight can be configured to switch on when there are movements detected in low-light conditions, which acts as a great deterrence for anyone trying to break into the home at night, or it can be switched to a manual mode as well, which is more preferable if you want to avoid having your sensitive neighbours think you are being mean by placing a spotlight that constantly lights up outside your door.
Once you’ve figured out where you want to place the camera, all you have to do is to fasten it to a ball-holder, which allows for a 360-degree swivel, and screw it to the wall or ceiling. At a mere 331g, I found that I could also attach the camera to a ledge using a 3M tape (made for bonding plastic/metal to another hard surface).
When it comes to image quality, the camera is unbeatable with 1080p resolution and a whopping 12X zoom. It has a 300-feet line of sight and a 130-degree field of view, that means you can pretty much see everything that’s happening right outside your door or in the living room. The colour-abled night vision is also a boon, because few cameras on the market offer this function (most just come in black and white night vision).
Logging in to view the camera feed is also relatively fast and lag-free, although it does require several seconds for the app to connect to the camera at times. However, this shouldn’t be a concern if you are using a mesh Wi-fi system.
Another plus of this camera is that it also provides two-way audio, so you can converse with the person at the door or, if placed indoors, you can communicate easily with your family members (or in my case, my pets).
Other cool features include a siren, which you can trigger if you realise someone is trying to break in, or a call-a-friend option, if you find your child or granny lying motionless on the floor and need immediate attention.
When it comes to battery life, I have to say that Arlo’s lifespan far outlasts the other wireless cameras I have. On a single charge, the Arlo camera has gotten through two whole weeks of service, with a still more life to spare. A nifty battery icon on the screen shows you how much power is left, and if you click on the settings you can also see the remaining power as a percentage, much like your mobile device.
No local data storage
Perhaps one downside to this camera is that it does not come with a slot for your data card, but that being said it’s just as convenient whenever you need to go through your recordings.
Now there are two types of recordings the camera is capable of doing, it begins to record everytime the motion-detector is triggered within the line of sight until all motion stops. So that means it will have a record of the deliveryman walking up to the door, knocking and so on until he/she leaves. This can range from 15-60 seconds. Alternatively, you can also choose for the camera to carry out a continuous recording, which means 24-hour surveillance.
Now you must be wondering where all the recordings are going to at this point, which leads me to the most outstanding feature of the Arlo Essential Spotlight – the Arlo Smart subscription.
The Arlo Smart
Each purchase of the Arlo Essential Spotlight camera comes with a one-month free trial of the Arlo Smart subscription. Normal rates can range from $4.99/month for 30 days of 2K-quality recording for one camera, to $21.99/month for 30 days of 4K-quality recording for up to five cameras.
The basic plan will capture recordings that are triggered by the motion detector, but if you require continuous video recording throughout the day, that’s an additional $13.99/month for 14 days or $24.99 for 30 days.
On top of the cloud storage capability, the subscription also allows homeowners to enjoy a wide range of totally smart features. The Arlo system is able to discern people from vehicles, animals and parcels, all you have to do is to define the zones within the frame and it will notify you whenever movement has been detected. It’s a really useful feature if your camera is facing a busy road, and you need to know if the camera is just picking up the motion of a passing car, a stray cat or actually someone walking up to the door.
Having thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Arlo Essential Spotlight camera, I have to say that I’m quite sold on the product, and will recommend it strongly to all my friends. So if you are looking to install some cameras around your home, do give this one a chance.