(Pocket-lint) - Arlo has a wide range of home security cameras in a number of different segments. Joining those is the Pro 3, which borrows heavily from the top-of-the-line Arlo Ultra, to offer an appealing range of specs.
The Pro 3 is an evolution: the original and second-gen designs had limitations, so flowing into the third-gen model is a much more attractive package. Is it the sweet-spot of the Arlo range?
A refined design
- Dimensions: 89 x 52 x 78.4mm / Weight: 316g
- Magnetic charging cable
- Weather-proof design
- Magnetic mount
Anyone who has followed the Arlo story will know that the Arlo Pro 3 looks like the Arlo Ultra. Rather than having a body that splits via a hinge to allow access to the rechargeable battery like the older Pro models, there's instead a main camera body that slides into a more encompassing casing.
The big advantage here is that the casing has fewer weak points: charging uses a bespoke magnetic connector rather than an old Micro-USB; there's no hinge to break or catch to fail; there are fewer ingress points for water; and with a decent O ring around the end of the camera unit, once it clicks into the casing, so it's unlikely it'll leak.
There's also a substantial change for the Pro in its mounting, allowing for more freedom in how you position the camera. The mount can go on the wall or the ceiling and the camera attaches to it magnetically and at whatever angle you see fit.
It's a better-looking camera overall than previous Pro models. You'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between the top-spec Arlo Ultra and this Pro 3 - and in the grand scheme of things, they offer much the same functionality.
- Arlo SmartHub
- Arlo app
You'll need a hub for the Arlo Pro 3 to work. While the camera will connect to older hubs - or lesser specified hubs, as may be the case - to get the headline 2K resolution video you'll need to use its own hub, or the higher-spec Ultra SmartHub from the Arlo Ultra. Basically, don't try to use the Pro 3 with an older hub from Pro 2, because you won't get access to all the camera's features.
With that said, if you're starting from scratch, you'll likely buy a kit which contains cameras and the SmartHub, in which instance setup is a case of connecting the hub, installing the app on your phone, then following the process. If you're already an Arlo owner, then switching hubs is really simple via the app - we've done it plenty of times without too much of a problem, and the newer hubs support all of the older cameras.
The SmartHub is nice and stable, with the option to have an Ethernet connection or Wi-Fi for wireless. It doesn't have to be next to your router - it's fine in the centre of your house or tucked away - as long as the cameras are in range.
Connecting the cameras to the hub is easy enough and the app will search for cameras and connect them, at which point you can configure them from within the app. It's easier to connect the cameras before you mount them, so once you have them all talking to the hub you can then mount and adjust the positions for the right angle of view.
It's a magnetic mounting system - although there are some screw-mount options too - but there's also nothing to lock the camera to the mount, so you might want to install it beyond the reach of anyone who might want to steal it. There is a 'security mount' in the box that attaches to the wall more substantially - but doesn't actually lock the camera to it either.
Arlo is designed as a battery-powered system (with few exceptions, like the Arlo Q) and that means installation is minimal: there's no need to think about cabling, unless you're planning on having a camera permanently connected to the mains (which is an option if you want).
Camera specs and performance
- 2560 x 1440 resolution
- 160-degree wide-angle lens
- HDR, night vision, LED illuminator
Packed into the Arlo Pro 3 is a lot of camera. Firstly, the resolution will take some headlines over the Arlo Pro 2 because of the move to 1440p over 1080p. This camera literally slips in between the Pro 2 and the 4K Ultra model. That 1440p (or 2K) resolution means you have a little more detail to your video and you'll be able to zoom in without losing as much quality to see what's going on.
Adding HDR (high dynamic range) to the mix is great too, because it balances out light and dark for a better overall picture of what you're looking at with more realistic colours. If you are placing the Pro 3 looking at a door, the image highlights won't get blown out over the windows, for example. Some cameras charge you more for the HDR, but with Arlo Pro 3 it's part of the package.
The results are great too. We were really impressed with the performance of the Arlo Ultra and switching from 4K to 2K in the Pro 3 doesn't bring about a huge loss: it still has enough detail for what we want.
The lens has a wide 160-degree field of view and this is an appreciable step-up over the 130-degrees of the Pro 2. The wider angle means you fit more into the frame, so it more naturally covers the front of your house, for example. It is slightly narrower than the Ultra, though.
Given the drop in resolution over the Ultra, the Pro 3 gets longer battery life as a result. We've found the Pro 3 to last longer, probably down to capturing as much motion at the extreme edges and not pushing so much data due to the lower resolution. The battery life will of course depend on where you site the camera, how much video you capture, and so on, but you'll likely get weeks of life from one charge.
Motion detection is good, working day or night, and often it doesn't need a huge amount of motion to start capture, although it seems better at detecting cross motion than directly towards the camera.
Arlo likes to talk about offering 'colour night vision'. This is something of a misnomer: the camera is equipped with infrared (IR) illuminators so it can see in the dark, which provides a mono image (i.e., black and white), but it also has an LED floodlight built-in. When it gets dark, this can illuminate the subject and that's what colour night vision actually is: it's not really night vision, it's using a light.
You can control whether the camera uses IR or the LED illuminator. We've found the illuminated version does give you better results. While the IR will give you some idea of what's going on, the LED-illuminated capture has more detail. It's worth saying that the quality of the overall video at night (either via IR or LED) falls short of the daylight capture: it may be a 2K resolution, but it gets a little more blocky in low light.
The other thing to remember is that Arlo cameras don't capture all the time. The owner has to physically set the system to active, so that it will capture when triggered by motion or sound. This is all fully customisable so you can set it to your own conditions. That means when the system is off, you have no footage, which is really how Arlo manages to be a battery-powered system. Sure, you can arm it and leave it on all the time if you wish, but getting into the habit of activating the system at night or when you leave home is part of the Arlo experience.
Advanced features and subscriptions
- No cloud storage without a subscription
- Arlo Smart needed for all features
One of the benefits of Arlo over other systems is the week-long cloud storage that it comes with. That means you buy the camera and you can access your videos via your phone or browser for a week. Except that on these higher-level devices, you lose that option. It wasn't on the Arlo Ultra and it isn't on the Arlo Pro 3, making this a different proposition to the Arlo Pro 2.
Instead you get a 30-day trial of Arlo Smart, which gives you customisable detection zones, identification of the type of motion detected - person, vehicle, animal - and 30-days of cloud storage. The value of that subscription is $/£1.99 a month and that's what you'll need to pay to keep the full experience of Arlo on this camera after the initial period expires.
That's a real shame, because the week of free access is what characterised Arlo, it separated it from the pack. At the end of the day, the omission on the Pro 3 gives a good reason to look at the costs and consider buying the Pro 2 instead - especially if you want multiple cameras.
In isolation it's not so bad: have one Arlo Pro 3 on the most important area you want to watch and Arlo Pro 2 cameras elsewhere, and paying that little extra for storage for the single Pro 3 is fine - but opt for multiple Pro 3 cameras and you'll have to step-up to the Smart Premier plan at $/£6.49. It supports 10 cameras, but it's a bigger chunk of ongoing expense.
Cloud storage is important because that's what gives you access to those recordings when you're away from home. You can store locally - and the Arlo SmartHub has a USB slot in the back to store 2K video you capture, but to view that footage you have to remove the USB stick and insert in into your computer, which seems a bit backward for a connected camera system.
With all that said, the smart features are good: the camera will correctly identify what's happening, be that a vehicle or an animal, so you can react accordingly; and notifications with a highlight of what triggered the motion detection makes it easy to check your phone and take action as necessary.
The Arlo Pro 3 is a capable home security camera. It's easy to install and offers compelling 2K video capture.
But this is a radical change from preceding devices: that you need a subscription for cloud storage changes the nature of this device and marks it out as different from previous Arlo Pro models (which offered week-long storage as part of the package).
The result is a fairly expensive camera that has ongoing costs to get the full functionality out of it. It's a great experience if that's something that you're happy to pay, but if you're a little more budget minded, you might want to consider the Arlo Pro 2 instead.
Alternatives to consider
Nest Cam IQ
A smart camera that's cheaper to buy, but also wants you to subscribe to get the most from it. It works well with Google Assistant, but offers continuous recording as it's a wired camera.
Ring Spotlight Cam
It's a little different, but does a great job of detecting motion - with the added advantage of offering substantial illumination.