Ever since the very first Arlo wire-free camera there’s been a technology race underway, new features, better quality and increasing battery life; Arlo has remained top of that tree and with their Arlo Ultra cameras look to maintain that.
Competition in this space comes from every angle, start up companies and established camera brands alike.
Arlo’s latest – the Arlo Ultra takes things up a notch.
At $1049 for a two camera starter pack, it’s $250 more than the previous model the Arlo Pro 2 – seems a lot to justify on the face of it.
On the face of it, when viewing cloud recordings – which I would argue is the primary use of Arlo cameras – there’s not a dramatic leap forward here. While the Ultra is a 4K camera, those pixels are being used in a very different way – the wider angle, the additional features.
Honestly, when looking at clip after clip, I see a better picture – but not a $125 better picture – the reason being, you also need to upgrade your cloud recording plan to “Premium Video Recording” to record 4K clips.
This comes at a cost of around $19 per camera per year, but you can apply it only to one camera and not all if you choose.
Arlo Ultra cameras also feature HDR recording, which should mean a bright sky won’t blow out your whole image of the front yard. It works a treat – and in the live feed most notably the colours on the Arlo Ultra are far more “realistic” than the Pro 2 (which itself is outstanding)
The reason the extra quality matters is when you enable features like Zoom and track – which will use the quality to get a better look at what’s in the field of view.
Speaking of which, the angle on this lens is exceptionally wider than previous generations – and for most camera placements this is critical.
That angle on the front of your house – now seeing much more on each side.
Then there are the additional features. You can enable a Zoom and Track in the settings (not on by default) which will act like a cameraman and follow a subject that it finds. Add to that activity zones and you can draw an area which you want notifications in rather than all of the frame – which is handy if there is a roadway in your camera shot.
Perhaps the key feature you’ll notice is the “Colour Night Vision”. A small set of LEDs don’t quite light up the area, but they do so enough to ensure you can see the colours in the frame – this could be critical for police if looking for a suspect.
Similarly, the Arlo Ultra cameras have a small siren built in too – allowing you to really scare off unwanted visitors.
It’s a whole new design, nothing from the old system works here. Ultra cameras can’t be added to an Arlo Pro base station – but you can add Pro cameras to the Arlo Ultra base station, so like me, if you’re adding to an existing set of Pro cameras, it’s worth almost starting over using the Arlo Pro base station.
Though Arlo need to do some work on the software, because every single time you want to add a device to the system you get a firmware upgrade check on the base station – every single time – and it’s annoying as all heck. Just have it update itself or send a notification to me when one is available.
If the night vision, the siren and the wide angle aren’t enough to get you over the line with the upgrade – a free year of Arlo Smart should do the trick. This adds a heap to your cloud account, including smart notifications of “people” not just motion among other things.
Again, it’s a whole new ecosystem – the batteries are different, so existing chargers don’t work, in fact the Arlo Ultra’s have a magnetic style cable connector for power, so they are more suited to rigging up to an Arlo Ultra Solar Panel.
The Bottom Line
Arlo Ultra is a new benchmark in wire-free security cameras. You have to pay more on your subscription to get the extra quality in the cloud, but it’s going to be well worth it – plus there’s a huge advantage in the little things like the colour night vision, siren and additional smarts available.
It’s a big price to pay – and on the shelf the Arlo Ultra will probably look tough to justify, but I think for someone starting out it’s absolutely the right place to start.
Perhaps harder to justify for those with a large existing Arlo camera setup – because you are paying for a new base station and have the whole setup to go through. Worth it if you do though.
Trev is a Technology Commentator, Dad, Speaker and Rev Head.
He produces and hosts two popular podcasts, EFTM and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He also appears on over 50 radio stations across Australia weekly, and is the resident Tech Expert on Channel 9’s Today Show each day and appears regularly on A Current Affair.
Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave.