Arlo Baby HD Monitoring Camera Review— A Cut Above?

The Arlo Baby Monitoring Camera from Netgear’s popular Arlo home security brand sets itself from other monitors on the market by offering a cute, interchangeable body shape. But most importantly, it has some unique features that you don’t see on a lot of other monitor systems. This monitor uses a paired app that runs on a variety of devices and it can be integrated into a variety of smarthome systems. It retails for $200.

Setup

The physical setup of the camera is easy — it plugs right in and awaits your setup of the Arlo app. I couldn’t initially connect on my first try so I chose to connect via the QR code method (really just one extra step). The QR code picked up immediately when I placed my phone in front of the camera, and I was then able to quickly create an account, choose which item I was setting up, and finally set up the camera. The entire process took about four minutes. 

Netgear has some great videos on its website to walk users through setup and features, if needed. You’ll definitely want to watch all three videos — the amount of features available and the subsequent settings for each can really be overwhelming to new users. There is also a PDF guide.

After initial setup, the app offers a tour of its features with great graphics and a fun user experience. The camera is cutting edge as far as the baby monitor market looks right now, and it has some really nice features.

Arlo Baby does not come with a parent monitor (though the option of having one would be great), so everything is done through the app. Downloading the Arlo app is simple and mostly user friendly. However, one complaint of mine (and other users) is that every time you open the app, you have to get the system to reconnect, which results in a 30 second to one minute delay. This can be very frustrating if you need to check on your child quickly. However, the audio runs in the background and can be left on while the device has other apps open. 

In addition to running the app on iPhone and Android, it can be used on Fire tablets and the web. The monitor can also link up with smart home systems, including Amazon Alexa on the Echo Show, Echo Spot, Fire TV, Apple HomeKit, IFTTT, Stringify, and more.

Testing Notes 

The first thing you’ll notice about Arlo is its cute little animal shape. It’s not beneficial in any meaningful way, but it certainly stands out from other monitors on the market. You can order the different accessories and change them out, if you like — the monitor’s little “hats” come in bunny, puppy, or kitten. Or, you can just take the ears and feet off altogether.

For complete safety (strangulation precautions), be sure that the camera is nowhere near baby’s reach when plugged in. Though my son has always been interested by other cameras that I’ve tested, this one was so cute that he immediately grabbed it to play with it.

Another safety concern is that this monitor can run hot. A regular touch when its been on the shelf is usually pretty warm, and one day I placed it on my bed for about 20 minutes (cooling vents were not touching the bed) and it became so hot to the touch that I dropped it and yelped. That’s not good, especially if it’s within reach of your child.

One feature that’s lacking is any pan/tilt function within the app. It has a fairly large range of motion, but the monitor needs to be maneuvered manually. However, users can zoom using the pinch motion on the screen, with up to 16x zoom. Users can also change the field of view from between 90 and 130 degrees to increase or decrease background.

 

The monitor system is full of advanced features, which is great if that’s what you’re looking for, but it can also be a bit overwhelming to deal with if you just want a simple monitor system. 

The simpler features include a nightlight with thousands of colors that can do a whole light show. The monitor includes a timer, a music player that comes with preloaded songs (as well as nature sounds and white noise), and it can also have songs added. Users can even record their own voices for baby. There’s also two-way communication between app and camera, and the ability to take photographs and video of the camera view, which upload to your cloud account.

The more advanced (and complicated) features come with the notifications that include those from motion sensors, audio sensors (crying alerts), as well as temperature, humidity, and air quality sensors. These notifications come via push, email, and text, and can all be adjusted for frequency and sensitivity (or turned off altogether) in the app. You can also add a schedule, geofencing, share with others who want to watch video, and more via the app. These are really nice advanced features to have, but they can also get a bit overwhelming — the PDF User Manual is 74 pages long.

The monitor system comes with a free cloud account, which saves photos, video, and data from notifications for a week on the free plan. There are also other options to upgrade your cloud storage for an additional fee, for $10/month or $15/month.

One of the most unique features of this camera is one that many parents often ask for in other cameras – a rechargeable battery on the actual camera. This battery allows users to move the camera around for a few hours before plugging back in. The strange thing about this battery is that it prevents the camera from being powered down unless the battery drains completely, or if the user unplugs the camera and then uses the power switch to turn it off. From what I’ve observed, you cannot turn the camera off while it is plugged in.

The HD 1080p video quality is great, and when the signal is strong it looks very clear. The infrared camera is clear, and users can adjust brightness within the app to get a better picture. The problem is that even on high speed networks, there are issues with freezing, pixilation, and stream delay (even when streaming on the same Wi-Fi network). There is also no clock on the app, so it’s hard to know if there is a freezing or delay problem or if the system is working properly. Luckily, when the camera freezes the audio still comes through, and you can choose to turn on the constant audio stream option, which allows audio to play even when the device is locked or in use in another app.

Another big problem I had with this camera was the video screen not staying connected if you need to use your smartphone for other reasons. If you exit out of the video screen and get a pop-up notification, you have to reconnect through the app, which can take a few seconds — sometimes up to 20 seconds. Any parent knows that those few seconds can be very scary.

Once Arlo is set up on your home network, I would not recommend moving it. I took mine on vacation and tried connecting it to high speed internet and the system would never fully reconnect. It took a long time for the video to work, and then there was a 30 second to one-minute lag on the video.

This was after the video wouldn’t work at first, but the app’s notifications still came through to my phone. Once we were home and back on the original network I still had the same issues at first, even after trying a hard reset and going through the full reconnecting process (I did this while on vacation, as well). It took about a day to fully reconnect and get back to normal.

Security

The manufacturer promises bank-grade encryption for the app. Like any app-focused monitor, your security is only as good as your smartphone or tablet’s security, as well as the security of your home Wi-Fi network.

Who It Might Be A Good Fit For

  • Users with a smart home setup
  • Users who are away from home and want to check in on baby frequently from afar
  • Users looking for a lot of features that aren’t typically found on other monitor systems

Who It Might Not Be A Good Fit For

  • Users who need a monitor system for frequent family travel
  • Users who want a straightforward monitor system that is self-explanatory and easy to understand
  • Users who do not have a dedicated device to only use for the monitor system while being operated

Conclusion

I had high hopes for Arlo’s baby monitor, and some of its features are truly top-notch. However, the problems with overheating, freezing, stream delays, and not being able to easily get on other networks keep it from reaching its potential.

The charm found in the lighting, music, and cute animal ears doesn’t override the other issues. If you’re not going to take advantage of all of the advanced features that it offers, there are other, much simpler monitors on the market, for a much lower price. If you do want all these extra features, we’d recommend using a separate device — like an older iPad that doesn’t get used much (or at all) anymore — to use as a dedicated viewing device for this camera with the Arlo app.

Gabe Turner

Gabe Turner

Gabe Turner is an attorney and journalist with a passion for home tech and secure, efficient living. Since graduating from NYU Law, he has maintained a paradoxical existence of trying to live life adventurously while remaining staunchly risk-averse. He is torn by the dual desires of wanting to only be in Brooklyn writing about housing policy and smart home tech and aspiring to visit his friends scattered across the globe. Gabe believes that stable, safe communities are the cornerstone to a vibrant and healthy society, and it is this passion that brought him to contribute to Security Baron.

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