Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free Review: The video doorbell to get

The delivery person always seems to knock on your door when you are in the toilet or out to tabao lunch? This is when the Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free comes in handy.

PRICE: $329 (available in Lazada and Shopee)
VIDEO RESOLUTION: 1,536 x 1,536 pixels
FIELD OF VIEW: 180 degrees diagonal
NIGHT VISION: High-powered infrared LEDs
WEIGHT: 249g (with battery)

The Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free has a long and thick body with its glossy black face in front. The front houses the video camera close to the top and the doorbell button towards the button.

As its name implies, it does not require electrical wiring (though still supported). It comes with a removable battery, thereby allowing you to mount it wherever you want.

The Essential Video Doorbell versus the normal doorbell. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

To access the battery, you need to use a provided tool – similar to a SIM card ejector – to insert into a hole at the top of the Essential’s body. The battery has a micro-USB port for charging. And you can buy an extra battery at $79 to swop when you are charging the included one.

The main components of the Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

Another highlight of the Essential is its video camera that provides a 1:1 aspect ratio. This allows a wider vertical field of view, so you can packages being left at your doorstep.

The camera also offers high dynamic range to see better in very bright or very dark lighting conditions. It also comes with night vision, albeit only in black and white.

+ Easy setup
+ Does not require a hub
+ Great image quality
+ Video calls you when doorbell presses
+ Good battery life

– Not cheap
– Need Arlo Smart monthly subscription for full features

Unlike some video doorbells and its predecessors, this Essential does not require any smart hub. You just need to connect it to your house’s Wi-Fi using the Arlo app (available on Android and iOS).

Setting it up is really easy. Follow the instructions on the app and you can set up the Essential in no time. Only hiccup is that it took one whole minute for the app on my iPhone 12 Pro Max to find the Essential. Otherwise, setup is a breeze.

It takes a while for the app to find the Essential doorbell during setup. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

When you purchase the Essential, you get a three-month free subscription to Arlo Smart service (S$4.49 per month) that includes smart alerts recognising person, vehicle or package as well as allowing visitors to leave a voice message when you cannot answer the door.

The subscription service also lets you select activity zones in the camera’s field of view that will activate notifications. More importantly, it allows for cloud recordings for up to 30 days. So you will be able to access footage in case of theft or any mishaps.

While the Arlo Smart might add costs to the video doorbell, I think it is probably essential to have in order to fully utilise the Essential’s features.

This is especially for the cloud recordings, as the Essential has no storage to store the recordings.

As advertised, the Essential will video call you when the doorbell is being pressed. So, you can ask the delivery person to leave the package outside the door or inside the riser of your HDB flat. Since the Essential has no display, the delivery person cannot see you.

The Essential’s square format allows for more vertical view. (Photo: Arlo)

You will also get notifications with a video clip recorded whenever motion is being detected outside your door. And these notifications arrive promptly wherever you are, as long as you have good Internet connection on your phone.

The videos recorded all look pretty sharp and visibility is good even at night. Audio is also sharp and clear at both ends but the couriers did say I sound really loud.

The doorbell battery is said to last for six months on a full charge. Of course, mileage will vary depending on the amount of visitors or passers-by “hanging” around your door.

During the review, the device seems to be dropping 1 per cent each day in battery life. In other words, it might only last for around 3 months or so. That said, the battery life is better than my Ring Video Doorbell 2 that usually last around 2 months.

The Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free is not cheap at $329, especially when you factor in the much-needed Smart Arlo monthly subscription fee. However, given the amount of deliveries we have at our doors these days, this is probably going to be good investment.

DESIGN: 8/10

Trevor Tan

Started out with dreams to become a street photographer, Trevor Tan somehow became a tech journalist with over 16 years of consumer tech experience. Maybe he plays too much video games and buys too many new gadgets.
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