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When it asked customers how they were using its wireless Arlo cameras, Netgear found that most people were using them outside, but buying a competitor's camera to use indoors, and picking higher-resolution cameras that need to be plugged in (and don't need to have their batteries changed). That's why the company has delivered the 1080p Arlo Q, which costs £169.99 (inc. VAT). And once you're plugging a camera in, you can add extra features that need more power -- like a microphone and speaker, and continuous recording.
The Arlo Q is slightly larger than the Arlo Wire-Free model, and although it does have a magnetic base that can stick to metal surfaces, it doesn't have the same detachable magnetic mounting system. Instead it comes with a baseplate that you screw into place and the camera snaps onto that. (We'd like to see alternatives like removable mounting strips, because you might want to move it around, although it will have to be near a power outlet.) The power adapter is small and neat, and has a long USB cable, so you have quite a bit of freedom in positioning the camera.
To set it up, you can use the Arlo website or the Arlo app on an iOS or Android device. (There is still no sign of the Windows or Windows phone app that Netgear told us was under development last summer -- the company is now saying it will have an app for the Windows platform "early this year" and the request is now marked as 'future consideration' on the Arlo website.)
Choose Add Device and you get images of the different Arlo cameras to choose from, and the setup is painless. You don't need an Arlo base station and the Arlo Q doesn't come with one, because it works with any standard access point. The pairing system is quite clever; make sure the phone or tablet you're running the Arlo app is on the same wi-fi network you want to use the camera with and tap the Sync button in the app to generate a QR code that you show to the camera. The camera plays a chime so you know it's read the code, before connecting to your wi-fi and configures itself. When it shows up in the app, you can name it (handy if you have cameras in different areas).
The dual-band wi-fi antenna means you don't have to keep the Arlo Q near your access point, even though it's streaming 1080p or 720p video at 750Kbps. Image quality for both stills and videos is excellent -- far clearer than the Arlo Wire-Free. The image sensor is also more sensitive: it has built in infrared so you can see a black-and-white image in near-total darkness, but the Arlo Q carries on showing you a colour video image even when the light levels are low enough for an Arlo Wire-Free in the same room to switch to infrared. When the Arlo Q does use infrared, the video quality is better too -- much crisper and clearer. If you're trying to see small details in a video (the licence plate of a car through a window, or the name on an identity badge, for example), the quality will make that easier.
You can use the app or website to turn on the camera and look at what's going on, or you can pay extra for the optional CVR (Continuous Video Recording) plan, which lets you use a timeline to see what happened when. But the main idea with Arlo cameras is to use the built-in motion detection (and now sound detection) to trigger the camera to take a snapshot or record a video and let you know (with a notification in the app or by email) that it's spotted something. That video is saved into a free cloud account that gives you a week of video from up to five cameras; if you want more cameras or to have video going further back, you can pay extra (and you can download videos as individual MP4 files).
The Arlo Q has a very wide field of view; 130 degrees (about 20 degrees wider than the Arlo Wire-Free), so it can cover most of a room. As with the other Arlo cameras, you can configure how sensitive the motion detection is, but you can also mark out 'activity zones' in the field of view (that's easy to do, but you have to remember to tell the camera to use that zone when you create the rule that tells the Arlo what to do when it detects motion or sound). If your camera is pointed at your front door and there's a window next to the door, you can select the door to have Arlo monitor that area for motion, but not send you an alert every time a car drives past the window.
You can also choose whether to have sound trigger alerts. You can set the sensitivity for audio alerts; this goes from one to five but nowhere in the manual or website could we discover whether 1 was for detecting quiet noises and 5 for only responding to loud noises, or vice versa. At the default setting we got several alerts from the sound of hammering in cable cleats while installing the camera, even though no-one was in sight of the camera, and the microphone will pick up the sound of people talking in another room; that's good for catching intruders who don't walk right past the camera, but you'll definitely want to disable sound-only alerts while you're in the building.
You can do that manually in the app, or by setting specific times; Netgear is planning to add geofencing, so that the motion and sound triggers are disabled when you (or rather your phone) are in range, but that's not available yet. Extra software features like this can take some time to arrive, but Netgear does keep improving the Arlo software.
The rule settings aren't quite as flexible as you might want; if you pick both sound and motion triggers in a rule, it will run if either of them are detected only, not both. But you can use the rules to set up different alerts; you might want to record video if the camera detects both sound and motion and just take a snapshot when it only detects sound, or get email for one kind of notification and a push notification in the app for the other.
Arlo Q as intercom
As well as the microphone for detecting sounds, the Arlo Q has a speaker; not only can you hear what's going on in a video, you can use the speaker to talk to someone. It's an interesting idea -- you could shout at a pet to get off the sofa or tell a pet-sitter where to find the spare pet food, or tell a burglar you're calling the police for example. When Arlo cameras get the promised Alljoyn support, you'll be able to use a service like IFTTT to automatically play a sound file, like a dog bark or running feet, when motion is detected; again, that might scare off an intruder.
However, we had problems getting the speaker working. For one thing, we couldn't get it working from the website in any browser we tried (including Edge and the latest version of Chrome); it only worked in the iOS app. And while push-to-talk systems are often slow, the latency here is significant -- at least two to three seconds on both sides of the conversation, even with the iOS device on the same wireless network as the camera. It's useful in theory, but in practice we found it frustrating.
If you give up the idea of using the Arlo Q as an intercom, it's an excellent connected security camera. You can't use it outside and having a cable coming out of it means giving up the 'put it anywhere' freedom of the Arlo Wire-Free. On the other hand, it won't run out of battery, and the video quality is significantly better. The price is similar to other 1080p security cameras (and slightly cheaper than buying a single Arlo wireless camera and base station), and the fact that you don't have to pay a subscription to see your video footage makes it better value than many of the competitors. If you want a wired security camera, this is a welcome addition to the Arlo family.