Top critical review
Arlo Pro vs. Nest vs. Smartcam
December 27, 2016
I'm a longtime Dropcam/Nest and Samsung Smartcam user. I had some locations outside far from power outlets where I wanted surveillance, purchased and Arlo Pro system for this coverage. I have to say, after a few weeks of use I prefer the Arlo Pro to my Nest and Samsung camera systems. The image quality is slightly poorer, but the functionality is easier, there is free cloud recording, the app interface is cleaner, and the wireless feature means I can place these in spots the others can't go.
** Ease of Use **
Nest: 9.0/10. Works out of the box, recent app update lets you scroll through video feed in time-lapse fashion. It's like the Apple-version of camera systems, even your grandparents can set it up and use it.
Samsung: 7.5/10. If Nest is the Apple version, Samsung is the Android. It's a little bit better of a camera, but it's not as easy to setup and the app requires multiple logins to access the video feed, and doesn't have single Touch ID access like Nest or Arlo. So even though my phone saves the first password, I always have to manually type another password to view the feed. Otherwise the app is straightforward, and setup is about average on the easy scale.
Arlo Pro: 9.0/10. Like the Nest, this works out of the box and your grandparents could set it up. The app is self-explanatory and easy to navigate. A small hiccup in that a recent app update seemed to wipe camera settings, but afterward everything else has been fine.
** Cloud Recording **
Nest: 2/10. $100 per year for 1 camera for 7 days of stored video; each add'l camera is $50/year. (4 cameras = $250/year for cloud). Because Nest cams run 24/7, they will constantly use your home's internet connection bandwidth; the more cameras you have, the more of your bandwidth they chew up. From personal experience I will say the cost doesn't sound so bad at first, but after 3 years of paying it I'm realizing using Nest cameras has become a multiple thousand dollar system for us. We are stuck paying for this as long as we want to keep using the Nest cams. Great marketing by them, but terrible long-term option for surveillance system. I wish I would have considered long-term costs before I bought Nest cameras.
Samsung: 0/10. No cloud option; SD card stores video locally, app on phone allows you to view feed in real time. If you don't need a camera for anything other than real-time viewing, can't go wrong with the Samsung. But it's not a cloud cam, if you need cloud storage/access look elsewhere.
Arlo Pro: 9/10. Free cloud storage of video clips for 7 days for up to 5 cameras; $100/year for up to 10 cameras and 30 days; $150/year for up to 15 cameras and 60 day of clip storage. For comparison, Arlo Pro lets you have 10 cameras and offers 30 days of storage for what Nest charges for 1 camera and 7 days.
** Video Quality **
Nest: 8.5/10, very good, but if you zoom in it gets exponentially poor. Night vision also good.
Samsung: 9.0/10, ever so slightly better than Nest. In my experience, Samsung's zoom is crisper and its night vision is superior than Nest.
Arlo Pro: 6.0/10, acceptable daytime color feed, but overall Arlo Pro is poorer than the others (Note: this might be due to farther distance from router). Night vision is on par with Nest, but if you buy the Arlo Pro skins (sold separately), they actually reflect off the IR in the corners of the screen and wash out the image. So don't use the skins.
** Audio Quality **
Nest: 6.0/10. The Nest cam's audio is the most frustrating feature of this camera for me. It's two-way, but only one-way at a time (like a walkie talkie). If you use it to monitor & talk to a baby or pet, the lag is considerable and you cannot hear yourself on the other end. My wife & I tested this, she stayed home I left and tried talking to the dogs through the app. My voice came through choppy & was not clear. Some of what I said wasn't sent at all. When listening through the app, audio is quieter even on highest setting. This is the Nest cam's weakest feature, and frankly, it doesn't work well at all.
Samsung: 9.0/10. Fantastic audio quality, and it's true two-way so both sides can speak and hear each other at the same time (like a cell phone). When you speak you can hear yourself speaking on the other end on your smartphone while watching the feed. Nest does not do this. Samsung Smartcam can also double as a baby monitor by playing lullaby music and a few other songs. Bonus.
Arlo Pro: 9.0/10. Excellent audio quality, clips stored to cloud playback with crisp audio. The camera overlooking my driveway clearly transmits the crisp snaps of dried twigs being crushed as cars goes down my driveway.
Nest: 7.0/10. Inside my house, connections are mostly good. Cameras at far edges of my house drop signal constantly. I know because I get notifications daily when a Nestcam drops offline. I used to have a Nest cam in my detached garage but I had to bring it back in the house as it was dropping signal multiple times per day.
Samsung: 8.0/10. Does not constantly record to cloud, so only "pulls" video when you call it via the app. But it has worked every time I've called on it, connects fast, doesn't drop video for me, and is currently located farther from my router than my Nest cams.
Arlo Pro: 9.5/10. The Arlo Pro has far better range than either Nest or Samsung. I actually moved my cameras around to use Arlo Pros to replace the Nest cameras on the far edges of my house and also have the Arlo Pro cameras also outside at the far reaches of my property. Video signal drops a bit when you go 100+ feet away, but it still works. The cameras are always available when I try to connect real time. And in this winter's 30 degree weather, my Arlo Pro cameras had no problems recording clips while my outdoor Nest cam fell offline several times.
** Ease of Installation **
Nest: 8.5/10. Comes with mounting plate which can be screwed into wall or ledge. Camera can rotate in mount for sideways mounting. Must be near power source.
Samsung: 8.0/10. Wall mount easily screws onto back of camera, only has one cable (power) but it is not as nice as the Nest cam's clean USB cable.
Arlo Pro: 9.0/10. Comes with a magnetic ball mount which can be screw-mounted onto any surface. Camera itself has a magnetic backing; traditional camera screw mount is on very back of camera, (different from regular Arlo with screw mount on bottom).
Arlo Pro-specific Frustrations: Camera settings I set from web portal were erased when I updated the app on my phone. I waited a day to do the app update on my smartphone, and for that day until I did the update, my cameras stopped recording clips. I don't understand why the phone app seems to override settings from account/web interface, and I don't understand why the cameras stopped working until I did an app update on my phone. Recording sometimes takes too long to start (i.e. 2-3 seconds after motion first detected), which means I get a lot of clips where I see the tail end of something moving across the screen. I have the cameras perpendicular to the area they are monitoring so objects go across the screen, if you use them head-on the motion sensing is poor.
For me, the positives easily outweigh the negatives: Ease of use, everything working out of the box, and the wireless capability is a combination of features the other systems don't have. Each system has it's place for use, and all of them do work. They just each excel at different things.
If you're still on the fence, the one thing I'd circle back to are Nest cam's long term costs for cloud storage. It essentially adds to the cost of the system for as long as you plan to use it.
UPDATE: Less than a month into ownership, some of the shine has come off the Netgear Arlo Pro. I am having problems with clips not being recorded to the cloud when the cameras detect motion. I'll get notifications there was motion, but the cameras do not record clips. I'll get about one clip recorded for every 10-15 notifications of motion detection. For a security system this isn't really acceptable considering you cannot go back and review feed with Arlo. If they don't save the clip to the cloud, the camera is useless. I've been working with tech support on this (which is fair to poor - 2+ days response time and very general responses) and the last response indicated there is an issue with the iOs app and they are working on an update. But I have these issues on my Android as well, and when I log in via PC I cannot see clips either. Also the clips quality are sub par - I get green blotches across the screen , images will freeze frame for the duration of the clip, etc. None of these issues started until after a week or two after deployment, the cameras worked well out of the box but began to show warts soon after.
Update 2 (2/3/17): Some of the issues from my last update have improved, but I'm still not getting every motion trigger recorded to the cloud. I'm knocking it down another star because now I am unable to connect to two of my cameras at all. They record clips, I get notifications of this, but there is nothing in the cloud and I cannot connect to them real-time. The other frustrating thing I'm experiencing in use is how often I have to go outside and wipe all the lenses down. At least once a week I have to go out to each camera and wipe off the lenses with a cloth as they get fogged up and cloudy. For some reason I don't have to do this for my other exterior cameras, just the Arlo Pros. The biggest disappoint has been Netgear tech support, they never did help me and left my trouble ticket with the answer that a new app will be coming out soon and that should resolve things. But they could give me no ETA and no other guidance. Each response took 2-3 days. Zero stars for Netgear tech support, it was a terrible experience.
Update 3 (3/29/2017): I'm four months into ownership and the cameras aren't doing well. I have 3 cameras (purchased an add-on as well) and have issues with each. Two will not display a live feed when I summon it on the app and the 3rd does not detect motion nor record video at all, I can walk past it all day and it won't record. The Netgear app shows all three cameras have full WiFi signal, and two are at 75% battery while the other is at 100%. When the cameras record video clips, I get large green stripes blocking the field of view. I've deleted and re-installed latest version of Arlo app but I have the same problems. This system has been very frustrating because I love the packaging, but the functionality has been poor for me. These are not reliable for either motion detection or surveillance.
Update 4 (10/9/2017): A lot of issues improved with warmer weather. During the Spring and Summer we had no green blotches and the cameras properly reported power levels. I could connect when I called up the camera on the app. In light of this return to functionality I added another star back to the rating. Unfortunately I continue to be disappointed by Netgear's tech support, which to this point has not been helpful. I won't go into detail here as I appreciate their attempt to reach out below and will go that route. If the cameras make it through the winter without doing the green blotch thing and I can pull up the feed on command, I'll raise the rating again. I do like the system, the app and cameras, but the niggling issues (and the fact it still doesn't pick up everything) have kept it from being a five star product.