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Smart home security cameras sound like a great idea. However, until we have some Roomba-like bot patrolling the home, checking for unusual sounds, disturbances and other alerts, we’re stuck with the current batch of fixed point cameras.
Aside from their limited point of view, they are also prone to false alarms and have limited night or zoom capabilities, but for now they’re the best we’ve got, unless you want to go and install a very expensive set up.
So, in this comparison; we take a look at Google’s latest Nest Cam, a device the thermostat maker acquired from the Dropcam company (see here for a full comparison of the new Nest Cam vs Dropcam), and the Arlo range from longtime Wi-Fi router maker NetGear.
Arlo tries to get around the limitations by throwing as many cameras you need into a bundle.
We compare the key features, the pros and cons of both models before establishing which is best for your particular needs.
Contents (Jump to)
Key Features – Arlo Smart Home Security System
- All Angles Covered: The key feature of the Arlo Smart Home Security System is its play to cover all the angles.
- Variety of Kits: You can buy just the one unit (starting at $179) but they also ship kits of 2,3 or 4 cameras, plus bundles of the base station and even more cameras.
- Outdoor Rated and Flexible: Not only is the Arlo good for indoor and outdoor use (most smart home cameras are indoor only), they are totally wire free, and provide HD and night vision. That’s quite a lot of differentiation compared to most rivals, and the bundles mean you can do a better job securing your home.
- Operates on it’s own Network: The Arlo base station is basically a secure Wi-Fi box, but only works with its own cameras and needs to be connected to your usual route. install that first, set up a free account, then sync up your cameras and place them within 300 feet of the base station. You can adjust the video quality settings and create rule triggers to send you alerts.
- Specific Alert Presets: You can name each camera and view alerts on an iOS or Android app.
- May Require Paid Accounts: Paid for Premium and Elite accounts allow you to use more cameras and store images for later use, such as evidence, or if your cameras just happen to catch an interesting event.
Key Features – Nest Cam
Since Google’s Nest acquired DropCam, users had high hopes for a new range of improved products. However, the first Nest Cam was pretty much like the original, with a few features actually disabled while Nest developers managed to improve or sync them to its own services.
- 24/7 Feed:The Nest Cam does have some distinct features though. Being mains powered, it offers 24/7 live video streaming, allowing users to monitor a room or entrance via a smartphone app full 1080p high definition.
- Audio Enabled: It comes with a microphone and small speaker so you can communicate with whoever is in your house, talk to your pet or tell the children off.
- Preset Triggers: It can provide alerts to your phone when unexpected motion or sound triggers the device.
- Night Vision: It also comes with night vision, and unlike the Arlo, there’s no need for a hub – it connects directly to your Wi-Fi.
- May Require Monthly Fee: However after the free 30 day trial, you will need to pay the $9.99 a month to continue using the cloud service, and smart features like activity zones and false alert filters.
Pros and Cons of the Arlo Smart Home Security System
- Pro – Battery Powered: Being battery powered you can position the Arlo cameras pretty much anywhere.
- Pro – Wider Field of Vision: Its 130 degree field of view means you can cover pretty much all around you home, with enough cameras.
- Pro – Stealth Mounting: They come with magnetic mounts, or you can surreptitiously locate them around the home. You can also put them outside.
- Con – Battery can Drain: While being battery powered gives the Arlo cameras more flexibility, it does limit their long term use, especially if you are away from the property for some length of time. Scheduling helps limit their use to when you’re away, but that may vary.Also cameras installed outside will probably suffer worse battery life than those inside due to changes in temperature, and the more variable lighting. An additional cost to consider is the batteries, as the CR123A models aren’t the cheapest.
- Con – Motion Activated (no live stream): The main concern, especially for businesses or people with lots of activity, is that the device is motion activated. So it won’t record constantly to help build up a pattern of events, you’ll only see the activity plus however long you set it to record after for.
Pros and Cons of the Nest Cam
- Pro – Better Visual Quality: The Nest Cam provides a better picture than most other systems including the Arlo, while it has the same 130 degree field of view, the extra fidelity makes for a better image.
- Pro – Night Vision: It also has a better performing night vision system, although that may depend on your ambient lighting.
- Con – Limited Range of Vision and Not Subtle: However, Nest is stuck right where you left it, and the camera looks pretty obvious with its stem and bulbous camera, and wiring – it is harder to hide one of these than an Arlo unit.
- Con – Requires Mains Power: Also, if the power goes out then so does your unit.
Comparison – Quick Look Summary
|Color options||Black or White||Black or White
|Audio||None||Microphone and speaker|
|Price||From $179 (check here)||From $199 (check here)|
Wrapping Up – Is the Nest or Arlo Clearly Better?
There are some key differences between these products that may help sway your buying decision.
The Nest Cam is mains powered so it has to be near a power plug. However it can easily provide 24/7 streaming.
Arlo’s battery power means you’ll only want to check in when there’s an alert, especially if you’re away for a long time.
The Arlo lacks any audio, so while you can see something happening, there’s no way to communicate. The indoor-only Nest Cam is only too happy to keep you chatting away to your cat, family or to warn off an actual burglar.
- Case #1: If you Want Streaming 24/7 and only need it indoors… Go with the Nest Cam (check pricing here)
- Case #2: If you need something for outdoor monitoring and/or need something that isn’t tied to your power, go with the Arlo (check pricing here)
Ultimately, neither is still a great security solution – storing clips the cloud is not the same as having unfettered video feeds stored locally for you to check and compare. Also, both are prone to false alerts, despite their smart software claims, so if you’re one of life’s worriers, then these are probably not for you.
Patrick Sinclair is a geek; make no mistake about that. He runs All Home Robotics in his spare time so he doesn’t have to think about his depressing cubicle and it gives him an excuse to buy expensive gadgets to review!