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Arlo Essential and Essential XL Wireless Outdoor Security Camera review: Perfect if you live in the cloud

Arlo security cameras are known for making well-designed hardware with solid features that work well. But another part of the Arlo pedigree is that its devices are also generally expensive. Thankfully, it has the Essential lineup of security products, which offer much of what the company puts into the more premium devices in a more budget-friendly line. This is where the new Arlo Essential and Essential XL Wireless Outdoor Security Cameras land.

The design of the new cameras is changed to look more like the rest of Arlo’s devices, as are some of the internals. The Arlo Essential Outdoor Wireless Camera and the Arlo Essential XL Wireless Outdoor Camera are upgraded with all the same features as the standard model but with a much longer battery life. So, let’s dig into more of what these two devices have to offer and see if it’s really worth your money.

More than just new looks

Arlo Essential Outdoor Camera (2nd Generation)
(Image credit: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

So, there are two new cameras — the Arlo Essential Wireless Outdoor Security Camera and the Arlo Essential XL Wireless Outdoor Security Camera. In case you missed it, the names are exactly the same, minus the XL moniker on one. As the names suggest, these cameras share everything except the battery size. It’s here where the XL comes into play, with a large 18600mAh battery versus the 4650mAh in the regular model. Otherwise, it’s all the same, including the design, offering up to 16 months and four months of use between charges.

Instead of the wedge-shaped oval from the first-gen model of the Essential Outdoor Wireless Camera, the new variants are just oval. This isn’t a significant change to one of Arlo’s best cameras, but it does bring the design in line with the rest of Arlo’s products. Also, part of the change is the location of the spotlight. Previously, Arlo placed it above the sensor, and now it is below it for both new cameras. 

Arlo made small but important design changes in order to get the brand’s entire camera product line to have the same design language.

Setting up these cameras is super simple and is one of the areas that Arlo has really gotten down. It really is as simple as setting up your Arlo account in the app, tapping the plus sign, choosing the camera you’re adding, and following the prompts. It will walk you through installation and highlight some of the camera’s features. While the onboarding process isn’t necessarily special to Arlo, it just seems so smooth compared to other cameras I’ve tested.

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SpecsArlo Essential Wireless Outdoor Security CameraArlo Essential XL Wireless Outdoor Security Camera
Dimensions2.34 x 2.08 x 3.67 inches3.25 x 2.25 x 3.8 inches
Connectivity802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi (2.4GHz)802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi (2.4GHz)
Local storage🚫🚫
Two-way communication✔️✔️
Camera1080p HD or 2K1080p HD or 2K
Viewing area130° diagonal130° diagonal
Night visionIR, black and white, colorIR, black and white, color
Smart featuresMotion detectionMotion detection
BatteryBuilt-in 4650mAh, up to 4 monthsBuilt-in 18600mAh, up to 16 months
SecurityAES 256-bit encryption and Transport Layer Security (TLSAES 256-bit encryption and Transport Layer Security (TLS
Operating temperature-4 to 113° F-4 to 113° F
Smar home compatibilityAmazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKitAmazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit

Both the Arlo Essential Wireless Outdoor Security Camera and the Arlo Essential XL Wireless Outdoor Security Camera are available in either a 2K video resolution or 1080p HD. Going with the higher resolution option will add $50 to the price of either camera, so keep in mind whether you really need that added resolution. It will mainly come into play if you need to utilize the 12x digital zoom, as the bigger sensor will handle that better.

I have been testing the HD models for both cameras, and each one looks completely fine in most situations. I have the cameras mounted fairly high up, and the zoom is usable, but with the smaller sensor, it doesn’t offer a lot of detail. When in low-light environments and not zoomed in, the black and white video looks pretty good, considering it only has a small LED spotlight, but it does help. It also assists in providing color night vision when enabled.

The Arlo app provides a fair amount of customization and is relatively well laid out. It can be a bit frustrating to find individual device settings since the recent app redesign, but I’ll have more on that later. Once you find the camera settings, each option is easy to understand and allows you to set up activity zones where you’ll get motion alerts. It does lack an option for privacy zones, which would let you block areas from view. This would be particularly helpful if you have close neighbors.

In the app, you can also choose the four different power modes. Each option adjusts how much power the battery uses based on how much you want the camera to do. If you choose the Best Video option, you’ll have the highest video quality, but the battery will drain faster. Alternatively, you can pick the Low Power mode and save the most battery, but it will only take snapshots instead of video when motion is detected. I’ve left mine on Optimized, and it’s done well.

No escaping the cloud

Arlo Essential Outdoor Camera (2nd Generation)
(Image credit: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

While I’m a fan of both of the new Arlo Essential Outdoor Wireless Cameras and, for the most part, the app, I’m not a fan of the required subscription just to use the cameras. Though this practice isn’t entirely unheard of when it comes to many of the best wireless home security cameras, it is nonetheless disappointing.

Arlo sells a base station to help with connectivity and local storage, as you won’t find any Arlo camera with local storage unless you have a base station. Unfortunately, neither the Arlo Essential Outdoor Wireless Camera nor the Arlo Essential XL works with the accessory. This means you must sign up for one of three Arlo Secure plans to use your new cameras. But you do get a trial period with your purchase to test the service and your cameras out.

Arlo Secure - 2023 Plans screenshot
(Image credit: Android Central)

The plans aren’t out of this world expensive, with a starting price of $4.99/month for a single camera or $12.99/month for unlimited. But it goes up to $17.99 and $24.99 from there, with a small break if you pay annually. I just find it quite frustrating that Arlo doesn’t offer a local storage option for these cameras, and you can’t even get a basic set of the features you pay for when you buy the camera unless you pay for a subscription.

I mentioned above that I have some gripes with the Arlo App. Well, overall, I think it is better than apps from other brands of cameras I’ve tested. But my biggest issue is that when Arlo redesigned the app a few months ago, it changed how schedules and automation work for the cameras — and I can’t get it to work like before.

Unfortunately, an app redesign can alter the entire experience of using a product.

I reviewed the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera in 2022, and between then and now, that app redesign changed how I use the camera. Since I have this camera in my office, I don’t need or want it looking at me all day, and because it has a physical shutter to cover the camera, it is a great choice — that is when I could still clearly schedule when it was on or off. Now, I have not yet been able to get it set up the way I had it, and it’s pretty frustrating.

I don’t think my issues with the app change should be a deal breaker, and if you hadn’t known of the app before now, you may not care. But it leads me to think the update made a useful feature in automations and schedules less user-friendly and could be a deterrent for someone who does want to have more granular control over their Arlo security cameras.

Should you buy these cameras?

Arlo Essential XL Outdoor Camera (2nd Generation)
(Image credit: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

If you already have some Arlo devices in your home, like the Essential Indoor Camera I mentioned above, the Pro 3 Floodlight Camera, or perhaps the new Arlo Video Doorbell that was announced with these two new cameras, then these cameras will fit in well. You get options for battery life and video quality, solid connectivity, and a ready-made ecosystem.

But if you aren’t in the Arlo ecosystem, you might balk at the necessity for a subscription to use the devices you are buying. You do get some nice features with Arlo Secure, but you may not want or need some of them. You’ll pay anyway just to save your camera’s footage. 

Taking the subscription out of the equation, with a starting price of $50 for the standard Essential Outdoor camera and $99 for the XL model, these are great devices with solid feature sets and could serve your home well. But that monthly subscription has to be dealt with and is a choice entirely up to you.

Arlo Essential Outdoor Camera (2nd Generation)

Arlo Essential Outdoor Camera (2nd Generation)Basic, but good

Along with the new physical design changes, this camera has gotten a bit faster and comes in two resolution options of 1080p HD and 2K to take better advantage of the 12X digital zoom. Just remember to sign up for the Arlo Secure subscription or the camera won’t  do much for you.

Arlo Essential XL Outdoor Camera (2nd Generation)

Arlo Essential XL Outdoor Camera (2nd Generation)

Go longer

Everything the standard Essential Outdoor Camera offers but with more battery life. In fact, with the XL model you can get more than three times the use before it’s time to recharge it.



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