On November 30th, 2018, Arlo Technologies announced a new flagship home security camera that directly competes with Google’s Nest Cam IQ. In this Arlo Ultra 4K review, I’ll take a closer look at the new wire-free camera and see how it stacks up against the current technological leader in consumer home security cameras.
|Nest Cam IQ||★★★★☆|
Arlo had pulled the new camera after early adopters filed complaints about its quality and performance. When the Arlo Ultra relaunched, I got to finally test it. During the initial days of testing, I discovered some of the issues
Arlo Ultra 4K Review
- 4K HDR Video Resolution
- 180° Distortion-free View
- Integrated LED Spotlight for Enhanced Night Vision
- Two-way Audio with Noise-Cancelling Microphones
- Built-in alarm siren
The new Arlo wireless camera is arguably one of the most advanced home security cameras available for consumers today. Just based on its specifications, it surpasses the already impressive Nest Cam IQ in many areas.
Unlike the Nest Cam IQ, the Arlo Ultra features a true 4K image sensor with High Dynamic Range (HDR). The higher resolution sensor allows the camera to capture more details. The benefit of the increased video resolution is that is that you can zoom in farther to identify small objects such as a car’s license plate.
The higher dynamic range allows the camera to capture more details in challenging lighting situations that would usually result in washed out or too dark images.
However, 4K streaming only works when you access the camera’s stream from your local wireless network, assuming it is fast enough. If you stream video remotely, for example via LTE or 4G, you’ll only get the regular 1080p resolution to conserve bandwidth and fidelity.
It’s important to note that you only get local 4K video streaming, if you don’t have “Auto Zoom & Tracking” enabled. In other words, you can only enable one of those two options at the time. Fortunately, both HDR and 4K streaming work simultaneously.
Additionally, Arlo does not support storing 4K video footage in the cloud, due to the larger file size of 4K video clips. However, the new Arlo Smart Hub provides a local storage option via a microSD card slot that allows you to store full 4K resolution clips. To access your stored recordings, you can use the same Arlo mobile app that also supports previous camera models.
Field of View (FOV)
One of the most impressive features of this smart security camera is its ability to capture a 180-degree view without distortion. Most cameras, such as the Arlo Pro 2 or the Nest Cam IQ are limited to 130 degrees.
As a result, you can get a perfect panoramic view of the camera’s surroundings. That means, you can likely cover your property with fewer cameras, which reduces the amount of money you have to spend.
The wide FOV is what I like most about the Arlo Ultra. I installed mine in the front of the house, which gives me an overview of the front yard and driveway.
Person and Object Detection
In recent months, Arlo has stepped up its game when it comes to improving its motion detection capabilities. However, that’s mostly due to improvements in their cloud backend and not camera hardware.
To get the most advanced motion detection out of any Arlo security camera, you have to sign up for one of Arlo’s Smart Plans. When you do, your Arlo camera will be capable of using artificial intelligence (AI) to differentiate between persons, vehicles, packages, animals, and generic motion events. As a result, you get more accurate notifications and less false alarms.
While Arlo Smart is a paid service, Arlo includes one year worth of free service with each Arlo Ultra camera. That’s a nice bonus because it reduces the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the camera.
Additionally, Arlo Ultra has learned some new skills that its predecessor, the Arlo Pro 2, did not have: Automatic zoom and object tracking. When Arlo Ultra detects, for example, a person, it will zoom in and follow that person within the boundaries of its field-of-view. That can help you to identify details of the person or object Arlo was tracking.
As mentioned above, “Auto Zoom & Tracking” only works in combination with 1080p video streaming, but not with 4K enabled.
Google’s Nest cam IQ offers facial recognition capabilities. So it can differentiate between you and an intruder. Arlo can’t do that (yet).
Arlo Ultra Battery Life
In the beginning, I thought that you could not permanently plug the Arlo Ultra camera into a power source. However, Amazon* already offers outdoor power cables and solar panels for Arlo’s new flagship model.
As a result, it looks like you might not have to rely on the built-in rechargeable battery fully. Unfortunately, Arlo hasn’t announced any details regarding battery life yet, but I suspect it’s not better than that of the older Arlo models.
Update – 9/23/2019: The battery life of Arlo Ultra is actually fantastic. I charged the camera on April 29th and at the time of this update, it still holds 47% charge. You can see the timeline of the battery drain below:
- 100% on 4/29 at 11:40 am
- 92% on 5/24 at 10:31 am
- 83% on 6/24 at 10:11 am
- 73% on 7/22 at 12:43 am
- 47% on 9/23 at 3:45 pm
What’s new with the Arlo Ultra cam is that you no longer need a micro-USB cable to recharge the camera’s battery. Instead, Arlo now includes a magnetic charging cable and port that’s water-resistant and works similar to how Apple’s MagSafe in older MacBook Pro’s used to work.
Based on my initial tests, I have the feeling that the battery of the Arlo Ultra doesn’t last as long as the one in the Arlo Pro 2. So I’d consider wiring the camera, or getting a solar panel.
Much like the SENS8 security camera I recently reviewed, the Arlo Ultra features a built-in spotlight and siren that you can configure to turn on based on detected motion.
For my use cases, sirens aren’t practical, but I appreciate the spotlight, which dramatically enhances the camera’s night vision capabilities.
Additionally, the Arlo Ultra camera features dual microphones that enhance audio quality when there is background noise, such as heavy rain.
Arlo Ultra Release Date
Arlo had planned the initial release of its 4K camera in January, but due to software problems, the launch was delayed until March. I got my Arlo Ultra from Amazon at the end of March.
Arlo Ultra HomeKit Support
One of the few but significant disadvantages of Arlo cameras has been the lack of support for Apple HomeKit. So you can imagine how excited I was when I heard the announcement at CES earlier this year that both the Arlo Ultra as well as other models would receive software updates to enable HomeKit soon.
That way, my D-Link Omna 180 won’t be the only camera in my house I can control using the Home app!
In addition to Apple’s home automation platform, Arlo Ultra also supports Amazon Alexa*, Google Home but not IFTTT. Apple HomeKit is planned for Q4/2019.
Arlo Ultra Issues
Below is a list of issues other users and I have run into. Arlo has fixed all of them already.
Connectivity problems with livestream White overlay or washed out image during livestream ( Workaround : Disable Auto Zoom & Tracking Short battery life
Arlo Ultra 4K vs. Nest Cam IQ
|Arlo Ultra||Cam IQ Outdoor||Cam IQ Indoor|
|Video resolution||4K with HDR||1920 x 1080 & 4K HDR Sensor||1920 x 1080 & 4K HDR Sensor|
|Field of view||180° with de-warping||130°||130°|
|Integrated spotlight for enhanced night vision||●||✘||✘|
|Advanced motion sensors||With a subscription||●||●|
|Auto-zoom and tracking||●||✘||✘|
|Continuous Recording||✘||With Subscription||With Subscription|
|Weather Resistant||IP65 weatherproof||IP66 weatherproof||✘|
|Power Source||Battery||AC Power Cord||AC Power Cord|
|Two-way communication||With noise-cancellation||High-Definition||High-Definition|
|Video Storage||Cloud, microSD||Cloud||Cloud|
|Home Automation Support||Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant||Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT||Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT|
|Kit Includes||1 Camera and Base Station||1 Camera||1 Camera|
While both flagship products are excellent cameras, featuring advanced technology that you won’t find in most other home security cameras, the Arlo Ultra has a slight edge over the Nest Cam IQ, in my opinion. At least, once Arlo has ironed out all of the initial software issues.
The most striking differences between these two cameras aren’t necessarily the video quality or resolution, but the incredibly wide (180 degrees) viewing angles and the power source.
You have to plug Google’s Nest Cam IQ into a power outlet, which usually requires drilling a hole into an exterior wall, in the case of an outdoor camera. That requires extra work, and it might limit where you can install the camera.
On the other hand, the Arlo Ultra is battery-powered, and you can install it almost anywhere, thanks to its magnetic mount. For those who are comfortable drilling holes, Arlo also offers an outdoor power cable and an optional solar panel.
And thanks to its panoramic view of 180 degrees, you might only need one Arlo to cover the same area as two Nest Cam’s can cover.
The big question is how long Arlo’s battery lasts. If you have to recharge the camera every two weeks, you’ll probably get tired of it quickly. But I’m hoping that the new Arlo Ultra lasts approximately as long as the Arlo Pro 2s I have in my house.
Comparison of Subscription Plans
|Plan||Arlo Smart Basic||Arlo Smart||Arlo Smart Premier||Arlo Smart Elite||Nest||Nest||Nest|
|Cloud Storage||7 days||7 days||30 days||60 days||5-day||10-day||30-day|
|# of cameras||Up to 5||1||Up to 10||Up to 20||1||1||1|
|Rich Notification – with sound and video preview||✘||●||●||●||●||●||●|
|e911 Service – Guide emergency responders to your home||✘||✘||●||●||✘||✘||✘|
|24/7 video recording||✘||✘||✘||✘||●||●||●|
|Zones – Reduce unwanted alerts by setting zones||✘||●||●||●||●||●||●|
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Besides the software issues that still plague the Arlo Ultra, it has the potential to become the king of home security cameras. What took me by surprise is that I don’t care much about the ultra HD resolution. In particular because it only works during local streaming and Arlo doesn’t record 4K clips in the cloud. So unless I’m connected to my home’s Wi-Fi network or I invest in an extra microSD card, I won’t benefit from it.
What impressed me most about the Arlo Ultra is the incredibly wide field of view. Indeed, that feature reduces the numbers of cameras I need to cover the perimeter and outdoor security needs of my house.
Of course, the Arlo Ultra isn’t cheap. At over $400 list price it’s a significant investment and almost twice as expensive as the Arlo Pro 2. I don’t think it’s twice as good, to be honest.
It’s also worth mentioning that together with the Arlo Ultra, the company also announced a slew of additional smart home security products to help to monitor your connected home. I’m hoping that I’ll also get my hands on the Arlo Home Security System when it comes available.
Regarding the comparison of the Arlo Ultra vs. Google’s Nest Cam IQ, I think both are great camera systems. However, I’d argue that Arlo has a slight edge considering my requirements and investment in the Apple ecosystem.
What do you think about the Arlo Ultra? Let me know by leaving a comment below!
I’m a healthy living and technology enthusiast.
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