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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||(4.3/5)|
The new Arlo Ultra 4K is arguably one of the most advanced home security cameras available for consumers today. Just based on its specifications, it easily surpasses the already impressive Nest Cam IQ in most 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.
Additionally, Arlo does not support storing 4K clips 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 app that also supports previous camera models.
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.
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.
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 that 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.
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.
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 two noise-canceling microphones that enhance audio quality when there is background noise, such as heavy rain.
Arlo had planned the initial release of its 4K camera in January, but due to software problems, the launch has now been delayed until March.
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 as well as IFTTT.
|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 detection||With a subscription||●||●|
|Auto-zoom and tracking||●||✘||✘|
|Continuous Recording||✘||With Subscription||With Subscription|
|Power Source||Battery||AC Power||AC Power|
|Two-way audio||With noise-cancellation||High-Definition||High-Definition|
|Video Storage||Cloud, microSD||Cloud||Cloud|
|Home Automation Support||Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT||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.
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.
|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||✘||●||●||●||●||●||●|
|Arlo Ultra 4K Kit|
|Nest Cam IQ Outdoor|
Considering that I don’t have any hands-on experience with the Arlo Ultra yet, it’s too early to make a final recommendation. But based on the specifications, Arlo’s new flagship product looks like a fantastic piece of technology that has the potential to become the king of home security cameras. I can’t wait to get my hands on those new cameras and share more details about the setup process. So make sure you check back for updates as we get closer to the release date. It’s also worth mentioning that together with the Arlo Ultra, the company also announced a slew of additional smart home products to help to monitor your connected home. I’m hoping that I’ll also get my hands on the Arlo Security System when it comes available.
What do you think about the Arlo Ultra? Let me know by leaving a comment below!
I was born and raised in Austria. I speak German, English, and Spanish. Since moving to the U.S., I have lived and worked in Alpharetta, GA. In my twenties, I was a professional 100m sprinter. These days I do mostly CrossFit. I'm a technologist and Apple fan. I love science and don't believe anything unless there is proof. I follow the Paleo diet and intermittently fast every day. I'm married and have two trilingual kids. My goal with this blog is to share what I learn so that you can spend time on something else.