How does the Essential Indoor Cam hold up after 2 years?
Arlo is known for its high-quality, though sometimes pricey, home security products with over-the-top features that outshine the competition. So when the $99 Essential Indoor Cam came out a couple years ago, our high expectations were deflated a bit by how basic the camera was, even then, despite the above-average pricing.
- Dependable performance
- Security and privacy conscious
- No free cloud storage
- Expensive without any standout feature
That's not to say the Arlo Essential indoor cam isn't a good, or even great, indoor security camera, because it is. The problem is, it lacks anything exciting to differentiate it from the super-affordable alternatives.
If you already own Arlo's excellent video doorbell or outdoor cameras and you're looking for an indoor cam -- Arlo's Essential Indoor Cam will be perfect for you; keeping everything on the same app is probably worth $99. In that case, read on for our full, updated review, originally published Aug. 17, 2021:
Arlo Essential Indoor Cam review
Arlo's biggest strength is its quality control across devices. I haven't tested a bad Arlo product, and the Essential Indoor Cam continues that trend. Setup is painless, and out of the box you get a respectable 130-degree field of view, 12x digital zoom, 1080p HD live stream, two-way talk, night vision, a built-in siren, an automated privacy shield and integration with loads of smart home ecosystems, including Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT and more recently has added Apple HomeKit.
Read more: Best home security cameras for 2021
All this for $99 isn't bad! That price puts it just above the more basic $80 Amazon Blink Indoor cam and right on par with the upcoming $99 Nest Cam (wired) -- but also well above more affordable options like the $36 Wyze Cam v3.
Arlo's most notable feature on this device is the privacy shield -- a small plastic disc that flips into place when scheduled to physically block the lens from capturing footage. It's a nice feature, especially for an indoor cam that will likely be capturing more sensitive footage than your video doorbell, but is that worth the significant price hike compared to Wyze? I'm not so sure.
This is perhaps Arlo's biggest problem: there isn't really a standout feature to recommend the indoor cam over and above the best competitors in the same or lower price ranges.
Nest's indoor camera costs the same and does basically the same things with the added bonus of three hours of free event storage. Wyze has nearly all the same features, save the privacy shield, and it costs less than half as much. Sure, $99 isn't a huge expense for many people, but why spend more for the same features -- especially when Wyze is weatherproof, in case you ever want to use it outdoors?
Testing it out
In my week testing Arlo's indoor camera, I generally enjoyed working with it. The 130-degree field of view isn't quite as expansive as some more expensive security cameras, but it's sufficient to cover a room from the right angles. The feed had about 3 seconds of latency, and two-way talk was a little laggier, but generally performed well. The sound quality wasn't too tinny or flat.
The motion detection worked, and the siren was satisfactory -- not earsplitting, but definitely loud enough to wake someone sleeping in nearby rooms.
The privacy shield, which Arlo's representative described to me as "the hero feature" of the device, fell a little flat for me. You can open or close the privacy shield on the app, or schedule it -- but that's about all. I like being able to tell if the camera is recording or not with a single glance, but frankly, I prefer a privacy shield like those on Amazon Echo Show devices, where you can manually cover the lens and be certain no hacker could (even theoretically) disengage the shield.
But my biggest disappointment using the Arlo was the lack of free storage on the device or in the cloud. This feature remains hit-or-miss among home security cams, with some recent ones offering cloud storage only with their monthly subscriptions. Arlo goes this route, offering smarter notifications and unlimited cloud storage for 30 days for $3 per month.
Wyze, by contrast, offers 14 days of free cloud storage. Google's newest devices offer three hours of free event footage storage.
Should you buy it?
The Arlo Essential Indoor Cam is a solid camera -- especially if you already use other Arlo devices on the same app. It does everything you'd expect it to do, and two or three years ago, that would've easily been worth $99. Now, that value proposition isn't quite so clear. More affordable alternatives -- especially with free cloud storage -- make this indoor cam look slightly less enticing than it could be with better out-of-the-box features.
That said, if the value is less important to you than the performance, you won't be disappointed by Arlo. As usual, their device is well-designed, dependable and easy to use... even if it is a little vanilla.