Last year, we reviewed Arlo's excellent Essential Video Doorbell -- a wired smart doorbell with an impressive list of features and consistent, high-quality performance. The $150 device still tops our list of favorite doorbell cams, even against excellent options from competitors such as Nest and Ring.
The new Wire-Free Video Doorbell from Arlo is almost identical to last year's device, aside from the built-in battery and a $50 price bump. That means apartment dwellers or people who live in homes without doorbell wiring can still get all the smarts of an Arlo Video Doorbell for $200. While that price tag isn't quite as enticing as the $150 one for its wired version -- especially as competitors like Ring are aggressively pushing down the price for excellent wired and wireless doorbell cams -- it's still a great gadget and one I can heartily recommend.
Covering the basics
Arlo's new video doorbell doesn't change up the recipe from last year's model: It still has a super-wide 180-degree viewing angle and 1:1 aspect ratio, meaning you can see packages left beside your door; it still pairs well with the $3-a-month Arlo Smart subscription service, which offers smart alerts, cloud storage and a handful of other great features; and it still performs well, sending alerts promptly and pulling up the live feed with little latency.
While most people will prefer a smaller design, I generally don't mind the chunkier build of the Arlo Video Doorbell. The buzzer is the same as ever, and while it is larger than traditional doorbells (it's over 5 inches tall, and over an inch thick), it also sports a simple and fairly minimalistic design. Doorbells aren't meant to stand out on your front stoop, but it's crucial for them to be clearly visible and easy to operate -- and Arlo's buzzer ticks both of those boxes.
Installing the Arlo is simple enough, thanks to guidance from the handy app, and this doorbell has the benefit of offering both wire-free and wired installation. I'm not sure why anyone with doorbell wiring would buy this $200 device over the dedicated wired alternative, but having both options will be nice for customers who end up moving to a new home with a different doorbell apparatus.
Finally, Arlo's Wire-Free Doorbell brings together all of the expected features in a nice package (assuming you subscribe to Arlo Smart): you'll get two-way audio, 30 days of cloud storage, motion alerts and the like. The buzzer even has a built-in alarm, which you can use in a pinch to deter would-be porch pirates. Arlo also offers two-factor authentication for its app, but it doesn't require you to use it -- which I'd love to see change in the near future.
Meeting the competition at the door
The biggest change since Arlo released its wired Essential Video Doorbell last year isn't with Arlo's hardware or subscription service. It's with the competitive field.
Wyze disrupted the home security camera market in 2017 with its $20 Wyze Cam -- forcing high-end devices from major developers to either chase the ridiculously low price tag or justify their own higher prices to bargain-conscious customers. That disruption has been slower coming for video doorbells. Wyze recently released a $30 video doorbell, but its performance was spotty. Just a few weeks ago, Ring released a solid $60 video doorbell, but it's wired-only.
A close, but more affordable, competitor to the Arlo Wire-Free Video Doorbell is Ring's $100 wireless video doorbell -- which isn't perfect, but performs well for the most part. The question you need to ask yourself is: Should I still spend $200 on a video doorbell in 2021?
For the time being, the answer may still be yes. Google's feature-rich Nest Hello video doorbell, which boasts some creative Google Assistant integrations, still sells for $230. Ring's soon-to-release Video Doorbell Pro 2 will cost $250, but will also include a built-in radar and ever-improving Alexa integrations. And more to the point, this Arlo Video Doorbell still has a great field of view, personalized alerts and low latency that cheaper devices just haven't matched.
But give it another year, and we may marvel at the fact that we spent $200 or more on video doorbells with this feature set.
Arlo's Essential Wire-Free Video Doorbell is a great product for a decent price. $200 for a video doorbell shouldn't knock your socks off, but if you're not limiting your search to bargain-barrel options, Arlo's device offers solid value for its higher price tags.
What's more, Arlo doesn't come with the privacy and civil liberties concerns that accompany devices from some competitors. Arlo doesn't, for instance, provide a system for police to contact users and request footage, as does Ring.
Between its impressive design and top-of-the-field performance, this video doorbell will be a great fit for most people in the market for a wireless video doorbell.