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Netgear's new 720p security cameras can handle the elements

Netgear's indoor-outdoor Arlo Smart Home Security Kit challenges the perceived limitations of battery-powered Wi-Fi security cameras.

Dong Ngo SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews
CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.
3 min read

The Arlo Home Security Camera is a palm-size battery-operated wireless camera. Dong Ngo

Netgear has just announced an addition to the home security space -- the $350 Arlo Smart Home Security Camera Kit, available January 2015 on Arlo.com and later in Q1 2015 in the UK and Australia. (No international pricing information is available yet, but the US price converts to £220 or AU$410; final prices are likely to vary quite a bit.)

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Although pricey -- you have to buy the entire kit before adding any stand-alone Arlo hardware, similar to Philips' Hue and Hue Lux starter packs -- the Arlo kit does include two cameras and a hub. And its unique features promise to bring something new to DIY home security.

Netgear Arlo Smart Home Security Camera Kit (pictures)

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720p video quality but no local storage

Unlike other DIY home security cameras we've covered, the Arlo cameras are battery-powered, claim to deliver 720p image quality (although you'll be able to adjust the resolution down, as needed), are rated for both indoor and outdoor use and offer 24/7 live streaming. That makes these little cameras, which are "smaller than a bar of soap," according to Netgear, pretty darn intriguing.

You get 200MB of Netgear-provided cloud storage free with each Arlo kit. To make that possible and to preserve battery life, Arlo uses very high video compression and transmits data to the hub at the speed of 1.5Mbps, the upload speed of most home residential Internet connections. During a Netgear demo event for Arlo, the video quality looked quite good.

The hub itself connects to an existing home network via an Ethernet connection. It also comes with two USB ports but currently there's no option to store recorded video locally. Each hub supports up to 15 Arlo cameras and uses a customized low-power version of the 802.11n Wi-Fi standard with a top speed of just 6Mbps. The Wi-Fi range, however, remains the same, at up to 150 feet.

The Arlo Home Security Camera Kit includes two cameras and one hub. Dong Ngo

Up to 6 month of battery life

The indoor-only Homeboy camera I recently reviewed has a rechargeable battery that's supposed to last for three months on a single charge. To achieve this long-battery-life feat, the team employed its own low-power Wi-Fi tech, a meager 640x480-pixel resolution and did away with live-steaming capabilities altogether.

Given that, it's pretty surprising that Netgear claims its Arlo cameras can last for up to 6 months. The camera does host up to 4 CR123 batteries (regular and rechargeable ) though it only needs two to operate. Netgear bases its battery life claims around the idea that you will only view the camera for about 4 minutes a day. Obviously the battery life will go down with longer usage.

Night vision, mobile platform supported

In addition to these features, Netgear's new security kit comes with a Web app, a free mobile app for Android, iOS and Kindle users and 200MB of free cloud video storage. This gives you the opportunity to view live streaming and recorded video clips, receive alerts and change your settings. You can enable email and app alerts, arm and disarm each camera's motion sensors and view up to four cameras at a time -- additional cameras are available for $170 (£110, AU$200) a pop.

Each Arlo camera includes two magnetized base allowing users to easy to move and mount it around the house. Dong Ngo

As long as the night-vision-equipped cameras are within 150 feet (45 meters) of the hub, whether setup in your yard somewhere or installed right next to the hub, you should have a fully functioning camera. The hub is also designed to work with other smart home products and Netgear says that it should be able to accommodate protocols like ZigBee and Z-Wave "in the future."

Netgear hasn't shared many details regarding third-party integrations and doesn't currently work with SmartThings, Wink or any other inclusive, multi-protocol hubs, but it has secured a partnership with Lifx. This should allow you to access your Lifx bulbs from the Arlo app, including using the cameras as triggers for the replacement LEDs.

This kit definitely presents an interesting alternative to what's currently available in DIY home security. Expect to hear more details on Netgear's $350 Arlo Smart Home Security Kit in early 2015, as we near the actual product launch.