/> ED I T O R S C H O I C E IN N O V A T IO N A W A R D
X

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Arlo Ultra review: Security camera streams in 4K, has 180-degree field of view

meganwollertonportraits0719-23a

The Ultra is Arlo's most advanced security camera to date, closely rivaling the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor.

arlo-ultra-2
7.3

Arlo Ultra

The Good

The Ultra improves on Arlo's last-gen indoor/outdoor security cameras with 4K streaming, auto-zooming and -tracking and a larger 180-degree field of view. It works with Alexa and Google Assistant -- and has person, package, vehicle and animal detection. Arlo gives Ultra customers a free one-year subscription to the Arlo Smart service.

The Bad

It costs $600 for a two-camera pack. Its 4K resolution takes up a lot of bandwidth and may not mesh well with your current Wi-Fi setup if your connection is spotty. The seven-day free cloud storage Arlo offers on its other cameras is not available with the Ultra.

The Bottom Line

Arlo's Ultra camera impresses with advanced features and solid performance, but the high price won't work for everyone's budget.

Assuming your home's Wi-Fi meets Arlo's minimum requirements for streaming 4K cameras, the Ultra is an awesome camera with video streaming crisp enough to make out even the finest details. 

It packs in other advanced capabilities, too, like customizable motion zones, person detection and auto-zooming and tracking, all of which worked well during my testing. The main downside is the price -- $600 for two cameras and, after one free year of the Arlo Smart subscription service, you'll have to start paying a monthly fee to keep Arlo Smart and continue to access the Ultra's most appealing features.

Arlo also got rid of the seven-day free cloud storage service it offers on its other cameras, like the Arlo Pro 2. That means you'll either have to pay for Arlo Smart when that year of free service is up, or opt for Arlo's local storage option (we'll get into that more later). 

Overall, the Ultra is a good camera with a wide field of view and prompt custom alerts, but ditching that seven-day free cloud storage will put off a lot of potential buyers. Still, Arlo's 4K camera is worth considering if you don't mind grabbing your footage off of a microSD card -- or paying for Arlo Smart.

Arlo Ultra security camera streams video in 4K

See all photos

Arlo's 4K camera

I specifically tested the $600 Ultra kit, complete with two 4K cameras, two rechargeable batteries and adapters, a base station, two stands and corresponding installation hardware. There's also a $400 one-camera kit. Learn more about your options.  

Note: Previous-gen Arlo base stations won't work with the Ultra -- you'll have to buy the new base station that comes with the kit. Older Arlo cameras will work with the Ultra base station, though. 

Arlo says its Ultra base station "enables 4K video, Auto Track and Zoom, local live streaming, and a simplified onboarding for Arlo Ultra," according to this support page. It's also supposed to help conserve camera battery life.

The cameras themselves are easy to set up: Simply download the Arlo app, create an account (if you don't already have one) and follow the prompts to configure the base station and the Ultra camera(s). I particularly like the design of this Arlo unit -- press a button on the bottom of the camera to separate the front of the camera from the back to either remove or replace the rechargeable battery.

I haven't finished my long-term battery test yet (stay tuned for updates on that), but Arlo says its Ultra cameras should last from three to six months on one charge and will take between three to four hours to fully charge. I've had mine online for six days so far and both cameras show a 98% charge.

Because the Ultra is such a flexible camera that can go inside or outside -- and doesn't require a power adapter -- its installation will vary for each customer. Fortunately, Arlo makes it easy with one magnetic mount and one more traditional swivel stand and hardware for attaching them to walls, fences, trees -- wherever you want. Just make sure you test the quality of your Wi-Fi connection before you install your camera -- two Ultra cameras need a minimum upload speed between 2 to 4 Mbps per second.

I tested the Wi-Fi speed at the CNET Smart Home four times and got an average upload speed of about 27 Mbps, so livestreaming two cameras at the same time wasn't an issue. Neither was lag time. I got quick alerts that quickly appeared as saved clips in the app's library for later review.

arloultra1

It's easy to view live video feeds and create motion zones in the Arlo app.

Screenshots by CNET

I did have some issues with the camera's custom alerts, though. Person detection worked extremely well, but vehicle and package detection were problematic. I drove my car up and down the driveway within the camera's field of view and it regularly returned the generic "motion" alert. The package detection never worked correctly, but the app says it's in beta mode, so we'll forgive it for now.

The Arlo Ultra is also supposed to send a custom alert when it sees an animal, but I didn't have a pet on hand to test this out. 

And, to enable the Ultra's auto-zooming and -tracking capabilities, you'll need to select Settings and then My Devices. From there, click on a camera and select Video Settings. That's where you can toggle the Auto Zoom & Tracking feature, which zooms in on specific activity it detects and follows it around within the camera's field of view. 

It's also worth noting that the Ultra, like other Arlo cams, is very much a home security camera. You have to arm the system via the app for it to send you alerts -- or create a custom mode on your own. After that, you can set the camera's built-in siren to sound if activity is detected. And the camera's built-in spotlight will shine when it detects motion. 

I also tested out the Ultra's Alexa and Google Assistant commands. I specifically tried it with a second-gen Amazon Echo Show and a Lenovo Smart Display. After adding the Arlo action to Google Assistant I was able to say, "Hey/OK, Google, show me the Front Yard/Deck camera." 

The competition

Let's take a look at the Arlo Ultra's main competition, the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor.

Comparing security cameras


Arlo UltraNest Cam IQ Outdoor
Price $400 (one-camera kit); $600 (two-camera kit)$349
Color finish WhiteWhite
Weatherproof Indoor/outdoorOutdoor
Connection type Wi-FiWi-Fi
Power source Rechargeable batteryPlug-in adapter
Resolution 4K1080p
Image sensor 8-megapixel8-megapixel
Digital zoom 12x12x
Live streaming YesYes
Continuous recording Yes, with Arlo SmartYes, with Nest Aware
Cloud storage No free cloud recording; optional Arlo Smart subscription service starting at $3 per monthYes, free three-hour image history; optional Nest Aware subscription service starting at $5 per month
Local storage Yes, via the included base station (microSD card not included)No
Mobile app YesYes
Web app YesYes
Night vision YesYes
Alerts Motion and sound; person, package, vehicle and animal with Arlo SmartMotion, sound, person; facial recognition with Nest Aware
Activity zones Yes, with Arlo SmartYes, with Nest Aware
Third-party integrations Amazon Alexa; Google AssistantAmazon Alexa; Google Assistant

As you can see, there's a lot of overlap between these two products, but some key differentiators:

  • The Ultra has 4K resolution and the IQ Outdoor has 1080p resolution
  • The Ultra has a battery-powered design and the IQ Outdoor requires a power adapter to operate
  • The Ultra doesn't have free cloud storage and the IQ Outdoor has free three-hour image history (that isn't much, but it's better than what Arlo is offering here)
  • The Ultra has local storage via the microSD card slot in the base station and the IQ Outdoor is cloud-storage-dependent
  • The Ultra has free motion and sound alerts and the IQ Outdoor has free motion, sound and person alerts
  • The Ultra has a built-in siren and the IQ Outdoor doesn't

Both the Ultra and the IQ Outdoor have features that set them apart from one another, but both are good cameras, which makes it difficult to fully recommend one over the other.

Here's the gist. The Nest model is better if you only want one camera, if you're sold on cloud storage and you don't mind powering your camera with an adapter. The Arlo Ultra is a better value if you want two cameras and you're interested in the flexibility of its battery-powered design -- and having a siren integrated into the camera. 

A note on privacy

Arlo separated from its parent company, Netgear, back in August 2018. Read Arlo's privacy policy, which in part states:

For our Arlo and VueZone products, we collect, process, and store the videos that you take with your systems for various time periods depending on your subscription plans, configurations, and settings. This may include capturing and emailing to you portions of the videos as part of a notification or analyzing the data to identify motion or other events. We may process Personal Information from your Arlo and VueZone cameras so that we can send you alerts when something happens.

The Arlo app doesn't support two-factor authentication. This Arlo support forum suggests Arlo customers have been asking for this feature for a long time. 

Nest and Google recently merged into a single brand and introduced the Nest Hub Max, a smart display with a built-in camera. Google's original smart display, now called the Nest Hub, didn't have a camera. Lately, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has been vocal about Google's focus on privacy. 

According to Nest's privacy statement, the company will keep recorded video and audio for the length of your Nest Aware subscription. You can set up two-factor authentication as well by following the instructions on this Nest support page.

32 outdoor security cameras that take home security seriously

See all photos

Good enough for the price?

Well, that depends on what you're looking for. If you want a flexible, easy-to-install-and-use indoor/outdoor camera that delivers 4K streaming and a high quality image sensor, the Arlo Ultra is a solid bet. Its $600 price and disappointing lack of free cloud storage will hold a lot of people back, though.

Think about what makes the most sense for you and go from there. Arlo also says it's moving the clips on your microSD card to the Arlo app later in 2019 (so you don't have to remove the card and use a card reader to see your saved video). That would make the local storage route even more appealing as an alternative to paying for Arlo Smart.

arlo-ultra-2
7.3

Arlo Ultra

Score Breakdown

Features 7Usability 7Design 8Performance 7