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Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell review

The Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell has some great features, but only if you get a subscription

Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell on door frame
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell has a number of great features such as package detection, but are only available via subscription.

Pros

  • +

    Easy to install

  • +

    Person, package, animal, and vehicle detection

  • +

    Battery/wired installation

  • +

    Good field of view

  • +

    Removable battery

Cons

  • -

    Many features require subscription

  • -

    Video not as sharp as competition

Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell: Specs

Size: 1.85 x 5.63 x 1.45in
Video resolution: 1536x1536
Aspect ratio: 1:1
Field of view: 180 degrees diagonal
Wireless: 802.11 (2.4GHz)

The Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell should be on your short list if you’re looking for one of the best video doorbells. It’s one of the few video doorbells that can alert you when a package has been dropped off, and one of the few that can be hardwired or run off battery power alone. And, its 1:1 field of view means you’re more likely to see that package, too.

But, in order to get all this video doorbell’s features, you’ll need to subscribe to Arlo’s subscription plan. Read the rest of our Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell review to see if the investment is worth it for you.

Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell review: Price and release date

The Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell had a release date of October 1, 2021 and it costs $199. It’s widely available at online retailers. If you don’t need a wireless model, the Arlo Essential Wired Doorbell is $50 less. 

Because the Wired model doesn’t have a battery, the unit as a whole is slightly smaller and thinner. The wired model also has a greater motion-detection range of 5 meters vs. 3 for the wireless model.

In addition, the wired model can use Arlo’s Foresight feature. Similar to Ring’s Pre-roll, the camera continuously records a 4-second loop, and when motion is detected, it attaches that clip to the front of what it captures. It helps make sure that you get a good, clear look at whoever's coming to your door.

If you’re going the wireless route, you can purchase the Arlo Chime 2 for $49. Extra batteries for the video doorbell cost $49 each.

Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell review: Design

Clean and inoffensive, the Arlo Essential looks like most video doorbells: it’s rectangular, with a rounded-off top and bottom. A lens sits at the top, and a circular button is at the bottom. The faceplace is black, while the sides are white. 

Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell on door frame

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Like the Ring Video Doorbell 4, the Arlo’s battery is removable, so you don’t have to take your entire video doorbell off the wall in order to recharge the battery. By comparison, the Nest Doorbell (Battery) and the Ring Video Doorbell (2nd gen) have built-in batteries, so you have to take the entire unit off the wall to recharge it. I prefer Arlo’s method; you can buy a spare battery, so there’s no downtime. 

However, with the Ring Video Doorbell 4, you only need to remove a little cover, whereas with the Arlo, you essentially need to remove the entire doorbell to get to the battery. 

As a result of the Arlo’s battery being removable, it is a bit chunkier than other video doorbells, protruding a little over an inch and a half; the Nest Doorbell, by comparison, is less than an inch thick, though it is wider and taller.

Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell on door frame

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I like that even though the Arlo can run off battery power alone, you also have the option to hardwire it to an existing doorbell, though if you’re planning to do that, you may as well get the wired model for $50 less. 

Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell review: Video and audio quality

The Arlo’s camera captures video at a 1:1 aspect ratio, which the company says gives you a 180-degree field of view; however, this is from corner to corner, so I found that it still cut off the first foot or so from the foot of my door. 

Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell sample image

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I was able to see about the same amount of my front stoop as the Nest Doorbell (Battery) and the Arlo Video Doorbell Pro 2, both of which have 4:3 aspect ratios. You can adjust the resolution of the Arlo from its max of 1536 x 1536 down to 1080 x 1080 or 720 x 720, though there’s no reason not to keep it at its max.

Image quality from the Arlo was good, but on the whole a bit darker and muddier than both the the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 and the Nest Doorbell (battery). 

Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell sample image

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

With the latter two, details in the trees in front of my door were sharp; with the Arlo, the branches had a mottled look, and colors were a lot more drab. The Arlo’s night vision was pretty good, but again it was less detailed than the competition.

Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell review: Subscription features and costs

In order to use all of the Arlo Essential’s features, you need to sign up for an Arlo Secure plan, which starts at $2.99/month for a single camera or $9.99/month for unlimited cameras at a single location. 

Your video doorbell won’t save any recordings unless you sign up for Arlo Secure; this is similar to both Ring and Nest, though the Nest Doorbell (Battery) does give you three hours of saved video for free. 

Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell library

(Image credit: Arlo)

Other features that come with an Arlo Secure subscription include:

Activity Zones: you can create custom activity zones so that the doorbell will only alert you when motion passes in those areas; you can make multiple zones, but all must be either square or rectangular; most other video doorbells let you make irregular shaped activity zones, which feels much more natural at this point.

Package detection: You will be alerted if the camera detects a package. This is truly useful, and something I recommend everyone look for when buying a video doorbell. As of this writing, only the Nest Doorbell (Battery), the Ring Video Doorbell (2nd gen) and the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 have this feature. 

Smart notifications: You will be notified when the camera detects people, vehicles, and animals. You can choose to turn these on or off. 

Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell notifications

(Image credit: Arlo)

Messages: If you don’t answer your video doorbell within 20 seconds, you can have it ask your visitors to leave you a message. 

In all, these are great features; I just wish more of them didn’t require a subscription. I’m also not a fan of how Arlo divides things up in its app. For example, if you want to adjust the doorbell’s activity zones, you have to go into the specific camera settings. However, to configure package detection and smart notifications, you have to go to the more general Settings menu in the app. 

If you want to see how Arlo stacks up against the competition, be sure to check out our article security camera video storage plans compared.

Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell review: Verdict

Considering Arlo makes some of the best home security cameras, it’s no surprise that the Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell is one of the best video doorbells around. It has excellent video quality, a great field of view and a host of excellent features, such as person and package detection. 

However, if you want to use a lot of those features, you need to subscribe to Arlo Secure; while I don’t like the fact that the Nest Doorbell (Battery) doesn’t have a removable battery, you do get three hours of free video storage, as well as people, animal, vehicle, and package detection and custom activity zones, for free. 

If you already have, or are considering buying one of Arlo’s other cameras, getting its wireless video doorbell makes a lot of sense. But when it comes to the best video doorbells, there are better options.

Mike Prospero
U.S. Editor-in-Chief, Tom's Guide

Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.