Arlo Pro 5S 2K review: Excellent video quality, robust automations, but pricey investment

The Arlo Pro 5S 2K is a fantastic home security camera, but upfront and subscription costs are a lot

Arlo Pro 5S 2K security camera attached to home exterior
(Image: © Arlo)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The Arlo Pro 5S 2K's clear and crisp video and deep integration in the Arlo Secure platform make it attractive, but high subscription costs may be enough to convince you to look elsewhere.


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    2K video looks great

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    Arlo Secure automation tools are robust

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    Long battery life


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Arlo Pro 5S 2K: Specs

Camera resolution: 2K (2560x1440) 24 fps day/15 fps night
Field of view: 160°
Size: 3.5 x 2 x 3 in
Spotlight brightness: 1 spotlight total of 100 lumens
Wi-Fi: 802.11 b/g/n wifi connection @2.4GHz/5GHz

The Arlo Pro 5S 2K has a long name, but don’t let that scare you away from this familiar looking home security camera. It packs 2K video recording, color night recording and a wide field of view. And with its tight integration with Arlo Secure and its robust automation features, it's poised to compete with or exceed any smart camera on the market 

I’ve tested the Arlo Pro 5S 2K for a few weeks and there’s a lot to like here, including video quality and versatility, but there’s one big hangup that any potential Arlo customer will have to overcome. What is that? You’ll have to read the rest of my review to find out. 

Arlo Pro 5S 2K review: Price and availability

The Arlo Pro 5S 2K camera costs $250 and is available directly from Arlo as a stand-alone device. Or, you can create your own home security bundle adding everything from accessories such as solar panels to keep you from having to charge the camera’s battery, to  Arlo’s whole-home security system.You can also find the Arlo Pro 5S 2K at retailers such as Amazon or Best Buy for the same $250 price tag. 

Arlo Pro 5S 2K review: Design

With the Pro 5S 2K’s design, Arlo stuck with what already works for the company’s line of security cameras. The camera’s housing measures 3.5 x 2 x 3 inches, and has a distinct look compared to other security cameras — it’s an oblong cylinder that’s rounded in the back and flat on the front. The rear of the camera’s housing has a mounting thread for connecting the included ball joint mount that allows you to mount the to the side of your house or even on a fence, or if you’d prefer, you can mount it from the ceiling or overhang on the side of your house. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The bottom of the housing has a button to release the camera from the housing, which is how you access the internal battery if you want to swap it out for a charged battery. Also on the bottom of the camera’s housing are several metal connections where you can attach Arlo’s magnetic charging cable to charge the battery with the camera in place. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The alternative is to remove the camera and its entire housing from the mount, but that’s not always something that’s easy to do, especially if you’ve mounted the camera high off the ground. So you’re left with the option of installing a solar panel near the camera to keep the battery powered, or buying a second battery and a charging station you can charge in your home to swap out when needed. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

On the front of the camera are the lens, a spotlight, and two IR sensors for night vision. 

Arlo’s cameras have used this same design for several years now, and it’s not a broken design, so there’s no need to fix it, but I do wish there was some sort of change to how the camera's mounted. The current mounting system requires a lot of space for the mount itself, followed by the length of the camera, which leads to a lengthy camera that sticks out from your wall. In comparison, the mounting system of something like the Ring Spotlight Cam is much more compact and easier to mount nearly flush to your wall. You can’t really do that with an Arlo camera. 

Arlo Pro 5S 2K review: Video quality and features

As its name implies, the Arlo Pro 5S 2K records video at up to 2K HDR quality. I clarify that it’s “up to” because you’re able to control at which resolution it records video in the Arlo Secure app. Only, changing the captured resolution in the app isn’t very obvious, as it relates to your preferred power mode. 

For instance, you can set the camera to capture the Best Video (2K) with the biggest impact on battery life, or choose from Optimized, Best Battery Life and Low Power Mode, with each option trading video quality for improved battery life. And in the case of Low Power Mode, the camera won’t record video at all, but instead, it’ll only capture photos when triggered. 

Low Power Mode is very much a last resort type of feature, and in fact, you can tell the camera to switch to it when the battery’s charge reaches between 10 and 30 percent remaining. 

I’ve done all of my testing with the Pro 5S 2K set to Optimized for a healthy mix of video quality and prolonged battery life for 10 days and have seen a 30 percent reduction in battery while the camera still captured 2K video.

When viewing a livestream from the camera, or watching a recorded clip, you're able to zoom in and pan around the video just like you would pinch-to-zoom on a picture you took with your phone. It's a nice feature to have, especially if you're trying to figure out what's going on in a particular section of the video's field of view. You do lose some overall quality as you zoom in, as you do on any photo or video, but it's not enough to make a subject or item unrecognizable. 

The videos I’ve reviewed from the Arlo Pro 5S 2K have looked clear with life-like color reproduction in the middle of the frame. Near the top corners of the video, it starts to get a touch overexposed. 

The video looks clearer and crisper than what I've seen captured on Ring's Floodlight Pro, and on par, if not slightly better than footage from the Wyze Cam Floodlight Pro. The former captures 1080p video, while the latter records at the same 2.5K resolution as the Arlo. There isn't a ton of pixelation around moving objects, especially during the day, thanks in part to its 24 frames per second recording rate. At night, that number drops down to 15fps, and causes more artifacts around moving objects.

The 160-degree field of view is welcome as it allows you to see a wider area from a single vantage point than Ring’s Spotlight Cam, which has a 140 degree field of view. 

At night, the Arlo’s spotlight serves two purposes. One is to make whoever’s nearby aware that there’s a camera there and it’s been triggered, while the secondary function of the spotlight is to enable color recording at night. 

Here’s a pair of screenshots taken on the same night. The top screenshot is in typical night vision black and white, while the bottom screenshot is in full color. The only difference between the two clips is that the bottom one was taken when the spotlight was on. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

With an Arlo subscription, you have the option to turn on several different smart alert types for the Pro 5S 2K. The camera can detect people, vehicles, animals and, of course, motion. You can turn alerts on or off based on what’s detected, and even receive an alert if the camera detects a smoke/carbon monoxide alarm or any other audible noise. If you want to take advantage of Arlo’s package detection, you can only enable it for one compatible camera on your account — so you’ll want to pick a camera that looks over where packages are often left. 

Furthermore, you can customize the camera’s state and the type of alerts and monitoring it does in the Arlo Secure app, treating it more like an extension of a home security system than a standalone camera. For instance, when you set the Arlo Secure app to Armed, you can have the camera monitor for and record all activity and send you alerts. In Home mode, you can have the camera record, but forgo sending you any notifications. In Standby mode, you can set it so the camera doesn’t monitor, record or send any alerts. 

You can automate all of this based on your phone’s location (to determine if you’re home or not), or on a set schedule based on time. 

Arlo Pro 5S 2K review: Video storage

The Arlo Pro 5S 2K can store footage in Arlo’s cloud using one of the company’s subscription plans, or you can add an Arlo Pro Smart Hub which will let you store video locally, but it’ll set you back $100. 

Arlo Secure Subscriptions grant you access to Arlo’s cloud storage, but also enables many of the features you’ll likely want in order to take full advantage of your security camera. The Arlo Secure base plan is $4.99 a month per camera, or $12.99 a month for unlimited cameras. You’ll get video recordings at up to 4K resolution stored in Arlo’s cloud for 30 days, smart interactive notifications, animated previews in alerts, video object detection, audio detection for alarms and smart activity zones. 

Without a plan, you’ll only be able to view live streams from the camera, with basic notifications that lack any sort of object detection - so just motion alerts. 

Arlo’s plans are one of the more expensive security camera storage subscriptions; by comparison, Ring Protect plans start at $3.99 a month for a single camera or $10 per month for unlimited cameras, and 180 days worth of cloud recordings, along with a similar roster of advanced features you’ll pay for like smart notifications. 

Arlo Secure is more expensive and offers shorter cloud storage retention than Ring Protect, which is sure to be a drawback for some. 

Arlo Pro 5S 2K review: Verdict

The Arlo Pro 5S 2K checks a lot of the boxes you’d want to see in one of the best outdoor security cameras. Its video quality is fantastic, and you have complete control over how the camera behaves based on various factors, including whether or not you’re even home. 

However, at $250 per camera and with Arlo Secure starting at $5 per month for a single camera to get access to the features you’ll surely want, it’s not the most affordable option available. If you’re fine with the upfront and long-term cost, the Arlo Pro 5S 2K is a stellar home security camera. Ring’s product portfolio is similar and costs less upfront and over time, though.

Jason Cipriani

Jason Cipriani is a freelance writer based out of Colorado. He writes about all sorts of technology — cameras, wearables, smartphones, smart home and other gadgets — for sites including Tom’s Guide, ZDNet, IGN, CNN Underscored, and The Street.