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For a budget security camera, the $129.99 Reolink Argus 2 delivers generally good-quality video, including some impressive color night vision. But the Argus 2 is not without its issues: It has minimal software options, poor two-way audio and no cloud storage. The camera's companion app also tends to temporarily close out key interactive functions when you get an alert. However, the Argus 2 still performs well for a camera at this price.
The wireless Reolink Argus 2 is a smooth, compact white ovoid (7.8 x 2.6 x 2.3 inches) that weighs about 3.34 ounces. The large black front (about 2 x 2.5 inches) looks like the elongated faceplate of a space helmet.
The camera comes with two bases. The freestanding base is a 3.5-inch-tall stem on a 2.5-inch, round base. Its screw-set ball joint allows the camera to be rotated and tilted in all directions. A low-profile mounting base (with two screw holes – screws not included) is a half-inch magnetic half ball on a 2 x 2.5-inch, rounded white rectangle, which also gives the camera free motion.
Like other wireless security cameras, the Argus 2 is designed to record security events rather than capture 24/7 live video. The rechargeable battery takes up about half the unit, snapping into the back of the camera. Reolink claims that the battery will last 180 days on standby, but if it runs at "full capacity," it will last for about 16 hours when you're recording or viewing videos.
The battery may be recharged while it's attached to the camera or separate from it, via a 40-inch USB cord, which plugs into the back. (A power block for connecting the cord to an electrical outlet isn't included). Reolink offers an optional $29.99 Solar Panel recharger, which is necessary for outdoor use — unless you want to pull out your ladder to change the camera's batteries periodically.
The microSD card slot is on the side of the camera; no memory card is included. The speaker is on the front below the black lens plate, while the microphone is in the middle of the plate, under the lens. All open ports and slots have rubberized covers for IP65 weatherproofing, which lets you use it outside. In addition, the camera comes in a rubberized white skin that covers all openings.
Video and Audio Quality
The Argus 2's 1/ 2.8-inch, CMOS 2-megapixel sensor captures good video quality over a 130-degree field of view. Colors in both our indoor and outdoor daylight videos were bright and accurate, but our indoor clips were sharper. The outdoor videos exhibited some pixelation and often started with bright flashes of overexposure, as though the awakening camera needed some time to adjust to the lighting conditions.
The Argus 2 has two night-vision modes, which the user chooses in settings. The traditional infrared night vision, which uses six IR LEDs, captured soft black-and-white video that tended to be pixelated, especially in our outdoor tests. In our indoor IR videos, the person's face was discernible, even in a nearly pitch-black room. In our outdoor IR videos, the exposure was uneven. When she was walking toward our camera from about 20 feet away, her face was clearly discernible, but it became overexposed when she came close to the camera.
Colors in both indoor and outdoor daylight videos shot by the Reolink Argus 2 were bright and accurate, but our indoor clips were sharper.
The second "Skylight" night-vision mode captures remarkably vivid color video and better exposure than the IR night vision, provided there is some ambient light — such as that from a full moon or from streetlights. As with our daytime videos, our outdoor night videos in both modes were more pixelated than our indoor night videos.
Recorded audio was clear and distinct, even when the person in my viewfinder was standing more than 20 feet away from the camera. But when I used the full-duplex, two-way audio, voices were difficult to hear; I had to hold my phone close to my ear to hear audio from the camera. When I spoke through my phone to the camera, the subject could only hear me when the individual was within about 3 feet of the camera.
What's more, when the camera's app notified me that it had detected a person, the alert turned off the audio on the mobile app, forcing me to keep reinitializing the chat when I was talking with a person who was visible to the camera.
The Argus 2 uses a PIR (passive infrared) sensor, which detects motion by measuring changes in infrared radiation rather than in pixels. In our tests, we received almost no false alerts from the Argus 2, with the sensitivity set to medium.
When the camera detects motion, you can set it to sound an alarm, send an email and/or record video. The alarm, which is part of the camera's hardware, isn't very loud, though, and can't be heard beyond the room in which the camera is located.
We received almost no false alerts from the Argus 2 with sensitivity set to medium.
Setting up email notifications is more complex than simply checking the option to receive emails and providing your email address. Reolink requires that you provide the sender email address (yours) as well as up to three recipient email addresses (which have to include your own, if you wish to receive notifications). You can choose to have a screen capture included in email alerts. The setting for receiving text notifications is inconveniently located on a separate screen in the app.
Scheduling the camera to turn on and off is very flexible and logical, with a nice interactive interface that requires a minimum number of click/taps. The alarm can be set to on or off for several different segments of time for each day.
On the mobile app, you define each day by tapping on specific, hour-long blocks. Then, you can copy that schedule to any other day or days, or define each day independently.
On the desktop software, scheduling is even simpler. A single window displays the entire week's schedule in a grid of hour blocks; click and drag on any of the block areas to turn the alarm on or off for that time.
Video Storage & Playback
Reolink doesn't offer cloud storage, though it says it's planning on adding the feature at some unspecified time in the near future. All video recordings are saved on a microSD card, which you'll have to supply on your own.
Video playback has two views: a timeline and a grid of boxes. Neither view provides thumbnails, and the timeline is difficult to navigate. On the other hand, the grid of boxes, which provides the time and duration of the video capture, is intuitive. Just click on a box to view the playback in the window above the grid.
Mobile App & Desktop Client
The Reolink mobile app (iOS and Android) is simple and easy to use, because it has very few options. The most frustrating aspect of the mobile app is that warning alarms about a person entering a room can interrupt and turn off the live view, two-way audio, playback and download features on the mobile app, forcing you to restart whatever you are trying to do. The company said that this is normal behavior for the app.
While Reolink doesn't have a web portal, you can download the Reolink client software for Windows and Mac computers, which can monitor and manage up to eight cameras. Unlike the intuitive modern interfaces of Reolink's mobile app and other cameras' web portals, however, the client software isn't designed for typical users, and requires a bit of technical sophistication to set up. On the other hand, its schedule interface is the easiest one for security cameras that we've encountered.
While it's not a top-performing security camera, the $129 Reolink Argus 2 represents a good value. Despite the pixelization, its video capture is generally clear enough so that we could discern faces. We were particularly impressed by the color night-vision capture. While we were irritated by some of the mobile app's quirks, we found the simplified interface provided all the essentials, including reliable monitoring and few false alerts. If you're looking for cloud storage, the similarly priced Blink XT offers it for free, but lacks two-way audio. But, if local video storage is all you need, the Argus 2 is a budget security camera worth considering.
Video Resolution: 1080p
Field of View: 130 degrees
Night Vision: 6 IR LEDs, also "Starlight" color night vision
Network Connectivity: 802.11b/g/n, 2.4 GHz
Smart Home Connectivity: None
Audio: Full-duplex two way audio
Mobile Devices Supported: iOS 8 or higher and Android 4.0 or higher
Web Browsers Supported: No web portal
Cloud Storage & Monitoring: none
Local Storage: microSD up to 64GB
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Sally Wiener Grotta is the president and lead analyst of DigitalBenchmarks test lab (www.DigitalBenchmarks.com). The scripts she created for various tech publications for testing and evaluating digital cameras, image quality, software and related technologies have become industry standards. Among her numerous books is the first major volume on image processing “Digital Imaging for Visual Artists” (McGraw-Hill), co-authored with Daniel Grotta. Her hundreds of reviews, stories and columns have appeared in scores of magazines, journals and online publications.