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Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free review

No more cables needed

Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free
(Image: © Arlo)

Our Verdict

The Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free is identical to the Arlo Video Doorbell in every way, except it's powered by a rechargeable battery, making it ideal for homes that don’t have an existing wired doorbell. It captures detailed footage, and benefits from the same AI features that can quickly indicate the source of any motion alerts.

For

  • Good video quality
  • See the full length of anyone at your door
  • Classy design

Against

  • Limited features without subscription
  • Doorbell is out of use when being recharged
  • Strong Wi-Fi a must

Two-minute review

Arlo unveiled its latest video doorbell, the Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free, at the start of 2021, and as the name suggests it’s completely wireless thanks to the built-in battery, and doesn’t need to be attached to the wiring of your existing doorbell, making it easier to install. That key feature aside, it's almost identical to its wired counterpart, the Arlo Video Doorbell, which is one of the best video doorbells on the market

It's got the same slim and stylish design as the Arlo Video Doorbell, and as well as calling your smartphone when someone presses the doorbell, so you can converse directly with them through your handset, it will also notify you of any motion detected. Thanks to a 180-degree field of view and 1:1 aspect ratio, the doorbell lets you see the full length of the person at your door, including any packages on the ground by their feet. 

When someone presses the doorbell, or if it detects motion, it will record detailed 1536p color video both during the day and at night. At night, the video is clear and easy to see thanks to night vision, but it’s in black and white rather than color. 

If the doorbell is used on battery power, you’ll need to purchase an Arlo Chime ($29.99 / £49.99 / AU$59.99) if you want to hear an audible alert in your home. However, if you have an existing chime in your home the doorbell can be wired and will trigger the chime when it's pressed.  

Arlo says the battery will last up to six months between charges when used on battery power. You’ll need to remove the whole doorbell from the wall to charge it, which does mean the doorbell will be out of action while it’s charging.  

The Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free comes with a three-month free trial of Arlo Smart. If you have an Arlo Smart subscription, video recorded by the doorbell will be saved securely online for up to 30 days, so you can go back and view it at a later date on your smartphone or tablet.

The Arlo Smart services can also identify whether a person, vehicle, or animal has caused a motion alert, and lets you set ‘activity zones’ so that you’re only alerted when motion is detected in those areas, reducing the number of unwanted alerts you get from the doorbell. Once the free trial expires, in our view it’s worth continuing paying for the Arlo Smart subscription so that you get the most out of the doorbell. 

The Arlo Essential is an easy choice if you already have other Arlo devices in your home, and is worth considering even if you don’t. It may be more expensive than Ring’s rival battery-powered doorbells, but its higher-resolution camera and smart features mean it's actually more comparable with the Ring Video Doorbell Pro and recently-announced Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2, which cost more than the Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free.

Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free price and availability

  • List price: 199.99 / £179.99 / AU$329

The Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free is available now, with a list price of $199.99 / £179.99 / AU$329. In the US and Australia, the Arlo Essential is $50 / AU$40 more expensive than the wired doorbell, while in the UK the two versions of the doorbell cost the same. 

If you use the doorbell on battery power, you’ll need to invest in an Arlo Chime to hear an audible alert in your home when the doorbell is pressed. This is priced at $29.99 / £49.99 / AU$59.99. 

Finally, to get the most out of the video doorbell you’ll need to subscribe to the Arlo Smart service, which stores footage recorded by the doorbell online, and identifies whether motion is caused by a person, vehicle or animal. Arlo Smart is priced from $2.99 / £2.49 / AU$4.49 per month. 

Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free

(Image credit: Arlo)

Design

  • Can be powered by a rechargeable battery or hard-wired
  • Slim monochrome design looks stylish
  • Requires optional Chime when used on battery power 

As we’ve mentioned, the Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free looks identical to its wired counterpart with a white exterior and a black front. It looks stylish – the slim, rounded design is very similar to the Google Nest Hello and at  5 inches tall, 1.7 inches wide and 1 inch deep (12.7 x 4.3 x 2.5cm), it’s not as big and chunky as Ring’s video doorbells, although it’s still a little too big to fit on a door frame. 

The camera lens is located in the top half of the unit, with the large doorbell button below this. The doorbell is surrounded by a ring of LEDs that light up when motion is detected or the doorbell is pressed. You’ll also need to purchase an optional Arlo Chime if you want to hear an audible alert in your home when the doorbell is pressed; the doorbell can also be hard-wired if you’d prefer. 

The doorbell is simple to install, especially if you’re using it on battery power: just attach it on or near your door frame with the supplied screws, and follow the instructions in the app to connect it to your home Wi-Fi network. 

Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free

(Image credit: Arlo)

Performance

  • Detailed video and clear audio stream when using live view
  • 1:1 aspect ratio lets you see the whole length of someone on the doorstep
  • Integration with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant

Like most other video doorbells on the market, the Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free is simple to use. Once it’s installed, you can forget about it until someone presses the doorbell, or the doorbell’s camera detects motion.

When the doorbell is pressed, it will place a call to your smartphone, which you can answer to start an audio or video call with whoever’s on your doorstep; you can also choose to decline the call, in which case the caller will be given the option to leave a voice message for you. During testing, we did find that it could take five seconds or more for our smartphone to ring after the doorbell was pressed – how quickly your phone rings will depend in large part on the strength of your Wi-Fi signal. Once we’d answered the call both the video and audio were clear. 

If the doorbell detects motion in its field of view, you’ll get an alert on your smartphone that will identify if the motion was a person, animal, vehicle or other source. You can tap the alert to watch a video clip of the event in the Arlo app. If you miss the doorbell or motion alert, you can go back and view the footage recorded by the doorbell if you have a subscription to Arlo Smart.

We were impressed with the image quality and viewing angle – footage was detailed, and you can see the full length of someone on your doorstep. Arlo Smart also enables you to set motion zones, so that you’re only alerted about activity in these areas, reducing the number of unwanted alerts you receive. 

The doorbell also has a built-in siren to help deter potential intruders, which can be set to be activated automatically when motion is detected, or activated manually from the app. At its loudest setting, it hurts your ears, to say the least, and if it doesn't deter burglars, we don't know what will.

The Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so you can view the camera’s live feed on a smart display such as an Amazon Echo Show or a Google Nest hub. However, support for Apple HomeKit, which has recently been added to the Arlo Video Doorbell, is not yet available. 

Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free

(Image credit: Arlo)

App

  • Review video from motion alerts and doorbell presses quickly
  • Create a schedule for recording or activate a geofence
  • Rich alerts show snapshot an identify source of motion

The Arlo app is simple to navigate. Launch the app and you’ll be presented with a screen that shows all of your Arlo devices, and a snapshot of the most recently detected motion. From here you can tap the snapshot to launch a live feed from the selected device, or review footage of motion that’s been recorded and stored over the past 30 days, provided you have an Arlo Smart subscription. You can also tweak the settings for each Arlo device here. 

The Library tab gives you a chronological list of past footage, and you can also download clips to your device from here. The Mode section enables you to set a schedule to arm and disarm your devices, which in the case of the doorbell will ensure that you only get alerts at certain times of the day, or based on your location or a schedule. There’s also a Settings section. 

When the doorbell detects motion it will send a notification to your smartphone. As well as being able to see a snapshot of the motion, you’ll also be able activate the siren, or call a friend and ask them to check in on your property, if you subscribe to Arlo Smart. Alternatively, tapping the notification will launch the app and allow you to review the footage. 

Battery life

  • Arlo says the battery should last six months between charges
  • It takes around six hours to recharge

Arlo says the battery in the Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free will last up to six months between charges. We used the doorbell heavily during testing, so we can’t provide a realistic reading of battery depletion to fully test these claims. How fast the battery drains will depend on how many times the doorbell is activated, how many times motion is detected and how often live view is activated. We found the battery took around six hours to recharge using the bundled USB cable.

Should I buy the Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free?

Buy it if…

You don’t have an existing wired doorbell
This is the best video doorbell on the market that doesn’t require hard-wiring, in terms of video quality and features. 


You want excellent video quality
The Arlo Essential captures the highest-resolution footage of any video doorbell currently on the market (the new Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 will match this when it’s launched later this year, but it’s only available as a wired doorbell), and the footage is detailed in both daylight and darkness. 

You have other Arlo devices
If you’ve already got Arlo products in your home, it makes sense to stick with an Arlo video doorbell rather than opting for a different manufacturer.


Don't buy it if...

You don't want to take out an extra subscription
If you want to get the most out of the Arlo Essential you’ll need a subscription to Arlo Smart. If you only want to use the basic functions, there are cheaper alternatives.

You don’t have a strong Wi-Fi signal at home
The calling functions generally work well, but depending on the strength of your Wi-Fi signal it can sometimes take a few seconds before you receive a notification on your phone.

You’re on a tight budget
It may not be as expensive as other top-of-the-range video doorbells on the market, but the Arlo Essential doesn’t come cheap. If you’re on a budget consider the Ring Video Doorbell 2nd generation, which costs $99.99 / £89 / AU$149.99.