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Product test

Arlo Pro 4 in the test: These surveillance cameras are NSA-ready

Martin Jungfer
07.11.2022

Autumn is the season for burglars. To protect myself from dark figures, I bought a set of surveillance cameras - and since then I feel like the employee of a security service.

Nothing escapes me now. The robotic mower gets going? The postman brings a Galaxus package? The neighbour's cat is creeping through the garden? I see almost everything. Thanks to my three Arlo cameras, which I have distributed around the house. One monitors the house entrance, two others the garden.

Arlo Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight, 3 cameras kit white (2688 x 1520 pixels)
Network camera
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Arlo Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight, 3 cameras kit white

2688 x 1520 pixels

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I am basically not a fearful person or naïve. Anyway, I don't fear burglars, not least because the number of burglaries has been falling for years. For another thing, there's not much in my house. But I am too easily excited by supposed home improvements. And so I simply had to try out the set of three Arlo Pro cameras that the manufacturer provided the editorial team with for testing.

Quick and uncomplicated installation

Installing the Pro cameras has become even easier in the fourth generation. Unlike the previous model, I now don't even need a separate base station to get the cameras on the WLAN. I can integrate them into the existing network in just a few steps via the Arlo app. Identification happens when I hold a QR code on the iPhone in front of the camera lens.

The camera has a battery inside. You don't even have to plug in the charging cable, it holds magnetically and power flows through a USB-C plug. Once charged, the battery lasts for at least three months and up to half a year. Cold temperatures and frequent activation of the camera reduce the runtime.

The charged battery lasts for at least three months and up to half a year.

The charged hardware is easy to attach. The set includes magnetic holders for the cameras. This is handy because you can easily take them off for charging and don't have to unscrew them. I mount one holder with screws on a wooden batten, for the second I use a metal brace on the conservatory and manage without screws. I attach the third camera to the rainwater pipe. For this I need accessories.

The Arlo magnetic mount is held on the metal plate with pre-drilled holes. I align the camera so that it has a good view of the desired area. To do this, I use the smartphone, which shows me an up-to-date picture of the camera's angle of view with a small delay of about two seconds. It captures everything at an angle of 160 degrees. So nothing escapes my surveillance. Alternatively, I can also set only a viewing angle of 125 or 110 degrees.

Features that would also make the NSA happy

. The only problem is: from now on, I constantly receive messages from the Arlo Secure app, even at a smaller angle. Push messages fill my homescreen: a person detected in the house entrance area, vehicle detected in the West Garden area, movement detected in the conservatory area. I can see why from the videos Arlo stores of the events in the cloud library. The camera also detects the neighbour leaving the garage with the car in the courtyard in front of the house entrance. And in the garden area, it also detects people and cars on a small access road. I can avoid notifications about this by defining the camera's coverage area more precisely. To do this, I draw a polygon in the app or in the Arlo portal in such a way that only the area in which I want to receive suspicious reports is within its lines. It looks like this, for example.

Ohne definierte Zonen schaltet sich die Kamera an und setzt eine Meldung ab, sobald sie irgendwo im Sichtfeld eine Bewegung erkennt, also zum Beispiel auch auf dem Zufahrtsweg rechts im Bild.
Ohne definierte Zonen schaltet sich die Kamera an und setzt eine Meldung ab, sobald sie irgendwo im Sichtfeld eine Bewegung erkennt, also zum Beispiel auch auf dem Zufahrtsweg rechts im Bild.
Hier habe ich die Zone markiert, die überwacht werden soll. Passanten auf dem Weg oben bleiben jetzt unbehelligt von meiner Überwachung.
Hier habe ich die Zone markiert, die überwacht werden soll. Passanten auf dem Weg oben bleiben jetzt unbehelligt von meiner Überwachung.

I can also set the object size at which the camera becomes active, i.e. sends me a message and saves a video. This way I can prevent a crow hopping in the garden from being mistaken for an intruder. What I find really useful is that I can set up a schedule. When the family leaves the house in the morning bound for school and work, that leaves the camera cold.

Alternatively, I can activate the cameras if I allow a connection to my iPhone's location services. Now, as soon as I leave the defined circle around the house, the surveillance switches on and switches off again accordingly when I am at home.

It is also possible to pair the cameras with Alexa, Amazon's digital voice assistant. Then the Alexa speaker tells me when something is happening outside. However, I quickly switched this off again because the push to my smartphone is enough for me. The Arlo cameras can be integrated into all common smarthome systems - including Google Assistant, IFTTT and Samsung Bixby. If you want to integrate them into the Apple Home Kit, however, an Arlo base station is also required.

If you shop online a lot, you might be interested in parcel recognition. If the postman leaves a parcel on your doorstep, the AI recognises it and reports the find on the video image. Only in the milk crate does the delivery remain undetected. Then I rely on the person recognition. On the recording I see the postman in his uniform. Usually even faster than I get the delivery confirmation by e-mail.

How much surveillance is needed and allowed?

I can monitor my house entrance and garden seamlessly with my set of three cameras. I wouldn't even be able to see who from our neighbourhood goes for a walk or who puts the advertising leaflets in our letterbox. Do we need to know all that? Certainly not. And purely legally, I am only allowed to film the shared courtyard if the neighbours have agreed to it. I am not allowed to film what happens outside my property on the public footpath. I must inform people about filming on my own property. A notice in the form of a sign is sufficient. Conveniently, the Arlo set comes with a sticker that I place in the area of the house entrance.

Der Aufkleber zeigt es an: Hier wird gefilmt.
Der Aufkleber zeigt es an: Hier wird gefilmt.

Presumably this very sticker is part of the protection against burglary. Perhaps a burglar will desist from his nefarious deeds when he applies the crowbar in front of our door and realises in the corner of his eye that he is now being filmed. Or I manage to chase him away from the camera with an alarm sound triggered by an app or a dazzlingly bright beam of light. Otherwise, I could go to the extreme of using the camera as a loudspeaker via the app and let the criminal know that I can see him. With these additional functions, the Arlo Pro 4 is not only a surveillance system, but also a bit of an alarm system.

The video snippets that my cameras provide me with are so well resolved - 4K if I have an Arlo Secure subscription - that I would also recognise a filmed person later in reality. Even in the dark, the Arlo Pro 4 delivers a decent black-and-white image, and even in colour with the spotlight beam turned on.

If the burglar doesn't care about my cameras, at least I have footage of him afterwards. However, the police in the canton of Zurich cannot tell me on request how many cases such video material has already helped to solve burglaries. Such data is not collected. There are also no statistics that would clearly prove that surveillance cameras reduce the risk of burglary. There are also no clear statements on the effectiveness of cameras in research on crime prevention. Often, thieves and burglars would either not know about the existence of camera surveillance or they assume that the footage obtained will not identify them, as listed here in a project report by prevention researchers. . So would it possibly even be enough to install dummy cameras to deter burglars? Probably not, because some criminals may well be able to recognise fake cameras. An study by the University of North Carolina is also interesting in this regard. Here, 400 convicted criminals were interviewed. 80 percent of them stated that they had checked the property for warning signs about security measures before a burglary, for example. In such a case, half would abort the attempted burglary. A similar result was obtained in a survey by a British insurance company. According to the survey, surveillance cameras were the most common reason for abandoning the misdeed. Even ahead of barking dogs.

Is the Arlo Secure subscription worth it?

For some of the features I've introduced you to so far, you'll need an A subscription to Arlo. By the way, Arlo calls the subscription "membership" because it is probably intended to emphasise the benefits more than the costs. Whether subscription or membership: 3.49 Swiss francs per camera and month (as of November 2022). An unlimited number of cameras costs 11.49 francs. After installing the cameras, you can use the subscription services free of charge for three months. In the euro area, the surcharge is three or ten euros. So the Swiss surcharge is kept within limits.

After the trial period, you can use the cameras for free.

After the trial period, without a subscription, you will only have live videos and motion detection as a service. So if you are actually burgled, you have no stored video recordings. This makes the subscription almost a must if you buy the cameras so that you can at least identify the perpetrator in the event of a break-in. If you regularly pay the fee for the "membership", the video files remain stored in your cloud for 60 days. In addition, you can then store an emergency contact who will be called if anything suspicious happens in the viewing area of your cameras. This could be someone in the neighbourhood, for example.

Der Screenshot aus dem Überwachungsvideo zeigt eine Katze auf nächtlichem Kontrollgang. Der Strahler wurde hier nicht aktiviert, weil ich die Katze in der Steuerung als zu kleines und ungefährliches Objekt eingestuft habe.
Der Screenshot aus dem Überwachungsvideo zeigt eine Katze auf nächtlichem Kontrollgang. Der Strahler wurde hier nicht aktiviert, weil ich die Katze in der Steuerung als zu kleines und ungefährliches Objekt eingestuft habe.

Summary: Security and gimmick

How much the security of your home is worth to you is up to you. The Arlo cameras are certainly no bargain, but they also offer a lot. They are solidly made, practical to install, last a long time and offer numerous functions - provided you have an subscription. Smarthome enthusiasts will be just as happy with them as prevented NSA agents. If you're a control freak, you could use the Arlo Pro 4 to monitor the goings-on in your garden in real time. Whether you're keeping a flock of chickens that fear the fox. Or you want to watch your cat hunting birds at night.

I've been using the camera for about four months now. I'm also still happy when I get a push because my Galaxus delivery has been delivered. Do you need it? Of course not. Wouldn't I also know that the robotic lawnmower is out to mow thanks to another app? Yes, of course. But the cat that occasionally sleeps on our garden lounge at night and leaves hair behind, I wouldn't have uncovered without a security system. She's grey at night. Like all cats.

I know I could see burglars too. Still, I would gladly continue to do without this experience. Let the cameras continue to keep the dark figures away.

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Journalist since 1997. Stopovers in Franconia (or the Franken region), Lake Constance, Obwalden, Nidwalden and Zurich. Father since 2014. Expert in editorial organisation and motivation. Focus on sustainability, home office tools, beautiful things for the home, creative toys and sports equipment. 


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