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Arlo Essential Indoor Camera review

The Arlo Essential Indoor Camera ticks off the basics of security and performance, but not at the price you might expect.

Arlo Essential Indoor Camera
(Image: © Future)

Top Ten Reviews Verdict

For simplicity and a security focus, this Essential camera does a good job. It doesn't do it for as cheap as some of its competitors and you need to pay even more for the cloud-based features, but it is a reliable option.

Pros

  • +

    Great security features

  • +

    Full HD quality

  • +

    Privacy shield

Cons

  • -

    Relatively expensive

  • -

    Cloud subscription needed for many features

  • -

    No HomeKit support

The Arlo Essential Indoor Camera has made it onto our list of the best wireless security cameras (opens in new tab), meaning it's worth considering if you need one. This model is specifically aimed at those who want an indoor camera with mains power.

As the name suggests, the Arlo Essential is about offering core features. Despite that, the price is still higher than some of the competition out there. Also, you'll need to pay more if you want to take advantage of the cloud storage and all the features that go with it.

Arlo Essential: Key specs

Resolution: 1080p

Camera lens: 130-degrees

Night vision: Yes

Recording options: Cloud storage

Two-way talk: Yes

Wifi: 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz

For security, this is a top pick as it comes with an automatic privacy shield – a physical cover that slips over the lens should you want it to. You can also expect a decent video and audio experience from this well-known home camera security brand.

This camera connects to WiFi and works with the Arlo app to make sure you're notified of activity, movement or sound as soon as it happens. You can even interact with people in the room using the two-way audio system. All this is high quality but tops out at 1080p rather than the 2K and 4K resolutions of the Arlo Pro 4 and Arlo Ultra – a reasonable fact considering this is a more affordable option.

So, is this the camera for you? Read our full review to find out!

Arlo Essential Indoor Camera: Design

  • Clean and minimal finish
  • Included mounting system
  • Mains powered

The Arlo Essential Indoor Camera follows in the company's design ethos, which means a rounded plastic casing with a glossy finish and smooth edges. As such, this looks clean and simple, and has that black and white two-tone finish. Free-standing, this camera is just 1.8-inches high, making it one of the smallest indoor cameras out there right now.

The base has a mount which means you can leave it to stand, or use a single screw to attach it to a wall and hang it as needed. Thanks to a ball and socket joint, the camera can be easily tilted and moved to get the perfect angle. Everything feels plastic but at the premium end, with a solid feel and smooth movements that are reassuring for longer-term use.

Arlo Essential Indoor Camera

(Image credit: Future)

The camera itself uses a 1080p Full HD sensor which has a 130-degree field of view to capture a wide area even in tighter spaces. However, it's worth noting that this is a smaller viewing angle than some of the competition.

On the back of the camera is a micro-USB port that allows you to connect the power cable. This is made with an angled head so that the cable runs down and away from the camera at the correct angle for ease. Above that is a speaker port for audio as well as the siren which this security-focused camera offers.

On the front is a privacy shield which is digitally controlled either using the app or on a schedule, but more on that further down.

Arlo Essential Indoor Camera

(Image credit: Future)

Arlo Essential Indoor Camera: Set up and usability

  • Simple app setup
  • Easy installation
  • Quick mounting

Arlo makes a point of creating an easy setup process. The camera itself can be slipped out of the box and plugged in within a minute. You can then scan the QR code on its base to get the app. Sign-up and you're good to go, simply needing to connect the camera to the local Wi-Fi network easily using a QR code on your phone's display held up to the camera.

This is a 2.4Ghz network only, which is good for range but does lack on the latency fight. That said, it means that even when further from your router, this will likely still work.

Arlo Essential Indoor Camera

(Image credit: Future)

While there are some basic settings you can play with like activity zones, audio settings, video brightness and quality options, everything is ready to go right out of the box. That means the lens will adjust to the local lighting and the microphone setup will make sure audio is clear from wherever it is placed.

Mounting is simple using a one screw system. The Arlo Essential even includes a raw plug so if you're mounting into masonry, rather than wood, that is straight forward too.

One part of the setup that's also made easy is access to the cloud storage subscription. This is a free three-month trial, so you're automatically enrolled. It's a great way to get access to the full range of features, but it could be difficult to cancel and let go of them if you decide paying for a subscription isn't for you.

Arlo Essential Indoor Camera

(Image credit: Future)

Arlo Essential Indoor Camera: Performance

  • Great 1080p quality video
  • Smart voice controls
  • Useful geofencing

Despite being a 1080p camera in a 2K and 4K world, this does a very good job of delivering a high-quality image. In reality, unless you plan to zoom in a lot, this resolution when viewed on a smartphone is plenty. The field of view, at 130-degrees, could be a little wider, but again will likely cover most rooms entirely without the need for more.

Arlo Essential Indoor Camera

(Image credit: Future)

At night, the quality is still there thanks to an infrared night vision camera setup which will mean a drop to black and white, but still a decent image for nighttime. For example, this could work as a baby monitor with enough quality to leave parents feeling comfortable. 

Arlo Essential Indoor Camera

(Image credit: Future)

Audio quality is also decent, with clear two-way chat between the camera's microphone array and the speaker. There was a little lag in our testing, but not enough to cause a problem when talking.

Additionally, the Arlo Essential offers a siren security feature. It's not going to deafen anyone, but it could be enough to wake someone up, give a pet a nudge, or to scare off any potential intruder.

The privacy shield is a useful addition that can be closed over the camera lens using the app. This also turns off any video and audio monitoring while engaged, for total privacy. You can set this on a timed schedule or, usefully, with geofencing, so that the camera only fires up when you leave the property. There is also a manual set up so you could leave external cameras on while the internal go off when at home.

The Arlo Essential Indoor Camera has decent compatibility with smart voice controllers including Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. However, Apple fans will be left wanting, as there is no HomeKit integration at time of publishing. 

The Arlo Smart cloud storage subscription is a must if you want more features like video storage and smart alerts. This allows you to control alerts more intelligently so you're not getting notified too often when not needed – but all that will cost you extra.

Arlo Essential Indoor Camera: Price

  • $99.99 / £119.99

The Arlo Essential Indoor Camera does just manage to hit that sub-$100 price point, which you'd expect from the essential nature of the device. That's a good thing, but it's still on the pricier side compared to the competition, which offers most of the same features for lower prices.

The Arlo Smart cloud storage subscription is charged at $2.99/£2.49 per month after the initial three-month trial comes to an end, something else to add to the cost if you want the most features and controls.

All that said, this camera does offer the superb Arlo app, high-quality and reliable features, and a solid build. Go for a more affordable alternative and you may find it lacking in some of those areas.

Arlo Essential Indoor Camera: User reviews

Head over to Amazon and you'll see lots of customer reviews for the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera, which gets a respectable 4.3 out of five stars. That includes 68% of five-star reviews and 15% at four stars.

One positive review says: "Bought this to use in our nursery. The included mount allows for the camera to be mounted on the wall overlooking the crib. Connected it wirelessly to our eero mesh network, no hub necessary, by temporarily pausing the 5GHz and only allowing 2.4GHz. Installation was less than 5 minutes. The new privacy shield is a great touch for an indoor camera."

However, a negative review commented on the unreliability of the recording: "I pay for the monthly subscription and would expect 24/7 recording, but with how inconsistent it is, it may catch 10 minutes of every hour so the chance of it catching the important stuff happening in the room are slim to none."

Should you buy the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera?

If you want a simple setup of a reliable indoor mains-powered camera that is backed by a good app, then this could be for you. Excellent security features and a reliable build quality combined with ease of setup and use make for a powerful package.

However, if you want local storage, would like to make more of a saving, or require higher quality images, then you may want to look at other models instead.

Luke is a veteran tech journalist with decades of experience covering everything from TVs, power tools, science and health tech to VPNs, space, gaming and cars. You may recognize him from appearances on plenty of news channels or have read his words which have been published in most tech titles over the years. In his spare time (of which he has little as a father of two) Luke likes yoga, surfing, meditation, DIY and consuming all the books, comics and movies he can find.