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Arlo Essential Indoor Camera review: Offers a lot of options, but lacks the biggest one

The lack of local storage stinks for everything the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera can do.

Arlo Essential Indoor Camera
(Image: © Chris Wedel/Android Central)

Our Verdict

The Arlo Essential Indoor Security Camera is a solid performing device that offers a helpful set of features without going overboard with a bunch of extras.

For

  • The privacy shield offers good peace of mind
  • Good video quality
  • Wide field of view
  • Plenty of customization options in the app

Against

  • Only works on 2.4GHz Wi-Fi
  • No local storage
  • On the expensive end of the spectrum

Home security cameras have come a long way in the past few years: From robust AI-enabled cameras that can pan and tilt with built-in 3000-lumen floodlights, to budget cameras designed with one function in mind, and so many in between. 

Arlo is a company that does a bit of it all when it comes to home security, and the entry device in that lineup is the Arlo Essential Indoor Security Camera. I've spent the better part of two months with it, and am ready to let you know if it's one you should consider or not.

Arlo Essential Indoor Camera: Pricing and availability

Arlo Essential Indoor Camera

(Image credit: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

Arlo's latest Essential Indoor camera launched for $100 in March 2021. The Arlo Essential Indoor Camera is currently on sale for $80 at multiple retailers, such as Amazon, Best Buy, Lowes, and more. The camera is available in two color options — white and black.

Arlo Essential Indoor Camera: What's good

Arlo Essential Indoor Camera

(Image credit: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

I've used quite a few excellent security cameras, from budget options like the Wyze Cam V2, to more feature-rich cameras like the EZVIZ C6 2K+. With essential in the name, I expected the bare minimum from Arlo's offering. However, from the moment I opened the box, I felt that this camera wasn't going to be a lackluster experience.

The Arlo Essential Indoor Camera isn't supposed to be the most advanced camera available, but Arlo also didn't skimp on quality.

The power adapter, an unfortunate microUSB cable, some paperwork, a wall mount kit, and the camera are in the box. While I got everything out and ready to go, I began installing the Arlo app and setting up my account.

With that done, I plugged in the camera and followed the setup prompts from the app. The process is relatively straightforward to get the camera added. Once complete, it was time to adjust the settings just how I wanted them.

Arlo Essential Indoor Security Camera
Dimensions2.0 x 1.9 x 4.5 inches (52 x 49 x 113.19 mm)
Weight4.32 ounces (122 grams)
Connectivity2.4 Wi-Fi
StorageArlo Secure cloud storage
Two-way communication✔️
Speaker✔️
Camera1080p
Viewing area133°, with 12x digital zoom
Night visionBlack and White via High powered Infrared LED (850nm) with IR Cut Filter
Smart featuresImage based motion detection
Weatherproof🚫
Wireless🚫

The Arlo app provides all the necessary options to use your Essential Indoor Camera. However, you will need to pay for an Arlo Secure subscription to access the more advanced options like Smart Notifications and Package Detection. Single camera plans start at $2.99.

You are greeted with all your Arlo cameras on the app's homepage. Going into the device settings for the Essential Indoor camera, you get the basics like an option to turn the device off, as well as check the Wi-Fi network it's connected to and the time zone for setting the camera's time.

Motion Detection Test is where you adjust the sensitivity of the camera. Adjusting the slider makes it more or less sensitive by watching the LED on the camera to see if it picks up the motion as you want it to. The Device Utilities section lets you check on some of the camera's functions to ensure they are operating correctly.

(Image credit: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

Motion Settings lets you adjust where the camera records from, as well as some tuning options for the video quality and if you want Night Vision to be enabled or not.

Activity Zones are how you get to designate where the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera will watch for motion. If it detects motion in your chosen area, you will only get a notification should you have them enabled.

The Audio Settings section is where the microphone and speaker toggles are, along with a slider to adjust the speaker's volume. Since the camera has both a speaker and microphone, you can have a two-way conversation with someone on the other end of the video feed.

(Image credit: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

Arlo has a good set of options for tuning when the camera is armed and watching, or when it isn't. You can choose to build a schedule for each of your Arlo cameras to follow based on the day of the week and time of day. You can also add in the option to use your phone as a proximity sensor and create a geofence. 

Setting up the geofence feature means that even if your schedule for the camera is set to have it disarmed and you leave your home, it will enable the camera until you come home.

Back to Arlo Secure, one of the beneficial things that you get with the subscription is Emergency Response. With this feature, you put in information about your home, who lives there, what pets you have, and any other necessary info police, firefighters, or other emergency services might need to help you. 

You can also set up the option to call a friend. For this, you can add up to three contacts for the app to basically have on speed dial.

With call a friend and Emergency Response setup, you can quickly contact those services via the app if you see something on your camera and need help. There is a bright red button at the top of the home page so that you can tap it and have fast access to help, should you need it.

(Image credit: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

As for using the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera, you can tap on the camera from the home page of the Arlo app to jump right to the live view. If you want to see recorded events, simply tap on Library at the bottom.

The image quality is good, not great, but the 1080p camera provides a clear enough image that you can make out what is happening. When viewing a live feed, you can choose to take a photo, begin recording, or tap on the microphone and start speaking.

My favorite feature of the camera, though, is the privacy shield. This physical cover completely blocks the camera lens from seeing anything. Not only does it block the camera, but it also disables the microphone when enabled. This makes it very easy to see whether the camera is watching.

Arlo Essential Indoor Camera: What's not good

Arlo Essential Indoor Camera

(Image credit: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

While overall I'm a big fan of this camera, I have some gripes about it. For starters, I really wish that the camera could operate on both 2.4 and 5GHz Wi-Fi frequencies. I know that 2.4GHz has its place and has been used for years on IoT devices. But with more and more networks offering 5GHz for faster data transfer, which is great for cameras, I would have really liked that option here.

The Wi-Fi network complaint isn't a major one, but the lack of local storage on the camera is. If my internet is down and something happens in front of my camera, I'd never know it. 

But aside from having a backup copy of anything the camera records, the reliance on the cloud means a perpetual cost because you'll always need the Arlo Secure subscription.

Arlo Essential Indoor Camera

(Image credit: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

Being required to continually pay to use something you've already paid for can be frustrating, especially for something meant to provide peace of mind. But even more so considering the cost of the camera.

Sure the monthly fee for Arlo Secure isn't that bad for a single camera, but when you've paid $80 for the camera, or more if not on sale, the lack of local storage and the requisite monthly subscription is a tough pill to swallow.

There are plenty of excellent security cameras with local storage to choose from that come in with very similar features for less money. What Arlo does offer with the Essential Indoor Camera is nice, and it all works quite well, but it doesn't make the upfront and continued cost feel any better.

Arlo Essential Indoor Camera: Competition

Blink Mini smart camera on a table with a Fire tablet in the background

(Image credit: Blink)

As I mentioned, there are many security camera options to compete with the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera — many for less money. The first that comes to mind is the Blink Mini

This petite camera offers the same 1080p video quality, motion detection, two-way communication, and more. It also costs less than half the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera on Amazon (opens in new tab). Unfortunately, the Blink Mini doesn't have a place to insert a microSD card, but you can subscribe to Blink's cloud service or purchase a Blink Add-on Sync Module for local storage for up to ten cameras, for only $35 on Amazon (opens in new tab).

Wyze V3 Cam

(Image credit: Wyze)

Another camera to consider is the Wyze Cam V3. When we compared this camera with the Blink Mini, we found many similarities, which translate to the Wyze Cam V3 being another good alternative to the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera. 

Priced similarly to the Blink Mini at $36 on Amazon (opens in new tab), Wyze's option has a few tricks up its sleeve that even the more expensive Arlo camera doesn't. Like, color night vision, local storage via microSD card, and the ability to work indoors or out. 

Like the Arlo and Blink cameras, you'll get 1080p video quality and the option for a cloud subscription with Wyze Cam Plus. There are some AI detection features, as well as motion and sound detection, to help notify you when the camera detects something. 

But neither of these camera options offers the geofencing option or the automatic privacy shield that Arlo's camera does. While it comes at a premium, the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera's unique features are compelling.

Arlo Essential Indoor Camera: Should you buy it?

Arlo Essential Indoor Camera

(Image credit: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

You should buy this if...

  • You want a simple to use camera with some high-end features available.
  • You want a camera that makes it easy to tell if it is disabled.
  • You want your security camera to automatically arm and disarm itself when you leave or arrive home.

You shouldn't buy this if...

  • You want a cheap camera.
  • You want local video storage.

The Arlo Essential Indoor Camera is excellent in a lot of ways if you can swallow the upfront and continued cost. Since there's no local storage on the camera, you'll need to pony up at least $2.99/month in order to go back to watch what the camera recorded. 

If you can stomach that, the privacy shield is great for knowing the camera can't see or hear you. Plus, the automatic arm and disarm feature based on your location is just great.

All things considered, it's pretty good

I've been using the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera in my office for a few months now and really like it. While my office is far from the clean and fancy room many of my peers enjoy — since it is an old building on my farmstead and doubles as a storage shed — the peace of mind knowing the camera will activate should someone break in is great.

I like that I know I'm not on camera when working, thanks to the privacy shield. I also like that should I make a trip into town, the camera will automatically arm itself even if the schedule I've set says it should be on — thanks to geofencing. 

Sure, I wish the camera were less expensive and that it offered microSD card support for local storage. But, the camera quality and the features that come with it are pretty good, and this camera likely stays put in my office for the foreseeable future.