December 16, 2015 Leave a comment
In the next episode of Bad Voltage, I’ll be reviewing the Netgear Arlo and D-Link Guardian DCS-2630L wi-fi security cameras. Tune in tomorrow to listen to the ensuing discussion and the rest of the show. In the interim, here’s the review:
Netgear Arlo vs D-Link Guardian DCS-2630L
Those of you who regularly listen to the show know that I’ve been creating an increasingly smarter home. Continuing that trend, in this show I’ll review not one, but two wi-fi security camera offerings: the Arlo by Netgear and the Guardian DCS-2630L by D-link. To be fair, it’s difficult to directly compare these cameras as they are aimed at slightly different use cases. The Guardian requires a power outlet, and comes equipped with 180 degree field of view, 1080p HD video quality, two way audio and local recording but no cloud recording options. The Arlo is completely wireless, and comes with 110 degree field of view, 720p HD video quality, no audio and no local recording but does include cloud recording options. Both cameras have motion detection, apps for Android and iOS, live viewing, and event notifications. The Arlo kit starts at $200, with each additional camera adding $150 while the Guardian will set you back $200. For the Arlo, the free, 7-day recording option lets you sync up to five cameras. There’s also a 30-day option that costs $10 a month and lets you sync up to 10 cameras, as well as a 60-day option that costs $15 a month and lets you sync up to 15 cameras.
Note: The soon to be released Arlo Q is much more comparable to the D-Link Guardian, with the caveat that you’re still making a local vs. cloud choice. I’ll try to update this review in the future once that product actually ships.
Both devices are relatively easy to setup. For the Arlo you insert the four included CR123 batteries, plug in the seemingly unnecessarily large hub, download the phone app, create an account and sync your camera. The camera must be within 200-300 feet of the hub. The D-link is a similar process of plug in the camera, download the phone app, create an account, scan an included QR code and sync your camera. The Arlo comes with dome shaped magnetic mounts to allow maximum flexibility, while the Guardian has a solid more traditional swivel base.
With the devices both installed, lets move on to actually using them. The Arlo app home screen and website display a nice overview of all your connected cameras. From either you can view multiple cameras, control all available settings, select different motion detection modes, set schedules and view a library of past recordings. The app is intuitive and responsive, and video loads smoothly in both the app and browser. The D-link app defaults to a simple list of available cameras. The free app is fairly basic, but a more full featured app can be purchased for $.99 (although do note the paid app hasn’t been updated in over a year). The app is not quite as intuitive as the Arlo app and was continually laggy for me. While the video on the D-Link is of a higher quality, it sometimes takes a while to load. Incredulously the website doesn’t work at all in any browser in Linux. It’s not just that you can’t watch videos, nothing at all works. You can’t update settings, access a list of your cameras. Nothing. It requires a non-standard plugin for OS X but I wasn’t able to get that to work correctly. It’s almost 2016 and there is absolutely no reason for this. With HTML5 and other web technologies available I consider this a major strike against the Guardian. Also odd is that much of the advanced functionality of the device is hidden in a little mentioned local http server, which means you must find the IP assigned to your camera and manually type it into a browser. Luckily, this does work in Linux. While D-Link doesn’t offer any public cloud recording options, they do offer multiple Network Video Recorder options that allow you to create a DIY local cloud setup, although those come at an additional cost.
The video quality on the weatherproof Arlo is high and the field of view is well suited for most outdoor applications, which is one segment the camera is clearly aimed at. The Arlo in front of my house covers my entire yard and most of each house on either side of me. Battery life is very dependent on how often your placement and motion settings will trigger recording and notification. Overly noisy setups may only get 2-3 months, while well thought out setups should get around 6 months. The addition of a solar charging option would be a welcome addition here. The video quality on the Guardian is very high and the field of view is also the highest I’ve seen from any consumer security camera (and they’ve managed to keep the fisheye minimal). It’s enough to easily capture the entirety of even large indoor spaces. The night vision on both devices is more than adequate, with the Arlo seeing slightly farther and the Guardian being slightly brighter.
While both products are more polished and have a higher build quality than competing products from Foscam, neither support If This Then That (IFTTT) or integrate with any third-party devices, which may be disappointing depending on your integration needs. One concern I have with the Arlo is that the operating temperature low end is 14F. We’ll see how the device operates outside during a New York winter.
So, what’s the bad voltage verdict? The Arlo is a solid system and if you’re looking for a completely wireless setup it’s one of your only options. While the hub is giant, the battery life is surprisingly good for the feature set included and the free cloud tier will be sufficient for most people. It’s a device I’d be comfortable recommending. The Guardian is definitely better than similar devices from Foscam and the like, but at a higher price point to match. If you’re looking for a camera with 100% local storage it’s a high quality device that will serve you well. That said, the D-Link is a little difficult to use and they seriously have to get their act together when it comes to browser support. There’s just no excuse these days.