Arlo Essential XL Outdoor Camera (2nd Generation) Review: Excellent Video, Beautiful Design for Under $100

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The Lowdown

The Arlo Essential XL Outdoor Camera is an excellent security camera with much to offer. Available in both 2K and HD variants, it has great image quality, very good color saturation, and several useful features, including color night vision, a spotlight, an integrated siren, and noise-canceling two-way audio. It also easily integrates with OK Google and Alexa.

The only downsides are that some of those smart features require a monthly subscription to work from the cloud and that you will have to change a few settings on your router if you have a 5Ghz Wi-Fi network.

Overall
4.5

Pros

  • High-quality video
  • Smart and elegant design
  • Price
  • OK Google and Alexa compatibility
  • Ease of installation and set-up

Cons

  • Enhanced features require a monthly subscription
  • Must be installed on a 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi network

Arlo sells a variety of home security products, including doorbells, cameras, floodlights, and security systems. I recently reviewed their Arlo Home Security System and the Arlo Pro 5S 2K Wireless Security Camera, both of which I found to be very good. Now, we’ll look at the Arlo Essential XL Outdoor Camera, an HD wireless security camera that packs a good deal of features into an affordable package.

The Arlo Essential XL Outdoor Camera reflects the brand’s design language of rectangular white enclosures with rounded tops and bottoms with black faces. Other cameras offered by Arlo offer a choice of all black, but the XL is only available with a white enclosure.

Arlo Essential XL Outdoor Camera

Competitors in the home security market have cameras with similar designs, but I find the aesthetic balance of the Arlo products, as well as their attention to detail, to make them stand out.

Included with the Arlo Essential XL Outdoor Camera are an indoor USB charging cable, a wall mount and screw kit, and a quick-start guide.

Arlo Essential XL Outdoor Camera retail box contents

The Arlo Essential XL Outdoor Camera is similarly sized to others in the line. It measures 3.25″ high by 2.25″ wide and 3.8″ deep. The weather-resistant enclosure is smooth and features the “arlo” logo debossed onto each side.

The top of the enclosure has a button for pairing the camera. The back of the enclosure has a threaded hole for use with the included mounting bracket.

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The Arlo Essential XL Outdoor Camera’s front face features a microphone, motion sensor, camera lens, spotlight, and a speaker. The bottom of the camera has a white rubber flap that covers the USB charging port.

Unlike others in the product line, this camera’s battery is not removable, so the camera must be removed to be charged. The Arlo Essential XL Outdoor Camera offers four times the battery life of the original Essential cameras. Arlo claims battery life to be 16 months, which greatly depends on how often the camera is engaged.

Arlo Essential XL Outdoor Camera

Some may argue that the non-removable battery is a negative, but I’m not sure of how much of an inconvenience it is taking the entire camera off of its mount as opposed to removing the internal battery of cameras that have that feature to charge them indoors.

The charging situation can be mitigated in both cases by adding the optional $49.99 Solar Panel Charger and the $49.99 Essential Outdoor Charging Cable.

The Arlo Essential XL Outdoor Camera provides HD (1920×1080 pixel) video with a 130° field of view available in three modes: 1080p, 720p, and 480p. 12x digital zoom allows you to focus on selected parts of the displayed image. The camera features a motion sensor and night vision with dual 850nm LEDs and color night vision with the built-in spotlight. The image quality is very good.

I have the Arlo Pro 5S 2K Wireless Security Camera and the XL connected to the app and on the iPhone and iPad. Both cameras present live video and audio within a few seconds of being selected, and both offer very good image quality. Both cameras feature 12x digital zoom. The Pro 5S 2K offers twice the resolution provided in the Essential XL Outdoor Camera 2K model.

I had mistakenly assumed that there would be a noticeable difference between the two resolutions on every device, but that is not the case. When viewed on the phone, the two images (and resolutions) are not very distinct until you zoom in. The image on the iPad is more noticeably different due to the size and resolution of the screen.

Arlo Essential XL Outdoor Camera

A noise-cancelling microphone and a speaker enable full two-way conversational audio. The Arlo Essential XL Outdoor Camera also contains a siren loud enough to be heard from inside the house as well as throughout the neighborhood.

Although not compatible with the Arlo Base Station of Smart Hub, the camera’s capabilities are extended when used with the Arlo Secure Plan. The camera comes with a trial membership so that you can test out the features yourself.

The number and type of added abilities changes depending on which monthly plan you select, but even with the least expensive option of $4.99 per month (for a single camera or $12.99 for an unlimited number of cameras), you get features such as requesting emergency response from police, fire or medical responders with a single tap.

Video object detection with AI allows you to select which type of alerts you prefer to get, such as for people, vehicles, animals, and packages. All Arlo plans come with 30 days of video and event recordings stored in the cloud up to 4K resolution. You also get smart activity zones that allow you to highlight sections of the camera’s view for more selective alerts.

You can even get animated previews showing what triggered an alert sent directly to your phone’s lock screen. All plans also offer theft replacement and priority care and support. Plans range from $4.99 to $24.99 per month.

Setting up the Arlo Essential XL Outdoor Camera was a snap. First, you fully charge the camera’s battery and scan the QR code from the quick start guide to download or update the Arlo app.

If you are new to Arlo, you’ll need to create an account. When ready, select the “+” icon on the app’s home screen and select cameras, then Essential Series, then Essential Series 2nd Generation, and follow the instructions.

After a short while, when you hear the chime, the camera becomes visible in the app. A firmware upgrade may be available and, if so, should be installed. You can then rename the camera in the app and add it as a device to the app’s home screen. Then, simply choose your desired camera location and use the supplied wall mount.

The camera’s location is critical, but the 130° field of view makes finding a spot that monitors a wide area easy. For the Arlo Essential XL Outdoor Camera, I mounted it to the trim around my garage door. As I have a detached garage, this location gives me a view from the back of my backyard towards the house and also covers my driveway.

As the Essential XLs do not work with the Smart Hub, I was concerned that the range of the Wi-Fi would be insufficient to work from this distance, but it has proven not to be an issue as the camera connects as quickly and as reliably as the Pro 5S 2K camera at my front door.

A word about wireless networks: 5Ghz vs 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi

The Arlo Essential XL Outdoor Camera, like many security cameras, only connects to 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. If you have a 5Ghz wireless network in your house, you may run into issues connecting the devices.

The culprit is a thing called SON, which stands for Self-Organizing Network, and it’s the way that routers like those provided by FiOS work. If you go into your router settings, you can turn off SON and name the 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks separately. Then, when you go to connect the camera, you select the newly named 2.4 GHz network.

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The quality of the video is very good, with sharp imagery and good color saturation, not dissimilar to its more expensive sibling. The night vision is very good. In fact, compared side by side to the front door camera’s (the Pro 5S 2K) views, it seems superior. I believe that this is due to the light situations and angles between the two locations.

Like the other camera, the Arlo Essential XL Outdoor Camera’s color night vision uses the built-in spotlight to gain an even clearer color image. The noise-canceling two-way audio also works very well, allowing you to monitor the area and audibly communicate with anyone within range.

The Arlo Secure app is very easy to use, and I had no issues connecting with the camera. The icons at the bottom of the app provide links to the Dashboard where you install widgets for your linked devices as well as the Feed, Emergency Links, Devices, and Routines.

The app has many features, some of which are only available if you are subscribed to a monthly plan. Below is a summary of what is available with and without a plan as described on the Arlo website.

With an Arlo Secure Plan Without a Plan
Access video and event history for rolling 30 days. There is no video history on the Arlo Smart Cloud; there is only live viewing with the camera.
Quick One Tap Direct Dispatch for police, fire, and medical help. No 24/7 Emergency Response capability.
Detect a person, package, vehicle, or animal. Basic notifications without object detection.
Customizable Smart Activity Zones for alerts that matter most. Motion notifications that are not customized.
24/7 Professional Monitoring with Live Security Experts. No around-the-clock monitoring from 24/7 Live Security Experts.

When subscribed to an Arlo Secure Plan, clicking on the thumbnails of items in your feed allows you to play, mark them as favorites, share, download, and delete them as desired. Even without a subscription, clicking on the Devices icon shows the camera’s last captured image. It provides access to the live stream with the ability to mute the audio, start two-way communications, initiate a manual recording, take a photo, and turn the spotlight on and off.

The Arlo Essential XL Outdoor Camera works with Alexa, OK Google, and IFTTT. If you are unfamiliar with it, IFTTT (rhymes with “gift” and stands for “if this, then that”) is a service that connects internet-aware apps, services, and devices. The IFTTT website and mobile app allow you to link software and hardware from different manufacturers and create custom actions.

I have not yet created any custom actions nor tried integrating with OK Google. However, adding the new camera to my existing Alexa app could not have been easier as it detected and added the new hardware without my input.

Specifications (Comparison Essential XL HD and 2K Models)

  HD 2K
Maximum Video Resolution 1920 x 1080 Up to 2560×1440 (2K)
Image Sensor 2 Megapixels 4 Megapixels
Video Modes 1080p, 720p, 480p 2K, 1080p, 720p
Video Features Color Night Vision Color Night Vision
Lens Field of View     130-degree diagonal 130-degree diagonal
Digital Zoom 12x 12x
Sensor Size 1/3 inch 1/2.7 inch
Spotlight Yes Yes
Motion Detection PIR Motion Detection PIR Motion Detection
Night Vision               Dual 850nm LED Dual 850nm LED
Audio Speaker and Microphone, 2-Way Audio Speaker and Microphone, 2-Way Audio
Microphone Yes Yes
Siren Yes Yes
Status Lights Yes, RGB Yes, RGB
Connectivity 2.4GHz Wi-Fi 2.4GHz Wi-Fi
Range Up to 300 feet line of sight Up to 300 feet line of sight
Battery Life 16 months 16 months
Indoor Or Outdoor Use Indoor and Outdoor Indoor and Outdoor
Camera Mount Type               Wall mount Wall mount
Minimum Operating Temperature -4° F (-20° C) -4° F (-20° C)
Maximum Operating Temperature 113° F (45° C) 113° F (45° C)
Minimum Home Upload Speed 2 Mbps 2 Mbps

The Arlo Essential XL Outdoor Camera is an excellent security camera with much to offer. Available in both 2K and HD variants, it has great image quality, very good color saturation, and several useful features, including color night vision, a spotlight, an integrated siren, and noise-canceling two-way audio. It also easily integrates with OK Google and Alexa.

The only downsides are that some of those smart features require a monthly subscription to work from the cloud and that you will have to change a few settings on your router if you have a 5Ghz Wi-Fi network.

The Arlo Essential XL Wireless Security Camera sells for $99.99 for the HD model and $149.99 for the 2K model; it is available directly from the manufacturer and other retailers, including Amazon.

Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample

What I Like: High-quality video; Smart and elegant design; Price; OK Google and Alexa compatibility; Ease of installation and set-up

What Needs Improvement: Enhanced features require a monthly subscription; Must be installed on a 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi network

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About the Author

Charles Kliment
A lifelong gearhead, as a teenager Charles was obsessed with high-end audio and musical instruments and through the years has focused on computers, mobile devices, 3d printing and drones. Both in his career and hobby, he employs a wide range of video, still and VR cameras. An avid gamer, dog lover and father of three adult sons, Charles is married to Jane Randel and lives in New Jersey.

1 Comment on "Arlo Essential XL Outdoor Camera (2nd Generation) Review: Excellent Video, Beautiful Design for Under $100"

  1. The main drawback I see of the non-removable battery here is that you’ll have to replace the camera when the battery eventually wears out, though if a single charge lasts anywhere near the 16 months they claim, the battery shouldn’t wear out for decades. By then, it should be possible to buy affordable security robots to patrol your property.

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