Essential Indoor Camera
The Arlo Essential Indoor Camera is a good option for keeping an eye on your home when you are away, but it does lack some of the features that the other Arlo security cameras have. This camera model is not compatible with HomeKit (at the time of publishing) - even when connected through an Arlo hub. Additionally, the wired connection is Micro USB, which is becoming more and more outdated.
- EASE OF USE
- APP INTEGRATION
The Essential Indoor Camera provides peace of mind while you are away.
These days you can’t be too careful when you leave your home unattended. About a month ago, my fiancé and I were preparing to leave town for 10 days. We had a vacation planned with some friends and we wanted to make sure that our home was secure while we were gone. We already have Arlo Cameras set up around our house but we liked the idea of adding one more before we left. So, as part of our preparations for leaving, we added the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera to our dining room.
About the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera
The Arlo Essential Indoor Camera is the ideal option for protecting rooms in your home without sacrificing privacy. The camera is set up to work over Wi-Fi and features 1080p HD video. It also has two-way audio, a built-in siren, and an automated privacy shield that helps to safeguard private moments. Users can view events in real-time or if motion triggers the record function.
The camera is available in black or white and it’s easy to install on shelves, walls, and more. The Arlo Essential Indoor Camera has a viewing angle of 130º and it works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
- Resolution: 1080p
- Format: H.264
- Field of View: 130º diagonal
- Night Vision: High-powered infrared LED (850nm)with IR Cut Filter
- Zoom: 12x digital zoom
- Audio: Full Duplex 2-way Audio
- Status Lights: 2x LEDs (blue and amber)
- Motion Detection: Image based motion detection
- Indoor/Outdoor: Indoor
- Wired/Wire-Free: Wired Only
- Notifications: Automatic email alerts and push notifications
- Operating Temperature: 0 to 45 degree Celsius
- Microphone: Single microphone with noise and echo cancellation
- Dimensions: 2.0 x 1.9 x 4.5 in
- Weight: 0.27lb
What’s in the Box
- Arlo Essential Indoor Camera
- Power Adapter (1)
- Micro-USB Cable (1)
- Wall Mount Screw Kit (1)
- Quick Start Guide (1)
Is the setup of the Essential Indoor Camera easy?
One of the questions I get asked the most about security cameras is “how easy is it to set up?” Arlo takes the cake as far as easy setups go. It’s a step-by-step, app-guided process and if you already have an established Arlo Smart hub in your home or office, you only have to add a new device. It’s also important to note that you don’t have to have a hub to use this camera. It will work by just connecting to your Wi-Fi network. The use of an Arlo SmartHub or base station is optional. For this review, it is connected to our SmartHub
To add a new device:
- Open your Arlo app and scroll to the bottom of the page on the DEVICES tab.
- Tap on ADD A NEW DEVICE.
- Select the appropriate Arlo device to add. In this case, use the CAMERAS option.
- The next page you select your specific model of camera. Select ESSENTIAL.
- There are currently three Essential camera models – Indoor camera, Spotlight Camera & Essential XL Spotlight Camera, and the Essential Camera. Select the INDOOR CAMERA.
- The next screen provides you with the items you should have from your box – the camera, a wall mount, a power adapter and cable, and mounting screws. The Indoor camera comes preinstalled on a tabletop mount so you can just sit it on a flat surface. Once you have the pieces assembled, tap CONTINUE.
- The next screen directs you to find the location where your camera will live. You want to make sure that it is close to a power outlet because this is a wired camera. At the bottom of the screen you have the option to continue or get the instructions for wall mounting. The wall mount instructions takes you to a page on Arlo’s website that walks you through using the wall mount. In my case, I just tapped CONTINUE because we were installing it in our dining room and ended up setting it on a counter.
- The next set of steps takes you through connecting the camera to your Wi-Fi network. You will need to make sure your phone is connected to the Wi-Fi network where your camera will be connected. Then you will enter your Wi-Fi credentials so that the camera can capture the same settings. If you have a SmartHub or base station on the same Arlo account as the camera, the camera should automatically be connected with that hub device.
- During the Wi-Fi/hub connection process the system will check for firmware updates and you will be asked to press the sync button to start the syncing process to your hub. The rest of the connection process is automated and if the camera requires updates, you’ll get a firmware notification on your app screen.
- The final step for the Essential Indoor Security Camera is to provide biometric authentication or the Arlo account password to open the Privacy shield for the camera.
That’s it. It’s a simple process and it only takes about 10 minutes depending on the number of updates that need to be completed.
What kind of recording options are there?
The Arlo Essential Indoor Camera is a stand-alone camera and doesn’t require a hub for operation. That said, having an Arlo hub provides the user with recording storage either through an SD card or USB storage device connected to the SmartHub or Base Station or through direct storage access on SmartHubs VMB5000 and VMB4540. The full user manual for the Essential Indoor Security Camera mentions that it is possible to move a Wi-Fi-connected camera to a SmartHub or vice-versa.
After you install and set up your camera, you can move its WiFi connection from your router to a SmartHub or base station. You can also move your camera’s WiFi connection from a SmartHub or base station and connect it directly to your router’s 2.4 GHz WiFi band. To do this, you must remove the device from your account and reinstall through the Arlo app, selecting the appropriate option to move back and forth.
Accessing the Camera While Away
As I mentioned, we went out of town with some friends and we took this trip as an opportunity to test out the abilities of the camera. We were actually at Disney World when we tried connecting to it. The area was crowded with people and their mobile devices. But, we were still able to get connected to the Essential Indoor Camera on Main Street U.S.A. through the Arlo app.
The picture quality was great and the video played smoothly. It did take a few seconds to connect, but once it did, we were able to access all the features of the camera easily. The special feature of this camera is the Privacy Shield. I would see most people using this particular camera in a bedroom or nursery so that it could only be accessed when the main user allows it to. The Privacy Shield can only be opened by the main user and their biometric scan or password. So, prying eyes are blocked from accessing this camera’s feed without the owner’s permission.
It is a nice feature, but I sort of wish there was an easy way to leave the shield open. Users have the option of setting up a mode that keeps the shield open under certain conditions (set by the user), but I would prefer to see an option where the shield can be turned on or off. In our case, we had the camera set up in our dining room so that we could keep an eye on our rabbit while we were gone. This is not a place where a privacy shield is needed. It would make this camera more versatile if the shield on/off as an option.
The Essential Indoor Camera is listed as compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT for smart home integrations. The individual Arlo cameras are not compatible with HomeKit, but the SmartHubs and Base Stations are. So, the process for connecting your Arlo system to your Apple HomeKit system is to connect the hub as the device. The hub then pulls all the connected device information into HomeKit. This is the same way that Phillips Hue bulbs work with HomeKit.
So, I thought by ensuring that the Essential Indoor Camera was connected to our SmartHub 3.0 (model VMB4540) that the camera would populate to HomeKit just like the others did. That did not end up being the case. After doing some general troubleshooting tasks (cycling the power to the Arlo hub, deleting it from HomeKit and reconnecting it, etc.), I reached out to Arlo support via Live Chat.
Arlo’s Live Chat is a bot. There is a note that says, “Escalation to live agent support is available to customers with an active Arlo service plan or trial.” I did establish a chat with the bot and could not get an answer based on the questions I was asking. I ended up asking for support contact. The bot asked me to restate my question so I did.
“I have a SmartHub 3.0 (model VMB4540) and we just added an Essential Indoor Camera to it. The SmartHub is connected to HomeKit and the other cameras work fine with it that integration, but the Essential camera is not showing up in the Apple Home App. It shows that it is connected to the hub though.”
The bot replied with, “I’ll send the following details to an Arlo Expert to review,” and, “Unfortunately, experts are busy or offline at the moment. You can still create a case and an expert will review and respond within 1-2 business days.” So, I created a case and then continued researching the issue through the Arlo knowledge base. I ended up finding a few inquiries that were similar to mine. This one was the closest even though this individual was using a Base Station. The thread started in October 2021 and the latest post was March 9, 2022.
In another thread, I found someone who called out the announcement where Arlo stated Essential cameras would be compatible with HomeKit. They pointed to this KB post where the required equipment for HomeKit is listed. The wired Essential Indoor Camera is not listed.
You need the following to use Arlo with Apple HomeKit:
- One of the following compatible devices:
- Arlo Ultra 2
- Arlo Ultra
- Arlo Pro 4
- Arlo Pro 3
- Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight Camera
- Arlo Pro 2
- Arlo Pro
- Arlo Essential Camera
- Arlo Essential Spotlight Camera
- Arlo Essential XL Spotlight Camera
- Arlo Essential Video Doorbell (Wired)
- The Apple Home app
- The Arlo app
- An Arlo Base Station (VMB5000, VMB4540, VMB4500, or VMB4000) Note: To use HomeKit, your Arlo device must be connected to an Arlo SmartHub or Base Station. You can’t use HomeKit with your Arlo device if the device is connected directly to a WiFi router.
Discovering that the Essential Indoor Camera is not compatible with HomeKit (at least for now) was disappointing because we like to have all our smart home devices running through one app if possible.
I am a super fan of Arlo security cameras. I love the ecosystem they have built and the fact that it’s easy to have wireless security cameras with a non-subscription option for video recording. The system is fantastic and the Essential Indoor Camera is a nice add-on to the product family. I do like that there is an option to connect to the camera without a hub, but dislike that it’s not compatible with HomeKit through the SmartHub.
The video quality is clean and at $99 (at the time of publishing), the Essential Indoor Camera is a good budget-friendly option from the Arlo product family.