Arlo Essential Spotlight Camera review

One of the biggest reasons for my not having a home security system until recently was that it’s somewhat cost-prohibitive. It can be expensive to get started and then there are the monthly service fees that go along with it.

Over the past few years we’ve seen more tech brands step into the security space, giving consumers alternatives to the likes of Brinks, ADT, and others.

Having set up and spent time with the Arlo Pro 3 and Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight, I’ve since come to see the value in taking things into my own hands. It’s less expensive, incredibly easy to install, and very flexible.

As robust as the Arlo Pro 3 series is, those cameras may be more than what some people need. Moreover, they could still be a tad bit more costly than some customers want to spend up front. Enter the Arlo Essential Spotlight Camera.

Looking every bit like the Arlo Pro 3, this $130 camera makes for a great entry point for consumers wanting to keep an eye on things. Or, in my case, a terrific indoor camera for watching over the entryway of the home.


At first glance it’s hard to notice and differences between the Essential Spotlight and the Pro 3. A few minutes with one, however, reveals the changes.

Instead of of a removable battery or one that can be charged using he handy magnetic cable, the Essential Spotlight requires a microUSB cable. For what it’s worth, the one that comes with the camera is incredibly short – like less than one foot, short.

Fortunately, I’ve not had to charge the camera just yet. When it comes time to do so I’ll either have to pull it down from the mount or use an alternative cable. Results will vary from user to user, but my history with Arlo suggests it could be a month or two before I need to charge.

Another difference comes in the resolution and field of view. Whereas the Arlo Pro 3 has a 2K video recording capability, the Arlo Essential Spotlight records at 1080p. Likewise, the Essential’s field of view is 130 degrees with the Pro 3 getting up to 160 degrees.

As to whether that matters to you depends on how you plan to use the camera. I’m currently using it to keep an eye on things indoors so I don’t want it to trigger every single time someone walks by. Instead, I use it for scheduled times after going to bed or when I am away.

Setting up the camera is just as easy as other Arlo products and basically amounts to connecting it to Wi-Fi through the app. It takes but a few minutes to get going and the app allows for on-the-fly changes.

Similar to the Pro 3, the Essential has two-way audio and a built-in siren. I only use the former feature every so often and haven’t had to rely on the latter. In my testing, though, I did find the siren to be a little quieter than expected. With that said, it would be amply loud in the middle of the night should an intruder find their way into my home.

The 12X zoom is nice, in theory, but I suspect it would look pretty bad or even useless if you’re trying to get a good look at someone on the perimeter of your property. Naturally, the closer the subject, the better the image.

Capturing video or monitoring a dark environment was a good experience, thanks to the Night Vision and spotlight. When triggered, you’ll get a full color look at how things appear.

The Arlo Essential comes with a three-month trial of Arlo Smart, the subscription service that provides a rolling 30 day window of recorded video storage. Additionally, it offers AI-enabled detection of people, vehicles, animals, and packages. The customizable activity zones, and alerts with video are especially handy. Once the trial is up, Arlo Smart “Premier” plan costs $3/month for a single camera; it’s $10/month for up to five cameras.

All in all, the $130 Arlo Essential Spotlight Camera is a decent, and somewhat affordable, entry point into the Arlo lineup. I’m a fan of its battery-powered and weather-resistant cameras and appreciate the different models for their use cases.

I appreciate that the Essential can handle the elements just the same as other cameras in the Arlo lineup. If or when I ultimate move it outdoors I feel fine knowing that rain, snow, and wind isn’t going to affect things.

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