Best Outdoor Security Camera: Blink vs. Arlo vs. Nest vs. Arlo Pro 2
These were items I wanted for MY house. I found the best item in each category and kept it, then sold the others once I finished my review.
Security cameras are a different story. I don’t need a security camera system. I live in a small town of 30,000 people. For the most part, there isn’t much action.
This is the first comparison post I’ve written where I didn’t plan to keep the winning product.
Why did I buy five different cameras?
I’m fascinated with the idea of having a smart home that is completely integrated. I know that for a lot of people, security cameras are the final piece they need to complete their smart home setup.
While I’m not in the target demographic for security systems, I understand technology and can help you find the best camera for your needs.
When searching for security cameras, there are seven important questions you need ask:
- What’s your primary goal? (Catch bad guys? Peace of mind? Watch the kids? Random check-ins? Delivery confirmations?)
- What’s your budget?
- How important is picture quality?
- Do you have an outdoor electrical outlet?
- How long do you want to save the clips that are recorded?
- How many cameras do you want to have synced at once?
- What’s your WiFi setup (strength, speed, bandwidth, location, etc.) look like?
After using all of the cameras side-by-side for two weeks, I’ve noticed each brand has at least one distinguishing quality. I could see myself buying almost any of these depending on my goal.
Let’s look at the best outdoor security cameras and compare and contrast Blink vs. Arlo vs. Nest vs. Arlo Pro 2.
If you don’t want to read the detailed breakdown of each, skip to the bottom where I outline which is best for particular needs.
#4 – (Grade: F)
Cloud Pricing (A):
- You get seven days of cloud recording, and you can sync five cameras at once for free. That amount of storage should be all you need.
- Recordings are event-based like Blink, but Arlo starts recording too late. Often, the person or thing has already left the frame before the clip begins. What’s the point of a security camera if you can’t see what happened or who did it?
- The motion detection sets off all the time for no reason. I woke up one morning to 100 clips of nothing (Arlo Pro 2, Nest, and Blink were right next to each other and recorded nothing.)
- Recordings are always fixed in length. You can pick between 10-120 seconds, but Netgear recommends 10 seconds to preserve battery life. Bottom line: you’re either going to miss the action, or you’re going to replace your batteries a few times a week.
- It runs off of four disposable CR123 batteries (eight are included) that will only last a couple of months under normal conditions. This gets expensive and the battery levels in the app fluctuate randomly, creating unwanted batteries anxiety.
- Arlo cameras are completely wireless. You just need to place the cameras within 300 feet of the base station.
- You have to plug an ugly base station into your router. It adds clutter, and if you don’t have extra ethernet ports on your router, you might be in trouble.
- I had a rough time of getting the cameras synced to the base station.
- The app is set up well and easy to navigate.
- You can set it up with your Alexa devices, but Google Assistant isn’t an option.
Video Quality (D):
- The nighttime recording on Arlo is the best of all the cameras, even though it’s only 720p. It has more infrared lights than the others.
- The picture quality is 720p, which should be fine, but it’s the worst of the cameras I tried. The picture looks pinkish during the day.
- It doesn’t record audio, and there is no intercom feature.
#2 – (Grade: B+)
- Nest records every second of every day. That may seem like overkill, but it’s not. You’re guaranteed not to miss anything. There’s a timeline interface, where little events are marked out as gray dots, and more significant events are shown as a screenshot. You can click on the events, or scrub through the timeline.
- There are no batteries to worry about. If you’ve got power and WiFi, it will run.
- The detection for events can be set off by noise and video.
- With Nest Aware, you can set “activity zones” and highlight critical areas. For example, if the top portion of the camera covers some of the street, you don’t want to be alerted every time someone drives by you only care if someone is on your property. You can essentially crop out a portion of the image.
- It’s easy to create and share clips because every moment is recorded. You can make time lapses too.
- Nest and Google products integrate seamlessly. You can ask Google Home to play Nest’s camera feed on your Chromecast.
- Nest has a great camera lineup with indoor and outdoor cameras. They have IQ cameras that do all the same stuff as this Nest, but for an extra $150 it can recognize repeat faces, shoot better quality video and has a better speaker on the intercom.
Video Quality (A):
- Nest has the best picture quality (tied with Arlo Pro 2). It shoots in 1080p with a 130° field of view.
- Nest’s Night Vision is solid.
- There’s two-way communication, which means you can use Nest as an intercom. Nest’s intercom worked better than Arlo Pro 2 during my tests.
- There’s almost no lag between what’s happening and what you see on the feed.
- Nest comes with its 25-foot power cord and needs to be plugged into power at all times.
- It’s good because you’ll never miss anything, but bad because it limits your options.
- There’s no base station to plug in, and all you need is power to the camera.
- While Nest’s setup is flawless through the app, real-life installation is probably going cause issues. Finding outside power outlets or drilling through walls to get inside power is not always easy, especially in older houses. Then, you have to find a way to hide the wire.
Cloud Pricing (D):
- Nest Cam is completely useless, in most cases, without a Nest Aware subscription. If you don’t have Nest Aware, you only get the last three hours of video.
- Nest is expensive. It’s $199 for one camera or $349 for a two pack, which is in line with Arlo Pro cameras, but Nest Aware is $5/month for 5-day video history or $10/month for 10-day video history or $30/month for 30-day history. (You get a free 30-day trial of Nest Aware.)
- To add to the expense, Nest Aware isn’t a one-time fee. It’ll cost you $5 for EACH additional camera that you add to your system. A two pack of cameras and Nest Aware is going to run you around $500 for the first year. Then, it’ll cost you $150/year after the first year. That’s bananas!
- You’ll spend a ton of money with Nest Aware, but the connection to the cloud doesn’t always work perfectly. I’d like to scrub through without any buffering, and this doesn’t always happen no matter what I try.
- Nest doesn’t always mark events that happened. This means you have to manually scrub through the timeline, which can be hard at times.
#1 – (Grade: A)
Arlo Pro 2
- There’s an option to plug in external storage into the base station to save the video.
- The base station has a siren that can be triggered manually or automatically. The siren is very loud at 100 decibels.
- All Arlo base stations are backward and forward compatible. That’s excellent if you’re looking to save money and buy the cheaper Arlos for less critical areas but want to keep the same base station.
- The app is set up well and you can control any version of Arlo in the same app.
- Arlo Pro 2 is compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant.
- You can create rules for detection. For example, you could make a rule that if Camera A is triggered by movement, Camera B and Camera C record, even if B and C haven’t seen action yet.
- The video detection works at freakishly far distances. During my tests at 50 feet, my phone was blowing up with notifications that motion was spotted on Arlo Pro 2, while the other three cameras detected nothing. (With the Nest, you can go through the timeline and see the action at 50 feet, but it’s not marked as an event. With Blink and Arlo (not Pro) there was no event created, so it’s like nothing happened).
- You can create modes to tinker with the sensitivity levels (although, I found the default 80 level to be perfect).
- The event detection can be set off by noise and visuals. And rather than a fixed time, like the entry-level Arlo, Arlo Pro 2 stops when the motion stops (up to 300 seconds).
- It’s completely wireless, just place the cameras within 300 feet of the base station.
- Arlo Pro 2 uses large rechargeable batteries that should last a couple of months before you need to charge them. You can buy extra batteries for $50 each, so you don’t experience any downtime.
- There’s an add-on solar panel option for $80. (I haven’t tried the panels, but in a perfect world, you’d never need to charge the cameras, and you wouldn’t need to plug them into an outlet).
- You have the option to plug the cameras into power, but if you’re going this route, I’d rather have the Nest because Nest’s plug is built in and will be better in the weather.
- Too many of the advanced options available don’t work unless you’re plugged into power. You can’t use the activity zones or the 24/7 recording feature without wall power. This makes sense because there is only so much that you can get out of a single battery.
Cloud Pricing (A):
- You get seven days of cloud recording and can sync five cameras at once for free. (There are paid options for additional recording time and cameras). Arlo Pro 2 is the best option if you don’t want to pay a monthly fee because it’s useful without the subscription.
- With a paid subscription (CVR – $99/year), you can record 24/7. This stores everything in the cloud for 14 days. It’s not necessary because Arlo Pro 2’s motion sensing is almost perfect, but if you’re serious about security, it’s something you should consider.
Video Quality (A):
- The video is 1080p and looks great, including at night. It has a 130° field of view, which is an extra 20 degrees compared to the original Arlo.
- You don’t have to worry about the camera placement being close to outlets if you’re going the battery-powered route.
- Syncing with the cameras with the base can be tricky, but it worked better than the entry level Arlo.
- The base station needs to be plugged into your router. While it’s more attractive than the entry-level Arlo base station, if you don’t have extra ethernet ports on your router, you might be in trouble.
- There’s a three-second lag between the feed and live. This makes two-way communication over the intercom almost impossible.
- You can record live footage with one tap.
Which one is for you?
Blink started out as a Kickstarter, and they’ve had issues along the way, but after using both Blink cameras for a few weeks, I’m a fan of Blink for what it is: a cheap camera.
Blink has its shortcomings. You’ll go through batteries quickly, you might miss crucial parts of a clip, you can’t record on demand, and it’s not the most exquisite piece of craftsmanship.
But it’s an excellent option for those on a budget. Pick Blink if you’re looking for casual monitoring, rather than serious security. You’ll get great motion sensing, completely cordless, affordability (it’s cheapest to buy and you don’t pay for additional services).
Nest is a great wireless security camera, and everything is perfectly made and well thought out, but it comes at a hefty price, and you’ll need to make power arrangements.
If you go with Nest, you NEED a Nest Aware subscription ($5/month) to go with it. Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense. For the amount of money you’re spending, I’d like to see flawless scrubbing through the timeline and event detection, but that’s not always what you’ll get.
Nest is always going to be powered on and recording, so you’re guaranteed not to miss anything!
If power hookups and money aren’t concerns for you, Nest Cam is where you should go.
The entry-level Arlo is awful! It misses clips, records too late, and doesn’t record audio. It has poor video quality, and you’ll be running through batteries like a madman. Do NOT buy the original Arlo.
Arlo Pro 1 is $80 less than Arlo Pro 2 for the same two camera configuration, but Arlo Pro 1 only records in 720p instead of 1080p and is less reliable.
Arlo Pro 2 comes with a large rechargeable battery, shoots great video, has great range, doesn’t need to be plugged in, and you can get by without extra cloud services.
Arlo Pro 2 is my pick if you don’t want to mess around with getting power to the cameras.