After months of testing, I determined Arlo Pro 2 is the best outdoor security camera overall because of its rechargeable batteries and subscription-free motion recording service. However, Nest Cam is better for people who need 24/7 recording that’s guaranteed not to miss a beat.
I’ll explain how I reached my conclusion by comparing two outdoor security cameras (Nest Cam vs. Arlo Pro 2) while evaluating five categories: free service, subscription service, software, hardware, and video/audio quality.
Arlo Pro 2: 8/10
Free Service: A+
- You get seven days of cloud recording and can sync five cameras at once for free. Arlo Pro 2 is the best option if you don’t want to pay a monthly fee.
- You have the option to save and export any clip to your computer or phone to keep it forever.
- Rather than continuously recording, Arlo Pro 2 records clips up to 300 seconds long when it detects motion.
- The video detection works at freakishly far distances. During my tests at 50 feet, my phone blew up with notifications as Arlo Pro 2 spotted action, 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 cameras like Blink Outdoor or Arlo Pro, no event is created, so it’s like nothing happened).
- Create modes to tinker with the sensitivity levels (although I found the default level of 80 to be perfect).
- An important note: if you’re close to a busy street, there’s no way to avoid false motion detection alerts, even with the sensitivity set to 1. There are two ways to get around this, but neither are ideal:
- Plug Arlo Pro 2 into a power source and set up “activity zones” and make a box around the street to designate it as a recording-free zone. Unfortunately, activity zones don’t work when the device is running on battery power, unless you have a paid plan.
- Pay for Arlo Smart and let Arlo’s AI distinguish between people and cars. Have it only notify you of people and set up activity zones to block out the street.
Subscription Service: B
- Arlo has a paid subscription service, Arlo Smart, but most people won’t need it. Here’s what you get with the subscription:
- “Advanced AI Detection” helps it differentiate between the motion of humans, animals and vehicles. They’re working on package detection for when packages are dropped off on your doorstep, but it’s not fully baked yet.
- Video clips are stored in the cloud for an extra few weeks.
- Create “activity zones” that mark where you care about the motion detection. This eliminate some false alerts for things you don’t care about.
- The phone notifications are shown with thumbnails and are actionable (you can activate the siren or call the police with one tap).
- Arlo Smart has three tiers:
- 30-day video storage is $3/month for one camera.
- 30-day video storage is $10/month for up to ten cameras.
- 60-day video storage is $15/month for up to 20 cameras.
- Arlo Pro 2’s motion sensing is almost flawless. But if you’re serious about security, you should consider continuous recording. Arlo sells a separate service from “Arlo Smart” called CVR that records 24/7 while placing events on a timeline (like Nest does). The downside is that the plan is $10/month AND Arlo Pro 2 needs to plugged into a power outlet. If 24/7 surveillance is a priority, go with Nest Cam.
- The cameras are well-built.
- There’s a base station which you’ll need to plug into your router. While it’s more attractive than the entry-level Arlo base station, if your router doesn’t have extra Ethernet ports, you might be in trouble. The need for a base station isn’t ideal, but it’s a worthwhile tradeoff considering the connection issues Nest has without one.
- All Arlo base stations are backward and forward compatible. That’s excellent if you’re looking to save money and buy the cheaper Arlo cameras for less critical areas but use the same base station.
- There’s an option to plug in external storage into the base station to save the video locally.
- The cameras completely wireless and powered by the battery, just place the cameras within 300 feet of the base station.
- You don’t have to worry about the camera placement being close to outlets if you’re going the battery-powered route.
- Arlo Pro 2 uses large rechargeable batteries that should last a couple of months before requiring a recharge. 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).
- You have the option to plug the cameras in. But if I have to connect to a power source, I’d rather go with Nest because Nest’s plug is built-in and more weather-resistant.
- The base station has a siren that can be triggered manually or automatically. The siren is loud at 100 decibels.
- The Arlo app is set up well and gets more feature-rich with age. All the Arlo models are controlled in the same app. But the Arlo app has become noticeably slower during my third stint (end of 2019) with the camera. It takes ten seconds for the app to launch, then another six seconds to view the live feed. It was much quicker when I tested Arlo the first two years.
- Arlo Pro 2 is compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant.
- 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.
- Record live footage with one tap.
- There are cool IFTTT recipes.
- It’s one of the few security cameras to support Apple HomeKit, meaning your camera can be controlled from Apple’s Home App and integrated with your other smart home devices.
- Arm and disarm your system based on schedule. Or set up geofencing to enable recording only while you’re away from home.
- The video is 1080p and looks great, including at night. It has a 130° field of view, which is the same as Nest Cam, and an extra 20 degrees compared to the original Arlo.
- There’s a three-second lag between the feed and live. This makes two-way communication over the intercom almost impossible.
Nest Cam: 7/10
Free Service: F
- Nest’s free service is a joke. When you’re paying $200 for a piece of hardware, you expect to be able to use it, but Nest Cam is completely useless without a Nest Aware subscription.
- With the free plan, you get three hours of snapshots before they disappear. Snapshots are NOT video. It’s a random screenshot that’s taken when movement happens in front of the camera. Based on my tests, it’s never anything of value.
- When it detects motion, you get a phone notification. You can tap the notification to view the live feed, but unless you’re already on your phone, you’ll miss whatever happened because Nest’s notifications are delayed by 10 seconds.
- You can view the live feed whenever you want via a web browser or inside the app. With the free plan, live streams are the only thing that make Nest Cam potentially useful.
Subscription Service: B+
- Nest Aware is a monthly subscription service that’s not technically required, but it’s necessary if you want to make use of your cameras. Don’t buy Nest Cam if you’re not willing to pay for Nest Aware. Here’s what you get with the subscription:
- It records every second of every day and saves this video footage (not snapshots) for at least five days. 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 tap on the events, or scrub through the timeline.
- 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 knows the difference between humans and objects, such as cars, and you can create intelligent alerts for people only.
- It’s easy to create and share clips because every moment is recorded. You can make time lapses too.
- Nest Aware is the only camera on the market with 24/7 surveillance, but it has multiple downsides:
- It’s expensive, and you have to pay for a subscription for each camera.
- Nest doesn’t always mark events that happened. This means you have to manually scrub through the timeline, which can be hard at times.
- The cloud connection doesn’t always work seamlessly. I’d like to scrub through without buffering, and that doesn’t always happen, no matter what I try.
- Notifications are delayed.
- Nest Aware has three tiers:
- 5-day video storage is $5/month per camera.
- 10-day video storage is $10/month per camera.
- 30-day video storage is $30/month per camera.
- Like all Nest products, the design and craftsmanship are world class. You won’t find better-looking products.
- 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.
- Nest comes with its 25-foot power cord and needs to be plugged into power at all times. There are no batteries to worry about. If you’ve got power and WiFi, it will run.
- The WiFi connection isn’t perfect. It’s not worthy of a $200 device. I’ve experienced the same issue with other Nest products like Nest Hello and Nest Cam Indoor as well. My WiFi coverage is exceptional with my mesh system and other products perform better from similar locations. It’s a Nest issue.
- There’s no base station to plug in, and all you need to power is the camera. While it’s nice not needing to plug anything into your router, I wonder if you’d get better performance with a base station or bridge.
- Nest’s app interface has a chronological timeline where events are marketed and can be scrubbed through. It’s a great system.
- You don’t get to scrub through the timeline without lots of loading because of the occasional connection issues.
- Because Nest is always recording with Nest Aware, it’ll use a ton of your internet data (up to 300GB/month). You can modify this, but you’ll need to sacrifice video quality to get a lower bandwidth number.
- Nest and Google products integrate seamlessly. You can ask Google Home to play Nest’s camera feed on your Chromecast.
- It works with Alexa too!
- You can do cool things with your other Nest products. For instance, you can use Nest Cam as an additional sensor for your Nest Thermostat.
- You can utilize Nest Home/Away Assist or set schedules when you don’t want it to record to eliminate pointless notifications.
- It no longer works with IFTTT.
- It shoots in 1080p with a 130° field of view. The video quality is about the same as Arlo Pro 2 when Nest is in the highest video quality setting.
- Nest’s Night Vision is solid and uses infrared lights to shoot video when there’s no lighting.
- 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, but it’s still hard because there’s a delay between you talking and it playing on the speaker.
- The speaker quality is poor.
- There’s almost no lag between what’s happening and what you see on the feed.
Which is best for you?
Arlo Pro 2
Get Arlo Pro 2 if you want battery-powered security without a monthly subscription. It’s reliable, wireless, shoots sharp video, and has great range.
Nest Cam Outdoor
Get Nest Cam if you’re willing to pay $5/month for Nest Aware (the free plan is useless) and have access to a power outlet. Nest’s free plan is useless.