Ding-dong, the doorbell is dead.

If smart home firms like Nest and Ring have their way, old-school doorbells are heading for the exit, replaced by smart versions that let you see and talk to the person at the door.

Such doorbells, when equipped with motion-detection technology, can even alert you when someone is outside your home before the person presses the buzzer.

The Arlo Audio Doorbell can do this neat trick.

However, the debut smart doorbell from the security camera maker lacks, as its name suggests, a camera which is found in more expensive competitors.

Arlo has omitted the camera because its doorbell is intended for users of its security cameras. In fact, the doorbell requires the Arlo base station (bundled with Arlo’s camera kits from $799 or for $199 standalone) to work.

The doorbell runs on two AA batteries – Arlo says they will last for about a year on average. But if you already have electrical wiring in place for a mechanical or digital chime, you can reuse the wiring to power the Arlo doorbell instead of batteries.

  • FOR

    Pre-recorded messages

    Visitor can leave voice messages

    AGAINST

    Requires Arlo base station

    Audio-only

When the doorbell’s motion sensor detects the presence of a visitor, the ring around the doorbell’s circular button will light up and pulse gently – a nice visual cue to let the visitor know to press the doorbell.

If you do not have an existing chime to use with the Arlo doorbell, you would probably want to get the Arlo Chime ($99) accessory because the doorbell itself emits a soft ringtone that is unlikely to be heard by anyone in the house.

This accessory is simply a chime that plugs into a home electrical outlet. It offers 13 ring tones at up to 80 decibels loud to alert you to a visitor.

Both the doorbell and the chime accessory are set up using the Arlo mobile app on a smartphone or tablet. The app also lets you configure the alerts (smartphone notification and e-mail) that you get when motion is detected by the doorbell. An option to mute both the chime and the doorbell is available in the app.

More importantly, you can talk to visitors via the Arlo doorbell. In my testing, the quality of the audio call was decent with just a slight latency. The doorbell’s speaker was also sufficiently loud at maximum volume.

If you are not up to talking to visitors, the app offers three pre-recorded voice replies for common scenarios, such as telling a courier to “leave the package outside”. But I wish there were more voice recordings or a function to let users record their own replies.

  • SPECS

    PRICE: $129

    WEIGHT: 75g

    PLATFORMS: iOS or Android

    RATING

    FEATURES: 3/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3.5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 3/5

Visitors can also choose to leave a voice message if they do not get any response. This message can be heard via the app by the user – it is uploaded to Arlo’s cloud server, where it will remain for up to a week.

Like other Arlo products, I found the doorbell and chime to be easy to set up, with visual aids and even short video tutorials to guide users.

But the doorbell is clearly not for everyone, given that it requires a base station and lacks a camera. While its $129 retail price seems affordable enough at first glance, its true cost is actually higher, unless you have already invested in Arlo’s smart home devices.





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