Our recommendation is to place the SmartHub in the best possible location – equidistant from the cameras, doorbell, lights etc. But you don’t necessarily want to run a long Ethernet cable to the router.

Instead, get a pair of NETGEAR Ethernet-over-Power – Powerline adaptors (about $199 for the pair). In fact, you can use more than two Powerline adaptors to distribute Ethernet ports around the house!

Now here is the conundrum about using a base station versus Wi-Fi attached cameras.

As you can now use the base station where it works best or add another (using Powerline to the router), you can now escape the typical 10-30 metre Wi-Fi 2.4Ghz range.

Just imagine – set up your old Arlo Pro 2 cameras outside the house connected to a nearby Pro base station, set up the 4K cameras where you need extra detail and the SmartHub where it offers maximum signal strength. Greater flexibility.

Rule One: A properly planned home Wi-Fi network pays huge dividends as you add more devices.

Now back to the Ultra SmartHub.

We have now solved the positioning dilemma – do not put it in a cupboard away from devices!!!

I can see the logic in keeping the Arlo devices off the main home Wi-Fi network only talking to the SmartHub. The only time the SmartHub accesses the Internet is to upload events (in 1K resolution or less) to the Arlo cloud, so you can remotely view them. Or you can just set it to record locally to a microSD card, but you must remove the card to view on a PC.

There is little to say about the hub – an Ethernet port, a LED to indicate its state, a reset pinhole and a sync button (for older Arlo products). But it hides a lot more inside. Apart from its SmartHub IoT potential (Works With Arlo mentioned earlier), it does much of the cameras work and helps manage power use.

So, I am now more convinced – no more video and audio traffic overwhelming my other IoT devices on the smart home network.

Voice Assistance

I added Arlo to Google Home, and it found all devices apart from the Doorbell and chime. That is no big deal, and I will get to the bottom of that later. Google Home allows you to view each camera or device but not make granular setting changes. It can also cast the camera image to a TV or smart screen.

Arlo Ultra Voice

There is a very small range of voice commands. “OK Google show FrontDoor on Sony”. I am sure that we will discover more things like Google’s geofencing or IFTTT (If this then do that), but that is for another day.

Camera VMC5040

Arlo is chuffed at the 4K camera – 1K (1080) or 720 or 480p is so yesterday. It says, “See your recordings in super sharp, 4K HDR detail.” So, we dug a little further and its pretty good.

Specifications: We have added the Arlo Pro 2 for comparison

Arlo Ultra Arlo Pro 2
Video resolution 4K, 3840 x 2160, HDR and falls back to 1K, or 720 depending on signal strength 1080p and falls back to 720 or 480 depending on signal strength
Frames per Second Not stated but we expect 30fps. However, it appears to be 15fps depending on signal strength Stated 30fps but we found the that varied from 15fps or less depending on signal strength
Video Format H.264 MP4 software decode/encode and
HVEC H.265 MP4
Requires hardware decode/encode on playback device
H.264 MP4 software decode/encode on almost any device or browser
Field of View 180° – software selectable to 155° and 120° 130° fixed
Zoom 12x digital, fixed focus. If using auto-zoom, it disables 4K 8x digital, fixed focus
Power A-4a, 4800mAh A-1, 2440mAh
Charge 5V/2A USB-A charger
Proprietary magnetic charge cable.
Can use Ultra Solar Panel
5V/1.8A and 9V/1.1A
USB-A to micro-USB
Can use Pro Solar Panel
Battery Life Claim 4-6 months
We think it is about 10% use per week – 10 weeks
Charge time about 5 hours in camera and faster with optional dual battery charger.
Claim 3-6 months
Our tests were closer to 2 months
Charge time about 3 hours

Two-Way Audio Dual, noise-cancelling microphones and full-duplex audio. Effectiveness depends on signal strength Two-way audio – effectiveness depends on signal strength
PIR Motion Detection Claimed 8M
Test showed maximum efficiency to 6M
Same
Motion Zones Yes but requires mains power as for CVR and lookback (pre-buffering) Up to 3 activity zones when plugged-in
Mode Armed/disarmed
Schedule
Geofencing
Only one mode at a time per camera
Same
Person/Animal Detection Subscription required Same
Night Vision Colour Night Vision if within in-built LED range 850 nm LEDs for improved mono vision
Requires a Base Station Arlo SmartHub Arlo Pro Base Station
Max # of Cameras per Base Station 2 x 4K concurrent streams but more for lower rates – TBA 15 but maximum 5 x 1K concurrent streams
Siren In camera 76dB In Base station – 80+dB
24/7 Recording Optional PVR package at extra cost Optional when plugged-in
Local Backup Storage SD Card in SmartHub USB in Base station
Cloud Storage Includes a one-year subscription
to Arlo Smart Premier
7-Day Free / Subscription
App Support Android, iOS, FireOS, Web Same
Rich Notifications With Subscription Same
Weather-resistant IP65 same
LED Lights Spotlight, 6500K, 42 lumens at 1m Arlo Security Light sold separately
Voice Assistance Google Assistant
Amazon Alexa
IFTTT
Same

These are good specs but do not really tell you how it works.

Two Ultra cameras (max) can simultaneously stream 4K to the SmartHub. If you enable things like auto-zoom or auto-tracking, it drops to 1K or lower. You can connect the cameras to the older Pro Base Station, but you only get 1K video at best. And you can only stream 4K to your smartphone on the local network – not remotely from the cloud – or the microSD card unless you pay for a PVR cloud upgrade.

Power management options are best video, optimised, or best battery. That leaves the resolution at 4K but changes the bit rate. A lower bit rate means a lower quality image.

Lowlight settings include colour/mono (bandwidth changes), night vision and brightness. And we love the software settable field of view.