Home security has gone from being complicated and expensive to simple and cost effective. We now have cameras that are wire free, run for months off batteries and you can access them from anywhere in the world. It’s now really simple to keep an eye on your home whether you are in the world.
Over the last few months I have being testing Arlo, Hive and Blink all offer a range of cameras for the home. If you are looking to get started with smart home security, which system is best?
Blink, Hive or Arlo
Amazon recently purchased the company behind Blink and offer indoor and outdoor solutions. For my review, I have the Blink XT outdoor camera, Blink also sell indoor cameras but I am going to focus on outdoor. Hive also offer indoor and outdoor cameras and I have been testing one of their cameras alongside Hive heating. Until recently, Arlo was part Netgear but they spun off into their own company and they also offer a range of indoor and outdoor cameras.
Blink and Arlo just focus on security systems whereas Hive also offer smart plugs, lights and heating solutions.
When you are installing your own smart home system making the system simple to setup is a must so how easy are the systems to setup?
I found setting up the Blink XT camera simple. The package included the camera and a small base unit. The Blink app takes you step by step though the setup of the system. I scanned the QR code on the device, put the supplied batteries in the camera, scanned another QR code and then it was all setup. The whole process took about 15 minutes.
The Hive camera does not require a base station like Arlo and Blink so the setup in theory the setup should be simpler. It uses your phone and sends via Bluetooth your home WiFi settings to the camera. I found it took a couple of goes to get it setup and that sometimes the camera would drop off the network.
Arlo has a base station that you connect up to your network via Wi-Fi or Ethernet. Unlike Blink and Hive you can setup the system with a web browsers as well a phone. You link your Arlo account to the base unit and then then add the camera. Alro also have re-time setup mode for helping you position the camera.
Which is easier to setup? Hive should be simplest as it has no base unit but I found the Bluetooth setup a little bit trickier than Blink and Arlo.
So what features do you get with the three systems?
All the system have motion sensing and alerts to your phone or tablet. All three systems can detect movement and then alert you and make a recording. Hive not only detects movement, it can also alert you if detects a person. That means do not have to get alerts every time a cat walks past your camera. I found it could miss someone walking past from time to time, so for the best detection I have it set for motion. Arlo offers person detection via a paid service, which is US only.
When you get an alert you can view the clip on your phone. Arlo gives you 30 days for free, Blink XT gives you up to a year and Hive 24 hours. Arlo and Hive give you the option to purchase additional storage. All three systems allow you to download the clips for viewing offline, and with Arlo you can add USB stored to the base unit to record the clips so you can view then without internet access. You can also access the camera real time from any of the systems.
All three systems have daylight and night vision modes. All three systems give you the option of having low, medium and high quality modes. The higher quality rates mean increased battery drain and take up more space. I had then all set in the same medium mode, which on Hive is labelled 720p. For me the best picture quality was with Arlo, it had the sharpest picture followed by the Hive. Blink’s picture is a little washed out. In night vision mode Arlo’s video looked best, I found Blink’s a bit over exposed.
Blink say you can get two years from a pair of AA batteries, obviously this depends on much motion is detects and how much video is recorded and the Blink app only shows the status as “ok”. So I can’t actually tell how much battery is left after a month. For Arlo I find I get about 6 weeks from a chargeable battery pack. The Hive Outdoor camera is wired only so you have wire up the camera for power via a USB charger, this make the installation more complicated, as you have to think about wiring.
All three systems have apps for iOS and Android. They all off the same set of basic functions; you can view recordings, setup the system and view a live stream of the cameras. There really is not much difference between them. I did find that Hive would sometimes have trouble replaying videos but other than that they work. Arlo and Hive also have comprehensive web sites so you can access all the features from a PC.
Hive and Arlo have two way audio so you can talk back to someone via the camera and your phone. This could be handy if you want to talk to someone you see on the camera.
To use Arlo Pro you have to have a base station, but this does gives you some extra features. With the base station you can plug a USB stick or drive for external storage so even if the system goes offline you can view your recordings. There is also an alarm in the base station, you can trigger it from the app or set it up to go off when motion is detected.
Blink also has a base station; it is a lot smaller than the Arlo device and has no input for external storage.
Having a base station means you only need to have a good Wi-Fi signal to the base unit and not every camera.
Hive does not have a base unit.
IFTTT & Alexa
One great feature of both Arlo and Blink is the ability to view the cameras on an Amazon Echo Show and Echo Spot. You can say “Alexa, show front door” and it will give you a real time view of the front door camera.
Blink and Arlo also work with IFTTT. You can also control the plug with IFTTT (If This Then That) a web services where you can link services together. Using the service, you can create your own custom actions. For example, you could turn on a light when motion is detected. I created an applet that turns on my living room lights when motion is detected by the garden camera between 10pm and 7am. You could arm the camera system when you leave home and disable it when you return.
Arlo also have geo-fencing options so you can enable and disable the camera system when you leave home and return.
These are the UK prices at the time or writing:
Blink XT starter kit: £149.99. Extra camera £119
Arlo Pro starter kit:£194:99. Extra camera £199
Hive Outdoor camera: £179.99.
Which system would should you go for? All three systems have plusses and minuses. I was put off by Hive due to having to wire the camera in, battery powered is a much easier install but you do have to either charge them up from time to time or swap the batteries. Blink is the quickest system to get up and running installed closely followed by Arlo.
Blink is also the cheapest system and Arlo the most expensive. Arlo offers offline recording and an alarm plus it has a web UI.
If you are looking for the simplest solution I would recommend Blink XT, if you want features like the alarm and offline recording I would choose Arlo. Hive is a nice system but having to wire the camera in is a disadvantage.
Hive, Blink and Arlo video comparison
Ian Dixon is a Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional), founder of TheDigitalLifestyle.com tech site and producer of the weekly The Digital Lifestyle Show podcast. Ian has been writing and talking about Windows for over 10 years and has over 20 years in IT as an IT Manager. Ian has thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook and over 4 million views on his YouTube channel.