The Reolink Argus is the new kid on the block when it comes to smart home security cameras. 100% wireless, base-station free, 1080p resolution, a battery life of up to 180 days (6 months) and under A$150! It sounds almost too good to be true, but this little camera could be the ideal home security solution for you.
Launched in May of this year as an Indiegogo campaign, the Argus was billed as the world’s first 100% wire free, weatherproof, 1080p security camera. Its low price point and extended set of features including night vision, 2-way audio and an internal SD slot, meant that it was a huge success raising over 4000% of their initial goal.
That lower price point does mean you do miss out on a few of the higher-end goodies of course. The Argus doesn’t connect to any of the smart home hubs out there for example. Nor does it offer advanced settings for motion detection zones or machine learning behind it’s infrared based detection. But these, just like the 4K resolution of the top of line NestCam, are things that many users either won’t want or simply don’t care if it means saving $150+.
What you do get is pretty impressive. The camera itself looks like a giant novelty Panadol tablet. At one end there’s a concave indent to it that hides a powerful magnet that allows the Argus to perch atop its supplied base and be adjust to virtually any angle. There’s also a metal arm included in the box that can be used to mount the camera from a ceiling or on a wall and they include the screws and plugs to install that too.
You’ll also find four of the lovely, expensive and frankly annoying to find, Lithium CR123A batteries the Argus will use to power itself through the next 6 months. These are the same batteries that the original Netgear Arlo used and just like I grumbled about them then, I’ll reiterate my annoyance at them now. You can at least find them a little easier now, Jaycar regularly stock them for about $5 each, which, when you add it up means the camera will cost you around $40/year to run. Not too bad considering its subscription free unlike some of its competitors.
Getting the camera setup is honest to god, the easiest and best smart-home/IoT device I’ve encountered yet. It was brilliant and after testing a myriad of home security devices everyone else needs to stand up and listen because Reolink have nailed it. Unlike every other device out there that creates some ad-hoc Wi-Fi network that you have to connect to, then you go through a bunch of steps and then configure it to connect to your Wi-Fi then you disconnect while it restarts and then reconnect to your regular network (I’m screaming just writing it out!) the Reolink app has you scan the QR code on the back of your new camera, then you enter your Wi-Fi’s password and it displays a QR code on your screen that you just hold in front of the Argus and voilà! You’re done. How freaking cool is that! It could honestly have not been more easier if they tried, I loved it… clearly. The one and only hitch in the process will occur if you’re running a 5Ghz Wi-Fi network only. The Argus only supports 2.4Ghz meaning that you’ll need to enable the older band. This will actually work out better for you anyway, 2.4Ghz penetrates walls better and will mean you can use the Argus further away from your main network.
Once on your network the app handles the configuration of finer details. You can schedule when the camera’s PIR sensor is enabled and should alert you to someone’s presence, you can configure how you’re notified be it push, email, or otherwise. You can even adjust the depth at which the PIR sensor will look for changes in infrared scanning close to a mid 3m-5m range or extended range up to its maximum.
Getting the camera setup is honest to god, the easiest and best smart-home/IoT device I’ve encountered yet…
The app’s UI/UX is… meh. It’s better than some I’ve seen, but definitely not intuitive by any means. I found it clunky to get the camera’s option or even find the setting I was looking for at first but go there in the end. For the majority the camera is already set up to do what most people are after; turn on when there’s someone there and alert you about it all the time so there’s no real need to go hunting for settings, but when it send you a million notifications and your want to adjust the PIR range, well you could be in for a journey.
Thankfully the main function of viewing the live streamed footage is front and centre. Oddly I found that stream worked 100% of the time, first time, while connected to 4G away from home but when on the same Wi-Fi network I’d have to retry the connection once or twice before the stream kicked in. There’s been some firmware updates since that have definitely improved this though but it’s still worth mentioning, especially if you were planning on using it as a baby monitor for example.
Once you have the Argus setup and positioned to catch your cat trying to murder your goldfish while you’re at work it’s essentially set and forget. That is until Whiskers jumps in front of and you receive a notification on your phone about it. Naturally you open it up and the stream starts only you don’t see Whiskers, in fact you’ve missed everything entirely, because in the time between detection and the stream beginning the event has passed and this is where the Argus could be amazing for some or quite a problem for others.
The Argus has a unique feature to it that almost no other does on the market today; it has an SD slot. The idea of an SD is great, with almost every other device going the cloud-storage route, the ability to put an SD card of any capacity into your Argus and then save any events is great. It’s something many people have wanted and I’m sure was a large factor in their Indiegogo success. The other thing it quite uniquely enables the camera to do is operate outside of your Wi-Fi. Every other camera on the market, Nest, Arlo, Canary, they all need an active internet connection to function, whilst the Argo can operate exactly as it would anywhere in your home somewhere completely different and just store everything to the inserted SD card. In fact, I used it like this myself whilst testing. Not owning a car my car space is often seen as fair game in my apartment’s parking garage so I hid the Argus on top of some conduit ducts and pointed it at the car park catching the woman and her wonderful lime green VW beetle and their disregard for private property. Winning!
Where it all falls down is if someone sees the camera. Internal storage is completely useless if they just grab it and rip the card out of it! The cloud is clearly the better option here, instantly (or in about 45 minutes if you’re on FTTN) your footage is safely stored for review. Some charge for that functionality, others have a free rolling period of 24 hours or 7 days, but it’s a feature (or lack thereof) that will solidly prove the Argus right or wrong for you.
Reolink have committed to a cloud service saying that they have one coming but there’s been no real information about it. Meaning that we have no idea when it might eventuate nor how much you can expect to pay for it.
When push comes to shove the Reolink Argus is going to be an ideal solution for most people who want a little added security in their home or a way to yell at their dog for being on the couch while you’re at work. It has all the major features you want in a new smart security camera for a fraction of the price. It’s ability to be placed easily and quickly both indoors and out further add to its argument as a strong option when in the market. Not to mention that dead easy setup process, which is probably the biggest selling point for me and the one that will mean I recommend this to most as that entry point solution. Yes it’s app may be a little less than ideal to setup right and you need to add an SD card for it to really be of any use in my opinion but they’re a small price to pay in the bigger picture.
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