Arlo vs. Nest 2019: Security Systems with Indoor and Outdoor Cameras

Arlo
Arlo
Plans starting at 
$0.00
Pro Bullet Geofencing
Con Bullet No facial recognition
Nest
Nest
Plans starting from 
$5.00
/mo.
Pro Bullet Facial recognition tech
Con Bullet Storage package purchase required

Overview

When it comes to camera-based smart security systems, both Arlo and Nest are getting some buzz. But how do you choose between them?

Arlo doesn’t yet have a full system with a base station on the market. So for now, the best way to compare the security systems is to look at their cameras. We tested some of Arlo’s and Nest’s indoor and outdoor cameras to learn more about them. Based on those tests and other research, when it comes to Arlo vs. Nest, we determined the best uses for each security camera.

We’ve divided this review by indoor and outdoor cameras. Skip ahead to learn more about outdoor cameras. Otherwise, hang tight for the indoor camera comparison.


Arlo vs. Nest indoor security cameras

Arlo vs. Nest indoor cameras comparison

Data effective 09/17/2019. Offers and availability subject to change.

Arlo Q Plus
Our Choice
The only substantial differences between the Arlo Q and Arlo Q Plus are the Arlo Q Plus’s Ethernet connection and SD card storage. They have the same software and video features, so we didn’t end up testing the Arlo Q Plus. All our statements about the Arlo Q are also applicable to the Plus.

Arlo and Nest pros and cons

Arlo indoor cameras

Pros
  • Pro BulletMotion detection
  • Pro BulletNight vision
  • Pro BulletTwo-way communication
  • Pro BulletGoogle Assistant and Alexa compatibility
  • Pro BulletFree for 7 days/1GB of storage
  • Pro BulletGeofencing
  • Pro BulletSD card storage (with Arlo Q Plus)
  • Pro BulletEthernet alternative (with Arlo Q Plus)
Cons
  • Con BulletNo facial recognition

Nest indoor cameras

Pros
  • Pro BulletMotion detection
  • Pro BulletNight vision
  • Pro BulletTwo-way communication
  • Pro BulletGoogle Assistant and Alexa compatibility
  • Pro BulletFacial recognition (with Nest Cam IQ Indoor)
Cons
  • Con BulletNo SD card storage
  • Con BulletNo geofencing
  • Con BulletStorage package purchase required

Major similarities

Equipment

Aesthetics

When we took each camera out of the box, we were immediately struck by the designs. Some security cameras can really throw a snag into your interior decorating. Not these ones. They all have a sleek, high-tech look.

Plugs and cords

All tested cameras come with a charging cord and a charger. The Arlo charger is simple while the Nest chargers are stylized and branded.

Arlo plug

Arlo charger

Photo source: ASecureLife team

Nest plug

Nest charger

Photo source: ASecureLife team

The cords for all the cameras are nice and long since they have to be plugged in to work. Cords for all three cameras run from the back.

Setup

Both these DIY brands have intuitive setups for their indoor cameras.

The Arlo Q has a magnet in the base. It sticks right to your fridge door or another magnetic surface, and the camera piece can be swiveled to get the best view. 

If you don’t want your Arlo Q to be a glorified refrigerator magnet, it also comes with a wall bracket for mounting. Of course, you can always just set it on top of something, like a living room bookshelf.

Arlo Q closeup

Photo source: ASecureLife team

The Nest Cam Indoor also comes with a wall bracket. Again, both cameras can be placed on top of something.
Nest Cam Indoor

Photo source: ASecureLife team

Nest Cam IQ Indoor

Photo source: ASecureLife team


Features

Video quality

The Arlo video quality’s great!

Arlo Q video feed

Photo source: ASecureLife team

The Arlo Q had a fairly significant lag between real life and what the screen showed.
During our tests, the motion sensor picked up motion immediately and caught each individual movement. There was a fairly significant lag between real life and what the screen showed, though. An intruder could snatch the fine china and be gone before Arlo even shows them walking in the front door.
The Nest devices’ video quality is good, too, though during testing, the movements were blurrier. The motion detection on both was also delayed, missing the first few seconds of motion. But there was much less of a lag in capturing real time than with Arlo.
Nest Cam Indoor feed

Photo source: ASecureLife team

Nest Cam IQ Indoor feed

Photo source: ASecureLife team

Apps

Both brands have apps for easier setup and monitoring. Overall, we’d say Arlo’s is more intuitive. Every camera feed appears on the home screen—no digging required. The Nest app requires a bit of poking around before you can bring up each camera’s feed.

Compatibility

The Arlo and Nest indoor cameras are all compatible with the Google Assistant app and Alexa. When the cameras are connected to one of these voice assistants, the user can call up the camera feeds just by speaking.

Since Nest products are owned by Google, instead of using the Google Assistant app, you can also access Google Assistant straight through the Nest app or use a Google device like a Google Home to control it.

Google and Nest
Our Choice
In May 2019, Google announced the end of the Works with Nest program. Nest compatibility will be managed through What Works with Google Assistant in the future.

Major differences

Initial cost

The Arlo Q, Arlo Q Plus, and Nest Cam Indoor all fall in the $150 to $200 range. The Nest Cam IQ Indoor, however, retails at $299. The major difference between the Nest Cam IQ Indoor and the others is that the Nest has a facial recognition feature, but we’re not convinced it’s worth it (more on that later).

Monthly price

The Arlo and Nest storage plans and prices are wildly different from one another. Arlo offers a month of video storage for $12.99, while Nest’s month of video storage costs $30. And, unlike Nest, Arlo has a free storage option for seven days or 1GB of video, whichever comes first. That’s a much better deal than Nest’s cheapest option, which gives five days of video storage for $5.

Can you use a Nest camera without a subscription?
Our Choice
If you choose not to get a Nest storage subscription (aka Nest Aware) for your camera, you can technically use the camera but you’ll get just three hours of playback. You'll have to monitor your camera's notifications throughout the day beyond that. So if you don't want to be constantly tied to your phone, we recommend getting a Nest camera only if you can also afford Nest Aware.

Installation

Both the Arlo and Nest cameras are DIY install, which by definition is supposed to be relatively painless.

The Arlo Q is much harder to install than the Nest cams, though. Instead of selecting the Wi-Fi network and logging in, you have to enter the network name manually before it can connect the Arlo. That leaves too much room for error and frustration: lots of people don’t even know their Wi-Fi network name off the top of their heads.

By contrast, the Nest cameras are super easy to install. You just find the Wi-Fi network on the Nest app and scan a QR code on each device. The rest of the installation process is fast and automatic.

The Arlo Q installation leaves too much room for error and frustration while the Nest cameras are super easy to install.

Geofencing

Arlo’s indoor cams have a geofencing feature. Basically, you can set your Arlo camera to turn on and off when your phone leaves or enters a set zone. This is beneficial if, for example, you want your camera recording only when you’re away from home.

The Nest cams don’t have geofencing capabilities, so you’ll have to turn the cameras on and off manually through the app.

Facial recognition

Nest offers face detection and recognition through the Nest Cam IQ Indoor, something Arlo doesn’t currently offer in an indoor camera. Basically, if the camera sees a person, it will take a snapshot of their face and ask you to identify the person.

You can assign a name to people you know. The next time the camera sees them, it’ll recognize their faces. That way, if an unwelcome stranger breaks in, your camera will let you know it’s not someone familiar. Or if there’s a person who’s not welcome in your home anymore, your Nest Cam IQ Indoor camera will know if they come inside.

The camera quickly learned to recognize the tester from straight on in daylight, but it thought the tester was a stranger when in profile or in the dark.
Does the facial recognition feature set Nest significantly apart from Arlo? Our experience says no. While it’s a great idea, it’s not quite advanced enough to make or break a purchase. The camera quickly learned to recognize the tester from straight on in daylight, but it thought the tester was a stranger when in profile or in the dark. We couldn’t find an easy way in the app to “teach” the camera that these images were all the same person.

Arlo vs. Nest outdoor security cameras

Arlo vs. Nest outdoor cameras comparison

Data effective 09/17/2019. Offers and availability subject to change.


Arlo and Nest pros and cons

Arlo outdoor cameras

Pros
  • Pro BulletMotion detection
  • Pro BulletNight vision
  • Pro BulletAutomatic zoom
  • Pro BulletTwo-way audio
  • Pro BulletSpotlight
  • Pro BulletSiren
  • Pro BulletGoogle Assistant and Alexa compatibility
  • Pro BulletGeofencing
  • Pro BulletSD card storage
  • Pro BulletWireless
Cons
  • Con BulletNo facial recognition
  • Con BulletNo cloud storage without a plan

Nest outdoor cameras

Pros
  • Pro BulletMotion detection
  • Pro BulletNight vision
  • Pro BulletAutomatic zoom
  • Pro BulletTwo-way audio
  • Pro BulletGoogle Assistant and Alexa compatibility
  • Pro BulletFacial recognition
Cons
  • Con BulletNo SD card storage
  • Con BulletCord required
  • Con BulletDirect sunlight discouraged

Major similarities

Initial cost

Currently on Amazon, the Arlo Ultra with the required Smart Hub runs a solid $399. The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor runs at about the same price.

Features

Automatic zoom

Both cameras have an automatic zoom feature. When the cameras detect motion, they may zoom in more closely to get a better view. This helps them (and you) distinguish between, say, a large neighborhood dog and someone army-crawling through your backyard.

The Arlo Ultra’s automatic zoom never activated during our testing, even though it detected motion regularly. The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor’s activated several times, zooming in on items of interest.

Both cameras have an automatic zoom feature.
The only thing we don’t like about the automatic zoom is the lack of a manual override on either camera. There were a couple of times when we wanted to look at something more closely, but we couldn’t figure out a way to zoom in on our own.

Apps

Just like the indoor cameras, the outdoor cameras are controlled through the brand apps. The only difference is that the Arlo Ultra display also shows the battery life of the camera and has a red alert button to turn on the siren. This is a huge bonus for a wireless camera: you’ll know your battery is nearing its end without tracking it yourself.

Other features

Again, both the Arlo Ultra and Nest Cam IQ Outdoor have good night vision and two-way communication.


Major differences

Monthly price

Prices for Nest Aware don’t change based on your camera, but Arlo Ultra has a separate pricing structure from its indoor counterparts. This camera gets storage through Arlo Smart Premier at $9.99 a month instead of through the $12.99 a month plan. When you buy the Arlo Ultra, it comes with one year of Smart Premier. After that, you’re on your own.

You can also get an SD card to put in the Smart Hub, similar to the SD card in the Arlo Q Plus. That’s free local storage (minus the cost of the card), but you can’t access the videos from the cloud. Not super convenient, especially if remote access is a selling point for you. But if you don’t mind physically removing the card to check the video files, your storage is as limitless as your supply of SD cards.

Remote SD card access
Our Choice
Arlo says that eventually, the brand will add remote access to the storage SD card, but there’s no clear timeline as to when.

Equipment

The Arlo Ultra is wireless, and a battery comes packaged with the equipment. You can charge it while it’s inside the camera through a small charging cord that connects to the top of the Arlo Ultra. This is especially useful if there’s not an easy way for you to connect a wired camera outside your home.

Arlo wireless test
Our Choice
We want to love the wireless feature, but sadly, the connectivity during testing was chancy. The video feed would pause and lurch periodically.
To use an Arlo Ultra, you have to have a special new Arlo Smart Hub. This camera’s not compatible with other Arlo hubs. So even if you already have an Arlo hub, you still need to get a new version for your Arlo Ultra. Luckily, most Arlo Ultras are sold bundled with the Smart Hub.

In contrast, the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor has to be plugged in to work. It comes with an indoor cord that’s meant to run to an indoor outlet. If you do use this indoor cord, you’ll probably need to drill a hole in your wall to run it through.

If you don’t want to drill a hole in your home, you can also get a waterproofed outdoor cord to plug into an outdoor outlet. Nest sells these cords separately (although we personally think they should be included with the camera).

Arlo Ultra

Arlo Ultra

Photo source: ASecureLife team

Nest Cam IQ Outdoor

Nest Cam IQ Outdoor

Photo source: ASecureLife team

Installation

Setting up the Arlo SmartHub is fairly straightforward. You mostly just sit around and wait while the base and the camera put out signals to each other and the Wi-Fi network.

The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor installation is a much different experience. First, you attach the cord. Then you have to set up the camera in a place where the cord can reach an outlet. That limits possible placements.

During installation, the Nest app warns the user to keep the camera out of direct sunlight so it won’t overheat. Seems like a flaw for an outdoor camera! Never letting it ever be in direct sunlight could be a trick.

Features

Video quality

The Arlo Ultra’s live feed was a little fuzzier than the Arlo Q’s.

Arlo Ultra feed

Photo source: ASecureLife team

There was still a delay, but it seemed to be less dramatic than the lag with the Arlo Q. The picture lagged only a little, while the sound was much farther behind.

We loved the quality of the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor. The colors were crisp, and we could clearly see small details like the hose on the lawn.

Nest Cam IQ Outdoor feed

Photo source: ASecureLife team

Sadly, items in motion were still pretty blurry, just like with the IQ Indoor. But again, the real-time capture was better than Arlo’s.

Motion detectors

The motion detectors on both were a bit persnickety. They seemed to be pet-proof. At least, a pair of ducks didn’t set either of them off. But there were times when full-grown adults didn’t set off the detectors, either. That’s concerning.

Geofencing

The Arlo Ultra has geofencing just like its indoor counterparts. So, once again, you can set your camera to turn on or off depending on where you and your smartphone are located.

Spotlight

The Arlo Ultra has a fun surprise: a spotlight! It turned on when we shut the camera in the closet, making the live feed almost as bright as daylight. After several minutes, it automatically turned off again. Definitely a nice touch.

Arlo states that the spotlight is motion-triggered, so if it catches an intruder in the dark, it’ll illuminate them for the world to see.

Siren

The Arlo Ultra also has a siren that you can switch on remotely. If something happens outside the view of the camera, you can still sound the alarm by starting the siren through the app.

The app warns you that the siren is “extremely loud.” However, when we turned it on, we were disappointed. We could barely hear it through a closed door.

Facial recognition

Like the Nest Cam IQ Indoor, the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor has face-detection software. We hoped that the outdoor camera would recognize the tester even though the indoor version didn’t.

No such luck. Not only did the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor not recognize the tester in several different captures, it also didn’t recognize other individuals.


Arlo and Nest customer service

One more thing to consider.

Arlo’s parent company, Netgear, isn’t known for outstanding customer service. While most of the negative reviews involve router services, you may not get the best support from the brand with cameras either.

Nest has significantly better ratings, but it does have a lot of complaints. Again, the complaints are mostly for non-camera products (thermostats). Still, you’ll want to keep that in mind as you make your purchases.


Our recommendations

When it comes to Arlo vs. Nest for home security systems, here’s what we recommend.

Indoor

If you just need to get reliable eyes on a room in your home pronto, we’d recommend going with one of Arlo’s indoor cameras. It might take you longer to install, but you’ll have clear video that doesn’t blur out motion. And hey, even though there’s a lag, you’ll capture everything because your motion detection won’t be delayed.

Go ahead—shop the Arlo Q or the Arlo Q Plus. Also, Arlo sells even more cameras we didn’t touch on here. To learn more, check out our Arlo camera reviews.

If you need easier installation, don’t mind the higher price point, want to integrate with an existing Nest Secure security system, or are concerned about Arlo’s lag, then Nest would be the better choice.

Ready to buy? Here are direct links to the Nest Cam Indoor or Nest Cam IQ Indoor. If you need more information, our Nest reviews are great additional resources.

Outdoor

If you want a wireless camera with a spotlight or siren, then go with the Arlo Ultra. Or, to see other Arlo outdoor security camera before making a decision, check out our Arlo cameras review.

If you’d prefer to pay less for storage and don’t mind finding a place to plug in the cord, the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is a great choice for you. But if you’re not sold, this Nest Hello Doorbell review describes another great Nest outdoor security camera option.