I’ll admit it -- I have never been a fan of battery powered security cameras and have stayed away from them in the past. I am a set-it-and-forget-it type of person and that is probably why batteries have never appealed to me. Well all that changed when I started writing this Reolink Argus review.
Wire-free cameras -- who’s it for?
To make things simple, lets talk about what wire-free cameras are not for:
- they are not for 24/7 live-streaming or recording. Why? Because of batteries.
- they are not for locations that are remote or cannot be accessed every 3 months or so. Why? Again because of batteries.
For any application that do not need the above, wire-free cameras can be considered.
For outdoor security cameras, generally power is not an issue because you can just run Ethernet cables anywhere and power up the cameras using Power-over-Ethernet (PoE). But where battery powered cameras come into their own are locations outside your home where you cant get cables to or for applications inside the home where there’s no power source nearby.
Lets take an example of a common application most people would consider the Argus for. When I heard of the Argus, the first thought that I had was ‘can it be a portable baby monitor’? You see, I have been using the Amcrest IP2M-841B as my baby monitor for over a year now. While its a great camera for this purpose, there is one little issue -- when my baby moves around the house during the course of the day, I have to keep moving the baby monitor along with him. This is not great because I have to keep hopping the camera from one power socket to the next.
With a wire-free camera, I am no longer constrained by the location of power sockets! In fact this was the source of inspiration that led Reolink’s CEO Colin Liu to create this camera in the first place through their highly successful IndieGoGo campaign that raised over a million dollars. So is the Argus a good baby camera? Not a primary one as you will see soon, but good as a secondary one.
Wire-free cameras are also great for renters who are not allowed to make permanent changes to their properties. There are a few other possible applications too -- ever wanted to put a camera inside your pets cage? Or inside the bird house at the bottom of the garden?
Well if only there was a wire-free weather resistant camera that could also solve the problem of false motion detection alerts -- enter the Reolink Argus! Reolink have kindly provided a test unit and I put it through its paces.back to menu ↑
What’s in the box
Reolink’s packaging is usually great and the Argus is no exception. The Argus box itself was encased in another shipping box providing an extra layer of safety.
The box has the main features of the camera printed on it.
So what’s inside the box?
- Reolink Argus camera
- 4x CR123a batteries
- Magnetic base
- Magnetic base hole template
- 2x Pack of screws
- Reset needle
- Outdoor security mount
- Outdoor security mount template
- What’s next card
- Quick start guide
- Surveillance sticker
Everything that you need to get started with wire-free surveillance is included. 4 GP-branded CR123A batteries are included and this is a great choice. I personally use GP batteries in all my home automation sensors and so very pleased to see Reolink opted for the same brand.back to menu ↑
|Image Sensor||2 Megapixel Progressive Scan CMOS|
|IR LED Range||850nm IR LEDs, up to 10m (33 feet)|
|Lens type||Fixed focus|
|Angle of view||130° horizontal, 70° vertical|
|Bit rate||H.264, 15fps|
|Wi-Fi||2.4GHz IEEE 802.11b/g/n|
|Protocols||TCP/IP, HTTP, HTTPS, uPNP, SMTP, NTP, DHCP, DNS, URL, P2P|
|Storage||microSD card up to 64 GB|
|Power supply||Battery powered|
Supports 4 CR123A Non-Rechargeable Batteries (3V) or 4 CR123A Rechargeable Batteries (3.6V~4.2V)
4 included, GP brand
|Power consumption||4-6 months battery life specified|
|Main stream||1080P (1920*1080)|
|Audio support||Yes, 2-way audio with onboard mic and speaker|
|Dimensions||113 x 65 x 54 mm (4.4 x 2.5 x 2.1 in)|
|Working environment||-10 ℃ ~+55 ℃ (14°F~131°F)|
Design & Hardware Features
Right off the bat, let me say that the Argus looks and feels a lot more expensive than its price suggests. The glossy glass-like finish, the quality of the materials used and the general fit and finish are very Nest-like.
In the photo above, the camera is attached to the magnetic base and in the photo below, it is attached to the outside security mount.
Starting from the top, there is a daylight sensor which automatically turns on or off the Infrared LEDs. Next is the lens itself, surrounded by the Infrared LEDs. There is a status LED that shines bright blue below the lens. Below the status LED sits the built-in microphone.
You can’t miss one of the best features of the Argus, the built-in PIR motion sensor. This enables accurate motion detection instead of the more inaccurate software based motion detection.
The speaker is placed at the very bottom of the camera and is identifiable by the grill holes.
The rear of the camera sports just the Reolink logo and the quick setup QR code (more on that later).
On the left of the camera, we find a removable soft rubber cover. Open it and the microSD card slot is revealed along with the reset button.
I should point out something here to save you potential frustration especially as the manual doesn’t mention it. Typically microSD slots have a spring loaded mechanism which clicks when you push the card in and locks it in place. But in the Argus, there is just a spring mechanism. Meaning the microSD card never stays locked inside the slot by itself. You have to push the card in and then replace the rubber cover. That’s it. It would have been helpful if Reolink just used the standard microSD card slot every other manufacturer uses.
The bottom of the Argus contains a magnet for the magnetic base and a standard tripod mount. The magnet in the base of the camera attaches very strongly and securely to the magnetic base. Its a great idea and fits in nicely with the wire-free theme. It lets you quickly detach the Argus from the magnetic base and move it around the home.
The provided wedge is needed to open the Argus. The camera needs four CR123A batteries and these are included in the box.
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The included quick start manual is if very high quality and illustrates the setup process well. The Reolink Argus is designed to be as easy to set up as possible and I have to say a 5 year old can set up this camera -- its that simple.
How does the camera do this? By guiding you through the setup process using voice instructions. Yes the camera actually speaks to you. Very cool and it’s not just a gimmick, I found it held my hand right through the setup process.
These are the steps I followed from the user manual to set up the Argus:
- Insert the batteries into the cameraAs soon as I added the batteries, a red light came on and the camera started talking with a female voice every 60 seconds:
“Please run Reolink app. Click the ‘Add new device’ button and follow instructions to set up the camera.”
- The next step is to install the Reolink app. Now there are 2 ways to proceed -- go to the App Store (iOS) or the Android Play Store and install it yourself or scan the QR code in the manual.
- Click the ‘Add new device’ button as prompted earlier by the camera
- Scan the QR code on the cameraClick on the ‘Set up camera’ option when prompted by the Reolink app.
- Now the camera will ask you whether you heard the voice prompt heard in step 1. So click the button named “I heard the voice prompt”.
- Next enter your WiFi network information and tap the “I have entered the correct information” button.
- The next step is a novel one. You have to point the camera at your mobile screen where a QR code is displayed. Basically the app is telling the camera what the WiFi network login details are. If the camera reads the QR code successfully, you will hear the camera say “Scan succeeds. Camera is connecting to the router.” Now click the ‘I heard scan succeeds’ button’.
- When the camera successfully connects to the your WiFi router, you should hear the camera say “WiFi connection succeeds (sic), welcome to Reolink!”. Go ahead and tap the ‘I heard WiFi connection succeeds’ button.
- Now the camera is connected to your WiFi network and you can login for the first time
- As soon as you login, the camera will prompt you to change the default password which is just a blank. This is a good security feature and I am happy to see the Argus has it.
- Don’t forget to tap the ‘Init’ button on the live view page to set the camera’s time and Daylight Savings Time (DST) settings.
You don’t have to do any extra setup such as port forwarding for accessing the camera remotely. It utilises Reolink’s P2P servers to accomplish this automatically. If you are worried about security you can block the P2P service and do your own port forwarding, or better yet give the Argus local access only and just VPN into your home network.back to menu ↑
Software features & Mobile app
The Reolink Argus is controlled exclusively by the Reolink mobile app. You cannot access the camera from any other source. That said, the app is quite good and lets you do everything that you could through a dedicated web interface.
The app has two main sections -- Devices and Settings. When you open the app, it takes you to the Devices screen by default. This is a list of all the devices and buttons that let you view each device’s battery status, turn on/off PIR and push notifications and access the full configuration page.
The Settings section is actually app-related settings such as a password, and enabling access over mobile data networks.
When you select a device, its own live view screen will open. Here you can turn on audio, record a video, or take a photo.
If you switch to the Playback tab, you can view both motion detection clips and video clips recorded through the app. These clips are stored on the microSD card.
You can select a specific date or select the marker on the timeline to choose a particular recording. At any point, you have the option of viewing more than one device by clicking on the multiple camera icon in the top right.
Device Setting page
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The camera was able to maintain a steady WiFi signal from all corners of my home. It was able to keep serving a live video stream from some parts of my garden also.
Mobile App Live view
I tested the camera from inside my home network and remotely over 4G. My home broadband is 50 mbps up/10 mbps down and 4G network is around 15 mbps up/down. These are very high speeds and are ideal for bandwidth intensive applications such as video. You may not get the same results as I did if you are on slower networks.
On the whole, the Reolink Argus camera performed well considering the fact that it is a battery powered WiFi device. Even remotely, the app was zippy in logging into the camera and displaying the live stream.
The FullHD 1080p video resolution is very good and provides the Argus with sharp and clear video, both during live streaming and in clips recorded to the microSD card. The IR LEDs are not the brightest you will find in a security camera but are adequate for the job.
In my humble opinion, what makes or breaks a security camera is its ability to capture motion triggered video clips. After all, lets not forget that the main purpose you are getting the Argus in the first place is to capture an intruder in action and get a clear shot that the police can use.
The PIR sensor gives the Argus an edge over cameras that rely on purely software based motion detection- you will get far fewer false alerts. You can also adjust the sensitivity of the PIR sensor to suit the installation location.
So how does it perform? In my many tests, it never once failed to trigger within the claimed detection area. I got immediate push notifications and email alerts on my mobile phone.
However there was one area of weakness which has more to do with the camera’s programming than the PIR sensor itself. The camera does not seem to have a pre-record feature and a very short recording duration for each motion detection event. These two are perhaps the most important software features a camera should have.
Watch the following videos to see what I mean:
Daytime Indoors video
Night-time Indoors video
Daytime Outdoor video
Night-time Outdoor video
- There is no pre-recording -- the recording begins only around a second after the PIR sensor fires. So it missed me entering the room with my face exposed. With pre-recording, the camera would be recording the stream 24/7 automatically and so would be able to capture the few seconds before the PIR sensor fires.
- Short recording duration -- In the test videos below, I first trigger the PIR then walk towards the camera with my face exposed. But because the PIR cannot detect motion in a direction perpendicular to the sensor, it stops firing and recording stops soon after. If it had continued recording for 10 seconds, it would have caught my face. Of course I then reached the camera and the PIR sensor fires again as I move sideways.
I put the 2 points above to Reolink who informed me that there was no pre-record feature and that the recording duration was a fixed 6 seconds. While I can live without pre-recording on a battery powered camera, the fixed recording duration of 6 seconds is not great at all. Fortunately Reolink also added that the ability to adjust the recording duration will be added to the camera in future.
While most indoor security camera boast half-duplex 2-way audio, the Reolink actually has full-duplex 2-way audio. This means you can speak and hear at the same time as you would on a normal phone call, not take turns to speak like on a walkie-talkie.
Interestingly Reolink doesn’t claim to have full-duplex audio and maybe that’s because its not perfect yet. I found two slight issues. When I pressed the talk button when the audio from the camera was also on, it resulted in the volume of the camera audio stream reducing by quite a bit. This made it difficult to hear what was being said. Secondly, there was an occasional echo.
Being a consumer focused model, the camera doesn’t currently have Motion JPEG, RTSP or API support which would help it interface with your existing home automation or NVR. I asked Reolink whethere there were plans to add RTSP and they said its on the cards! With that I would be able to just ask my Vera Plus smart home hub to get an alert whenever the camera PIR senses motion and take a snapshot or record the RTSP stream. Now that would be cool!
Each of the 4 batteries provided by Reolink can hold 1500mAh. This means that with standard usage, the camera should last around 4-6 months. Over the week I intensively tested the camera, the battery level hardly fell. I would have liked for Reolink to provide a % level meter instead of the detailed statistics screen showing me how many minutes I have used the camera each day. There is a visual meter but it has no scale, so can be difficult to read accurately.back to menu ↑
Reolink Argus vs. Netgear Arlo
The Netgear Arlo comes in different varieties starting with the Arlo Wirefree, the Arlo Pro and the Arlo Go. The Arlo model that is closest to the Argus is the Arlo Pro, and this is the choice you will most probably come up against.
Both the Argus and the Arlo Pro are wirefree thanks to their batteries. However the Arlo Pro has a proprietary rechargeable battery which can result in higher operation time depending on which batteries you use in the Argus.
When it comes to video, the Argus has a clear advantage due to its 1080p sensor. Things are more equal when it comes to audio with both cameras having full duplex 2-way audio with a built-in microphone and speaker.
Connectivity is an area where there are major differences between the Argus and the Arlo Pro. Both cameras use Wi-Fi for communication, but the Argus is a standalone camera. The Arlo Pro on the other hand needs its base.
Both cameras support motion alerts and are weatherproof with IP65 ratings.back to menu ↑
Overall, my experience with the Reolink was very positive and this is a camera with great potential. It’s very easy to set up with the voice guide, it has good video and audio quality, it has a PIR sensor for true motion detection, a stable app and last but not the least, the ability to work without the cloud thanks to its microSD local storage.
Some improvements are necessary to make this a killer camera though -- the ability to adjust the motion detection recording duration, RTSP support and an API to access the camera from apps other than the official Reolink app. All of these are slated to be added in the future and I look forward to that.
Great wire-free camera that's stylish and user-friendly
- Very easy to set up with the innovative voice guide
- Full HD 1080p video and true full-duplex 2-way audio
- Strong IR LEDs for night vision
- Good battery life of 4-6 months
- PIR sensor for true motion detection as opposed to software based motion detection
- Stable and modern mobile app
- Connects directly to WiFi router, no separate hub needed like Arlo
- Ability to work without the cloud thanks to its microSD local storage
- Ability to adjust the motion detection recording duration not available yet
- Works only with the Reolink mobile app right now
- No pre-record on motion feature
- No ONVIF or RTSP support yet
Where to buy
Don’t forget to check out the latest promo codes available for Reolink cameras!
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