Blink and Blink XT Camera ReviewBy - 01/30/2018
I’ve been a Blink owner for over two years, and the system has been good to me. The original camera was given to me for a review, but I’ve since purchased the Blink XT on my own. With a new camera in place and lots of updates coming soon, I think it’s time to take a fresh look at this battery-operated security camera.
Blink vs. Blink XT
Blink XT is the newest Blink Camera. It’s not a replacement for Blink, but rather a supplement. In so many ways, it appears superior. And in so many ways, it’s still the same.
|Night Vision||Illuminator||IR LEDs|
|Field of View||110°||110°|
|Promised Battery Life||2 Years||2 Years|
|Actual Battery Life||2 Years||2 Months|
|Sensors||Motion and Temperature||Motion and Temperature|
|Smart Detection||Activity Zones||Activity Zones|
|Color||White||Black (Trim White, Utility Gray, and Brick Red Skins Are Also Available For $24.99 Each)|
|Where to Buy||Amazon||Amazon|
The two cameras can work alone or together, but either way, you’ll need to connect them to a Sync Module, a separate device that remains plugged into a power source. If you’re planning to buy a Blink camera, you might want to wait. Blink is planning on launching a new Sync Module as part of their Blink Seecurity System. The catch is that it’s coming soon and the release date is still TBD.
Once launched, the new Sync Module will be superior to the existing module. First of all, it includes a 4G chip. Though you must pay to activate the chip, having the option is worth the wait. When the chip is activated, the Sync Module, and thus the cameras, will work if your internet is down and even if the power is out thanks to battery backup. Second, the new Sync is compatible with both professional monitoring and a fresh line of security sensors. If you choose to stick with the original Sync Module, it can support Blink, Blink XT, and the Panic Siren, but not the company’s new line of products and services.
Professional Monitoring vs. Self-Monitoring vs. Free
Assuming you wait for the new Sync Module, Blink can be monitored one of three ways: for free, self-monitored with cellular backup, or professionally monitored. Currently, the only option is free.
|Support for Siren, Keypad, Motion Sensors, Water Sensor, Key Fob||Panic Siren Only|
|Monitoring||Self||Self||24/7 Third-Party Professional Monitoring|
|Motion Alerts||PIR Motion Detection||PIR & Advanced Cloud Based Motion Analytics||PIR & Advanced Cloud Based Motion Analytics|
|Notifications||Push, IFTTT||Push, IFTTT||Push & Calls via Monitoring Center, IFTTT|
|Manual and Scheduled Arming/Disarming|
|Geofencing||via IFTTT Only|
|Camera Support||Up to 10 Cameras||Up to 10 Cameras||Up to 10 Cameras|
|Multi-tier User Accounts|
|Local 9-1-1 Alerts|
|Compatible With||Old and New Sync Module||New Sync Module||New Sync Module|
The 105dB indoor Panic Siren is the only sensor currently available for purchase. The Siren looks like the original Blink and it’s wireless and battery-powered. Unlike a traditional siren that sounds when a security event is detected, the Panic Siren will only sound if you trigger it. If you see something unusual, it’s up to you to sound the alarm. Originally, Blink promised motion triggers for the siren, so we’re wondering if they plan to reserve that feature as an upgrade for Blink Seecurity™ subscribers.
The other sensors will roll out under the name Blink Seecurity™. Going beyond security cameras, Blink is starting to look like a no-contract home security system, competing with companies like Scout and SimpliSafe. In fact, Blink plans to use the same monitoring company, COPS.
The first sensor that will connect to the new Blink Sync is an Entry Sensor. Also known as a contact sensor or door/window sensor, the Entry Sensor will monitor doors, windows, and other things that open and close. Second, they will sell a keypad so that you or your trusted loved ones can arm and disarm the system using a passcode. Unfortunately, everyone you entrust with the arm/disarm function will need to share the same passcode as the device only supports one. Third, they plan to sell a Motion Sensor and a Key Fob. Finally, Blink will add a Water Sensor which will monitor for moisture and notify you if it detects a leak or flood. While Blink still hasn’t confirmed a launch date, they have confirmed that the launch will be staggered. More than likely, Blink will launch the new sync module first, with other components to follow.
Blink plans to sell the new sensors in kits. One for new users (Starter Seecurity) and one for existing users (Upgrade Seecurity). The Starter Kit will include a Blink, Blink XT, 4G Cellular Sync Module, Siren, 2 Entry Sensors, and a Keypad for $339. The Upgrade Kit is meant to supplement and upgrade an existing Blink system by adding the new 4G Sync Module, 1 Siren, 2 Entry Sensors, and a Keypad for $149. Of course, you can also add additional cameras and hardware a la carte.
Blink Video Doorbell
Also coming soon is Blink’s first Video Doorbell. Do I plan to test the Video Doorbell? If they send me one I will, but I don’t plan to buy one. It’s a fine doorbell, with a tempting price ($99.00 without a Sync Module, $129.99 with a Sync Module). And yes, it does require a Sync Module. So why wouldn’t I buy it? For starters, I’m satisfied with my Ring Video Doorbell. I also know from watching Ring struggle with their initial Doorbot product and from watching August struggle to launch a successful doorbell, that making a video doorbell isn’t as easy as it sounds. Second, my experience with Blink XT has shown me that Blink’s amazingly long battery life isn’t so amazing when the camera is exposed to the outdoors, where the motion activity level is higher. This wouldn’t be as big of a deal if Blink Doorbell was wired or if it offered a rechargeable battery, but it doesn’t.
The Blink Doorbell will use the same two AA 1.5V Lithium batteries as the Blink Security cameras. While you can wire the doorbell so that it rings your existing chime, this will not keep the camera charged, it will only extend the camera’s battery life.
Finally, Blink hasn’t been so great about launching promised products in their promised form and they’ve struggled to launch products on time.
That said, let’s talk hardware. The Blink Video Doorbell is an HD camera that offers two-way audio. If someone rings your doorbell, you can use the Blink app to talk to your guest. If you don’t have an existing door chime, you can buy one from Blink (pricing TBD). The camera will capture ring events and store them in the Blink cloud. The doorbell, like all Blink cameras, includes free cloud storage.
In addition to ring events, the camera can monitor for motion events. According to David Laubner, Head of Digital Marketing & Sales for Blink, you will be able to turn motion off and keep ring events on. Though you can choose to turn ring and motion on or off, there’s no word yet on if you will be turning notifications off or monitoring off. Either way, if you have another outdoor camera set up to monitor, I suggest you turn Blink’s motion off as its battery life is highly contingent upon usage and motion events would trigger more use.
You can learn more about Blink Video Doorbell here. Blink plans to launch the doorbell in a few months.
Motion Alerts and Video Storage
Even if you don’t expand your Blink cameras with service, sensors, and doorbells, you can still protect your home. All Blink cameras include motion detection backed by Activity Zones that is sensitivity adjustable.
Activity Zones is a new feature, launched well after I originally wrote this review. It masks off areas you don’t want your camera to monitor for motion. Unfortunately, Blink’s Activity Zone feature is slightly different from what other cameras offer. You can’t draw the zone or even customize its shape. Instead, the camera’s frame is segmented into a 5-by-5 grid. Each of the 25 cells represent an activity zone. It’s not perfect, but it’s progress.
From the app (iOS and Android), you can also:
- Enable/Disable Motion
- Set the Retrigger Time Between 10 and 60 Seconds
- Adjust the Sensitivity
- Customize Activity Zones
- Adjust the Recorded Clip Length (5 and 60 Seconds)
- Set the Clip to End Early if Motion Stops
And what I like most about Blink’s motion is that it’s “always-on.” You might not realize how important this is until you test other battery-powered cameras. I tested Canary Flex, as an example, and was disappointed to find the camera often missed important events because it sleeps through them. Blink doesn’t have that problem. In fact, I looked through a years’ worth of recorded footage (yes, it can potentially keep footage for a year) and found that Blink captured the action effectively.
So how long can Blink keep footage? It keeps footage until your storage limit is reached. Footage is stored on Blink’s server where you are allowed to store up to 7,200 seconds of video. If you decide to keep the clip length at five seconds, you can save 1,440 clips. Once you run out of space, your older events are automatically overwritten by newer events. If there is a clip you want to save, simply download the video or email it to yourself from the mobile app. If you prefer to take charge of your allotted storage, you can also delete saved clips manually. Finally, though the Sync Module supports a Flash Drive, the ability to use it for local storage is still not available.
Of course, Blink isn’t perfect. It’s missing a few key features.
- You can’t record on-demand.
- Lacks Geofencing, though you can set this up indirectly through IFTTT.
- It lacks two-way audio.
- As a company, they haven’t always delivered promised features/products. (USB Storage, Geofencing, Motion Triggered Siren, Etc.)
- Push Notifications are not sent until motion is finished recording. They are NOT instant.
Though Blink has decided to charge for geofencing (the ability to automatically ask the camera to arm and disarm based on your presence), they have left us with three new freemium features.
First, you can create a schedule. If you wake up and come and go around the same time every day, this might work for you. The biggest problem here is that a schedule will arm all of your cameras. You cannot pick and choose different schedules for different cameras.
Second, they offer integration with Amazon Alexa. By enabling the “Blink for Home” skill, you can arm and disarm your system using your voice. You can also ask it to name your last recorded motion events. While disarming a camera with your voice might sound like a security risk, Blink has added protection by requiring a verbal, 4-digit pin.
— Rose Thibodeaux (@Rose_Thibodeaux) October 5, 2016
Third, they’ve launched their own IFTTT channel. Through IFTTT, you can connect Blink to hundreds of other devices and services. You can also create geofencing rules to arm and disarm your cameras based on your presence via Life360. However, after running an IFTTT geofencing rule on my indoor cameras for months, I’ve found it to be somewhat unreliable. And just like schedules, an IFTTT applet will arm and disarm all of your cameras. There is no way to choose individual cameras through IFTTT.
About That Battery Life
My original Blink cameras gave a solid two years of battery life. The XT, on the other hand, hasn’t fared so well outdoors. My first set of batteries lasted around two months. After that, I made adjustments to the camera to reduce the number of alerts received. Unfortunately, this made little difference. The second round of batteries lasted a mere 1.5 months. The third set didn’t last much longer.
Disappointed, I reached out to Blink for feedback. Team Blink suggested I use only new, non-rechargeable AA Lithium batteries (Amazon link) stating that alkaline based, Lithium Ion/Li-ion, and rechargeable batteries will only drain the camera faster. They also suggested that I power the camera using a micro USB cable and USB power adapter, which sort of defeats the purpose of buying a battery powered camera.
However, this doesn’t explain why there is such a great discrepancy between promised battery life (2 years) and actually battery life (2 months). According to Blink, standard use is defined as 40,000 seconds of recorded motion clips and live view sessions. I had surpassed this number in two months. That said, Blink XT is going to work best in lower traffic areas or even indoors. I also suggest looking into the new Activity Zone feature which will help reduce false alarms and prolong Blink’s battery life.
Blink + Amazon
Blink was acquired by Amazon in December of 2017. As to what that means for Blink, during our CES visit, Laubner had no comment other than, “It’s too soon to tell.” I asked how the merger would affect their cloud storage offer. No comment. I asked how the merger would affect customer service. No comment. I asked if they planned to continue to use their own app or if they planned to swap to the app used for Amazon Cloud Cam. No comment. The ending statement to my barrage of comments, “As of right now, everything is business as usual.”
Blink XT vs. Arlo Pro
|Arlo Pro||Arlo Pro 2||Blink XT|
|Adjustable Video Quality|
|Field of View||130-degree||130-degree||110-degree|
|Live Stream On-Demand|
|Other||Records Sound, Detects Sound||Records Sound and Detects Sound. When plugged-in, offers Activity Zones and Look Back.||Records Sound, Temperature Alerts, Activity Zones|
|Rating||IP65 rated||IP65 rated||IP65 rated|
|Camera Power||Rechargeable Battery (Indoor or Outdoor), Power Supply (Indoor Only), Arlo Solar Panel||Rechargeable Battery (Indoor or Outdoor), Power Supply (Indoor Only), Arlo Solar Panel||AA Batteries or micro USB cable and USB power adapter|
|Battery Life||Tested at 2-5 Months||Tested at 2-5 Months||2 Years (Lasted Two Months During Testing)|
|Requirements||Base Station, Ethernet, Power||Base Station, Ethernet, Power||Sync Module, WiFi, Power|
|Siren||Built into base station.||Built into base station.||Extra|
|Free Cloud Storage||7 Days||7 Days||7,200 Seconds|
1. Extended Phone Support, Additional Cloud Storage, Additional Camera Support.
2. Person Detection with Activity Zones and Rich Notifications via Arlo Smart
1. Extended Phone Support, Additional Cloud Storage, Additional Camera Support.
2. Person Detection with Activity Zones and Rich Notifications via Arlo Smart
3. Continuous Video Recording with a Paid CVR Plan.
|Native Geofencing, Professional Monitoring, Sensors, 4G Backup, Advanced Motion Detection|
|Local Storage||USB Backup or External Hard Drive||USB Backup or External Hard Drive||USB Coming Soon|
|iOS and Android App|
|Alerts||Push, Email, IFTTT||Push, Email, IFTTT||Push, IFTTT|
|Works With||SmartThings, Wink, Stringify, IFTTT, Amazon Echo Show, Echo Spot||SmartThings, Wink, Stringify, IFTTT, Amazon Echo Show, Echo Spot||Amazon Alexa, IFTTT|
|Visit Site||Visit Site||Visit Site|
The video above touches on the major bullet points when comparing Blink XT to Arlo Pro, but if you want to get into the weeds, read on.
Motion Detection Performance
|Arlo Pro||Blink XT|
|Adjustable Clip Length||10-120s||5-60s|
|Motion Triggered Clip Length||Record until activity stops (up to 300 sec).||Can end clip early if motion stops.|
|Notification Sent||Instantly||Once Recording Stops|
|Arm Individual Cameras||Manually or Via Rules||Manually|
|Geofencing||Via IFTTT (Native Geofencing Will Require a Subscription)|
|Person Detection||Via Arlo Smart|
When it comes to detecting motion, Arlo Pro and Blink approach the task differently. If your greatest concern is catching the most events with accuracy, Arlo wins. If your greatest concern is making sure the camera wakes up in time to record an event in its entirety, Blink XT wins with one exception: Arlo Pro 2 offers a pre-buffer feature that will record the three seconds before motion is detected. The biggest catch here is that Pro’s pre-buffer feature only works when the camera is plugged-in, and the power cord is not weatherproof.
After running the cameras side-by-side using different sensitivity levels, I found that Arlo was slightly more accurate at detecting events during the day and at night and delivered fewer false alarms. In part, because it offers a motion sensitivity test that allows you to set the motion detector’s range accurately. As an example, I wanted both cameras to detect motion on my porch while ignoring the street, which is several feet beyond my porch. I found that this is only possible using Arlo. Though you can adjust Blink’s motion sensitivity level, you can’t adjust the motion detector’s range. Adjusting Blink’s sensitivity adjusts what it considers to be movement, not how far the detector reaches to find movement.
In addition, Arlo has Arlo Smart, which gives Arlo the ability to detect people and adds Activity Zones. This feature, however, requires a monthly subscription of $2.99 per camera. If you use Arlo Pro 2 indoors and plugged-in, it also offers activity zones. You can set up to three zones. The camera will monitor the zones while ignoring motion outside the set zones. Again assuming you have the camera plugged-in, you can pay to add a continuous video recording (CVR) plan. On the other hand, Blink offers Activity Zones for free.
Blink wins with its Instant On feature. Unlike Arlo, this features works even when the camera is unplugged. A common problem with all battery-powered cameras is that they sleep between events to conserve battery life. Blink’s Instant On allows the camera to wake up and start recording within seconds. There are times when Arlo fails to wake up in time to actually record something useful. For example, the picture of my back below.
Arlo also has an edge in that they allow you to create modes involving individual cameras or groups of cameras. For example, you might have a rule that arms your outside camera, but not your indoor cameras. With Blink, schedules and automation are one-size-fits-all. You can manually disarm individual cameras from within the app, but you can’t automate without involving all cameras connected to your sync module.
Finally, Arlo’s battery is rechargeable and they sell a solar panel. As I’m using Blink XT outside, I have to replace the batteries about every 2 months.
How many cameras can each base station support?
One Arlo base station can support fifteen cameras, but your service plan will dictate how many cameras you can use. The free plan supports five cameras. Arlo’s Premier Plan for $9.99 per month supports ten cameras, and the Elite plan for $14.99 per month supports fifteen cameras.
On the other hand, you can connect up to ten Blink or Blink XT cameras to one sync module.
Can it read a license plate?
If Blink is placed correctly, you might be able to read the license plate number of a parked car. During the day, I was able to read a license plate that was 20-feet away if I used the camera’s digital zoom feature. I have not tested Arlo Pro in this scenario.
Support Caution For Both Cameras
I give Arlo a B+ for support and Blink a C. Arlo has a leg up here as they do offer phone support for the first three months. After that, you have four options:
- Pay for a premium plan to gain access to extended phone support.
- Ask the Arlo Community via their website.
- Use Live Chat.
- Send them an email.
Arlo’s email support is slow and there are often communication challenges. It took them four days to troubleshoot an issue I had with two-way audio.
Blink, on the other hand, is harder to get in touch with. They also have a community, though not as active as Arlo’s. And the only way to reach tech support is to fill out an online form. In my experience, once I had an agent, it was hard to continue communication as I wasn’t able to reply via email. Instead, each time, I had to fill out a new support form.
How long is the power cord?
The power cord for the Arlo Base Station is 6 feet long. The included Ethernet cable is 6.5 feet long. The USB cord that connects to the Blink Sync Module is 40.5 inches long.
Building materials, walls, and doors will all impact a camera’s range. In general, you can place a Blink camera up to 100 feet away from the sync module. Arlo cameras can be placed up to 300 feet away from the base station.
1/30/2018 Blink acquired by Amazon, update on Seecurity, and CES 2018 news
12/20/2017 Blink no longer supports SmartThings. Blink XT 1080p support launched. Ring Video Doorbell Preview.