Blink and Blink XT Camera ReviewBy - 06/24/2017
I’ve been a Blink owner for almost 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.
|Resolution||720p||720p, 1080p Capable|
|Night Vision||Illuminator||IR LEDs|
|Field of View||110°||110°|
|Promised Battery Life||2 Years||2 Years|
|Actual Battery Life||Still Going||2 Months|
|Sensors||Motion and Temperature||Motion and Temperature|
|Color||White||Black (Trim White, Utility Gray, and Brick Red Skins Are Also Available For $24.99 Each)|
|Where to Buy||Visit Site||Visit Site|
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, wait. The new Sync Module, estimated to launch Q1FY18, is 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 both the original Blink and Blink XT, 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, but the other services should launch Q1 of next year.
|Support for Siren, Keypad, Motion Sensors, Water Sensor|
|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 new sensors will also roll out next year 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 are still promising a siren, something for which Blink owners have been waiting at least a year. The siren includes a 105dB alarm that can be manually or motion triggered. The siren is built to be used indoors. Third, 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. Finally, Blink will add a Water Sensor which will monitor for moisture and notify you if it detects a leak or flood.
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.
Motion Alerts and Video Storage
Even if you don’t expand your system with service and sensors, you can still protect your home. All Blink cameras include motion detection that is sensitivity adjustable. From the app (iOS and Android) you can:
- Enable/Disable Motion
- Set the Retrigger Time Between 10 and 60 Seconds
- Adjust the Sensitivity
- 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 recently tested Canary Flex, as an example, and was disappointed to find the camera often misses important events because it sleeps through them. Blink doesn’t have that problem. In fact, I looked through two years’ worth of recorded footage (yes, it can potentially keep footage for years) 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.
- Geofencing is a premium feature, 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. (FHD, Geofencing For Free, A Siren, Etc.)
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.
If you want to get started with Blink, you can purchase the original camera here or Blink XT here. The other devices, including the new Sync Module, will launch early next year. I suggest you wait to buy until that happens.
About That Battery Life
My original Blink cameras are still going strong after years of use. The XT, on the other hand, didn’t fare so well outdoors. My first set of batteries lasted around two months. After that, I made adjustments to the camera to reduce the amount of alerts received. Unfortunately, this made little difference. The second round of batteries lasted a mere 1.5 months.
Disappointed, I reached out to Blink for feedback. Team Blink suggested I use only new, non-rechargeable AA Lithium batteries 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.
Blink XT vs. Arlo Pro
|Arlo Pro||Blink XT|
|Resolution||720p||720p, 1080p Capable|
|Adjustable Video Quality|
|Field of View||130-degree||110-degree|
|Live Stream On-Demand|
|Other||Records Sound, Detects Sound||Records Sound, Temperature Alerts|
|Rating||IP65 rated||IP65 rated|
|Camera Power||Rechargeable Battery (Indoor or Outdoor), Power Supply (Indoor Only)||AA Batteries or micro USB cable and USB power adapter|
|Battery Life||2 Months||2 Years (Lasted Two Months During Testing)|
|Requirements||Base Station, Ethernet, Power||Sync Module, WiFi, Power|
|Siren||Built into base station.||Extra|
|Free Cloud Storage||7 Days||7,200 Seconds|
|Premium Features||Extended Phone Support, Additional Cloud Storage, Additional Camera Support, Advanced Motion Detection with Arlo Smart||Native Geofencing, Professional Monitoring, Sensors, 4G Backup, Advanced Motion Detection|
|Local Storage||USB Backup||USB Coming Soon|
|iOS and Android App|
|Alerts||Push, Email, IFTTT||Push, IFTTT|
|Works With||SmartThings, Wink, Stringify, IFTTT, Amazon Echo Show||Amazon Alexa, IFTTT|
|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.|
|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.
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 distinguish whether a motion event was caused by a moving vehicle, animal, person, or something else. This feature, however, requires a monthly subscription of $3.99 per camera. On the other hand, Blink doesn’t offer smart motion detection features.
Blink wins with its Instant On feature. 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. As I’m using Blink XT outside, I have to change 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.