Reolink Argus 2 Review and Reolink GoBy - 03/06/2018
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that’s true, Arlo should feel most flattered. Reolink has continued to stay right on their heels, releasing new indoor/outdoor, battery-powered cameras and new functionalities. At CES 2018, we were able to visit with Reolink to get a closer look at their newest cameras including Reolink Argus 2 and Reolink Go. Thanks to Reolink’s generosity, I also tested Reolink Argus 2 in my home.
Reolink Argus 2 vs. Reolink Argus
|Arlo Pro||Arlo Pro 2||Blink XT||Canary Flex||Reolink Argus||Reolink Argus 2|
|Two-Way Audio||Members Only|
|Field of View||130°||130°||110°||116°||130°||130°|
|Arlo Pro||Arlo Pro 2||Blink XT||Canary Flex||Reolink Argus||Reolink Argus 2|
|Works Alone||Requires Base Station||Requires Base Station||Requires Sync Module|
|Works Outside and Inside|
|Free Mobile App|
|Web App||Members Only|
|Person Detection||Via Arlo Smart||Via Arlo Smart|
|Audible Siren||Sold Separately|
|Free Storage||7 Days Free Cloud, Pro Base Station Supports USB||7 Days Free Cloud, Pro Base Station Supports USB||7,200 Seconds of Video||1 Device = 24hr, 2 Devices = 12hr Each, 3 Devices = 8hr Each, 4 Devices = 6hr Each||16GB SD Card (Can Support 64GB)||Can Support 64GB microSD Card, 7 Days Free Cloud|
|Works With||IFTTT, SmartThings, Echo Show, Echo Spot||IFTTT, SmartThings, Echo Show, Echo Spot||Amazon Alexa, IFTTT||Wink|
|Battery Life||Tested at 2 Months||Tested at 3 Months||Tested at 2 Months||Tested at 7 Weeks||Tested at 2 Months||Tested at 1.5 Months|
|Option for Solar Power|
|Geofencing||Via IFTTT Only|
|Placement||Stand or Optional Wall Mount, Magnetic Surface||Stand or Optional Wall Mount, Magnetic Surface||Stand or Wall Mount||Magnetic Base, Stand, Mounting Options Sold Separately||Stand or Optional Wall Mount, Magnetic Surface||Stand or Optional Wall Mount, Magnetic Surface|
|Where to Buy||Amazon||Amazon||Amazon||Amazon||Amazon||Amazon|
Last year, I went hands-on with Reolink Argus. At that time, Reolink was already promising the launch of V2 and even sharing expected features. At launch, they delivered on their promises.
There isn’t much that differentiates Argus 2 from Argus. They are both battery-powered indoor/outdoor cameras. They are both 100% wire-free (hubless, though Reolink’s launching an optional hub). They both offer two-way audio, live streaming, and motion detection. The difference between the two lies in the way they are powered and the sensors used.
Perhaps the most significant differentiator between the two cameras is how they are powered. Reolink Argus ships with a CR123A non-rechargeable battery. Though it supports both rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries, using a rechargeable battery will reduce the camera’s battery life. Argus 2, on the other hand, ships with a rechargeable battery and also offers two other charging options: USB charging and solar charging. Other than that, the only difference between the two cameras is how they approach night vision.
Argus uses traditional IR LEDs to deliver night vision. So does Argus 2. But Argus 2 also offers “Starlight Night Vision.” The difference is that IR LEDs deliver a traditional black and white night vision experience. Starlight Night Vision is in color, making it easier to identify people and things. Starlight colored night vision is made possible thanks to a new image sensor that Reolink promises will improve video quality at night and during the day.
|Reolink Argus||Reolink Argus 2|
|Night Vision||IR LEDs||IR LEDs & Starlight Night Vision|
|Image Sensor||1/2.9″ CMOS Sensor||SONY 1/2.8″ CMOS
|Field of View||130°||130°|
|Battery Type||Four Lithium CR123A/3.0V Photo, Non Rechargeable Lithium Battery||SAMSUNG/18650/
Rechargeable Lithium Battery
|Other Power Options||Micro USB Battery
|Optional Solar Panel|
|Storage||Built-in Micro SD Socket||Built-in Micro SD Socket|
|Buy Now||Amazon||Visit Site|
Reolink Argus 2 Video Performance
In theory, Starlight Night Vision (thanks to the improved CMOS sensor) should make Reolink Argus 2’s video performance better than the original Argus at night, but also during the day. At night, when using IR LEDs, I couldn’t tell the difference at all. However, swapping Argus 2 to colored night vision made a huge difference.
Recently, I had a viewer ask why Argus offers both Starlight and IR LED night vision. I reached out to Reolink to ask why. According to them, “We are using (the) starlight image sensor to create better videos and images. When the camera is in complete darkness, it still requires the IR LED to help provide additional illumination.” However, the video samples I took in the video above were in complete darkness. And trust me when I say, it’s very dark and rural where I live with acres of woods behind me. It’s the type of place where you can still see the stars at night. I also turned off all of my interior lights before testing. In fact, not too long after I filmed, the camera caught deer at the tree line, which is farther back than I stood to take the sample video. All that said, it’s nice to have both. If you prefer the way the black and white night vision looks, simply swap back. You can even swap while live streaming and recording.
During the day, I’d say there was a slight difference between Argus and Argus 2, but not much. The colors were a little crisper, but I wouldn’t say the overall image was crisper.
In testing Argus 2, I tested it against the original Argus, but also Arlo Pro and Pro 2. I tested the cameras in both my backyard and front yard. In the backyard, Argus 2 did okay. In fact, there were moments where it outperformed Arlo.
In the front yard, however, it struggled. I placed Argus, Argus 2, Arlo Pro, and Arlo Pro 2 on my covered porch. While sitting in the shade and facing the sun, Reolink struggled to adjust to the light contrast. The image was extremely low quality and yellow. Where the bushes closest to the camera were clear, the house across the street was almost unrecognizable. By contrast, Arlo darkened the bushes, but images further away, like the house across the street, were crystal clear.
The other major difference when comparing video quality is frame rate. Reolink’s max frame rate is 15 frames per seconds (fps). When you slow the video down, you can see just how jerky this is when compared to Arlo, which records at 30 fps.
Finally, lag time. Reolink Argus 2 is fast to live stream. On average, I can initiate a stream within 2 seconds where it takes Arlo Pro 2 about 4-9 seconds.
Video Quality Customization
From the app, you can control certain video-quality-related features. First, you can rotate or mirror the image.
Second, you can adjust the anti-flicker settings in case the camera’s image starts to flicker, something I experienced recently with another camera. You can choose from Off, 50HZ, 60HZ, or outdoor. I used the outdoor setting and didn’t have any problems with flickering.
Third, you can adjust the camera’s resolution. Reolink Argus 2, like Argus, has two settings: Clear and Fluent. By default, Clear is set to 1080P, but you can change this to HD720p. Fluent, on the other hand, offers a lower resolution. The max resolution is Q720p which is a quarter of 720 or 320x180p. In addition to the two resolution settings you can choose from, Argus might adjust on its own (to 640×320 at 5fps) if your network connection isn’t strong enough.
Finally, you can adjust Bitrate and Frame Rate. Both Fluent and Clear offer the same options. You can reduce the frame rate per second (fps) from 15 down to 10, 5, or even 2. Third, you can adjust the max bitrate. According to Reolink, bitrate is “the actual amount of data that the camera will use to record video. The higher the bitrate, the more space each recording will take up on the hard disk.” This setting will also affect your image quality. A higher bitrate will produce a higher quality image. The default bitrate is 2048 kbps, but you can reduce it all the way down to 256 if you want.
Video Quality Pro: Colored Night Vision
Video Quality Con: Max Frame Rate is 15fps
Using Reolink Argus 2 for Motion Monitoring
Anyone who’s ever used a security camera to monitor outdoors knows that false alarms are common. Argus’ PIR motion sensor will help cut down on some false alarms. PIR sensors monitor for heat signatures. In theory, this means it will only trigger if it detects things that give off heat, like humans. However, a PIR motion sensor is not going to cut down on all false alarms. I decided to run the camera next to Arlo Pro and Pro 2. In testing motion events, Reolink was quick to send an alert. In all tests, Reolink sent an alert just before Arlo Pro and Arlo Pro 2. In addition to sending a push notification, you can set it to send an email and trigger its siren.
Motion Testing and Sensitivity Settings
To further reduce false alarms, Argus 2 allows you to adjust motion sensitivity. You can choose between low, medium, and high. Low’s detecting distance is 13 feet. Mid is 20 feet. High is 30 feet.
I started and ended testing in my backyard. I set Argus 2 to high and set my Arlo cameras to 80%. In running them side-by-side, I received very few false alarms on most days. However, windy days were a different story. Reolink sent a flurry of alerts, while Arlo didn’t send any. Reolink also had a few false triggers for things like bunnies and my neighbor’s small dogs.
I also tested the cameras in my front yard where there’s more motion and activity. Here, I reduced Arlo’s sensitivity to 50%, to match Reolink’s medium setting. At this level, Arlo continued to alert for cars passing by, Reolink did not. Reolink, however, continued to send alerts for no reason at all. It wasn’t an overwhelming amount of alerts, but it wasn’t minor either. On average, I received several per hour.
To help, I reduced Argus’ motion sensitivity level to low. This greatly reduced the number of false alarms to about one every two days, but the camera also missed a lot of events it should have caught. For example, I saw a boy running through my yard to pick up his baseball (five times). Reolink missed him every time. In testing slower motion, at a shorter range, Reolink was both accurate and speedy with alerts.
The moral of the story is that adjusting Reolink to work properly takes some trial and error.
Unfortunately, Argus 2 lacks smart motion features aimed at reducing false alarms like person detection and zones so adjusting sensitivity is your only option unless you manually turn the PIR sensor on and off when you don’t want alerts. Alternatively, you can create a schedule for the camera to follow.
Argus’ schedule can be customized for each day of the week. For example, you might turn the camera off on Sundays, arm it between 10 and 2 on Mondays, and between 5 and 7 on Tuesdays. The ease of creating a schedule is something I complained about while testing the original Argus, and not much has changed. Creating a schedule, as I shared last time, is “a little odd.”
Each day is broken down into four time periods: 0:00-05:59, 06:00-11:59, 12:00-17:59, and 18:00-23:59. Each period is broken down into six boxes. Each box corresponds to one hour. If you have multiple cameras, they will all follow their own schedule.
Motion Testing Pro: Quick Push Notifications
Motion Testing Con: Lots of False Alarms
Argus 2 does not ship with an SD card, but you can add one. Without a card, you can manually record video events. Those events will save to your phone’s gallery. That’s it. The camera will not record motion events without an SD card in place.
The camera supports microSD cards up to 64GB in size. With an SD card in place, Reolink supports a feature called Video Playback. This is a feature I complained about while testing the original Reolink, and though it’s still not great, it had greatly improved.
Using the Timeline for Playback
Like before, clips are marked on a timeline using a tiny blue line. You can drag the timeline back and forth to find the event you want to view and then hit play. You can also use the calendar to choose different days.
Unlike before, there is a secondary timeline that gives a broader view of the day’s events. The larger timeline shows 24 hours broken down into hour-long segments. You can drag the larger timeline to a time period you want to check and then use the smaller timeline to narrow things down to the exact second you’re looking for.
Reolink has also added a cloud shaped button to the playback view. If you press this button, you’ll be able to create a clip for download using the larger timeline. Clips can be as short as 10 seconds or as long as 30 seconds.
Viewing clips from the app works great, but downloaded clips have a slight problem. The original Argus often has a green tint on downloaded footage. The new Argus does not share this problem, but downloaded videos do occasionally have a weird effect, displaying scrambled colors.
The good news about downloaded clips is that they include helpful information including the name of the camera that recorded the clip, the time, and the date.
Clips will stay on your microSD card until it’s full. You can check how much space your card has left from the settings menu of the Reolink mobile app. Alternatively, you can view event footage from your computer by removing the SD card from the camera and inserting it into your computer.
Reolink Base Station and Cloud Storage
It’s important to note that though you can view footage from the app, that doesn’t mean footage is stored in the cloud. If someone steals your camera or the SD card, the footage will no longer be accessible. There are two solutions to this including the new cloud storage options (discussed below) and the coming soon Reolink Base Station.
Though Reolink Argus works without a base station, and will continue to do so, Reolink plans to add an optional base station for those who want one. The base station also supports an SD card. Instead of inserting the card into your camera, you will insert it into the base station. All motion triggered events will be stored to the card within your base station which means that footage is stored safely indoors and separate from your camera.
The second benefit of the Reolink Base is that it improves connectivity. The Base connects Reolink battery cameras wirelessly for video storage and backup, even if your internet goes down.
|Camera Alone||Camera Alone||Camera With Base Station|
|WiFi Connection, No Internet||No WiFi||No WiFi|
|App Access||Local Network Only|
|Live Streaming||Local Network Only|
|Record to SD Card|
|Playback||Local Network Only|
|Video Protection||Camera Stolen, Footage Stolen||Camera Stolen, Footage Stolen||Camera Stolen, Footage Remains on Base|
Once launched, the Base will work with Reolink Argus 2, Reolink Argus, and Reolink Keen and will support up to four cameras.
(Paragraph Updated 12/18/2018) Post writing this review, Reolink launched cloud service. The service is currently in beta, but I’ve been testing one of the free options. For free, users can access a 7-day cloud video history. This plan is limited to one camera and 1GB of storage space. If you want more, you can pay for more as outlined in the chart below. Keep in mind, that at launch, cloud service is only available for Reolink Go, Argus 2, and Argus Pro but Reolink has plans to add other products soon.
|Video History||7 Days||30 Days||30 Days||60 Days|
|Number of Cameras Supported||1||5||10||30|
In testing cloud storage, I found that all clips were 8-seconds in length, but that the camera would record consecutive videos if motion continued for longer than 8-seconds. From the cloud menu, you can also download videos to your phone but you cannot delete them.
Video Storage Pro: There is no time limit on storage. Clips will stay until your storage device is full.
Video Storage Con: Cloud storage is still in beta.
Powering the Camera: Battery and Solar
The fact that the camera runs on battery is definitely what makes it intriguing. Though Argus 2 uses a different type of battery than the original Argus, Reolink still promises the same 4-6 month battery life. In testing the original Argus, I found that the battery life was closer to 2 months. Argus 2 lasted about 1.5 months. Of course, battery life will vary depending on usage. Reolink Argus 2’s battery can sustain up to 180 days in standby mode or up to 960 minutes of motion recording or live viewing.
The biggest advantage of Argus 2’s battery over the original Argus’ battery is that it’s rechargeable which makes a huge difference when comparing long-term cost of ownership. Right now, my battery cost to keep the original Argus running is about $3 per month or an extra $36 per year.
This time around, I focused my testing on Reolink’s solar panel more than its battery. The weatherproof solar panel only works with Reolink Argus 2, and it sells for $29.99. The solar panel connects to Argus 2 via a micro USB cable, which makes setup breezy, and can also be used to keep your battery charged. The solar panel ships with a bracket and screws while the camera ships with a rechargeable battery, an outdoor security mount with a hook and loop strap, a skin, mounting hole templates, a micro USB cable, and some boring stuff like a sign, screws, and instructions.
When I first started testing Argus 2, its battery level was at 39%, and it was a cloudy day. Day 2 was sunny, and the battery level climbed to 49%. I rechecked progress on day 4. The battery level was at 88%. Day 4 is also the day I moved Reolink from my backyard to my front yard. It was a very sunny, beautiful day, and yet the battery lost some of its charge due to the increase in alerts and, I’m assuming, also due to placement. Though I had the cameras on my porch, I had the solar panel in my flower bed which is sunnier than the porch, but still somewhat shady. Unfortunately, it didn’t provide enough sun to power Argus 2. Over time, the battery level continued to decline. Fortunately, the cable that connects the camera to the solar panel is about 13-feet long making proper placement less of a challenge.
Final Thoughts and What’s Missing
|Turn Record/Stream Sound On/Off|
|Turn Push Notifications On/Off|
|Adjust Alert Frequency|
|Alert Sent Post Recording or When Detected||Alert Sent When Motion is Detected|
|Turn IR LEDs On/Off|
|Turn Status LED On/Off|
|Add Date/Time to Video|
|View Streams from Multiple Cameras at Once|
|Format SD Card|
|Share Access With Other Users|
After testing Argus and Argus 2, I recommend Argus 2 over Argus. The daytime video quality isn’t noticeable, but features like solar charging, Starlight Night Vision, and the rechargeable battery make it worth the extra cost.
Reolink Argus™ 2 is now selling for $129.99 globally. The solar panel sells for $29.99. This is inexpensive when compared to other battery-powered cameras like Canary Flex ($199.00), Ring Spotlight Cam Solar ($229.00 for a camera and a solar panel), and Arlo Pro ($230.00 for one camera and one base station). However, you do give up a few features to save a few dollars. The camera lacks geofencing, zones, person detection, third-party integrations, and sound detection. But, if you want an inexpensive battery-powered camera that uses local storage, Argus 2 is the camera for you.
Though I tested Reolink Argus 2, I have not tested Arlo Go, but I did get to see it at CES. If you’ve heard of Arlo Go, Arlo’s indoor/outdoor, battery-powered camera that supports 2G, 3G, and 4G-LTE, you can probably guess how Reolink Go works.
Go was created to work in places where WiFi and power are inaccessible. Reolink even plans to sell a camouflage skin for those deep woods stakeouts. Obviously, running into the woods to check the camera’s battery is not ideal, so they also plan to launch a solar panel that is compatible with Reolink Go.
Where Argus 2 is ready for purchase now, Reolink Go is selling on Indiegogo.
Reolink Go will not ship with a SIM card. Instead, you will buy and add your own SIM card depending on the carrier you use. Reolink Go will work with multiple carriers including, but not limited to, AT&T (U.S.) and Telstra (Australia). Reolink plans to ship to customers in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Canada, and Australia.
The monthly cost of data is to-be-determined but the camera will use data while live streaming and also while viewing videos from the SD card.
Reolink Go will support 3G/4G, offer a 1080p FHD resolution, and is weatherproof. It will share many of the same features as Argus 2 including Starlight Night Vision, a rechargeable battery, built-in motion detection, phone and email alerts, SD card storage, and two-way audio. Reolink will also launch a feature that allows you to use a pre-recorded voice message that plays when motion is detected.
My only concern is the number of false alarms. After testing Argus 2, I know it’s triggered by things like wind, trees, bushes, bunnies, and small dogs. If you plan to place the camera in the woods, for example, these are all fairly common things that your camera might encounter. Also, after testing the solar panel, I know how important proper placement is. When placed in my flower bed, there just wasn’t enough light to keep pace with the alerts triggered. I don’t know about the woods where you live, but here, they aren’t very sunny.
Go is now available via Indiegogo. You can pre-order the camera from indiegogo.com. The expected MSRP is $249.99 with the solar panel selling for $29.99. Of course, Indiegogo offers deals including discounts on hardware. Pre-order pricing starts at $159 for the 1-camera kit without a solar panel and $176 for a single camera system with an included solar panel.
Can the camera detect motion through windows?
It cannot. The camera uses a PIR motion sensor and cannot detect motion through a window. I tested this to confirm. If you choose to use it to view through a window, you will need to keep the IR LEDs off and place it in a window that does not have a screen.