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Quick answer: While the manufacturer recommends using a base station with all of its products, Arlo's Essential line does not need a base station to operate. All users need is a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network.

Reliable and high-quality performance, simple user interfaces, and a dynamic product line ranging from affordable starter cameras to powerful surveillance are all reasons many choose Arlo for their home security needs. For anyone just dipping their toes into residential surveillance or anyone looking for an uncomplicated line of security products that won't break the bank, there's the Arlo Essential line.

This group consists of wired and wireless doorbells and security cameras, both for indoor and outdoor use, that are easy for beginners to install and use. In fact, the Arlo Essential Doorbell snagged the top spot over the other best smart doorbell cameras out there, ranked number one for its wide field of view, painless wire-free install, and long battery life, to name just a few reasons.

While other devices from Arlo require a base station, smart hubs are optional for Essential devices.

What are base stations and smart hubs?

Quite true to their names, base stations, and smart hubs act as the epicenter of a home security network — they're like your surveillance system's brain. The features of a smart hub vary based on model and brand. Still, many have the power to connect cameras and doorbells to the home router, locally store video footage (most base stations have at least a small amount of internal storage, with the option to add on external storage), or give users the option to control cameras via tools like Apple HomeKit.

In addition, Arlo notes that having cameras connected to a base station means the devices use a separate frequency to communicate with each other. This can be helpful if you are using a shared Wi-Fi network.

Do Arlo Essential devices need a base station?

An Arlo Essential Video Doorbell mounted outdoors next to a door

Arlo's Essential devices do not require a base station or smart hub, which is great for anyone just dipping their toes into the smart home pool. This means that Arlo's Essential Doorbells, for example, both the wired and wireless options, can be used without purchasing a smart hub — even if you opt to buy the Arlo Essential Wireless Video doorbell with an accompanying Chime 2, a small plug-in device that plays a loud notification when the doorbell is rung. Other Essential products that you don't need to buy a SmartHub or base station for include:

  • Essential Spotlight Camera
  • Essential XL Camera
  • Essential Indoor Camera

However, even if no members of the Essential family suit your needs, other Arlo products don't depend on a base station to operate. Arlo's product lineup is quite extensive — there are six different models of Arlo SmartHub/base station alone, so any confusion is justified.

From Arlo's newer cameras, there's the Pro 5, a 2K outdoor camera that connects directly to Wi-Fi, no hub needed. The Pro 4, Pro 4XL, and Pro 3 Floodlight also don't require a base station.

Arlo's other higher-end security cameras, like the Arlo Wire-Free or Arlo Pro Wire-Free camera models, require a base station, as do the Ultra 2s. Regardless of need, Arlo recommends using a base station for all its products — including these budget-friendly products under the Essential line.

The primary benefit of using an optional base station with an Essential camera or doorbell is the ability to save audio and video locally. While all Arlo video recordings can be stored in the cloud, there are no such privileges without paying a monthly fee for Arlo Secure, so bases can be used as primary storage if a subscription is outside your reach. Or, paid subscribers can still use a base station to store recorded video in a secure, local, second location.

What are the potential downsides of an optional base station?

The main downside of using an optional base station is the added cost to the entire system. Base stations and smart hubs can add a hundred dollars or more to the cost of the whole system. So, while some users may find Arlo's SmartHub worth their while, it may not hold much value to you. While the Essential line doesn't require a hub, it may be worth grabbing one to avoid a monthly subscription fee for cloud-based storage.

Don't think Arlo is a good fit? There's a bounty of other options out there, especially if you'd like to explore simple wireless security cameras with less restrictive paywalls — but if you don't want to be tied down to a hub, you're in luck with Arlo.

arlo-essential-wired-video-doorbell-1-1
Source: Arlo
Arlo Essential Wired Video Doorbell
No hub necessary

A budget-friendly security option

$60 $150 Save $90

The Arlo Essential Wired Doorbell features an impressively wide 180-degree viewing angle, presenting video in full HD for maximum clarity. The doorbell has two-way audio capabilities to talk directly to someone at your door.