When my wife and I moved earlier this year, we had new housing challenges we’d never faced before. Our biggest challenges to start, though, were setting up an effective home network and installing a security system. After some trials, we pinned down our specific needs and a couple of easy solutions: the Nighthawk X10 AD7200 router and the Arlo Pro wireless cameras. After a couple of months, I’d like to share my experiences with both systems.
Nighthawk X10 AD7200 Smart Wifi Router
The first challenge was setting up a new router to cover all of our needs. They were range, interference, and network flexibility.
Compared to our small two-floor floorplan in the last house, our new house sprawls. The same range in a modem wasn’t enough. The most difficult part, though, is that our house isn’t a traditional shape and has many angled walls. I was originally afraid we’d need repeaters, but the Nighthawk has a strong, clear signal, even beyond the walls. We stay connected no matter where we are on the property, no sweat. I strongly suspect the 4 large antennae are a significant factor.
Interference and Network Flexibility
We also have new neighbors who were significantly more tech-savvy than our previous neighbors. This means that we had conflicting Wi-Fi frequencies for the first time. Because Wi-Fi routers operate on a basic range of frequencies, too many routers nearby can make it difficult to transmit signals in a reliable manner.
To complicate things, we had to create a new office arrangement. With no single space large enough for myself, my wife, and homeschool desks for both kids, we had to split up the “office” into several areas, which meant that we suddenly had many, many more devices on wifi instead of wired.
Both of these problems were addressed in one go with the Nighthawk. The biggest factor is that it is a tri-band router and employs a quad-stream (4×4) 802.11ac access point. This allows it to communicate with and connect to a nearly limitless number of devices.
After setting up all of the networks with passwords, we went through a slightly time-consuming process of adding all our devices to the new router. Here’s the only hard part we had: Each frequency has its own range and speed. Here’s a breakdown of the frequencies and how we use them:
This frequency connects to devices which are quite close and in the line of sight. It does not go through walls or floors well. Since our living room is where the router lives, the TV and its companions (XBOX, Roku, etc.) are connected to this frequency, where possible. (Not all devices can connect to a 60 GHz frequency!) It’s also a near-instant speed when the devices are close enough, so it makes streaming on the connected devices virtually lag-free.
This frequency connects to devices at a larger range, but it is slightly slower. A 5 GHz connection has enough channels for 23 devices, and doesn’t compete with signals of garage door openers and microwaves, which are a source of interference. This is where we have all of our computers, phones, and tablets connected. 5 GHz is just about the best speed for most users.
This is the slowest frequency, but the range on the thing is stupidly large. A normal 2.4 GHz router has a pretty large range, but the Nighthawk X10 has four enormous patent-pending antennae which make the range larger than our lot. The long range means that it competes with neighbors’ Wi-Fi, as well as our microwaves and such. As this is the case, we use the 11 channels on this frequency to run Arlo and other wifi-enabled devices like weather stations, automatic watering systems, and lights.
The Nighthawk has more features than I can cover in depth. I must simply list some highlights with succinct descriptions for brevity.
- Amazon Echo/Alexa compatible.
- 6 Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports to connect more wired devices.
- Link Aggregation: 2 Gigabit LAN ports for fast 4K HD streaming from a storage device connected to your network.
- PLEX built in. Attach your USB drive or NAS and get instant streaming to your entire network.
- Amazon Drive backup service automatically backs up your system on Amazon’s subscription service. (6 months free included!)
- NETGEAR Up app allows you to connect to and monitor your router and activity remotely via your phone.
- 1.7 GHz Quad Core Processor makes your data transfers and streaming lightning fast.
The Nighthawk has proven to be exactly the router for our needs. We connect somewhere in the range of 30 devices to it at all times. It covers our entire property, circumvents interference from our neighbors, and allows us to choose the appropriate speed for our devices.
Arlo Pro Security System
The Arlo security system was a bit of a wildcard for me. I’d never used a wireless security network before, but felt the need to install one, as we’ve moved to an area of town which is less intimate with our neighbors. For any security system, I really had few priorities. I needed it to be easy to install and use. I also wanted to only keep a small number of videos. I didn’t want to have hard drive after hard drive of empty footage to keep up with “just in case.” The only deal breaker was cost.
The first and most important priority we had for our security system was ease. I just didn’t have the energy to wire, power, and network an entire security system. I also don’t have time to regularly purge footage.
When I got the Arlo, the only “battle” I fought was opening the package. It really wasn’t that bad, but I found it to be a pain to unbox everything. After that, I opened the quick start guide and had the system connected in about 5 minutes.
The first component was the base station. I plugged it in, connected it to the Nighthawk, and turned it on. It was a cakewalk, really. I got the thrill of naming it. Naturally, I named it Guthrie, because Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” may be my favorite song of all time, and remains the only vinyl I own.
While I downloaded the app, I set up the cameras. A rechargeable battery pack snapped in the back of each camera, and I synced them to the base station. At first, one of them wouldn’t pair, but I swapped batteries and tried again. Worked instantly.
Then I launched the app, set up the account, and was connected in moments. After a bit of fiddling, I had sorted out how the cameras worked. Satisfied that I’d sorted them out, I hung them up outside. That took maybe 5 minutes, most of which consisted of me being indecisive as to where exactly to hang them.
From unboxing to installed, it took maybe 15 minutes. It was the easiest experience I could imagine.
The Arlo automatically turns on when it detects motion (if the other parameters are met). Parameters include time of day and whether or not you’re home. Each camera can be configured with its own parameters. If it triggers, it will send your phone a notification (and/or email) to alert you, and begins recording audio/video of the incident until the motion and audio both stop.
You can then view the video in real time, and even talk to the subject of the video. A speaker/microphone combo in the camera makes this possible, and it really helps if someone drops by unexpectedly or, you know, is trying to break in. A quick “I can see you” does wonders—at least, that’s what a security professional told me when we were discussing options.
Storage is probably my favorite part about Arlo. Your system and account come with a free service which stores your videos for you for a little while, allowing you to review them from your computer, tablet, or mobile device. With the free service, they do expire, but that’s not a problem for me. I can always save one if it’s important.
The reason I will probably be using Arlo in perpetuity is the cost. At $419.99, I would happily order Arlo again. The replacement or add-on cameras can also be bought individually for about $177.42 each. The lack of service costs means that I save about $30 each month, beyond the savings on the more affordable system. This is hands-down better than any system or service I could have imagined. Currently, you can save a little dough by ordering the 1-camera base set, and an add-on camera, but that falls away once you reach the 3-camera set.
I review the videos on the go most of the time. So far, it’s only been friends or a delivery person. (We get a lot of packages because Amazon Prime makes it so cheap and easy.)
Also, I’m a work-at-home introvert. I don’t answer the door when someone knocks. If you’re dropping in unexpectedly, I’ll view the video in real time and know who you are. I won’t ask “Who is it?” because if you’re turning up unannounced, you’re a monster, and I’m hiding from you. If it’s someone I admire and respect, I might open the door. I also might respond through the camera, apologizing for being out at the moment. I feel no shame in this theoretical fib, one simply must text an introvert before coming over.
There are a number of features the Arlo has that I’d like to point out, aside from the narrative.
- The app will alert you if the batteries are low. You can also check the battery level in the app in moments.
- Magnetic mounts mean that you can simply pop the camera off, charge it, and pop it back on. Charging takes less than an hour.
- You can buy the kit with up to 6 cameras, and you can also add on more at any time.
- You can use subscription options to carry a larger backlog.
- You can save videos for later, too. This prevents critical evidence from being accidentally erased in the event of a crime.
- You can mount these nearly anywhere, as they don’t need plugs. This means they can be put in unusual places for surveillance.
- Use the app to switch Arlo to “position mode” in order to help aim it when installing or after charging.
- Remotely activate a siren in the base station. Test this with caution. It’s loud!
TL;DR Arlo Pro Security System
Arlo‘s camera-based security system can take as little as 15 minutes to set up. It allows you to view the footage in real time, and speak to the subject of the video. It’s also one of the most affordable options on the market.
TL;DR Network Upgrades
Whether you’re moving into a new house or upgrading your current one, there are many hurdles to jump and bridges to cross when upgrading your network or security system. With Netgear’s Nighthawk and Arlo Pro, our moving-in experience was made much easier, and our network operates without effort. It just does its job and we never have to think about it, which is exactly my definition of great tech.