Reolink Argus 2 Review: A low-cost security solution

Posted: 20 April 2018 1:02 pm

Reolink's Argus 2 isn't the fanciest home security solution, but it offers simple security features at a highly appealing price point.

Quick Verdict
Reolink's Argus 2 doesn't have all the bells and whistles of its more premium-priced competition, but it covers the basics well if you're happy with some self-management of your security.

The good

  • Batteries are rechargeable.
  • Good quality video.
  • Speaker and microphone access.
  • Long-lasting battery.

The bad

  • Plain app design.
  • Email configuration can be a chore.
  • MicroSD card storage could be a security issue.

You're currently spoilt for choice when it comes to Internet-connected home security products, many of which carry significant upfront or ongoing costs.

Reolink's Argus 2 camera takes a different tack, offering a low-cost solution to home security without many of the bells and whistles of its competitors. That's an obvious benefit for your hip pocket nerve, but it's worth understanding what it offers relative to its more expensive competition.

Reolink Argus 2: Design

The Reolink Argus 2's design felt rather familiar to me from the moment I took it out of the box. There's only so many ways you can dress up a camera, but it has a striking resemblance to the Uniden Guardian App Cam Solo, with the same, slightly EVE-from-Wall-E-esque white finish around a camera that measure 119 x 65 x 59mm and weighing 350 grams.

Where the Reolink Argus 2 does stand out is in the quantity of extras you get in the box along with it. Other cameras charge extra for features like a water resistant cover, but there's a cute little hood included in the box for the Argus 2 at no extra cost. You've also got your choice of a simpler indoor unsecured magnetic mount, or a more secure screwed down outside mount, including straps for added camera security.

The Reolink Argus 2 uses rechargeable 5200mAh Samsung batteries to keep itself powered, with the option for a solar panel for recharging at an extra US$29.99 to keep it topped up.

Reolink provided me with a solar panel for the purposes of review, but you can otherwise keep it topped up with the supplied charging cables from a direct connection if you're going to use it indoors.

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Reolink Argus 2: Installation

The comparison with the already-tested Uniden camera didn't end at the physical level because both cameras also use essentially the same set-up procedure. This involves powering up the camera, installing the relevant app, and then scanning QR codes on the camera and the app to add local Wi-Fi network details to your camera.

Unlike more expensive but fully featured systems from the likes of NETGEAR or Swann, there's no central hub device to control your Reolink Argus 2 camera, although you can control multiple cameras with the one app if you're keen, naming each as you go. Because I love terrible puns, my review camera was quickly named "REO Camera Wagon", but your tastes and choices may vary.

One major installation caveat is that the Reolink Argus 2 doesn't use cloud-based storage at all, and that means you've got to provide a microSD card for storage purposes. They're nicely inexpensive these days, but you will need one if you want to do any actual video capture.

Getting the Reolink Argus 2 onto the network was a simple enough procedure, but getting it fine tuned for personal preferences isn't quite as smooth or well handled as some of its more pricey competitors. Reolink's app covers a lot of bases, but (at least for the Android version as tested) it's rather clunky in its implementation.

As an example, for alert purposes, the Reolink Argus 2 can alert any signed-in app user, or send out an alert email with a connected picture of whatever it has detected. That involves adding email account details to the app, which should be a simple enough step. However, there are more than a few quirks to the way the Reolink app handles email that can all too often lead to it failing to send test emails.

Gmail, most notably, treats Reolink as an insecure service, so you've got to specifically allow it access to your account, which isn't a step Google actively promotes as a good idea. I was unable to get Reolink working with Outlook mail at all, but I finally did get it talking to a private IMAP mail service happily enough.

There are similar quirks around how the Reolink Argus 2 handles motion detection, with just three sensitivity settings on offer, and nothing in the way of features such as geofencing or integration with other smart home devices.

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Reolink Argus 2: Performance

The Reolink Argus 2 is capable of shooting at up to 1080p quality at 15 frames per second. Quality at this rate is very good, but you can optionally drop it to lower frame rates if you wanted to conserve storage space. I can't see the sense in that approach, because if you're installing a security camera then more detail is usually most desirable.

If you had to install the Argus 2 somewhere where recharging would be a genuine hassle it could have some utility to save power, but at the same time, dropping to 2fps means a burglar could be past the Argus 2 before it got any kind of quality shot of them.

The Reolink Argus 2 also features an inbuilt microphone, speaker and siren alarm system. The microphone and speaker do work for two-way communication, but not to any great volume or quality level. Likewise, the siren activated quite faithfully in my tests, but it's set at a level to alarm burglars rather than alert (or annoy) your neighbours. Again, it's an option to switch on or off within the Reolink app if you want it.

Once I got a handle on Reolink's app, it revealed itself to be a quite capable solution within the constraints of local recording only. The big upside there is that you're only going to pay for however much storage you throw into it in the form of microSD cards, but it does mean that your access to files is rather more limited.

The Reolink app will allow you to stream and download recordings to a mobile device, but only in 30 second chunks at a time, which might not be enough for you. You could always pull the microSD card out of your Reolink Argus 2 camera, but then again, so could anyone else.

It's an inbuilt limitation of any local storage-based camera that if somebody steals the camera, they're taking the evidence of their presence with them. If you're not very rapid to realise that something's gone wrong at your home or business, and able to quickly grab shots off the Argus 2 before it's disabled or stolen, you may be left with no evidence, plus the cost of a camera to replace!

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Reolink Argus 2: Battery life

Reolink claims that the Argus 2 battery should be good for "ordinary use" for between 4 to 6 months, but your battery life may vary depending on the quantity of action in your environment, as well as sensitivity, video quality and audio settings. I tested the Argus 2 pretty heavily and managed around a month's usage with no issue and regular alerts as to battery usage, which is a big plus.

Indeed, while the Reolink app isn't that fancy or massively user-friendly, it is one of the most forward-thinking in terms of battery life alerts that I've ever hit. It regularly raised concerns about the number of alerts and the depleting battery throughout my tests. While I was being deliberately brutal, in regular usage (and presuming you're not running a high-security prison) it should be able to last a good few months between recharges.

Depleting the Reolink Argus 2 also allowed me to then test out the supplied optional solar charging panel. It comes with its own stand and instructions on installation that are clear enough to follow. Naturally, you're going to want a north-facing exposure for the panel to maximise your charging capacity, and results may vary by location or season. Testing in Sydney in recent weeks, the Argus 2's solar panel has managed a very good job of keeping my camera charged up, and often topped up. While a decent length of cable is provided so you can place the charging panel away from the camera, it is once again drawing attention to the camera's existence, which may worry some.

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Reolink Argus 2: Verdict

The Reolink Argus 2 isn't a fancy full home security solution, but then it doesn't pretend to be. It's a simple solution designed for someone who doesn't mind getting their elbows dirty with a little network configuration and testing, and who only needs a couple of simple cameras for peace of mind or insurance purposes.

It does have the classic drawback of any system that uses local storage in that it won't do you any good if it's stolen, especially if you're not alerted while that's happening, but ultimately, it's a good quality offering at a very attractive price point.

Reolink Argus 2: Pricing and availability

Reolink sells the Argus 2 through its web site for US$129.99 outright, with the optional solar panel we tested costing a further US$29.99.

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Reolink Argus 2: Alternatives

Uniden's App Cam family offers the same kind of functionality and approach as the Reolink Argus 2, but you'll typically pay a bit more for those cameras.

We've recently tested out the excellent Netgear ARLO PRO 2 system, a much more fuller-featured, cloud-based system that's equally simple to set up. However, the entry level price for an ARLO system is much higher than that of Reolink's very affordable Argus 2.

While it's not a complete security system in and of itself, you could also consider Ring's range of security lights such as the Ring Security Cam Battery or Ring Video Doorbell.

Reolink Argus 2: What the other reviewers say

Techhive"The Argus 2 improves on the original Argus in all the right ways."4.5/5
Ausdroid" If you’re after a one or two camera setup on a budget, this is an option with seriously considering."N/A
Lifehacker"A reasonable price for a camera that can record at the quality the Argus 2 delivers but the lack of connectivity with smart home platforms is a significant drawback."5/5
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Product Name
Reolink Argus 2
Image sensor
SONY 1/2.8" CMOS
1920 x 1080 2MP
Field of view
130 degrees
Up to 9 metres
802.11b/g/n 2.4Ghz only
Expected battery life
4-6 months
119 x 65 x 59mm
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