This $115 outdoor security camera lets me keep an eye on my porch from anywhere in the world

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REOLINK outdoor cameraREOLINK

  • A high-quality outdoor security camera sends you alerts when the motion sensor is tripped, records clear video, and saves video clips to the cloud.
  • I like the Reolink Argus 2 Camera because it does an excellent job of alerting me when someone is on my porch, I rarely get false alarms, and I can access live and archived video from anywhere.
  • Though it has a mid-range price (currently $114.99 on Amazon), it has several high-end features, is backed by a two-year warranty, and utilizes an intuitive app.

I really wanted to participate in the video doorbell craze. The idea of watching people come up to my house through a camera in my doorbell seems like one of those wild visions of the future you'd see in '80s movies, like hoverboards and self-tying shoes. Sadly, a lack of a hardwired doorbell makes this dream impossible without hiring an expensive electrician.

Fortunately, Reolink sent me the next best thing to test: its Argus 2 Outdoor Security Camera. Here are my experiences with it.

My first experiences with the Reolink Security Camera

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The Argus 2 comes with a camera, rechargeable battery, power cable for recharging the battery, wall mount, tree mount, camera skin cover, screws, and a surveillance sign. Reolink also sent me its solar panel, which is sold separately. I liked the panel because it made it so I wouldn't have to continually recharge the battery.

As with just about any security camera, there are a few limitations to where you can install the Argus 2. To reduce false alarms, the camera shouldn't face the sun or other bright lights. Avoid pointing it at traffic and other frequently moving objects. Also, the camera shouldn't face a mirror or be in strong winds. Lastly, since the Argus 2 requires Wi-Fi, it needs to be within reach of your Wi-Fi router.

I had the Reolink Argus 2 up and running in under 20 minutes. It didn't connect seamlessly though. I had to perform a factory reset to complete the job. Mounting the solar panel in a spot that would get plenty of sunlight and the camera where it wouldn't produce false alarms took another 40 minutes. But, keep in mind that I'm a decidedly unhandyman, and it generally takes me longer to do most jobs, especially if they involve drilling.

The Argus 2 offers two storage options: microSD card (card not included) and its cloud service. Cloud services are almost always superior because they back up your security footage in case someone steals your camera, which is important since the camera and solar panel seem like they would be easy to steal. The cloud keeps up to 10 GB of video for 15 days and is currently free of charge. I never came close to reaching the 10 GB limit.

Read more: The best security cameras you can buy for your home

How the Reolink Security Camera performed

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The Reolink app was helpful and intuitive to use. You can choose to have alerts sent when motion is detected, share videos, view the battery status, adjust the display, calibrate the sensitivity of the motion sensor, adjust the video quality, auto-upgrade firmware, and much more.

There are two video-quality options: 1080p video or "Fluent." There is also color, black and white, and automatic video. The image quality was best when set to 1080p and black and white, and I didn't notice any image problems at 1080p. However, there were times when I experienced some lag. At night and in other dim conditions, there is an infrared light that makes it easy to see what's going on in front of the camera.

I liked the motion detector alerts. I found they were quite prompt. In fact, I could often pull up the video fast enough to see people as they entered the house. I don't interrupt my work and leave my second-floor office to answer the door if I see a delivery person just dropping something off. The sensitivity of the motion sensor is excellent. I keep it on medium, and I've only had two false positives in the last month, and I'm not aware of missing anyone who has come to our front door.

The motion sensor has also led to some creepy moments. On New Year's Eve, my wife and I decided to go out and leave our teenager at home to watch the younger one. At one point, I received an alert that someone was on our porch. I pulled up the app and saw some guy looking in our windows. He then moved along, but it was a bit disconcerting. That's one of the scary features: You get to see all of the weird stuff that goes on when you're not around.

On the bright side, the solar panel worked well. After installing it, I didn't have to do anything else. The battery level never got low despite the seemingly endless stream of overcast winter days.

The Argus 2 has an IP65 weatherproof rating so you don't have to worry about it in most weather. In fact, I didn't notice any degradation in performance or video quality even in blizzard conditions with wind chills below -20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Some concerns about the camera

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It's nice that this has audio, and I felt it did a good job of capturing sounds. But, I was not impressed with the speaker. When I would try to talk to people at my front door, they couldn't hear very well. Granted, I do live on a loud street with heavy traffic, but it would be nice to be able to use this camera as an intercom.

Another negative is that the length of the video clips seems to be fairly random no matter what settings I choose. In the app, I set the camera to capture 30 seconds of footage after a motion event triggered it, but the majority of the clips are around 10 seconds. A new clip would sometimes begin if there was still movement in the field of view, but there were other times when the clip would end with someone still in the frame.

The bottom line

Overall, the Reolink Argus 2 is an excellent addition to my security repertoire. The motion sensor did a great job of capturing video with few false alarms, the app functioned fast enough to show me footage almost immediately, and the solar panel kept the camera ready 24/7. I would have liked it if the sound on the camera was louder so I could interact with people at my door, but this wasn't a major negative. I would strongly recommend this camera to anyone hoping to boost the security on their property.

Buy the Reolink Argus 2 Outdoor Wireless Security Camera on Amazon for $114.99

Buy the Reolink Argus 2 Outdoor Wireless Security Camera and Solar Panel on Amazon for $139.99

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