There are three barriers to installing a surveillance camera outside. The first is about electricity, the second is about accessibility, and the third is about coverage—keeping an eye on an outdoor space is much more difficult than keeping an eye on an interior room.
The Reolink Go PT solves the first issue in a way that is becoming increasingly common: with a battery and a solar panel to keep the battery charged. It overcomes the second obstacle by using 4G LTE rather than connecting to your Wi-Fi network. Finally, a pan/tilt motor allows you to rotate the lens around to see your whole outdoor room.
Using a 4G LTE connection instead of Wi-Fi helps you to bypass the limitations of the network infrastructure. The Reolink Go PT can be put almost anywhere—as long as it’s within range of a T-Mobile cell tower. As a result, this camera is ideal for both large residential properties and places where permanent broadband service is unavailable, such as a vacation cabin.
A solar panel is included with the camera to keep the battery charged. You will have to pay for an LTE link, but it will be much less expensive than conventional internet service. To test the camera, I purchased a $10/month T-Mobile prepaid mobile internet plan that included 2GB of data (you’ll also need to purchase a SIM card). I discovered that 2GB was more than enough data for my needs, so I cut down on my data use to about 350MB per week by removing unnecessary motion-triggered recordings and warnings.
Weatherization features of Reolink Go PT
Reolink grades the Go PT’s ingress safety as IP65, which means it’s dust-proof and can withstand being sprayed by a garden hose with a finely oriented nozzle. The rest of the product’s features are fairly standard for an outdoor security camera: It shoots 1080p video at 15 frames per second, which it saves to the cloud (more on that later) or to a microSD card (cards up to 64GB are supported, but you’ll have to provide your own).
One slot for a nano-SIM card and another for a microSD card are available on the Reolink PT. The first allows it to connect to T-LTE Mobile’s network, while the second allows it to store data locally.
The camera’s lens has a 105-degree field of view (measured diagonally) while in a fixed position, but its pan and tilt motor extends it to 350 degrees horizontally and 90 degrees vertically. The camera’s night vision range is the same as the passive infrared motion sensors, which can detect movement up to 33 feet away.
The camera is attached from an L-shaped bracket that you can connect to a wall, fence, or other appropriate surfaces. Since the camera can’t be fixed to a ceiling, as it pans to the edge of its range to the left or right, you’ll just see the surface it’s mounted to. To track a gate at the entrance, I installed the Reolink Go PT to a post at the end of my 300-foot driveway (I live on a 5-acre parcel in a rural area of northern California). After having a surveillance camera stolen (and later recovered) from that spot, I extended the post by bolting an 8-foot 2×4 to the 8-foot 4×4 cemented in the land, placing the new camera far out of reach of the average citizen.
Reolink Go PT pan/tilt performance
The pan/tilt motor on the Go PT is fast and smooth, taking just 16.4 seconds to pan 360 degrees and 10.3 seconds to tilt 90 degrees up or down. When you place your finger down on the directional pad in the app, these motions are activated manually. Since there are four arrows showing the points on a compass, you can shift the camera up and down as well as left and right by dragging your finger over the entire pad.
Since your commands are sent up to the cloud and down to the camera with a gap, it can be difficult to target the camera precisely.
Although the camera’s on-board microphone picks up the faint drone of its motor as it pans or tilts, it does not mask ambient noises. The camera’s onboard speaker, on the other hand, is so silent that it’s useless for having a two-way conversation with anyone in front of it unless they’re really close. Using your smartphone to scream at the kids in the neighborhood to get off your lawn isn’t going to get you very far. An onboard siren that sounds like a car alarm going off is more useful, and it can be activated manually or in response to the motion (though I’m sure your neighbors would appreciate it if you used the manual option and used it sparingly).
Motion detection and privacy screens by Reolink Go PT
Reolink’s software allows you to watch a live video stream from the Go PT on command, as well as record a clip or take a screenshot with the touch of a button. I also set the Go PT to record a clip whenever motion was detected (clips can be 10, 15, or 30 seconds in length). I was glad to see that Reolink’s software supports privacy screens because I installed the camera near a street. You can draw up to three blocks in the camera’s view where motion will be ignored with your fingertip; sadly, video is blacked out in those areas, and the blocks don’t move or vanish when you pan or rotate the camera away from the areas where privacy screens have been set up.
So, no matter where the camera is pointed, any area you cover with a privacy screen will be blacked out (unless you disable the privacy screens, in which case you’ll have to redraw them, which is a lengthy process to get right). Even if you don’t want activity in those areas to cause a recording, it would be far easier if you could always see what’s going on there, but Reolink’s solution is better than none.
On days when the camera’s mounting post wiggled due to high winds, I was getting a lot of false motion warnings, but I was able to fix the problem by adjusting the motion sensitivity in the software. The camera has done an outstanding job of tracking user and vehicle motion while missing smaller objects like squirrels and cats. It even missed a flock of wild turkeys that paraded down my driveway, but it still alerted me to people and vehicles approaching the gate.
Notifications and cloud storage
When motion is detected, you can set the Go PT to send push notifications and/or emails. The emails contain thumbnail images of the video clip, but the push notifications are more useful because they will launch the app. You will see a real-time stream from the camera and download any clips that concern you once the app is open. When you press the replay button, a clip from the first recording of the day will be loaded, along with a timeline of the rest of the day’s recordings at the bottom of the screen. You can pick from any other days with recordings if you use the calendar view.
As previously said, video clips are saved on a microSD card in the camera (if one has been installed). The oldest clips are automatically removed when the card’s storage capacity is consumed. You may also subscribe to a cloud storage service, which has the added advantage of storing forensic evidence in the event that the camera is stolen. This is perhaps the most convenient way to view your videos on a larger computer screen. However, the best news is that there is a completely free alternative available.
The Reolink Basic plan only covers one camera and provides only seven days of storage (with a 1GB limit), but it is absolutely free. If you need more or have more than one Reolink camera, the Standard package ($5 per month or $50 if charged annually) covers up to five cameras and includes 30 days of storage (maxing out at 30GB). There are also other plans that include more cameras and more/longer storage (details here).
The Reolink Go PT is more expensive than the more popular outdoor cameras that attach to your Wi-Fi, at $290, but it fills a very narrow niche where there isn’t much competition. The fixed-position Arlo Go LTE camera was the only place I could find it in stock and reasonably priced ($400, versus its initial $430 MSRP), and Arlo wants you to pay extra for its companion solar panel. One is included in the package from Reolink.
The pan/tilt feature on the Reolink Go PT allows you to keep an eye on a large area, and there’s even a free cloud storage plan. This camera will be a lot safer if you could mask out places that won’t activate a motion warning rather than blacking them out with a privacy screen, and the onboard speaker is much too quiet to have a conversation with the person standing in front of it. Such critiques aside, this camera is a great option if you need a camera that can run without Wi-Fi or a traditional internet connection.