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Blink Outdoor review: Security that fits the bill for Alexa

The Blink Outdoor is a fine camera for Alexa users, so long as you can live within its boundaries.
By
December 1, 2021
The Blink Outdoor camera from below
Roger Fingas / Android Authority
aa2020 recommended
aa2020 recommended

Blink Outdoor

The Blink Outdoor gets the job done if you're bought into Amazon's smart home universe. It's hampered somewhat by weak night vision, and the need to pay extra for incident recording when alternatives sometimes include this for free, but Alexa addicts will find plenty to like about this affordable, long-lasting wireless security camera.

Retail price: $99.99

$99.99 at Amazon

What we like

Daylight footage is crisp
Option-rich app
Alexa announcements and live streaming
Loud, clear onboard speaker for two-way chat
Weatherproofing

What we don't like

Night vision muddy with low framerate
Installation can get complicated
Interface options limited to mobile app and Alexa
No free cloud incident recording
The Blink Outdoor camera from below
Roger Fingas / Android Authority

There are a variety of Alexa-enabled security cameras out there, and Amazon offers not one but two lines of its own: Ring, its flagship products, and Blink, a cheaper alternative. The Blink Outdoor is a successor to the defunct Blink XT2, but finds itself in an extremely competitive market with rivals like Arlo and Wyze, including several options that are actually cheaper.

The camera does offer a unique combination of features, but is it enough to make the product a good deal? Find out if it’s worth the cash in Android Authority‘s Blink Outdoor review.

Blink Outdoor
$99.99 at Amazon

What you need to know about the Blink Outdoor

A side angle of the Blink Outdoor camera
Roger Fingas / Android Authority
  • Blink Outdoor: $99 / £89 / €99

As its name implies, the signature feature of the Outdoor is the ability to withstand the weather, such as rain, and to an extent, a greater range of temperatures. While Blink’s other cameras operate between zero to 35°C, the Outdoor can handle anywhere between -20 to 45°C. Regardless, you should probably position it somewhere it won’t get baked or iced over.

The camera runs on two AA batteries, which Blink claims is enough for two years of light usage. That’s pretty impressive, given that some other products run on rechargeables that need to be swapped out much more frequently. Part of how it gets away with this is by requiring the bundled Blink Sync Module 2, which is permanently connected to power and bridges the Outdoor (and other Blink cameras) with a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network. It’s also where you can attach a USB 2.0-compatible flash drive for local storage of captured incident (non-continuous) footage.

See also: The best wireless security cameras to protect your home

If you don’t use local storage, the only other option for recording is a cloud subscription. Blink Basic costs $3 per month or $30 per year and covers a single camera. Blink Plus is $10 per month or $100 per year, supporting an unlimited number of cameras, with special perks including extended warranties and a 10% discount on other Blink hardware. Both plans enable up to 60 days of video history.

Without a subscription or a USB drive, you’ll get live streaming and motion-triggered notifications, but that’s it. Neither the Outdoor nor the Sync Module have built-in storage.

Your main interactions with the camera come via the Blink app for Android and iOS, which is necessary for settings, two-way talk, and checking recording history. There’s no web interface. If you have any Alexa speakers you can get automations and audible motion alerts, and if you have an Echo Show, you can ask it to display live video as well.

To install the Outdoor, Blink supplies you with a rotating ball mount, two screws, and a backplate key that doubles as a 90-degree extender. The last item can be useful for mounting the camera in unusual places, or capturing difficult angles. In my testing, for example, I found the extender essential for viewing the entirety of my doorstep while avoiding the street and sidewalk.

The mount for the Blink Outdoor security camera
Roger Fingas / Android Authority

Functionally, the Outdoor is virtually identical to its predecessor, the Blink XT2, with the only real hardware upgrade being the USB storage option. Other changes are cloud- or software-based. The Outdoor enables privacy zones and motion-only notifications (that is, without recording), and drops the XT2’s free cloud storage option (more on that later).

What’s good?

A grocery pickup on the Blink Outdoor's live feed.
Roger Fingas / Android Authority

In daylight, the Outdoor’s 1080p, 30fps video is more than good enough to see faces and identify packages. Its 110-degree field of view isn’t the widest out there but should be able to capture any action, so long as you position the camera strategically.

Incoming audio is sufficient provided it’s not being drowned out by things like traffic, lawnmowers, or air conditioners. I was more impressed by the quality of its on-camera speaker, which was loud and clear enough that visitors shouldn’t have any trouble hearing you so long as you’re loud and clear yourself, of course.

Perhaps the best aspect of the Outdoor is the control offered by the Blink app. It’s well-organized and offers many customization options, including arm/disarm scheduling, detection zones, retrigger delays, IR (night vision) intensity, and clip lengths anywhere between five and 60 seconds. Be sure to turn on the Early Notification feature, which triggers an alert the instant motion is detected — it’s so fast, in fact, that you can often watch seconds-long events in progress if you’re quick on the draw with phone notifications. Every camera should be this responsive.

Perhaps the best aspect of the Outdoor is the control offered by the Blink app.

Although a truly thorough test of the Outdoor’s weatherproofing would be difficult, the camera did survive at least one rainstorm, as well as Texas heat up to ~34ºC. If you live in a region with extreme temperatures, you may want to take care sheltering the camera to prevent shutdowns or poor battery performance, but for most, it’ll be able to withstand the elements.

What’s not so good?

A Blink Outdoor night vision recording.
Roger Fingas / Android Authority

The camera’s night mode could be worse, but it’s still one of the weaker ones out there. Framerate drops to just 7.5fps, and image quality can become muddy — you’ll be able to tell if someone passed in front of the camera, but you may have a hard time identifying them unless they’re a few feet away. Even then, IR illumination can often wash out details. You can tone down IR at the expense of visible range.

Installation is more cumbersome than it should be. Blink is, first of all, pretty stingy with instructions. In-box materials tell you little more than to download the app and connect the Sync Module before you install the camera. It points you to the Blink website for everything else, which seems silly when a lot of this help could’ve been built into app-based tutorials.

Related: The best smart home devices you can buy

Having to set up the Sync Module is a complication in its own right, in part because it involves finding an indoor plug that’s as close to the camera as possible while still within Wi-Fi range. That’s understandable —  this can improve reliability, and some other multi-cam systems rely on base stations too, but not everyone has sockets in the right place. Cameras with their own Wi-Fi modules tend to be more convenient when it comes to setup, especially if you don’t want to go all-in on a new security ecosystem.

Ecosystem barriers may be the Outdoor's biggest problem.

I additionally found that the camera’s bulk restricted the angles I could point it at. That resulted in some trial and error during placement, with the ultimate solution being the extender I mentioned earlier.

Ecosystem barriers may be the Outdoor’s biggest problem. As popular as Alexa is, skipping support for Google Home and Apple HomeKit cuts the camera off from a lot of control and automation technology and limits its appeal for those invested in another brand.

The lack of a free cloud tier also means that while the camera is cheaper than some, it may not be the best if you’re looking to spend as little as possible. After paying $99.99 for the camera, you have to add a subscription (at minimum $3 a month) to access your recordings after the fact. Alternatively, you can shell out for a few gigabytes of USB flash storage, but these could easily be stolen by thieves or destroyed in a fire or flood as it’s stored in the main unit, rather than a separate base station like with some other cams. Even a small amount of free incident recording using cloud storage would fix this issue.

Blink Outdoor review: Should I buy it?

 

The Blink Outdoor camera perched outside a house
Roger Fingas / Android Authority

On its own, the Outdoor mostly delivers, meeting the bar for what Blink promises. To get the most bang for your buck you do have to put up with installation hassles and extra costs, including buying into subscriptions and Alexa, but these aren’t automatic deal killers.

Indeed, for people already committed to Alexa or interested in it, there are some strong selling points. The rapid notifications might legitimately stop some robberies and accidents, and swapping in AA batteries every year or two instead of recharging every few months is convenient (though not environmentally friendly unless you’re using rechargeable batteries). Local recording has its own risks, meanwhile, but is always a good option to have and will suit some people’s needs.

The Blink Outdoor is a solid option for Alexa addicts.

Some shoppers may want to go elsewhere, though, not necessarily because they’ve bought into other smart home platforms but because other cameras offer noticeably better features and performance, sometimes for less money. The Wyze Cam Outdoor ($70) for instance, supports Alexa, Google Home, and comes with 14 days of free incident recording in the cloud.

Another similarly-priced alternative is Eufy’s Solo Outdoorcam C24 ($100). That device supports Alexa and Google along with person, pet, and even baby crying detection. It comes with a 32GB microSD card, and has a built-in spotlight, which makes its night vision superior.

Check out: The best smart home deals

You should also consider that while Blink’s subscriptions are relatively affordable, there’s no person, package, or pet recognition technology at any tier. That could make plans and devices from the likes of Wyze, Nest, and Arlo more desirable, unless you just want the cheapest 60-day cloud storage available.

Still, few people are going to complain if they choose the Blink Outdoor. It’s a solid option for Alexa addicts or anyone who wants to put up their camera and forget about charging it for a very long time.

Amazon's Blink Outdoor security camera on a white background.
Blink Outdoor
An Alexa-compatible security camera built to survive rain.
The Blink Outdoor is a weatherproof security camera with features like two-way talk, Alexa integration, night vision, and the ability to record via cloud subscription or local storage.