A video doorbell is handy for those who want an extra set of eyes watching the front of the house — to catch someone stealing a package from your doorstep, for instance. But most video doorbells cost $200 or more. Remo+’s Remobell S ($99) is one of the few that cost less than $100, which made it worth a look. But while it has its merits, it's not quite as good as our favorite budget video doorbell, the $99 Ring Video Doorbell.
What I Like
It's simple, elegant and effective. The top of the Remobell S, which is rectangular with rounded ends, has a large circular camera. The bottom has a large silvery button; there's no mistaking its purpose. When you press the button, a doorbell chime emits from the Remobell S' speaker, and a ring of LEDs around the button lights up.
Cheap, and three days of rolling-cloud storage
The Remobell S is just $99; most other video doorbells cost more than $200 — the Ring Video Doorbell being a rare exception. What's more, Remo+ gives you three days of rolling- cloud storage for free. That's better than Ring, which requires you to sign up for a plan (starting at $3/month, or $30/year) if you want to save videos. Remo+'s paid storage plan costs the same as Ring's: $3/month or $30/year. But Remo+ gives you 30 days of storage, whereas you get 60 days with Ring.
Pretty good video quality
Video quality on the whole was pretty good for a sub-$100 doorbell camera. The Remobell S was able to show details both in my shaded porch and the bright sunny day beyond. While its advertised resolution of 1536 x 1536 is higher than what's offered with the Ring Video Doorbell (1280 x 720), I didn't notice too much of a difference in quality.
Remo+ claims the Remobell S offers a 180-degree view horizontally and vertically, but in reality, it's a few degrees short. The view from the Remobell S is pretty good — it was able to get the tip of my doormat, which the Ring couldn't — but, like most video doorbells, it doesn't show what's directly in front of the door, so you can't see if a package has been left.
If you don't want to be the only one who can check on your front door, you can provide access for up to four other individuals. That's handy.
Works with Alexa and Google Assistant
Most smart-home devices are quick to advertise that they work with Alexa and Google Assistant, but that means different things to different gadgets. Most smart plugs, for instance, can be turned on and off using voice commands. That's easy enough.
When it comes to security cameras and video doorbells, the better ones have deeper integration with those assistants. For instance, you can view live video from Arlo's cameras and Ring's video doorbells on a Fire TV; the Remobell S also has this integration, plus the ability to use it as a trigger for an Alexa routine. When the doorbell's camera detects motion, you can set your lights to blink.
Google has yet to offer as deep an integration with many third-party cameras, so the most you can do with Google Assistant is ask it about the Remobell S' battery, network, and last event information.
What I Don't Like
I like that Remo+ provides not just a screwdriver, but a drill bit as well. However, the sheer number of parts included with this kit had me apprehensive from the start.
Unlike the Ring Video Doorbell, which can be wired or operated on battery power, the Remobell S works only with hardwired doorbells.
Setup was much more involved than other video doorbells. For one, if you have a mechanical door chime, you have to add a little dongle to it, something that you don't have to do with the Ring. If you don't have a chime, you have to attach a little resistor inside your doorjamb. Good luck fitting that in.
Also unlike the Ring, in which you attach the two wires to its base plate, and then slide the doorbell over it, the Remobell S requires you to attach the wires to the main body of the video doorbell. If the wires in your doorjamb are short — like mine — it's much trickier to install. Then, you have to screw the body to the base plate, snap on the Remobell's cover, and secure it with two screws.
I knew things were up and running when a British male voice loudly announced from the Remo+'s speaker "Ready to connect to your Wi-Fi" or something like that. I was so startled I forgot the exact words.
Distorted recorded video
Although the Live view from the Remobell S is a square video, for some reason, all recorded videos are circular. In addition to looking weird, it also means that people standing at the edge of the camera's viewing area are distorted, and harder to identify.
From the Remo+ app (available for Android and iOS), you can adjust such things as video quality, motion notifications and more, but like the installation, the user experience is worse than what you'll get with other video doorbells.
Take the Motion Zone settings. In all other doorbell apps, you see a picture of what the camera is actually seeing, and you can adjust the zones based on that. Remo's app simply presents you with a gray square with five zones either marked On or Off. Not only can't you create custom shapes, but you're left to guess as to which you should turn on or off.
A "Bright Region Selection" setting is even less intuitive. Without being able to actually see which parts of the video are bright, you’re stuck guessing as to how to define the area.
When looking at video doorbells, the Remobell S' low price of $99 is tempting, especially when compared to the $249 Nest Hello, our favorite doorbell camera. However, this budget camera is no value. From an involved setup to poor app controls to a distorted view, it just doesn't measure up to our favorite budget video doorbell, the Ring Video Doorbell. Yes, the RemoBell S offers a higher resolution and three days of free video storage, but those features don't outweigh its usability issues.