If you want to stop porch pirates and package thieves, one of the best video doorbells could be the answer. If someone's at your door, a smart doorbell can alert you to their presence, and let you see and talk to them through your smartphone. In these times of social distancing, it's also a handy feature if you want to talk to a visitor, but want to keep your door closed.
Smart video doorbells are also helpful for those with mobility issues. So, for example, if you can't get to your front door easily or quickly, you can use your smartphone to tell your visitor to wait until you get to the front door.
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What are the best video doorbells?
After testing all of the top models, we think that the best video doorbell is the Nest Hello Smart Wi-Fi Video Doorbell. It has the highest video quality, can recognize individual faces and can even announce them, too. But, to get most of the Nest Hello's great features, you'll need to subscribe to Nest Aware, which starts at $6 per month, but includes 30 days of video for an unlimited number of cameras at one location.
If you're looking for a smart doorbell you don't need to wire, we recommend the Ring Video Doorbell 3 or the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus, which can run off battery power alone (you'll need to recharge it every few months). The Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus also has a new "Pre-roll" feature that adds up to four seconds of video before a motion event occurs, so that you can better see people as they approach your door.
The best video doorbell for those on a budget is the Ring Video Doorbell (2nd gen). This sub-$100 model also works either hardwired or on battery power, and has been upgraded so that its camera has a resolution of 1080p, much sharper than the original's 720p resolution. It also has improved motion-detection features.
Two new video doorbells are coming soon: The Logitech Circle View ($199) is a HomeKit-only model with face recognition based on people you've tagged in your Photos app. It also requires either the 200GB iCloud plan ($2.99/month) or the 1TB iCloud plan ($9.99/month).
The Netatmo Smart Video Doorbell has a high price ($299), but has local storage (via microSD), and you can link it directly to your Dropbox account or FTP server to store videos in the cloud. It's available for preorder, and will begin shipping Jan. 6.
The best video doorbells you can buy today
The Nest Hello takes the top honors as the best video doorbell overall, as it produced the best-looking video we've yet seen from one of these devices, and its microphone and speaker were excellent, too. This is one smart video doorbell, too: The Nest Hello can also recognize people's faces, and announce them via a Google Assistant compatible device when they come to your door. (It also works with Alexa).
While the Hello needs a hardwired connection, it continuously records video, so you'll never miss an event. You can also set up specific zones, so you'll only be notified when a person or object appears in that area of the frame. To get most of these features, you'll need to subscribe to the Nest Aware service (starting at $6/month or $60 year for 30 days of video), but they're worth it.
Read our full Nest Hello review.
Because it can run entirely on battery power, the Ring Video Doorbell 3 and the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus is the best video doorbell for homes or locations where there isn't already power. But the reason Ring's video doorbells also rank so high is that they can also run using a hardwired connection, making it very versatile.
This 1080p doorbell camera offers good customization for motion alerts, although it's not as robust as the Ring Pro's. However, you still get the same ability to share videos with neighbors, as well as Ring's affordable video-storage fees. The Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus also offers a feature called Pre-roll, which allows you to see the four seconds of video prior to a motion event. It's not as effective as similar features found on the Nest Hello and Arlo video doorbells, but Ring's is the only one that also works using battery power.
Ring's video doorbell can also be paired with an optional Ring Chime ($29) or the Ring Chime Pro ($49), if you don't already have a doorbell chime inside your house. The Chime Pro also acts as a Wi-Fi repeater, good for if your front door is out of range of your router.
Read our full Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus review.
Ring's original Video Doorbell has been upgraded: The all-new Ring Video Doorbell (2nd generation) has a 1080p camera (up from 720p on the original), as well as improved night vision and better motion-tracking capabilities. And, at less than $100, it's still the best video doorbell for those on a budget.
Like the Ring Video Doorbell 2, we like that you can use this model either wired or on battery power alone, and you can create custom motion zones, and also see what's going on in your neighborhood. Plus, Ring offers very affordable video storage plans starting at $30 a year.
Read our full Ring Video Doorbell (2nd gen) review.
Arlo makes some of the best home security cameras, so it should be no surprise that the Arlo Video doorbell is one of the best video doorbells, too. It delivered high-quality video and audio both day and night, and features both person and package detection. Arlo's video doorbell also works with Alexa and Google Assistant, so can receive notifications on smart speakers, and livestream video from the doorbell to an Amazon Echo Show or Google Nest Hub smart display.
Arlo's app has a ton of features, but some of them, such as motion sensitivity, are difficult to find. Also, the video doorbell has to be hard-wired. And, for most of the smarter features, including video storage, you need to sign up for a subscription. But, if you have Arlo's security cameras, its video doorbell will make an excellent addition, as you can add up to five cameras for $10 a month.
Read our full Arlo Video Doorbell review.
August's Doorbell Cam is one of the best video doorbells because it has a clever feature: HindSense includes a couple of seconds of video before the motion is detected, which means the device is more likely to capture someone as they approach your door. While August's doorbell doesn't have the highest resolution among the cameras we tested, the footage was clear enough that we could see people's faces, and we liked that its spotlight helped illuminate whoever was coming to the door at night.
Because August's product looks the least like a traditional doorbell, visitors sometimes didn't know to press the device; they just knocked on our door instead. Still, it integrates tightly with August's excellent Smart Locks, which itself is compatible with Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant, among other smart home systems — the most of any of the doorbells we tested.
Read our full August Doorbell Cam Pro review.
Can't install a traditional video doorbell, or live in an apartment? The Ring Peephole Cam is the best video doorbell for you. It replaces a traditional peephole, giving you an electronic means of seeing who's at the door. (Don't worry; it has a peephole built in). Because it screws into place, you don't have to drill any new holes into a door, so your landlord won't get annoyed.
Because the Peephole Cam is battery-operated, you'll have to recharge it once every month or so, depending on how often you use it. And while it works with Alexa—you can view a feed from the camera on an Echo Show, for example—it doesn't work with Google Assistant.
Read our full Ring Peephole Cam review.
Ring's smallest and best-looking doorbell has the most customizable motion zones of any doorbell we tested, letting you specify exactly which areas in the camera's field of vision should trigger an alert. It also has crisp, 1080p resolution and a wide, 160-degree field of view.
Ring's Neighbors app also lets you share videos with people in your area, so you can keep everyone informed if there's someone trying to break into multiple houses or steal packages. Installation is a little tricky, however; we had to install not just the doorbell, but also a separate device inside our existing doorbell's chime box.
Read our full Ring Video Doorbell Pro review.
While many video doorbells claim to have a wide field of view, virtually none of them can see what's happening right at your doorstep—where the majority of your packages are dropped. The Maximus Answer DualCam solves this problem by packing two cameras: one that looks straight out, and one that looks directly down. That way, you can see if there's a package at your door—and if someone tries to steal it.
The dual-camera setup worked well, though this video doorbell has a few rough edges. Its speaker is pretty quiet, and there's a delay between the time you talk and a visitor hears you. Plus, the Maximus doesn't work with any other smart home system, such as Alexa or Google Assistant.
Read our full Maximus Answer DualCam review.
The Eufy 2K Video Doorbell records good-quality video over a 150-degree field of view. While you can sign up for cloud storage (which starts at $30/year for 30 days of storage), the Eufy 2K also has a microSD card slot, so you can save footage locally, too.
However, the Eufy 2K Video Doorbell has a few drawbacks: It's a wired-only device, only supports one user (so you can't share it with family members), and has limited smart-home interoperability. But for around $150, it's not a bad deal.
Read our full Eufy 2K Video Doorbell review.
How to choose the best video doorbell
Wired vs. wireless
Video doorbells typically require 16 volts or more to work. If you have a newer house, this may not be an issue. But as we found out, older homes with more-antiquated systems may not deliver enough juice. One of our test houses, which was built in 1946, was sending only about 10 volts of electricity to the existing doorbell, which wasn't enough to power the two doorbells in the roundup that lack built-in batteries.
After we upgraded the doorbell's circuit to a 20-volt transformer, everything worked as advertised. Most people shouldn't have to upgrade their transformers, especially with newer houses, and the two doorbells that have built-in batteries don't require power from the doorbell at all.
Some doorbells, like the Ring Video Doorbell 2, can run on battery power. This is incredibly helpful if your existing wiring isn't getting the job done and you don't want to upgrade the transformer. Just remember that you'll have to recharge these units regularly.
Your choice of doorbells will also depend on whether you're replacing an existing doorbell or installing a doorbell where there isn't one already. The Ring Video Doorbell 2 is the most flexible. While it can replace a hardwired doorbell supplying 8-24 volts of electricity, its rechargeable battery means you could put this doorbell anywhere. And the optional Ring Chime add-on can even sound an audible chime inside the house, just like a traditional doorbell would.
The August Doorbell Cam requires 16-24 volts of electricity and can replace only a wired mechanical doorbell.
Field of View
Do you want a narrow view of just the person at the door, or do you want to see everything around your entryway? The Ring Video Doorbell 2 and Ring Pro boast 160-degree viewing angles, which let me see my whole porch and driveway.
The higher the resolution, the sharper the image, which will make it easier to identify people at your door. Ring's higher-end doorbells record video in 1080p, while the August Doorbell Cam's resolution is actually 1280 x 960, not quite "full" 1080p resolution.
The video doorbells we tested take different approaches to capturing video at night. The August Doorbell cam uses motion-activated LEDs to light the area in front of the camera, so it can capture colors a little better. Ring's doorbells use infrared night vision to see in the dark, but the result is monochrome video.
Aesthetics may be a concern. After all, you're bolting this thing to the front of your house! The Ring Pro looks the most like a traditional doorbell, and Ring even includes four faceplates, so you can choose which matches your house's trim or paint one exactly the shade you like.
Video doorbells vs. security cameras
Video doorbells don't necessarily make the best home security cameras. While the apps let you choose to receive motion alerts as well as doorbell alerts, motion-triggered events often resulted in video of a person or car just exiting the frame.
A dedicated home security camera may be a better choice if you're looking for actual security, because you can position such a camera in more places. And when you get a motion alert, you can back up the video and see what happened before the alert came in.
How we test video doorbells
To test video doorbells, we self-install the devices on houses and tested in real-world conditions with friends and family ringing the bells day and night.
We evaluated ease of setup, the design and features of the app, and how well the app and doorbell kept us notified; some video doorbells can send you a large number of false motion alerts, which you don't want.
Of course, we also look at video and audio quality, both during the day and during the night, as well as how quick the cameras were to recognize motion and start recording.
We also factor in interoperability and compatibility with other smart home devices and security systems, as well as how much you'll pay for cloud storage to save the video.