A video doorbell can let you see who's at the door and find out what they want — even if you're not home. After we spent more than 40 hours testing a half dozen video doorbells, we think the best you can get is the Nest Hello Smart Wi-Fi Video Doorbell. It has the highest video quality, can recognize individual faces—and can announce them to you, too.
Ring's doorbells are also solid performers, offering wide viewing angles, 1080p resolution and a great app. The Ring Video Doorbell 2 is our favorite wireless video doorbell, good for those who can't or don't want to run wires to the door at which they want the doorbell. However, you'll need to subscribe to a cloud storage plan if you want to view any saved videos.
Trying to decide which Ring video doorbell to get? We've put together a comparison of the Ring, Ring Video Doorbell 2, Ring Pro, and the Ring Door View Cam.
Latest News and Updates (March 2019)
- August has a new wireless doorbell cam: The August View ($229, available March 28) has a traditional rectangular design (August's original doorbell cam was square), has a 1440p camera, and can be purchased with one of eight different faceplates, to better match your home's decor. Owners will be able to view 24 hours of recordings for free, and August also offers 15- and 30-day cloud storage plans.
- With a 180-degree field of view both horizontally and vertically, the new Remobell S ($99) might have the widest view of any video doorbell. The camera, which records at a resolution of 1536 x 1536, has customizable motion zones, full duplex audio, night vision, and offers three days of cloud recordings for free. It also works with Alexa, Google Home, and IFTTT. However, you'll have to purchase the indoor chime ($29) separately.
- Ring's new Door View Cam ($199) adds a wireless 1080p camera to a traditional peephole. The device features motion detection, two-way talk, a removable, rechargeable battery, door activity detection and night vision. A glass viewer lets you peer through your door if you don’t want to use the app. It also has an impact sensor, so it will alert you if someone knocks, rather than ringing the bell. The Door View Cam will be available later this year.
Nest's doorbell cam produced the best-looking video we've yet seen from one of these devices, and its microphone and speaker were excellent, too. It can also recognize people's faces, and announce them when they come to your door. While it 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. While you'll need to subscribe to the Nest Aware service (starting at $5/month) to get all of its features, they're worth it.
Because it can run entirely on battery power, the Ring Video Doorbell 2 can go anywhere, and with an optional Ring Chime device ($27), you can hear the doorbell inside the house. 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.
August's video doorbell has a clever HindSense feature that includes a couple of seconds of video before the motion is detected, which means the device is more likely to capture a usable image. 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.
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 — tops among the cameras we tested — and the most-competitive storage costs.
Ring's app also lets you share videos with neighbors, 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.
Other Video Doorbells We Reviewed
The SpotCam Doorbell takes an opposite approach from most video doorbells, with its large button enclosure and a tiny ringer. The enclosure holds the 4 AA batteries that power the device, while the tiny ringer is no bigger than most USB power adapters and plugs straight into any two-prong wall socket. It doesn’t require any wire connection between the two, so it is more landlord-friendly than wired models. A microSD card slot lets you store video recordings.
Forget about motion detection triggering the doorbell cam unless you add a Spotcam Camera to your setup. A SpotCam app (available for iOS and Android) connects to the bell and ringer over the SpotCam cloud service, with only a short delay between someone pushing the bell and you being able to view the live image on your phone. (It was about 5 seconds in our testing.) Video quality was good, though there was a noticeable (and somewhat frustrating) 1 or 2-second delay in the video, which made having a conversation with the person at the door hard. The basic level of service for the SpotCam Doorbell is free, but there’s no online storage without paying $2.95 per month (or $29/year) for 180 days of storage to $4.95/month (or $49/year) for 365 days of rolling storage.
The $158 Zmodo Greet Pro is a small squat rectangle that has a low profile, projecting out just over 1 inch from the doorframe you mount it on. That makes it about the same size as the Ring Pro. Zmodo lacks the switchable panels that help it co-ordinate with your door color, though. It connects over the usual two-wire connection to the ringer that also carries power to the doorbell. Using the Zmodo app (available for iOS and Android), you enter your Wi-Fi details, then show the generated QCode app on screen to the camera on the ringer itself. The doorbell reads this and connects to your network.
We found that the combination of doorbell and app was not very responsive, with a 10- to 15-second lag to go from someone ringing the bell to viewing the live image. The video that the camera captures looksexcellent quality. Rather than show you the full near-180 degree view of the camera, the app shows you about 90 degrees, but allows you to pan left and right to see the rest by tilting your phone or swiping. That makes it easier to see the details of something that a visitor holds up to the camera (like a badge or paperwork) while still allowing you you to look around and see who else is out there.
Among the video doorbells we tested, the RemoBell was the largest and had the lowest resolution, and it does not integrate with any other smart home systems. We'd skip this option.
How a Video Doorbell Works
When you push the button on a traditional doorbell, the action closes a circuit to ring a chime inside your home. Video doorbells are a bit more complex. When you push the button on one of these devices, the doorbell's camera sends a video feed to your smartphone over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, and you can press a button in the app to talk to the person at the door over a two-way speaker. Each doorbell supports ring alerts, which notify your phone when a person rings the bell, as well as motion alerts, which can be a little more hit or miss.
How We Test and Rate Video Doorbells
We self-installed the video doorbells on houses in Massachusetts and California, 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, how well the app and doorbell kept us notified, and video and audio quality. We also factored in how much you'll pay for cloud storage to save the video.
What to Look for When Buying a Video Doorbell
Power Requirements: 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 and the RemoBell, 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.
Doorbell Placement: 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.
RemoBell also runs on batteries and can be installed anywhere. But it doesn't connect to existing doorbell wiring, which means the doorbell won't chime inside the house, only on your smartphone. 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 RemoBell and August Doorbell cams have tighter angles, of 120 degrees.
Video Resolution: The higher the resolution, the sharper the image, which will make it easier to identify people at your door. Both of Ring's doorbells record video in 1080p, while the RemoBell and August Doorbell Cam record in 720p HD. August's resolution is actually 1280 x 960, but that's not quite "full" 1080p resolution.
Night Mode: 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. The RemoBell and Ring's doorbells use infrared night vision to see in the dark, but the result is monochrome video.
Design: 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 great 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 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.