A video doorbell can help you see who's at the door, and you can find out what they want without having to get up — even if you're not home. After we spent more than 30 hours testing four of the top video doorbells, our favorite is the Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant and Alexa.. It offers a sleek design, timely notifications and tight integration with August's excellent Smart Lock Pro, which supports
Ring's doorbells are also solid performers, offering wide viewing angles, 1080p resolution and a great app. Although it's a bit pricey, we prefer the Ring Pro for its customizable motion zones.
News and Updates (February 2018)
- Nest, which makes security cameras such as the Nest Cam, is releasing its first video doorbell, the Nest Hello, in March. Those who preorder the camera (which retails for $229) before February 20 will also receive a Google Home Mini for free. The Hello has a 1600 x 1200 camera, 160-degree field of view, and requires a wired, 10-volt transformer and chime to work.
- EZViz' new smart doorbell, the Lookout Smart Door Viewer, replaces the traditional pinhole viewer and replaces it with a 720p camera with a 165-degree field of view, motion detector, and microphone; on the back side of the door is a 4.3-inch touchscreen that lets you chat with whoever's there. In addition, it also has Wi-Fi, so you can see who's at your door from your smartphone. Facial recognition technology will identify known visitors, and the camera also has infrared, so it will work in dark conditions, too. The Lookout will be available for $229 in the first quarter of 2018.
August Video Doorbell
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 Video Doorbell Pro
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.
Ring Video Doorbell 2
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.
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 picked four doorbells and installed them one at a time in a small house in Oakland, California. The house, 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.
The doorbells were self-installed 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. 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.