Answer the Door From Anywhere
One easy way to safeguard your against property theft, home invasion, porch pirates, and even unwanted solicitors is to identify who is at your doorstep before opening the door. Enter the video doorbell, a first line of defense for homeowners that not only lets you see and speak with the person outside, but also records footage of visitors that approach your door while you’re away or unable to answer. These devices typically use Wi-Fi to stream live video to your phone and offer a variety of features, including cloud video storage, motion detection, sirens, and interoperability with smart locks and other smart home devices. Read on to find out what to look for when choosing a video doorbell for your home.
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Do You Need a Wired or Wireless Video Doorbell?
When choosing a smart doorbell you have to decide if you want a wireless device that runs on batteries or one that gets its power from low-voltage doorbell wiring. Naturally, a wireless doorbell is the easiest type to install, as it draws power from batteries rather than from your home’s electric and doesn’t require that you turn off power or mess with any wiring whatsoever. The downside to wireless doorbells is that their batteries tend to deplete batteries quickly depending on usage, lasting anywhere from two to six months. If you live in an area where the winters are cold you can expect to recharge or replace your batteries every couple of
Wired doorbells are not quite as easy to install as their wireless counterparts, but they are far from difficult and you don’t have to worry about losing power unless your whole house loses power. Since most homes already have doorbell wiring, installing a video doorbell is as easy as removing your old doorbell, disconnecting the two wires, connecting your new doorbell to the wires, and attaching it to the outside of your house. In most
Wired doorbells draw power from two wires that are connected to a transformer that steps down your household power to between 16 to 24 volts. If your home is not equipped with doorbell wiring you can wire it yourself using a plug-in transformer, or have an electrician do the work for you. Either way, some drilling will be required to run wires from the inside of your home to an exterior location.
Video Doorbell Design and Features
Video doorbells come in all shapes and sizes. The least expensive models tend to be bulky devices with limited color choices, while many of the more expensive models are slim and inconspicuous and come in a variety of finishes to complement your home. Chances
Any smart doorbell worth its salt is equipped with a video camera that sends an alert to your phone along with a live video stream when the doorbell button is pressed.
Other features to look for include face recognition technology that identifies visitors by name, motion sensing technology that knows the difference between people, cars, and animals, color night vision video (most doorbell cameras use infrared LEDs to provide up to 30 feet of black-and-white video), and a choice of chimes that will help you differentiate between a doorbell press and a motion trigger. Some of latest doorbell cameras offer a pre-buffer feature that records several seconds of activity prior to when a motion sensor is triggered or the doorbell button has been pressed so you can see what happened just before an event.
Video doorbells don’t offer local storage for recorded video, so you’ll have to subscribe to a cloud service in order to view your motion- and doorbell-triggered video clips. Expect to pay anywhere from $3 per month and up for a plan that gives you access to 30 or more days of video that you can download and share. If you want to view older footage, make sure you save your clips as they will be deleted after the allotted time is up.
Interoperability With Other Smart Home Tech
Many home security systems offer video doorbells as add-on components, but these devices typically do not work on their own and must be connected to a system hub. However, they usually interact with other system components such as door locks, sirens, and lighting. If you want a standalone smart doorbell that will work with other smart devices in your home, look for one that supports the IFTTT (If This Then That) internet service. With IFTTT you can easily create
Another handy feature to look for is support for Alexa voice commands that let you view a doorbell’s live stream on an Amazon-enabled display. Once you’ve enabled the skill, simply say “Alexa, show the front door” to launch a live stream on your Echo Show or Fire TV-enabled TV or monitor. Similar voice commands are also available using Google Assistant.
Video Doorbells vs. Smart Home Security Cameras
Video doorbells and home security cameras offer many of the same benefits. Both will show you what is going on outside of your home, both offer motion detection and motion-triggered recording, and in most cases, both let you speak to whoever is out there. That said, the simple fact is that security cameras lack the doorbell component. If you’re downstairs doing the laundry and your phone is upstairs, a security camera won’t tell you that someone is at the door, but the doorbell will (when pressed).
Moreover, unless they are battery operated, outdoor security cameras require a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet for power, which may limit potential mounting locations. Wired smart doorbells use existing low-voltage wiring and are relatively easy to install (they don’t require a ladder, for instance).
With that in mind, these are best video doorbells we’ve tested so far. The category is evolving quickly, and we’ll be adding to this list regularly as we test new devices, so check back soon.
Pros: Excellent HD video quality. Clear two-way audio. Works with other August devices. Hindsight pre-buffering. On-demand video streaming. Motion detection. Easy to install.
Cons: Requires subscription to view recorded video. No IFTTT integration.
Bottom Line: The August Doorbell Cam Pro delivers sharp, colorful HD video and offers motion detection with Hindsight recording so you won’t miss a thing.
Pros: Affordable. Sharp HD video. Motion detection. Two-way audio. Free cloud storage. Works with Alexa and Google voice commands. Supports IFTTT. Easy to install.
Cons: Requires wiring. Video is recorded in fisheye mode.
Bottom Line: The RemoBell S is an affordable video doorbell that’s loaded with features including motion detection, free cloud storage, support for Alexa and Google voice commands, and interoperability with other smart devices via IFTTT.
Pros: Completely wireless. Sharp 1080p HDR video. Motion detection. Two-way audio. Works with Amazon Alexa. Easy to install.
Cons: Subscription required to view recorded video. Some barrel distortion.
Bottom Line: The Ring Peephole Cam replaces your peephole lens with a smart doorbell that detects motion, records video, and lets you see who is out there before opening the door.
Pros: Slender design. Sharp 1080p video. Supports IFTTT and Alexa voice commands. Motion detection with pre-buffering. On-demand streaming. Easy to install.
Cons: Pricey. Access to recorded video costs extra. Some barrel distortion.
Bottom Line: The Ring Video Doorbell Pro is a sleek smart doorbell that lets you see who is at your door in real time, who came calling while you were away, and uses pre-buffering so you won’t miss a thing.
Pros: Sharp high-res HDR video. Wide viewing angle. Works with Alexa voice commands and other Arlo devices. No hub required. Easy to install.
Cons: Requires wiring. Somewhat bulky. Doesn’t support IFTTT or Google Assistant. Recorded video and smart notifications require subscription.
Bottom Line: The Arlo Video Doorbell lets you see who is at your door from your phone in stunning HD video, but it lacks some of the features that you get with competing devices.
Pros: Sleek design. Face recognition. Motion and sound detection. Sharp HD video. Works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
Cons: Setup requires working with electrical wiring. Must have existing chime box. Need Nest Aware subscription for many features.
Bottom Line: The Nest Hello video doorbell not only lets you know when somebody is at your door, it uses face recognition to tell you exactly who it is.
Pros: Easy to install. Battery or wired power operation. 1080p video. Alexa and IFTTT support. Motion detection with triggered recording.
Cons: Bulky. Requires subscription to view recorded video. No pre-buffered recording.
Bottom Line: The feature-rich battery-powered Ring Video Doorbell 2 is ideal if you want a smart doorbell but don’t want to mess with wiring.
Pros: Excellent HDR video quality. Sharp zoom. Dual-band Wi-Fi. Wide field of view. Interacts with other Vivint devices. Voice control.
Cons: Expensive. Requires Vivint security system and professional installation. Doesn’t support IFTTT.
Bottom Line: The Vivint Doorbell Camera Pro gives you a wide, crystal-clear view of your doorstep and offers excellent zooming capabilities, package detection, and voice control.
Pros: High resolution. Smart motion detection. Works with Alexa and Google voice commands. Local video storage.
Cons: Requires wiring. Lacks IFTTT support. No integrations with Eufy or third-party smart devices.
Bottom Line: The Eufy Video Doorbell is a wired high-resolution smart doorbell that lets you see who is at your door before opening it.
Pros: Outstanding HDR video quality. Works with SimpliSafe security devices. Easy to install.
Cons: Requires subscription to view recorded video. Doesn’t support IFTTT or voice commands. Uses existing doorbell wiring and offers no battery-operated equivalent.
Bottom Line: The SimpliSafe Video Doorbell Pro is a sleek, functional smart doorbell that can be incorporated into a SimpliSafe home security system or used on its own.