The best doorbell cameras are a great way of joining the smart home revolution and give you some peace of mind too when you're out of the house. If anyone comes to your door you can see who it is and, in some cases, play back a pre-recorded message.
The key to making a successful smart home product is to replace an existing ‘dumb’ doorbell device many consumers already own, then adding just the right amount of connectivity and extra functionality. The video doorbell camera, in most cases, gets this balance just right.
These devices – sometimes wired, sometimes battery powered – replace your existing doorbell and feature a video camera, microphone, speaker and Wi-Fi connection. With these, they can alert you via your camera phone when someone presses the buzzer, then stream live video and audio to your phone, through which you can speak to the visitor.
They also often feature motion detection and infrared night vision, thus doubling up as a security camera. Prices vary widely, while designs, features and video quality all differ from one video doorbell to another.
Some, like those from Nest and Ring, tap into larger product ecosystems of smart home products – including some featured in our best home security camera guide. Some, like those from August, can be used to control a smart door lock; others hook up to IFTTT (If This, Then That), the smart home automation system.
Video doorbells from Amazon-owned Ring work with Alexa, so the friendly assistant can say “someone is at the front door” on every Echo smart speaker you own, when the button is pressed.
The best video doorbells
The Video Doorbell 2 is the flagship doorbell from Ring. Arguably the most popular player in the video doorbell market, Ring was purchased by Amazon for $1bn in 2018 and sells a range of different doorbells, as well as smart flood lighting to enhance your home’s security.
This model, the Video Doorbell 2, can either be powered from your existing doorbell wiring, or run off its included rechargeable battery. Battery life can vary quite drastically, depending on how often the device’s motion sensors are triggered, but the lack of hardwiring makes it an easy option for those with limited DIY skills, or who are renting their property.
Ring’s doorbells can work without a subscription, alerting your smartphone when the button is pressed and serving up live HD video and audio within a couple of seconds. However, if you want the doorbell to act as a security camera too, saving footage of motion it sees every day and night, you’ll need to pay for Ring Protect, which starts at $3 / £2.50 per month for 30 days of rolling video storage.
The Video Doorbell 2 is quite a large device, and rechargeable the battery every few weeks won’t be to everyone’s taste (if hardwiring isn’t an option), but for us the Ring offers good value for money and a broad feature set from a name we have learnt to trust.
Just like Ring, Nest is a smart home company - this time owned by Google - which has branched out into the nascent video doorbell market. What sets the Nest Hello apart is its HDR video capabilities and a tall 4:3 aspect ratio, which means you can get a better view of whoever is at the door, rather than the usual 16:9 shallow, wide angle view.
The Hello has night vision and motion detection, and facial detection. With that feature, the Hello starts to recognize regular visitors over time then, once you have assigned a name to a face, the Hello will let you know who is at the door, and when the visitor is a stranger.
Like all other video doorbells, the Nest Hello connect to your Wi-Fi network so you can answer the door via your smartphone from anywhere in the world. But, unlike others, the Nest app lets you pre-record messages, then play those (such as one to say you’ll be there in a moment, or are away on holiday) when someone presses the buzzer.
The Nest does not have its own battery, so must be hardwired to your existing doorbell power supply (or a newly fitted one) to function. With Nest Aware, which costs from $5 / £4 a month, video is recorded 24/7 and stored online for five days (more expensive subscriptions allow up to 30-day continuous recording).
This is the cheapest member of the Ring family – and a perfect way to bring yourself into the smart home wifi security era. This surface mounted doorbell gives you a night vision enabed camera that shoots live HD video at more than acceptable 720p. It can work with existing doorbell wiring, or use its rechargeable battery. It communicates with your smartphone or tablets using your home's wifi - so you can hear and see when someone is at your door even before they ring, thanks to the built-in motion detectors.
Another bargain-priced option, this video doorbell by Netvue is powered from your existing doorbell wiring and includes an Alexa skill. This means, once connected to your Wi-Fi network and smartphone via the Netvue app, you can hook it up with Alexa to view the camera’s live video feed on an Amazon Echo Spot or Echo Show.
Video quality is 720p HD, and there’s all of the usual features like two-way audio, infrared night vision and motion detection. Netvue also offers a long 14 days of free cloud storage, meaning anything the camera records can be viewed for up to a fortnight, for free.
An indoor chime is included, so the doorbell can be used just like any other - handy for members of the household who perhaps aren’t interested in using the smartphone app, and just want the device to function like a traditional doorbell.
The Ring Video Doorbell Elite is a luxury item with a price to match – it is around five times the cost of the basic Ring Video Doorbell.
But for the extra cost, buyers get a professional-grade device which is designed to sink into the wall, resulting in a flush finish. The faceplate can be changed to suit the style of your home, and power over Ethernet means no batteries and no worries over a dropped connection due to patchy Wi-Fi.
As such, this is a good option for readers with a large property, or who live in an older house where Wi-Fi struggles to pass through thick walls. Of course, installing the Ring Elite will require a professional (or advanced DIY skills) due to the need to run an Ethernet cable to your front door. Once installed, the Elite works like other Ring doorbells, with night vision, 1080p HD video, two-way audio, live on-demand video, and customisable motion sensitivity.
Very similar to the Video Doorbell and the Video Doorbell 2 - but this has a much slimmer profile, as there is not built-in battery. This means that this does need to be hard wired for power - but can use existing doorbell wiring if you have it. This model can also use the more recent 5 GHz wifi standard, as well as the more usula 2.4GHz standard. One other added bonus is that this model comes with four different fascia plates - giving you more options of matching the unit to the rest of your front door furniture.
This is the latest addition to the Ring doorbell family, and it has been designed particularly to suit those who rent their properties. The Door View Cam replaces the optical peephole that you find on many front doors - giving you the traditional optical fisheye view, as well as the usual digital features of a Ring doorbell. And the caller doesn't need to ring the bell either, as the device also reacts to the door being knocked.
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