Video doorbells get smart all the time, and I mean, who does not have would they have liked to have a radar or a doorbell camera at one point or another? Okay, maybe you haven’t thought about it, but it’s true that doorbells in 2021 add serious intelligence to their traditional counterparts, two-way conversation and automatic responses to security alarms and even.
But not all video doorbell cameras are created equal – the design, video quality, video storage subscriptions, and installation cost of each doorbell camera can vary widely.
If you don’t know where to start on your quest for a smart video doorbell, I’ve highlighted my favorite video camera models below. I’ve also offered some general tips for finding the best device for you. So, if you’re looking for the best video doorbell, there’s a good chance it’s one of the ones we’ve tested. We update this list regularly.
Tyler Lizenby / CNET
Arlo’s $ 110 Wired Video Doorbell Camera is easy to set up, performs well, and offers competitive features and cloud storage fees starting at just $ 3 per month. With a cloud storage subscription, you have access to advanced features such as personalized person, animal, vehicle and package alerts.
The Arlo Video Doorbell, our pick for the best overall video doorbell, also features a built-in siren, two-way audio system, motion detection zones, and arm / disarm modes.
Chris Monroe / CNET
Google’s newest video doorbell costs $ 180 and is a snap to set up whether or not you have doorbell wiring. When we tested it, we were impressed with the free, out-of-the-box intelligence, including parcel, person, vehicle and animal alerts and three hours of event storage. While these features don’t match what you get with a subscription – with Nest Aware or another service, like Ring or Arlo – they’re a good place to start if you’re just hoping to try out a video doorbell for the first time. A nice bonus? The Nest Doorbell (battery) also works well with Google Assistant powered devices like the Nest Hub.
David Priest / CNET
Editor’s Note, December 14, 2020: Ring was called for its partnership with local police services in the United States, leading privacy advocates have expressed concern what data Ring shares with law enforcement and how they use that information. As of December 2019, thousands of Ring doorbell users personal information has been exposed, which causes us to stop recommending Ring products.
Ring has since updated its security policies, providing customers with a Control center dashboard for easier access to privacy and security settings two-factor authentication. We have resumed recommending Ring products with this caveat: If you have any concerns about Ring’s privacy policies, be sure to familiarize yourself with its Confidentiality declaration. You can read more about how we incorporate Ring’s privacy policies into our recommendations. here.
The Ring Video Doorbell Wired is one of the best deals out there – it’s a fully functional video doorbell, with 1080p resolution and standard notification features including motion alerts and person-only alerts . The Ring app is easy to use and gives fairly quick push notifications when people are approaching the door. The Ring Doorbell Camera also offers two-way talk and reliable night vision and video recording with subscription.
Ring’s $ 3 subscription service allows for 60 days of video storage and a handful of other useful features, including Smart responses with Alexa.
Chris Monroe / CNET
The $ 199 peephole camera is Ring’s answer to apartment doors – or any door with a peephole. If you don’t want – or can’t – drill through a door frame to install a wired or battery-powered doorbell, the Peephole Cam is a solid alternative.
Fully battery powered, the peephole camera replaces your standard peephole in a few simple steps. You’ll still be able to see through like a regular peephole, but you’ll also be able to view a live video feed from your front door on demand and talk to all visitors. If you subscribe to the Ring’s Protect cloud service, you will also be able to view recorded clips.
With its streamlined installation and smart workaround for apartment dwellers, the Ring Peephole Cam is definitely worth considering.
David Priest / CNET
Arlo’s $ 180 wireless doorbell is essentially the same as its wired version, other than the fact that it relies more on a battery. Wireless doorbells tend to be more expensive (the comparable Ring 4, for example, costs $ 200), but they offer convenient solutions for anyone without doorbell wiring.
The Essential Wireless Video Doorbell has an excellent picture, smart notifications and a reliable design. The real noteworthy features are the huge 180-degree field of view and an affordable $ 3 per month subscription for 30 days of event storage and other perks.
How CNET is testing video doorbells
Testing for the best video doorbell is similar to testing any other. I first download the corresponding app and create an account (if I don’t already have one). While many products include tutorial booklets in the box with your purchase, I prefer to start with the app. A good app includes detailed steps on the setup process, as well as how to connect to your Wi-Fi network and operate the smart device. It’s your one-stop-shop to take care of setting up your doorbell from start to finish.
Make sure the doorbell is installed according to the manufacturer’s specifications – whether it is a wired doorbell or battery or solar power. As soon as it’s connected and I can see the live video feed, I check the settings. I make sure features like motion detection or activity zones are turned on (they aren’t always on by default) to get a full picture of how the product is used – and to see how well the product is used. The device actually works as a replacement for an ordinary non-intelligent doorbell.
What to look for
Does it work with smart home platforms? If so, do smart features work well together? Nowadays, a smart home device should work with at least one large smart home platform – Amazon Alexa, and are the main ones you need to look for.
How is the latency? If your smart doorbell camera takes a long time to send a push notification after someone rings your doorbell, you might miss your visitor completely. You should also make sure that you receive notifications when something sets the motion sensor, as you can set the motion sensor of most video doorbells to notify you of activity happening near your door, even if no one rings the buzzer. If you’re having latency issues, start with your Wi-Fi connection. If it’s not solid where the doorbell is installed, you may consider moving it (or, more easily, getting a Wi-Fi range extender). But it could also be the way the software works.
How is the live view? Doorbells are often exposed to direct sunlight, but many others are set up under porches, near shady trees, and in all kinds of other settings. It’s important that the camera has night vision and can handle any of these scenarios so that you don’t get stuck with a product that doesn’t work and can’t see faces on a porch.
How is the two-way audio? If the microphone and speaker on the doorbell are not working well, you will have difficulty communicating with those present. I test this a few times to see how the doorbell sounds on my phone.