August Doorbell Cam Pro Review

The smart lock pioneer ups its game in a crowding market

August Doorbell Cam Pro
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Smart doorbells are fast becoming the gateway drug to the smart home. Easy to install, insanely useful, and conveniently bypassing the privacy and security concerns of many smart home devices (because they’re outside the house), there really isn’t a good reason not to get one. So, the question is, which one?

August released its first video doorbell in 2015 to mixed reviews, largely due to promising a number of essential features (motion detection) that took a while to come along. Its newest version, the August Doorbell Cam Pro, comes ready to rock and roll right out of the box. Just pop it on your front door and answer your doorbell the same way you answer a Facetime or Duo call – right on your smartphone, wherever you are. It’s pretty awesome.

Read this: The essential guide to August

There are lots of use cases for video doorbells, especially when paired with a smart lock (more on that later). Chief among them is the convenience and security of knowing who is at your door before answering it – it's like having caller ID for your front door. Plus, with motion alerts you can see who has approached your door even if they don’t ring the doorbell (we’re looking at you, UPS delivery person). Also, for those with limited mobility, or who just have their hands full, not having to get up to answer the door can be a life saver.

We've been living with the August Doorbell Cam Pro for a while – here's what we think of it.

August Doorbell Cam Pro Review

August Doorbell Cam Pro: Design and Options

The August Doorbell Cam Pro is not the most attractive of the smart doorbells (that accolade goes to Nest Hello in our opinion), but you couldn't call it ugly. The silver version is a bit odd looking, resembling an angular yin yang on your door, but the dark grey is more elegant. However, you can’t get away from the fact that it’s a big, large box being slapped on your house.

Updated verdict: August View doorbell review

One benefit of this clunky design is that the button stands out (more so than one the earlier version). Why is this important? Because a lot of people don’t realize video doorbells are doorbells. We know someone who actually put a big label on their Ring saying “Doorbell” to clear up confusion – no, really.

Compared to Nest and Ring, August's doorbell looks like something you should press. A downside is that it’s too large to fit on many door frames, meaning you may have to place it on a wall next to your door, assuming you have wiring there to support it.

August takes a page out of Apple’s book in its sleek and well-thought-out packaging. A sturdy red box includes everything you need to install the doorbell: mounting hardware (screws, anchors, putty), a wedge for positioning, and a neat, USB-powered dock.

August Doorbell Cam Pro Review

Doorbell Cam Pro: Installation and Setup

Installing the August doorbell requires some wiring, but it’s the easiest of all smart home wiring projects; you really can’t go wrong. Just remember to switch off the power. There is no battery-powered version, and it requires a working, wired, mechanical doorbell chime with a 16-24V transformer.

If you don’t have an existing wiring, you will have to install a 12-24V AC wire and transformer. The August also requires a mechanical chime in the house, or you won’t hear it ring inside, other than through the app (Nest and Ring both have workarounds for this).

Ambient verdict: August WiFi Smart Lock review

There’s no installation guide in the box, instead a little welcome note instructing you to download the app where a step-by-step guide walks you through set up.

The first step is to power up the camera using the included USB cable and dock. This is a handy tool no other doorbell offers, as once it’s powered you can figure out how to get the best view from the doorbell before you drill. (You could use it as an indoor powered camera this way too).

August Doorbell Cam Pro Review

After connecting the doorbell in the app and deciding if you want to use the included wedge (which helps angle your doorbell a variety of ways to get the best view), you need to position the mounting plate, fine tuning it with the built-in level, and indicate where you’ll place your screws (and anchors if drilling into concrete or brick). From here it’s a straightforward process of screwing the mounting plate in place and connecting your existing wiring.

Once it's set up you can tinker with all the settings in the app, such as whether you want doorbell or motion notifications, and adjust the motion sensitivity and speaker volume.

August Doorbell Cam Pro: Features

Beyond the basic necessities of a video doorbell – record people at your front door in HD (whether they press the doorbell or not), talk back and forth with them, get alerts when someone is at your door – August also includes an integrated “flood light.” This gets you colour night-time video instead of black and white night vision. This doesn't actually give you a flood of light, more a tiny stream, but it does the job to help you see who’s at your door. The light is also motion activated, acting as a security feature.

August Doorbell Cam Pro Review

A feature called Hindsight should be pretty handy – it continuously buffers a few seconds of video so that you capture footage of a visitor just before they press the doorbell, reducing the number of recordings that just show back of someone’s head as they walk away.

However, we had difficulty with this feature. Every time we tried to view a video that had used Hindsight the app would tell us the video was “currently being processed and should be available soon.” But even 16 hours later we couldn’t view any of the videos from the three visitors who pressed the doorbell that day.

August Doorbell Cam Pro: Everyday Use

The August replaced a Nest Hello on our test door (which had replaced a Ring, first generation). Two things struck us immediately. First, the August has a much narrower field of view than either Nest or Ring. Second, we received far fewer “false” motion alerts.

August’s view is narrower, and only records in portrait mode – you can’t turn your phone to landscape as you can with Nest and Ring, which offer 160-degree fields of view. Plus, it’s a lower resolution (1280 x 960p) compared to its competitors. This doesn’t make a huge difference when you’re talking to someone at the front door but does make it less effective as an exterior security camera.

If you have a bandwidth cap on your internet however, it might make it more appealing; Nest Hello’s always-on video stream says it could use 150GB to 600GB of upload bandwidth per month.

August Doorbell Cam Pro Review

On the plus side we received fewer false notifications due to shadows and trees moving in the front yard. This is because August uses a passive infrared sensor to detect heat changes in its field of view, so only triggers when it detects heat changes in its vision, as opposed to just using the camera and motion sensing as the Nest does (Ring also uses PIR but we still got lots of false notifications on the first-generation model).

You can’t set up motion zones on the August, as you can on Nest and Ring, but with a narrower field of view and less frequent alerts they’re not as necessary. You can adjust the sensitivity though – helpful if you have lots of passersby.

When someone presses the doorbell, the August rings outside and activates your mechanical chime in your home, and you get a notification on any connected smart phone or tablet. You can also turn either off in the app (very handy if you have a sleeping baby in the house).

August Doorbell Cam Pro Review

Notifications of “calls” were timely and consistent (Pro tip: Change your alert banner style for August to persistent in your phone’s system settingsso you don’t miss a call). Answering the call on the phone was a good experience, the notification opens the app quickly and the stream was good. You can then see and talk to whoever is there (they can’t see you).

In our experience two-way talk on video doorbells is never excellent, it’s best limited to “I’ll be right there,” or “We’ll be home in 5 minutes, just leave it on the porch” than a full-on conversation. August’s two-way talk is particularly irritating, however, as you have to press the Speak button every time you want to talk, you can’t just talk. This left us repeatedly talking over the person at the door – you can see their lips moving but can’t hear them, as audio cuts out when you press Speak.

August Doorbell Cam Pro
August Doorbell Cam Pro

A live feed from the camera is available on demand, and in our testing, this was reliable – very little buffering and a good, clear picture. We particularly liked the Flood Light feature, being able to see your nighttime visitors in colour as opposed to grey is nice.

Sharing access to your doorbell with family members or visitors through the app is easy, plus you can limit access so that someone can simply see the feed for a set period, rather than having to revoke access as you do with competitors’ sharing options.

Free 24 video recording (added earlier this year), is an excellent feature compared to the competition, who all require a subscription for any playback (with exception of SkyBell, which is totally free). If you want to record and save 30 days’ worth, it's $4.99 a month ($49.99 annually).

August Doorbell Cam Pro Review

August Doorbell Cam Pro: Smart Home Connections

The biggest selling point of the August Doorbell Cam Pro is its compatibility with other smart home devices, including, of course, August's own.

As you would expect, it works very well with August door locks, even acting as a Wi-Fi bridge so you don’t have to purchase the Connect Wi-Fi Bridge for remote access to your lock. When you open the August app and view the front door there is a big red button right there to unlock (or green to lock) the door. So you can see and speak with visitors and let them in all from a single app screen. Say the FedEx lady comes, talk to her, unlock the door, watch her put the package in the house, then lock the door behind her.

This deep camera integration, and the option of adding August’s Keypad to use a code to unlock your door, mean that August offers the most robust choices when it comes to controlling your front door. You can unlock it with the app, have it auto-unlock as you approach, use your key (how old fashioned), or a keypad (great for kids without smartphones). If you are looking for a whole door smart solution, August is hard to beat right now.

With an Amazon Echo Show or Spot you can view a live feed of your door – just say “Alexa, show me my front door.” Handy when you’re in the kitchen hands deep in dishes, (Nest Hello also offers this, but Ring doesn’t, yet). You can also then have Alexa unlock your August door lock, using a pin code.

Sadly, despite a onetime promise of compatibility and the door lock being part of HomeKit, the August Doorbell Cam Pro isn’t HomeKit compatible. We asked August for an update on the situation and the response was, “August can't comment on the HomeKit integration at this time, but feel free to reach out to Apple for more information.” Also, despite a good Apple Watch app for the door lock, there is no integration for the doorbell: we couldn’t even get notification to show up on the watch (which Nest Hello and Ring do offer).

August Doorbell Cam Pro: The competition

There are a lot of smart video doorbells out there: Ring is the leader of the pack in terms of number of options; Nest Hello boasts excellent AI features (it can tell you who is at the front door); and SkyBell offers free video recording. August’s lack of battery-powered version (which Ring and SkyBell offer), will leave it out of consideration for some users.

Another area it lacks is integration with a security system. Both Ring and Nest now have smart security systems that work with their doorbells, and Ring’s Neighborhood feature (which lets you see doorbells all along your street) is an interesting idea. But August so far has no standalone system – you could jerry-rig something through Alexa, Wink or SmartThings, but it would have to be self-monitored.

No indoor chime add-on could also be an issue. Nest Hello can work through a Google Home speaker and Ring has its neat Chime plug-in with a variety of rings to pick from (the spooky witch's laugh was a hit at our house over Halloween). But August can only work with an existing mechanical door chime.

August Doorbell Cam Pro
If you are just starting out on your smart home door upgrades, August is a very good option – the integration between its devices, plus options to connect with a variety of smart home systems, give August the broadest appeal of all the doorbells. As a standalone option however, its competitors offer more in terms of style and design, and options for actually fitting on your door. If you have or want an August door lock, the August Doorbell Cam Pro is an easy choice, but if you are just looking for a smart doorbell, there are better options.
  • Integration with other August devices
  • Colour view at night
  • Motion-activated light
  • Easy-to-navigate app
  • Fewer false alerts
  • Awkward design may not fit on some doors
  • Narrower view than the competition
  • Hardwired only
  • No indoor chime option
  • Hindsight videos failed

TAGGED    video doorbells    smart home

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