Best smart video doorbell cameras: Never miss a caller again

The bells, whistles and potential pitfalls of smart doorbells

Best video doorbell guide 2019

Buying a video doorbell camera answers one of the biggest questions of the smart home: if someone calls at your house and you’re not there to answer, did they call at all?

A smart doorbell means that when someone calls, they’re connected straight through to your smartphone or video device within the home. You can then get a live video feed and see who’s calling, and use two-way audio to speak to them. This can make dealing with deliveries a lot easier (“chuck it over the fence”; “put it in the garage”) and enables you to keep tabs on who’s calling. It's also a lot more natural than just using a smart home camera.

Best video doorbells

Here are our current top picks – read further down for comprehensive verdicts.

Ring Video Doorbell 2
Ring Video Doorbell 2

For our money, Ring is one of the best systems out there, with a wire-free set up and quality video. Sadly, there are charges for storing video, but even if you duck these, the two-way audio and live view make for a great system.

RemoBell S
RemoBell S

For the budget conscious, RemoBell S is a solid option, coming with three days of free video storage, something Ring and Nest don't offer. Excellent video quality and super-speedy response times make up for a slightly lackluster app and the forced fish-eye video playback.

Who are the big video doorbell brands?

While video doorbells can be picked up in their droves, decent smart devices are still breaking through. For a while the leader was Ring, which was given a decent boost when it was bought by Amazon. Time are changing though, and now August, Nest, Netatmo and other major names have decent offerings. VueBell and SkyBell (available in the US) are also big players – they’ve been in the doorbell game since the get-go, but their reliance on wired connectivity has kept them behind. However SkyBell offers free cloud storage, which is pretty neat.


Best video doorbell buying guide

Wired vs wireless

If you’re sold on the idea of a smart doorbell and are now looking at the cold reality, there are a few key considerations.

The first is how it’s connected. If you’re replacing an existing doorbell on the front of the house, which is wired in, you’re already winning. Most video doorbells are designed to support this system, and you can wire them in using these connectors, and ignore the need for batteries forever.

Read this: A beginner's guide to smart home wiring

If you don’t have a wired set up, you're going to be limited. You can either wire in a doorbell, which is less than ideal: chasing home electrics back to a junction box, installing a transformer to step down the power, finding somewhere to chase the wire and then drill through your doorframe. Or you can buy a battery powered version.

But choice here is extremely limited, and only Ring and Blink (which hasn’t yet released) offer respite for cable-challenged doorbell installers.

Storage costs

The next consideration is cloud storage and accessing recorded motion and rings. While answering a ring at your doorbell is part and parcel of the smart doorbell experience, watching video back of missed calls or detected motion usually (but not always) comes at a price. This can cost in excess of $25 per year, and is an ongoing cost for having a doorbell, not something that everyone wants to enter into.

Smart lock integrations

An increasing use for smart doorbells isn’t just answering or screening callers, but letting that person in when they arrive. That could be a cleaner, dog-walker or tradesperson – but this requires the doorbell to work together with your door. This is where August comes into its own, given that its doorbell works in tandem with the lock.

As for Ring, it now has integration with Z-wave locks from Schlage, Kwikset, Yale and others, which means that you can now unlock your door from the Ring app if you have the two paired.

Nest's Hello doorbell plays nice with the Nest x Yale smart lock, and the companion app will let you both see who's at your door and unlock it simply.

Here's the current pick of the best smart video doorbells.

Best video doorbell buying guide

Ring Video Doorbell 2

$199, Amazon | ring.com

Our top pick of smart doorbells right now, Ring Video Doorbell 2 works superbly well, is available globally and you won’t have to worry about cables, given that it works via a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. If you do have wires hanging out of your door frame, you can still attach them to ensure you don't have to recharge.

The build is a bit big and bulky to hold that big battery and we wouldn’t say Ring is the most aesthetically pleasing doorbell on the market.

The Ring Video Doorbell 2 features a full HD 1080p camera with a 160-degree field of view, which is fairly standard. The feed is only 15fps, so it can be a bit choppy at times, but it's a doorbell, not your holiday video. Two-way audio and 1080p streaming works out of the box, but if you want to watch back recorded motion and rings you’ll need a plan. Basic costs $30 per year.

Essential guide: Everything you need to know about Ring

You’ll also need to purchase a Chime, if you want to hear the doorbell in the house. Of course, it’s optional, as you have your phones and a noise from the Ring unit itself. The standard Chime plugs into a mains socket; the Chime Pro works as a Wi-Fi extender to mitigate issues in your home, and this might be a necessity for those with patchy signal. And with new Alexa integrations for two-way audio and announcements, it's a package that's getting better.

Verdict:

Nine times out of ten, the Ring 2 just works, although you will suffer the odd outage, missed ring or dropped connection – however, for our money, it’s one of the best systems out there.

The app is easy to use and the audio and video is decent quality. Our one beef is the charges for storing video, and we’d like to see 24 hour playback thrown in for free. Otherwise, Ring is a superb system that comes highly recommended.

Check out our full Ring Video Doorbell 2 review.


Best video doorbell buying guide

Nest Hello

$199, nest.com

While we marked down Ring 2 for being big and bulky, the Nest Hello is slim and good-looking. When it comes to features, most of it is pretty standard. There's the 1600 x 1200 HD video at 30fps that's nice and clear, with HDC to make things easier to see at night. It's also set up at a 4:3 aspect ratio rather than 16:9, which will help you see people head to toe.

The Hello shines with its smart features. You have quick replies that you can select from the app, that can do things like tell your UPS deliverer to set the package at the door, there are also motion, sound and person alerts at your disposal. If you've got the $5 monthly Nest Aware subscription, there's also facial recognition, which will learn the faces of people who frequent your place the most and let you tag them in the app. If you've got a Nest Cam IQ or Google Home, they'll even announce them.

There's a wireless chime in the box, which is good, but you'll still need a wired connection to work this one – that might stump some people. Nest Pro installation is recommended, though it will cost you a couple of hundred dollars or less depending on how much work your home needs done.

Verdict:

The Nest Hello is a great choice for those who want to put the smart in smart doorbell. It's got high-end features like facial recognition, pre-recorded responses and full video streaming (not just clips that start recording based on motion or sound). It's arguably the best designed smart doorbell in the game, but one of the most expensive too, from starting price to installation to the Nest Aware subscription.

Check out our full Nest Hello review.

Best smart video doorbell cameras: Never miss a caller again

Ring Door View Cam

$199, Amazon | ring.com

A unique entry into the doorbell space, the Ring Door View Cam fits in the peephole of your door – making it a great option if you can’t install a wired doorbell or drill holes into the outside of your home.

Battery-powered, the Ring has the easiest install, taking under five minutes as there’s no wiring or drilling. Once installed you get nice, clear, full HD video, with a 155-degree angle view (slightly narrower than its big brother Ring 2), and nighttime infrared recording.

All the standard Ring features – motion sensitivity controls, a snooze alert option, and privacy areas – are here, plus the Ring cloud plan for storing and playing back video, and Alexa integration (no Google Assistant or HomeKit).

A new feature is knock detection that catches people who don’t ring the bell. However, there's no option to set activity zones and we found the video to be slightly jerky, unless we turned on HDR, which reduces battery life.

Speaking of batteries, you’ll be charging this three or four times a year so you might want to buy a backup battery, plus pick up a Ring Chime (or Chime Pro if you need to extend Wi-Fi to your front door), as you won’t hear the noise out of the small speaker inside your home.

The biggest drawback of the Ring Door View Cam is actually its biggest advantage – its unique positioning. Because it’s in the door, when you open the door you lose the video footage of your front doorstep, instead you get a nice view of the side of your head. But if the Ring Door View Cam is your only option, it’s a pretty good one.

Verdict:

You get all of the features and reliability that we’ve come to expect from Ring, in a package that can be installed in a matter of minutes. For those that can’t fit a regular doorbell or that aren’t allowed to drill holes, there’s nothing that works this well.

There are a few minor issues, including recordings that just show a blanked out privacy zone and the fact that the doorbell moves with your door, giving some odd footage and preventing the outside from being monitored while the door is open. For these reasons, we’d go with a fixed doorbell where possible. That all said, if you need the flexibility that this doorbell offers, there’s nothing better.

Best smart video doorbell cameras: Never miss a caller again

RemoBell S

$99, Amazon | remoplus.co

The RemoBell S stands alone in this roundup for one simple reason: it's cheap. At $99 it's an absolute bargain – but how does it stand up to the above competition? That depends on what you're looking for. If you're after an inexpensive video doorbell that can show you who's outside and store recordings, the RemoBell S does the trick.

But as we put it in our full review: "…if you’re a smart home geek who loves to integrate all your devices, or you appreciate a well-thought-out app and want more advanced features, such as person detection and sound notifications, then the RemoBell isn’t going to excite you."

The RemoBell S does lack several of the bells and whistles you'll get with its pricier competitors, but here's what you will get: two-way talk, HD (1536x1536) video, night vision, motion zones, push notifications, live viewing and, best of all, three days of free video storage.

Not bad, right? Especially that last point; Ring, Nest and August will all make you pay for a similar recording allowance. There are no indoor chime bundles with the RemoBell S, but you can purchase a Remo Digital Chime separately for $29.

The downsides? The app could be a lot better, notifications were unreliable in our testing, and we found the sound out of sync on recorded videos. Some of this could be cleaned up with updates, so here's hoping a bit of spit and polish will make the RemoBell S even better. In the meantime, it's a decent package for the low asking price.

Verdict:

For the price, this is a great video doorbell. It does its main job well, showing you who is at the door quickly, as long as you don’t miss the notifications.

A better app and some improved video recording would bump up our rating. And while it lacks higher-end features, like facial recognition, digital zoom and full integration with your smart home, it's an inexpensive and solid solution to add voicemail and caller ID to your front door.

Best smart video doorbell cameras: Never miss a caller again

August View Doorbell Camera

$229.99, Amazon | August

(Update: Since publishing our review, August has stopped shipping the View following connectivity problems, which we experienced in our testing. We've lowered our review score in light of these problems, and we'll update our full review once August resumes selling the View. If you've bought one, August will give you a full refund. You can read more here.)

August's latest flagship doorbell is completely wire-free and boasts 1440p video – 33% more pixels than Full 1080p HD – a unique high-quality zoom feature, and a wider view than August’s original video doorbell cameras.

The slimmest video doorbell on test here, it should fit attractively on your front door. The top of the View features the camera in a glossy case and the swappable bottom faceplate is matt black, with a subtle LED light around the button to show you where to press.

A chime had been a major missing feature from August’s first doorbell camera. The August View’s chime is a square white plug that goes into a standard outlet. It comes pre-paired with your doorbell. Just plug it in and it’s good to go.

Like the Ring 2, August's new doorbell offers instant motion alerts anytime someone approaches the door, so you don’t rely on them pressing the doorbell to see who is there. You can also view a live feed at any time.

Verdict:

If you are just starting out on your smart home door upgrades, August is a very good option – the integration between its devices, plus option to connect with a variety of smart home systems, give August the broadest appeal of all the doorbells.

Also, If you have or want an August door lock, the View is an obvious choice. However, if you have a Wi-Fi mesh system, you might want to avoid until a software update rectifies current issues.


Reviews coming soon…

Best video doorbell buying guide

Netatmo Smart Video Doorbell

HomeKit user? Netatmo has the first smart doorbell that works with Apple's platform, meaning you can control it through the HomeKit app or using Siri. There's a 1080p Full HD camera with a 160-degree wide angle lens, so expect a decent picture, especially as the HDR function also adjusts to lighting.

Where Netatmo scores the real winning point is in its lack of a subscription fee. Everything is in the box, with all footage either stored locally on an internal micro-SD card or synced to the user's Dropbox or FTP server. That will save you a significant amount of money over time, although right now we don't know the price of the doorbell itself. It will be announced later this year, with the doorbell to ship in the second half of 2019.

Best video doorbell buying guide

Maximus DualCam

Never miss a package again. Or at least that's Maximus' mission statement with the DualCam, the first smart doorbell to feature two cameras. Consider yourself spoiled. There's one main 1080p camera on the top with HDR, 180-degree field of view, motion detection and the rest of the usual fare. On the bottom meanwhile is a second camera that will give you a better look at any packages that have been delivered.

The two videos are synced together and should eliminate the blind spots you sometimes get with other doorbell cams. There's a two-hour window to download footage for free – after that it's deleted. Otherwise you'll need to have a paid storage plan. The DualCam will be available for $199 later this year.


Best video doorbell buying guide

Blink Video Doorbell

$99, blinkforhome.com | Coming soon

Given the amount of wired doorbells in this list, thank heavens Blink’s new doorbell cam offers two years of battery life, so you can do without nasty cables. But that isn’t the best bit. The Blink Video Doorbell only costs $99, if you already have a Blink hub, and $129 if not, making it superb value for your front door.

Things are still a little shady on details: Blink was supposed to launch last year but has yet to appear. It went awfully quiet for a while, but the doorbell recently showed up at the FCC, suggesting it's close. The company states “HD quality”, so at least 720p and two years’ battery life from a pair of AAs. What’s more, you get free cloud storage for watching back clips, both from rings and the motion detection sensor. It’s a strong set of features, and we’ll be working to test the Blink as soon as it lands.

TAGGED   security cameras

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