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5 Best Smart Video Doorbells
When smart phones started to make mobile video consumption a common place among the masses, it seemed inevitable that we would be able to meet and greet visitors to our home at the front door from the phone anywhere in the world.
So inevitable that consumers never gave a lot of thought into it assuming “of course there is something like that” in the market.
All the technology required to design such a system are widely available and long proven in the market:
- High speed WIFI connections
- Smart devices with 3G/4G mobile data
- Long lasting batteries
What’s amazing is that no big company took the bull by it’s horn and blitz the market with this product… and it seemed like the big players in the industry did not even gave such a product a second thought… until an entrepreneur went on Shark Tank to pitch it…
A smart video doorbell makes so much sense in the world we live in today. And this is validated by the huge and growing demand for these devices.
Our colleague Andy is actually one of the pioneer users of smart video doorbells. He has been using them for a long while. So we thought he could provide some material inputs on the key criteria for selecting one.
But amazingly, being the pragmatic man he is, he bought one from the list below (which we will not reveal to prevent making one sound favorable to you) without any research whatsoever.
We had to therefore draw up a few main buying criteria, without copying from Andy’s experience (or lack of).
There are 6 main criteria.
- Ease of manual installation
- Ease of setup and configuration with software and router
- Software features (what it can make the doorbell do)
- Connection and integration with other smart home devices
- Recording cloud storage
- Reliability of motion sensors
With the above in mind, here’s some of the best video doorbells available in today’s marketplace.
Best Overall – Ring Wi-Fi Enabled Video Doorbell
One feature that makes the standard Ring video doorbell unique is that it can run fully with it’s built-in rechargeable batteries.
You might be surprised at why this seemingly simple feature is not available in all comparable products in the market.
And to tell you the truth, I don’t understand it either.
But because cameras recording videos in high definition (HD) can consume a lot of power, the challenge of manufacturing video doorbells with beefed up batteries at affordable consumer prices is not easily solved.
By eliminating this problem, Ring has a doorbell that has little limitations with installation. Making it so much easier for the average homeowner to install it DIY.
But this product is more than just about it’s battery.
It also integrates smoothly with Amazon Alexa, Wink, and SmartThings, making it a true Internet of Things (IOT) smart home setup.
Once installed on the position of choice, just connect it to the home WIFI, download the app on mobile, tap on some settings configuration buttons, and you are ready to stream and view live pictures of your door step.
The cloud storage service for video recording starts from $3 a month. Which is considered one of the more affordable among it’s fierce competition.
At $10 a month, you get extended warranty and storage for unlimited Ring cameras in the same house.
- Install anywhere and everywhere
- Seamless connection with other smart home systems
- Low price cloud storage plan with a top tier $10/month plan that includes unlimited recordings and lifetime warranty
- Limited to mechanical chimes unless you purchase the add-on Ring Chime
- Motion detection can be moody
- While video quality is HD 720p, it’s a lower resolution than the competition
- Limited to mechanical chimes, and Ring Chime will cost extra
At the retail price this is selling at, the standard Ring video doorbell offers very good value for your money.
However, if value is what you are seeking, then take a look at…
Best Value – Skybell HD WIFI Video Doorbell
The outstanding feature of Skybell HD is it’s free cloud storage of video recordings.
If you don’t already know, HD videos can take up a lot of memory. Even if you have a 1 terabyte harddisk drive it will take no time at all before that free space runs out.
This is why almost every manufacturer offers cloud storage solutions in the form of subscriptions. It sure is a nice way to generate a recurring income.
And as you should expect these doorbells to be in use for years to come (if not forever), the recurring monthly subscription fees can quickly add up.
Before you know it, a $100 video doorbell will quickly cost $200!
This is why Skybell HD is easily the one that provides the best value among all.
The free cloud storage is such a competitive edge that you shouldn’t be surprised if any of their competitors deems it as good as illegal!
Yet, that is not all that Skybell has going for it.
With a 180 degree viewing angle (same as Ring), it has the joint widest view among the video doorbells we have looked at.
What’s more, it videos record at 1080p. Making it full HD (FHD).
The mobile app is not clunky and also allows easy connection to smart home products like Amazon Echo, IFTTT, and Nest among others.
A quiet mode turns off the doorbell chime.
- Free cloud video storage subscription with unlimited downloads
- 1080p FHD video quality
- 5x zoom on mobile app
- Full of features
- Power connection required as built-in battery delivers insufficient power
- Recorded events only available for 7 days
- Wired installation
- Limited to mechanical chimes, with digital chimes requiring an adapter as an add-on cost
For the best bang for your buck, look no further than Skybell HD.
Most Superior – Nest Hello
With a video resolution of 1600 x 1200, you can probably clearly count the number of zits a visitor has on his forehead.
Of all the video doorbells we took for a test drive, Nest Hello has the highest video resolution. Any clearer and it might have to be a piece of military grade camera used by James Bond.
So you choice is pretty much finalized if you are going for the best video quality. However, also be mindful to ask yourself “is it really necessary?”
Conceptualized with a 160 degree viewing angle, it is 20 degrees short of Skybell HD.
This premium item is also capable of using face recognition to identify who a visitor is! That’s some hardcore Hollywood stuff there!
That’s not all.
The user can also specifically set special zones where it will trigger when people enter that specified area of the frame.
It is also, as far as we know, the only video doorbell that can be controlled by both a mobile app and via the web.
The microphone and speaker works very well when tested. And cloud storage starts at $5/month
- Very high resolution video quality
- Easy sync with Google Assistant
- Feature rich
- Wired doorbell installation
- More expensive
The Nest Hello is a very solid option if budget means little to you.
Best Smart Home Lock Integration – August Doorbell Cam Pro
If you want a video doorbell that can also control the lock, August is the only company that offers a line of products that consists of both.
Good job, guys!
Because both smart doorbell and smart lock are designed by the same company, they communicate flawlessly.
If you really need this neat feature, then your decision is pretty much made for you… unless you are willing to go through the process of integrating 2 smart devices from 2 different manufacturers… with no guarantee of success.
However, the field of view is 120 degrees. Which is a little short of the 180 degree you enjoy with Skybell HD and Ring.
While you are given a 30-day free trial of video recording, you will need to fork out $4.99 a month for subscription.
- Integrates like a dovetail joint with August Smart Lock
- Compatible with most smart home systems
- Built-in floodlight
- Wired installation
- Narrow viewing angle compared to the competition
- Low video resolution compared to the competition
- Only works with mechanical doorbell chimes
August has currently carved out a niche for itself. If you belong in that market gap, there is no better choice.
Best Budget Video Doorbell – Zmodo Smart Greet
At under $60, it is almost obscene when you consider the prices of it’s competitors.
Features might be limited on Zmodo Smart Greet. But it serves it’s main functions honorably.
Making it the video doorbell for the most sensible choice for those who are just going for practicality.
A unique feature of this item is it’s ability to record voice messages to play when you are unavailable, or simply refuse to answer the door.
Motion detection alert clips are stored for free in the cloud for 36 hours. If you need extended storage of recordings, subscription plans start from $4.99 monthly.
- Relatively cheaper
- Voice messages
- Compatible with range of Zmodo devices
- Wired installation
- Not compatible with other smart home devices
- Limited features
If you are on a tight budget, this is the one for you.
It seems that a lot of homeowners are in a race to set up their own smart home.
Don’t forget that a smart video doorbell is just one of the range of various products meant to serve a smart home.
If that is indeed your goal, don’t forget to make compatibility a key criteria when deciding which doorbell to buy.