Video doorbell buying guide
Video doorbells have become as popular as smart speakers. But rather than being a gimmick, they can improve your home’s security. If you’re about to buy your first one, our video doorbell buying guide will help you purchase the ideal device for your home, budget, and requirements.
You might travel often for work and want to be able to check on what’s happening back at home. However, you could be concerned about package thieves.
Whatever your reason for getting a video doorbell, they provide you with peace of mind. Its Wi-Fi-enabled camera allows you to screen visitors using an app on your phone. So, you’re never caught off-guard.
They even allow you to check if you’ve locked the front door when you left for work that morning, as you can the doorbell’s event history and see yourself locking the door.
Buying your first video doorbell
The most basic video doorbell sends you a push notification on your phone when someone rings the bell or simply walks within the camera’s field of view.
From there, you can “answer” the door, regardless of your location. Using your phone, you’ll see a live view of the person on your screen. Using the mic and speakers in the video doorbell and your smartphone, you can chat with your visitor.
All video doorbells require a Wi-Fi network. However, many offer a long list of features that are worth considering. It can be a bit confusing, and so that’s why we’ve put together this video doorbell buying guide.
How good is the motion detection?
Most video doorbells have motion detection, meaning someone doesn’t have to ring the doorbell for you to know they are there. But some offer more control than others when detecting motion.
Older Ring doorbells have a motion sensitivity slider, allowing you to adjust the level of movement that will trigger a recording and notification.
Ideally, you want it to be sensitive enough to catch the postie delivering a package (or someone trying to steal from you), but not so sensitive that it notifies you every time a bird flies by. Finding the sweet spot might take a little experimentation.
How good is the sound detection and facial recognition?
You’ll find these sorts of features are better on more expensive models rather than the basic devices. Some models offer abnormal sound detection. If the sound of breaking glass or a siren is detected, it will trigger a priority notification.
Other doorbells can recognise familiar faces, meaning they’ll let you know when friends or family arrive. You can also customise your notifications. So, you’ll be alerted when a vehicle or animal is detected.
Does the average video doorbell offer 4k resolution and a wide viewing angle?
Most video doorbells stream HD video. But many models offer 1080p resolution, ensuring you can see every detail. These higher resolution doorbells are ideal if you travel a lot as you can see everything in more depth.
Having a video doorbell that can’t see in the dark is pretty useless. Thankfully, most have built-in infrared LEDs for decent black-and-white imaging at night.
Most video doorbells offer a field of view between 150° – 160°. However, aspect ratio variations can affect what you see. For example, a 16:9 aspect ratio can give you a wide view of your porch and front garden, while a 4:3 aspect ratio might capture more of your doorstep.
Spend time considering how people approach your home, and also the location of your doorbell in relation to the street. You could find that you need a wedge behind the doorbell for the best angle. Again, it might take some experimentation, but it’ll worth it if you’re home is more protected.
What happens when you can’t or don’t want to answer your smart doorbell?
You can’t always answer the doorbell when it goes. You might be having a quiet 5 minutes away from your phone, be in a meeting, or otherwise engaged.
Thankfully, some models offer automated responses. Ring doorbells call these “Smart Responses”. You can choose from several “Quick Replies” that play after a certain amount of time, e.g. 20 seconds.
If you’re paying for a Ring Protect plan, you can review messages left by visitors if you don’t quite catch them in Live View.
You’ll also find that Google Nest doorbells have a similar option. However, you’ll need to manually choose one of three pre-programmed responses in real time when someone rings your bell.
So you don’t have to fear that your doorbell will go unanswered if you can’t get to it in time, as automations can save the day!
Do you need to pay each month for certain video doorbell features?
A lot of people we speak to have chosen a video doorbell that requires a subscription for certain features to keep working so feel caught out. While this is understandable, it’s worth doing research before buying.
If you end up buying a video doorbell that has an ongoing cost, it’s worth calculating what the annual running cost will be. You can then decide if it’s worth buying based on the total cost, and not just the price of the unit.
Some models offer paid extras that you might not need. For example, many companies offer cloud storage as a paid extra. However, you might find that your smart doorbell has 4GB of built-in storage, which is plenty for what you need.
Some give you free storage for a certain period of time, say 24 hours. Others won’t let you look at a single ring or event until you pay for a plan. So unless you see the push notification after the doorbell is activated or motion is occurring, you won’t know you’ve missed something.
How will you power the device?
If you already have a wired doorbell, you might have the right cables to power your new video doorbell. That said, it’s worth checking if it can get the proper voltage.
If you don’t already have a doorbell, you might need to add some wiring or hire an electrician. Battery-powered video doorbells are available but they do present the risk that you’ll run of out battery at a key moment and so miss a parcel getting nicked or Aunt Flo coming for tea!
It’s worth doing your research and comparing the options. But again, we advise homeowners to install wired video doorbells as they provide better overall coverage and still have a battery backup in case of a power cut.
Can it trigger your actual doorbell?
You can wire most video doorbells to chime your existing doorbell, especially if it’s a traditional mechanical chime.
However, if your current doorbell plays a melody, it’s likely a digital doorbell. Some video doorbells won’t ring digital chimes, while others will require an extra step, such as installing an adapter.
How do they work with other smart home devices?
Depending on your current smart home system, adding a video doorbell can be simple or utterly frustrating!
If you’re already using Google Home as your smart home system, adding A Nest Doorbell is the simplest option, as it’ll work with your Nest thermostat and Google Assistant.
As Amazon owns Ring, if you’re using Alexa, a Ring doorbell makes a lot of sense, as it’ll slot in effortlessly.
With Z-Wave systems like Fibaro and SmartThings, there are plenty of options, including the Hikvision Doorbell. So you’ll need to research what third-party options are available and hope they painlessly integrate with your existing smart home security system.
Use this Video doorbell buying guide to make your decision
We’ve covered a lot in our Video doorbell buying guide. But hopefully, you’ve picked up some good tips and ideas that will help you purchase the ideal video doorbell for you.