Best Smart Doorbell Camera 2018
Video doorbells connected to your WiFi wireless network are the first line of security for most homes. In this buyers guide we review the most popular smart doorbells from Ring, Nest Hello, Skybell, Zmodo, August and others.
A snapshot of prices, along with links to Amazon for purchase, provides an overview of the Video Doorbells in our list:
August Doorbell Camera, 1st generation – $59.99
Zmodo Greet Smart WiFi Video Doorbell – $69.99
Ring (Original) Wi-Fi Enabled Video Doorbell – $140.00
SkyBell HD Wi-Fi Enabled Video Doorbell – $162.99
Zmodo Greet Pro Smart Video Doorbell – $179.99
Ring Video Doorbell 2 – $199.00
August Doorbell Cam Pro, 2nd generation – $199.99
Ring Video Doorbell Pro – $229.00
Nest Hello – $229.00 (pre-order)
Ring Video Doorbell – “Original”, “2” and “Pro”
The Ring 2 and the Ring Pro are our top choices for a video doorbell. They both offer two-way audio, so you can talk to whomever is at your door from anywhere you are in the world. With the 180 degree motion sensing, you’ll know when someone approaches your home even if they don’t ring the doorbell. You’ll get a notification to your smartphone, tablet, PC or any device you’ve configured.
The video recording goes straight to the cloud server, and is displayed on your device if you accept the notification, as soon as there is motion detected and/or the doorbell button is pressed. There are multiple zone and distance settings so you can customize for how your house is oriented. You can also set time of day periods to not send alerts / record video which is useful if you know the gardener is always there on Fridays from 10A to 11A.
The camera comes with night vision capability using infrared LEDs, so you’ll capture videos even in very dim / low light conditions. Resolution and camera lenses vary depending which of the Ring doorbells you choose, as does the faceplate options.
Ring (Original) – HD (720p) @ 30 fps / Venetian Bronze, Polished Brass, Antique Brass or Satin Nickel
Ring Video Doorbell 2 – HD (1080p) @ 30 fps / Venetian Bronze or Satin Nickel.
Ring Video Doorbell Pro – Wide Angle HD (1080p) @ 30 fps / Satin Black, Venetian, Satin Nickel and Pearl
Note that the Ring Original and the “2” can be mounted anywhere using the included battery for power. Depending on how much usage (motion alerts and video capture) these experience, you should easily get 6 months before you need to swap out the USB rechargeable battery. Alternatively, you can also wire these to your existing doorbell wires for household power. The “Pro” is a hardwire installation only.
In the event of a power outage, the battery in all of the Ring devices will keep it going until your power comes back on.
With all of the Ring products, you can check-in on your property at any time with the press of a button, and get streaming video and audio with “Live View”.
With the recent acquisition of Ring by Amazon, all of the Ring devices are now Alexa supported.
And a final bonus for people worried about leaving an expensive piece of hardware secured to the outside of the house with just a couple of screws. There is a lifetime purchase protection: if your Ring Video Doorbell 2 gets stolen, Ring will replace it for free. Also, each Ring has it’s own unique address, so if it does get stolen it can’t be used by anyone else.
You also don’t have to worry about leaving it out in the elements. These are waterproof and have a robust range for Operating Conditions: minus 5 degree Fahrenheit to 120 degree Fahrenheit.
With Ring, keep in mind that if you want to be able to keep your videos on their cloud storage, it will cost you $3 per month or $30 annually. You’ll be able to save videos for 60 days, and share them with friends, family, neighbors or law-enforcement. If you have more than one Ring device, or thinking about adding on, it’s a good deal to get the upgrade to “Protect Plus”. For $10 / month or $100 / year, all of your Ring devices at your home get on the same plan. And you’ll get 10% discount when you buy Ring products. So buying a camera or security light with the discount will make up for the higher price, and you won’t have to pay individually for each device.
This sharing capability brings us to one of the best features of Ring : You can use the app to upload videos of any suspicious activity, and get similar video / alerts from neighbors in a geographic area. The Neighborhoods and Nextdoor features leverage all the Ring doorbells in your community to help reduce crime.
In Los Angeles, the Police Department saw a 55% reduction in burglaries after Ring donated Video Doorbells to one out of every 10 homes in that neighborhood .Just by installing a Ring, and being part of the app, you can help your neighbors stay safer while monitoring your own home. How cool is that!?
With all other technical specifications being similar, the device cost about the same and the monthly subscription fees among the lowest the social / sharing aspect of Ring nearly justifies the cost all by itself.
If you are replacing an existing hardwired doorbell, and will be using the same wires then our recommendation is to go with the “Pro”. The extra $30 buys you a better WiFi connection (2.4GHz or 5.0 GHz), a better lens and higher quality audio noise cancellation. However, if you need to place a doorbell in a new location, or just want to save a little cash on this purchase, buy the “2”. It has great features and is a small price to pay for the security.
You can order through Amazon with these links:
Ring (Original) Wi-Fi Enabled Video Doorbell – $140
Ring Video Doorbell 2 – $199.00
Ring Video Doorbell Pro (Existing Doorbell Wiring Required) – $229
Below are the images for Original, “2”, and “Pro”.
From Google, the Nest Hello is scheduled to ship in March 2018. Available for pre-order now for $229, and you’ll also get a Google Home Mini for free. We anticipate this will be a strong competitor to the Ring, and will provide a complete review as soon as available. The pre-release specifications are very promising, and the Nest Hello will inter-operate with all the other products in the Nest family including the indoor security cameras.
Priced the same as the Ring Pro, it has a similar feature set with some enhancements: The 1080p video is captured in 4:3, rather then 16:9. This aspect ratio is designed to show people head to toe, and display better on smartphones. The HDR video shows sharp details even in bright and dark areas, an improvement over some low-light cameras.
Nest put a lot of thought into the camera lens, with a 160° field of view. The camera itself is a 1/3-inch, 3-megapixel (2K) color sensor with an 8x digital zoom. This makes it the most impressive of all the video doorbells on the market.
Alternatively, if you have a slower internet connection or your WiFi signal is weak, Nest Hello lets you downgrade the video quality from full 1080p HD to 720p or even 224p (400×224 pixels).
Nest also adds some features not yet available in Ring:
- Quiet time – set a day/time schedule to turn off rings from the doorbell
- Person, motion and sound alerts to detect visitors
- Can recognize family and friends and send a special alert
- Prerecorded quick responses – it’s like an answering machine for your house
- 24/7 streaming and continuous video recording
You can record up to 30 days of continuous video with Nest Aware > 5-day history ($5/month or $50/year), 10-day history ($10/month or $100/year) or 30-day history ($30/month or $300/year). Turn any part of your video history into a clip or time-lapse you can share with friends, family or the police.
One thing to keep in mind is the raw amount of data you could be streaming. At the highest resolution (1600 x 1200), Nest Hello requires 800 to 2000 Kbps of upload bandwidth while streaming video. Nest Hello will use more bandwidth to stream video when there is more motion in the scene. If you subscribe to Nest Aware, your Nest Hello streams all video to the cloud for secure offsite storage. At 1600 x 1200, each Nest Hello could use 150GB to 600GB of upload bandwidth per month depending on the video quality setting.
The Nest Hello is a hardwire only installation, and will need to be connected to your existing doorbell wires for power.
SkyBell – HD Wi-Fi Enabled Video Doorbell
The SkyBell HD Wi-Fi Enabled Video Doorbell ($162.99) provides all the basic functions for a connected video doorbell: alerts and video capture for motion or when the button is pressed, 2-way audio from your smartphone, tablet or computer, and ability to share your videos.
In addition to the triggered events, you can watch live video on demand through the app. A nice option for this is that you can take a snapshot if you want to, in addition to the motion capture. Skybell also considered those that don’t have great internet speeds or poor WiFi connections with an option for selecting the video quality to either 480p, 720p or 1080p.
The camera will record in low-light conditions with the infrared nightvision LEDs. It also has a nifty 5x zoom in the lens in case you really need to capture some details.
The Skybell is hardwire only, and has no battery. In the case of a power outage, the Skybell goes dark as well. For the truly security conscious this can be a deal-breaker in selecting a video doorbell. Also to note, if you have a digital doorbell you will need to purchase a $22 Skybell Digital Doorbell Adaptor.
It has one of the most extreme operating ranges, working between -40 Fahrenheit and 122 degrees Fahrenheit.
Another thing that sets it apart is a nice feature that should be included in all smart doorbells – “Quiet Mode” allows you to turn off your home’s doorbell chime from the app so it won’t disturb you (or wake up a baby!).
Like Ring, Skybell works with Alexa so you can use voice commands to access and control your smart doorbell. It will also work with Google Home.
Order through Amazon in Silver or Bronze – SkyBell HD Wi-Fi Enabled Video Doorbell ($162.99)
August Doorbell Camera – “1st Generation” and “Pro, 2nd Generation”
The August Doorbell Camera, 1st generation – $59.99 (Silver or Dark Grey) has all the basics for a connected video doorbell including alerts, motion sensing, on demand viewing, 2-way audio and free cloud storage (24 hours only). The first generation is also one of the least expensive smart doorbells you’ll find on the market. However, the low price comes with low performance. Complaints about slow reaction and slow uploads can be found in many purchaser comments. This is a hardwired only device.
The August Doorbell Cam Pro, 2nd generation – $199.99 (Silver or Dark Grey) retains all the features and fixes the issues in the 1st generation, and is priced more in line with the rest of the market. The audio is greatly improved, as is the WiFi connectivity and earlier lag-time complaints. In addition to the 24 hour free storage, they offer a $5/month or $50/year to keep all your videos on their cloud. It has a USB rechargeable Lithium Ion battery, but needs to be hardwired to your existing doorbell wiring for main operating power. Bonus feature – works with Alexa.
August is now giving Doorbell Cam and Doorbell Cam Pro users 24 hours of free stored video recording as part of its new Basic August Video Recording subscription.
Zmodo – “Greet” and “Greet Pro”
The Zmodo Greet Smart WiFi Video Doorbell – $69.99 and improved Zmodo Greet Pro Smart Video Doorbell – $179.99 provide all the features expected in a video doorbell: motion and button press events, record to cloud storage, and 2-way audio. The features that differentiate Zmodo are an internal 8GB memory for recording, in addition to saving to the cloud. Their cloud plan gives yo free storage for 36 hours, and for-fee cloud recording plans available in 7 and 30 day plans.
An added bonus not found on the other smart doorbells is a personalized voice message which will play when you can’t answer the door (you can enable / disable this from the app). Kind of like an answering machine for your house. The original “Greet” is also configured that when someone rings your doorbell, you’ll receive a phone call, rather than just a notification to accept / decline. Many buyers found this annoying, and there is supposed to be a software upgrade to make this optional. For motion detection, Zmodo keeps with the standard practice of sending an in-app notification.
Other differences between the $70 “Greet” and the $180 “Greet Pro” include:
- Price: $70 vs. $180
- WiFi: 2.4 GHz only vs.. 2.4 GHz & 5 GHz
- Night Vision distance 9 feet (3 meters) vs. 12 feet (4 meters)
- Video: 720p vs. 1080p with 180° Viewing Angle lens
- Intelligent Event Detection: N/A vs Body, Face, Baby Crying (more useful with their indoor systems)
It’s a hardwire only, requiring your existing wires to power the doorbell. If you like the looks of the Ring, you’ll approve of the “Greet Pro”.
Some others that didn’t make our list since they weren’t stand-alone units. Included here for reference in case you have or are looking to use one of these systems.
Vivint Doorbell Camera ($175) – You can only use this smart doorbell with a Vivint smart home monitoring package (either the Smart Protect Control or Smart Complete security package).
VTech IS741 Accessory Audio/Video Doorbell Camera ($49.95) – This is an accessory doorbell video camera only and requires a IS7121 series phone to operate.
We hope this list was helpful for you. Please share in the comments below which smart doorbell you have used, and what your experience has been. Thank you …