Video doorbell buying guide
Find the right smart doorbell for your home
Whether you’re concerned about package thieves or you just don’t want to open the door to a stranger, a video doorbell is an easy way to give yourself some peace of mind. Its Wi-Fi-enabled camera lets you screen visitors with an app on your phone so you're never caught off-guard.
You can even check in on the good stuff happening at home, too! Personally, I love getting a notification letting me know that my dog-walker has arrived to take my pups out for their midday walkies.
And just this morning I discovered a bonus feature — when you’re halfway to work and you can’t remember if you locked your front door? You can check the doorbell's event history and see yourself locking the door.
How to shop for a video doorbell
A 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. You can then “answer” the door from wherever you are. You see a live view of the person on your screen. Two-way talk lets you have a conversation with your visitor.
All video doorbells require a Wi-Fi network, but what other requirements and features should you consider when shopping for a video doorbell?
All the video doorbells we carry have motion detection. That means someone doesn’t have to ring the doorbell for you to know they are there. But some offer more control than others when it comes to detecting that motion.
My older Ring doorbell has a motion sensitivity slider so you can adjust the level of activity that will trigger a recording and notification. You want it to be sensitive enough to catch the mailman delivering a package (or someone trying to un-deliver it), but not so sensitive that it notifies you every time a bird flies by.
Many models also let you select where you want motion detected.
If you have leafy trees that move in the breeze, you don’t want to get constant notifications about that. So it can be really helpful to be able to exclude some areas of your property from motion detection.
My Ring Video Doorbell 2 lets me create custom motion zones by drawing my own selections within the app. I want to know about motion on my porch, but not the street (or even reflections of the street in my glass door).
Sound detection and facial recognition
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, like the Logitech Circle View, can recognize familiar faces and let you know when friends or family come knocking. You can also customize your notifications so you get a heads up when a vehicle or animal is detected.
Resolution and viewing angle
Most video doorbells are going to give you HD video. But if detail is really important to you, opt for something with Full HD 1080p resolution. As the name suggests, the Video Doorbell 2K from eufy Security goes a step further with superb 2K video.
Cameras with wide dynamic range — like the one in the Google Nest Doorbell — can compensate for bright backgrounds so that you still get a clear image in scenes with a lot of contrast.
A video doorbell that can’t see in the dark would be pretty useless. Fortunately, most have built-in infrared LEDs for decent black-and-white imaging at night.
The Logitech Circle View Doorbell also includes an ultra-bright LED strip for full-color footage even when it’s dark.
Most video doorbells have a field of view between 150° - 160°, but 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 maybe some of your side yard, while a 4:3 aspect ratio might capture more of your doorstep. This is helpful if you want to see if a package is there.
Orientation can make a big difference — Nest’s view is vertical, while Ring’s is horizontal.
It’s important to think about how people approach your home, as well as the location of your doorbell in relation to the street. For example, if you mount the doorbell on siding, it will be angled up slightly. Some manufacturers include wedge kits to compensate for this.
If your door is at the top a flight of stairs, angling your video doorbell down can minimize false positives from street traffic, while making sure you do see approaching visitors.
And if, like mine, your door is perpendicular to the sidewalk and street, you might need to adjust the horizontal viewing angle. Ring includes a corner kit for this purpose with some of their models, including Video Doorbell Pro 2 and Video Doorbell 4.
Smart replies can answer when you don't want to
Sometimes I can't answer a doorbell ring in time to chat, and other times I just don't want to. So I was happy to see my Ring doorbell get a "Smart Responses" update. I can choose from a selection of "Quick Replies" that play after a certain amount of time — I selected 10 seconds. And because I have a Ring Protect plan, I can review messages left by visitors if I don't catch them in Live View.
Google Nest doorbells have a similar option, but you have to manually choose one of three pre-programmed responses in real time when someone rings your bell.
The smartest, most automated version of this is Alexa Greetings — a service available to Ring Protect plan subscribers with a Ring Video Doorbell Pro. Enable this option and Alexa can take a message or tell a courier where to leave your package.
Is there a monthly charge for video doorbell features?
You should definitely factor in what your doorbell is going to cost after the installation. Some cool app features might only be available with paid plans. For example, a Nest Aware subscription enhances the motion detection on a Nest video doorbell by adding custom zones and familiar face alerts. And some Ring perks, like the Alexa Greetings feature I mentioned, aren't available without a paid plan.
Do you have to pay for cloud storage? The HomeBase included with eufy's doorbell offers 16GB of built-in storage, but most other smart doorbells only use the cloud. Some give you free storage for a certain period of time — 24 hours, for example — while others won’t let you look at a single doorbell or motion event until you pay for a plan. That means unless you happen to see the push notification while the ring or motion is occurring, you won’t know what you missed.
Find the right fit for you
A lot of the differences between video doorbells are minor. But there are a few big considerations that could be make-or-break for your situation. Here are some questions you should ask before buying.
How does it get power?
Most video doorbells can simply be powered by existing doorbell wiring, though you do need to check to make sure it’s getting the proper voltage.
But what if you don’t already have a doorbell? I didn’t. That’s why I went with the Ring Video Doorbell 2. It can be hardwired or battery-powered, and the quick-release battery makes it easy to recharge without removing the entire device. Ring's updated Video Doorbell 4 offers those same great features.
Ring’s top-of-the-line Elite doorbell gets a more reliable, stable connection via Power-over-Ethernet. But the wiring is more complicated so it’s best for new construction or professional installations.
Can it trigger your actual doorbell?
Most video doorbells can be wired to chime your existing doorbell, especially if it's a traditional mechanical chime. However, if your current doorbell plays a melody, then it's likely a digital doorbell. Some video doorbells won't ring digital chimes, while others will require an extra step (like installing an adapter).
If you don’t already have a doorbell, what are your options?
All video doorbells have companion apps that will send you push notifications when your doorbell rings, but — believe it or not — we aren't always near our phones when we're at home.
If you opt for any of Ring’s video doorbells, you can add a Chime or a Chime Pro to your system. These plug-in devices sound an alert when someone rings your bell. You can customize the tone and volume of the alert within the Ring app.
Ring Chime Pro doubles as a doorbell chime and Wi-Fi extender in one. It’s a great option if your router is far from your front door.
How does it work with other smart home gear?
Google Nest's Google Assistant compatibility means your Google device can announce when someone is at your door. And if you have a Nest Hub, it can show you who it is.
Or is Alexa your digital assistant of choice? Alexa-compatible video doorbells work with the Amazon Echo Show or Spot. Just ask Alexa to show you the front door, and you’ll get a live view from your doorbell's camera.
If you're an Apple person, the Logitech Circle View might be the way to go as it's designed to work seamlessly with Apple HomeKit.
Smart locks also pair well with smart doorbells. Eufy Security's Video Doorbell 2K and their Smart Lock are both controlled from the same app, so you can quickly unlock the deadbolt for visitors or delivery drivers who ring the bell.
Are you looking to expand into a full home security system? Installing a video doorbell is a great way to dip your toe into the waters of DIY home security. Ring’s video doorbells can be controlled with the same mobile app as their Ring Alarm System and their Floodlight and Spotlight cameras.
Still have questions? We can help.
There are a growing number of video doorbell options available these days. Contact us if you need help wading through features to find what you need.