If you’re unfamiliar, a video doorbell is essentially a camera that turns on when it senses nearby motion, paired with a two-way speaker and microphone that lets you communicate with the person at your door through an app on your phone. The first big name in the industry was Ring, a once-rejected pitch on Shark Tank that was acquired by Amazon in 2018 for over $1 billion. Following its success, a flock of similar devices have popped up on the market, which is great for competitive reasons, but makes choosing the right one for you a little harder.
Barak Ron, owner of Vertex Security, says, compared to traditional security systems that require expensive professional installation, these devices are appealing because they’re “very easy to operate, very easy to use, and give you eyes on your front door.” They’re useful for deterring intruders or “porch pirates” (package theft tends to spike during the holiday season; it also increased last year with more people relying on online shopping due to the pandemic, a trend that looks like it’ll stay even after things go back to normal), or monitoring the comings and goings of dog walkers, house cleaners, and anyone else passing through your door. Most companies offer a subscription service for storing and accessing past video, and some provide additional features like facial recognition.
If you already use other smart home devices, it makes sense to choose a video doorbell that will integrate within that ecosystem, like a Google Nest Hello for Google Hub users or a Ring if you have an Amazon Echo. Below, four security and tech experts break down the differences among some popular models and share their picks for everyone from budget shoppers to apartment dwellers.
Best overall video doorbell
While most video doorbells have similar features, all three experts we spoke with say the Google Nest Hello stands out from the rest of the pack, primarily because of its superior artificial intelligence and face-recognition function. “It can actually tell people apart from other moving objects,” says Aliza Vigderman, content manager at Security.org, “so you only get alerted when it recognizes a person, versus other doorbells that alert you whenever there’s movement, resulting in a lot of unnecessary notifications.” Tech writer and Strategist contributor Kyle Schurman points out that, with a Nest Aware subscription (starting at $6 per month), the Nest Hello can also recognize familiar faces to let you know whether the person at your door is a stranger or the babysitter, announcing the person’s name through your connected Google speaker.
“Because of Google’s artificial intelligence and the data they’ve gathered over the years from people using their search engine [and other products], they have the only system that works consistently for facial recognition and delivery notification,” says Mark Steinberg, senior technologist at B&H Photo, who tells us the Nest Hello is B&H’s best-selling video doorbell. He also notes that the camera’s vertical orientation and high resolution provide excellent quality video, and that Google offers exceptional support for its products.
Another benefit of the Nest Hello is that it streams video continuously (as opposed to most others, which are activated on when they sense motion), so you can check in on your front door at any time. Based on the subscription level you choose, you’ll have access to up to 60 days of event footage (video taken when the motion sensor is active) and 10 days of 24/7 continuous coverage.
Best less-expensive video doorbells
Compared to the Nest Hello, Ring video doorbells are generally cheaper — both the devices themselves and the subscription service, which starts at $3 per month. They’re a natural choice for people already using Amazon smart home products, as you can stream doorbell footage to an Echo Show or interact with the doorbell (by talking to someone at your door, for example) via Alexa. While Ring makes a number of different models, experts agree that the Pro is the one to choose. “It has high-definition video and it does a really good job overall,” Steinberg says. While the camera isn’t recording 24/7, it does have a “pre-roll” function, which Steinberg likes because it saves a few seconds of footage before motion is detected. That way you’re not likely to miss anything that happens at your door. Schurman also likes the Ring and points out that “you can tell it to detect motion only in certain sections of what it sees, which should reduce the number of false alerts you receive.”
Steinberg and Schurman both recommend the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus. Unlike the Nest Hello and the Ring Pro, it has a built-in battery so it doesn’t have to be hardwired to your existing doorbell setup. This makes it easier to install, especially if your home doesn’t already have a wired doorbell. Steinberg says it offers most of the same features as the Ring Pro, at an even lower price point. It is a bit bulkier, though, due to the addition of the battery (which lasts several months with each charge).