this thing's incredible

The $20 Doorbell Camera That Made Me Stop Pining for a Ring

Photo: Steven John

For many years now, I’ve worked from a corner office. It’s a room in the corner of the basement of our suburban home, but hey, still a corner office. In order to hear our old doorbell from this semi-subterranean redoubt, I had to leave both the office and basement doors open, which also meant hearing everything else going on in the house — a house filled with the noise of two kids going full speed.

To solve this problem I long considered getting a video doorbell, having admired Ring doorbells in particular at plenty of friends’ houses. But I always hesitated for two reasons: First, video doorbells are pretty expensive. The most basic Ring, for example, is $99. Second, and this was by far the bigger factor holding me back, I really didn’t want to drill permanent holes in our doorframe, which most video doorbells require.

And then I learned about the Kangaroo camera doorbell, which costs all of $20. It sticks onto your doorframe or wall with adhesive, which causes no permanent damage and which means the “installation” takes 30 seconds, tops. Just press and hold the bell to your doorframe, then plug the chime into a nearby outlet and connect it to your Wi-Fi.

While $20 for a video doorbell sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is, technically. Kangaroo is not a true video doorbell. Instead, when the unit detects motion or when the doorbell is pressed, the camera snaps a series of several still photos, which it puts together into a “stitch” of images that is delivered to you via smartphone app in a matter of seconds. It’s like a short GIF of what’s going on outside your door, whether that’s the arrival of the UPS driver, the pizza guy, or someone who decided they’d rather that the package sitting on your porch be taken to theirs.

The author, captured by Kangaroo’s watchful eye.

There is no two-way talk and no high-definition video, both helpful hallmarks of many video doorbells. And although many reviews knock the Kangaroo for its poor exposure and limited resolution, for my purposes, it’s perfect — a decent enough camera to keep watch over your home and a doorbell that notifies you via both a chime and an app when someone is at the door. Even if you are hiding from two thrilled and screaming kids, behind two doors, deep in the corner of your basement. For $20, that’s really all I could ask.

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The $20 Doorbell Camera That Made Me Stop Pining for a Ring