Updated: 07/07/2022 12:08:45
In a nutshell, video doorbells have a built-in camera to boost your home security. They allow you to receive alerts, talk with visitors, stream video from your smartphone and can be integrated with a number of smart home functions like Amazon Alexa. They can be used at night with infrared sensors or a light, and store captured footage onto a card or a cloud server. They are a great addition to your home and can help you deal with both wanted and unwanted visitors, package deliveries and emergencies. The great news is that video doorbells are becoming more affordable, so it's important to decide which features are essential for you before choosing a price point to look at.
Wireless video doorbells are a great option for tenants, unless you can get permission from the landlord to install a wired version. Wireless and battery powered doorbells allow for great versatility, as they can be installed anywhere you like! Other options for renters include video doorbells that can either connect to your doors peephole or hang on top of the door. The main downside with wireless video doorbells is battery life. It is worth looking for products that have easy battery access and the option to buy spares, the last thing you want is your doorbell out of action while the battery is charging inside!
Wired doorbells tend to be the more reliable option, but they can be trickier to install. The good news is, if you currently have or have had a doorbell in your home, modern video doorbells are powered by connecting to your existing wiring. If you have an existing doorbell, installing your new video version can be done with relative ease. However, if you don't currently have an existing doorbell you may have to hire a professional to install the new unit for you. Many video doorbells can be powered through battery or low-voltage wiring, so if you are renting, you can always look for one of these options and fully wire in your doorbell if your living situation changes.
There is a wide variety of options when it comes to the video quality of your doorbell. Most video doorbells run with a resolution between 480p to 1080p, but more expensive models have a number of HD options with some running with resolutions of 1536 x 1536. The higher the quality, the easier it will be to make out details in your video.
Field of view is also another consideration and refers to the extent of what is observable by the camera in degrees. Ideally, getting a field of view closer to 180° will provide the best coverage. One danger of low FOV doorbells is that they may not pick up activity or video to the extreme sides of your doorway or porch. Be sure to check the night vision capabilities of your video doorbell too. This lets you see a clear picture when it's dark and can also be a handy feature if you're looking to integrate with other smart home products like timed lights.
Don't take the manufacturer's word for it on night vision, be sure to check reviews for a clear idea on what to expect. Night vision doesn't guarantee 24 hour picture quality, as a number of popular video doorbells have been criticised for bad picture quality in low level conditions like sunrise and sunset, where the night vision is yet to be activated.
Video doorbells that include motion detection enable you to receive alerts when someone approaches your front door or house. When you start shopping for the higher spec models, this goes even further with some offering detection zones, preventing you from being alerted to passing cars or pedestrians on the pavement. If you're feeling particularly fancy, some such as the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 even come with facial recognition and parcel recognition, so you'll know if a delivery has been made.
There are two storage options available for video doorbells, local storage and cloud storage. Local storage stores clips internally, usually on a microSD (check to see if this comes with your doorbell) which can then be removed and viewed. Cloud storage is a more convenient option, with your recordings being stored on a cloud server. Some people are less comfortable with a cloud option due to privacy concerns. Be sure to check recording mode options. Some cameras will offer event based recording (recording starts when motion is detected) as well as continuous recording and these preferences can often be set with the use of a companion app.
Often when buying a video doorbell, you'll need to sign up to a subscription to get access to all of the features you want. Subscription services are often used with doorbells that offer cloud storage, with most offering 30 days of storage for a small fee. However, make sure to check which features require a subscription, as some brands can put things like custom privacy zones, detailed notifications and different recording types behind the pay wall.
There are a number of features to consider when it comes to buying your video doorbell and while some are more important than others, it's worth familiarising yourself with them when choosing the doorbell for you. Other popular features and considerations include:
Now that you're a bit more familiar with the features, we've picked out a couple of the more popular video doorbells to consider and compare…
This is a great option for those with an existing doorbell or previous wiring available. It can be installed by a professional or yourself with a Plug-In Adapter and the included accessories. This budget model comes with a FOV of 155°horizontal and 90° vertical, 2-way talk, night vision, live view, advanced motion detection and a number of other privacy settings. A Ring protect subscription will be needed to get the most out of your doorbell, but most Ring products offer a 30-day free trial for you to try it out. Ring protect subscription fees start at £3.49 per month
Best for: Security Features
With great HDR picture quality and 180° FOV, Arlo doorbells are becoming more popular. Weather resistant from -20 degrees to 45 degrees, Arlo allows the video doorbell to call your mobile directly with SIP calling, no need to wait for an app. One thing to look out for is the additional products required to get the best out of these products. Alexa voice control can be added by combining with a screen Alexa device. Usually comes with a 90-day trial to Arlo Secure. Their optional subscriptions start from £2.79 a month
Best for: Image Quality
Nest boasts 24/7 streaming and continuous recording, bringing you peace of mind just like a professional CCTV system. HDR, motion and sound alerts bring the complete package. One thing to look out for with Nest is that the subscriptions can be a little complicated, and with only 3 hours of free video storage, a subscription is needed to get the most out of your Nest device. Nest Aware subscription fees start at £5 a month
Best for: Image recognition Features
Upgrade options: Nest Doorbell battery version from 139.99★
Being battery powered makes this incredibly easy to install (typically lasts 120 days between charges) 1080p resolution. Motion zones can be set with instant notifications and video clips are stored internally. This means that the Eufy is free to run with no subscription fees.
Best for: No subscription fees
Smart video doorbells are great as a stand-alone system or as part of a full home security set up. They are perfect for people often away from the home, allow communication with guests and come with a wide range of features and customisation options. It's best to do your own research before deciding on which doorbell to choose, be sure to look out for hidden subscription fees and features stuck behind a paywall. More expensive isn't always better, go for a price range that suits your needs and don't waste money on gimmicks you don't want or need
★ Prices are accurate at time of publishing but are subject to change#advice