If you can’t be home to answer the door, a video doorbell will let you know who is there. Some can even prevent package theft.
In this article, we’ll cover how video doorbells work, where they store their recorded footage and how they can be integrated with the best smart home devices.
A video doorbell lets you see who’s at your front door, helping you to avoid nuisance callers or welcome valued guests even when you can’t be home. Some models also provide smart features that let you monitor your property more closely.
For instance, some allow you to speak with the person at your doorstep, which is especially helpful if you need to ask a courier to leave a package with a neighbour or in a safe place while you’re out of town. You can also use a doorbell camera to verify that a package actually was delivered, which could be important if you’re concerned about theft.
One standout model, our top pick, is the Belkin Wemo Video Doorbell. It offers tight integration with Apple’s HomeKit ecosystem, including notifications on an Apple TV complete with a picture-in-picture live video feed. Its 178-degree field of view is wider than Logitech’s, and it can store videos on Apple’s iCloud service for easy access without counting against your iCloud storage plan. This doorbell has other smart features, too, such as monitoring zones and facial recognition.
Most video doorbells connect to your home’s existing doorbell and chime system for power. They transmit their video via Wi-Fi, typically on a 2.4 GHz network. Many offer cellular or landline backup so they keep working when your Internet connection fails.
Most doorbells have one camera pointed straight out to spot visitors. The Maximus Answer DualCam is the exception—it has two cameras, including one pointed down to keep an eye on package deliveries. In our tests, it has a wide field of view and works well with smart locks to alert you when a delivery arrives.
Blink’s affordable, battery-powered model is a good option for people who don’t want to spend much on a video doorbell. It streams 1080p HD video to your phone through the Blink app and supports local storage with a USB drive connected to its Sync Module 2. You can also subscribe to cloud storage for an extra charge. Blink’s doorbell also integrates with Alexa and Google Assistant, but it lacks the pre-roll video feature found in Ring models. That feature lets you see what was going on just before the doorbell was triggered, which can deter pranksters.
Most video doorbells feature motion detection that will trigger an alert to your smartphone when someone is nearby. Once you receive the alert, you can view and record live footage, use two-way communication to talk with visitors or send a virtual lock command to open your door remotely.
The camera’s sensor should also be able to distinguish between people, cars, animals, and even some packages to help prevent false alerts. The best cameras have an ideal aspect ratio to capture the space in front of your door from top to bottom for a full view, and offer a range of smart features, such as allowing you to view your doorstep or a specific doorbell on a connected smart display.
Some models, such as the Ring Pro 2 and Nest 2, can connect with existing doorbell wiring to power themselves without the need for a separate hub. Other models, such as the Wemo Cam IQ, require you to sign up for an Apple HomeKit account (starting at 99 cents per month) and iCloud storage to be able to use smart alerts. This approach is more privacy-friendly, as the camera is only accessible to you and not Apple.
The ability to store the footage that your video doorbell records can be a big plus. Some models include local storage in the form of a microSD card, while others offer cloud-based storage. With the latter, you typically pay a small monthly fee to keep a certain amount of recorded events.
For example, the Nest doorbell camera keeps up to one hour of event recordings and can recover deleted videos — but if you want to keep more than that, you’ll need to subscribe. The same goes for many wired and battery-powered video doorbells from Blink, Ring, and Netatmo.
The battery-powered Blink offers excellent video quality and supports up to a 64GB microSD card for free local storage without a subscription. It also has a solid set of smart features and scores well for data security, but it can’t record on demand or have color night vision. This model requires low-voltage doorbell wiring for power and can ring your existing chime. The wired Blink is more expensive but has a lower minimum price and offers a more robust feature set.
Whether you’re curled up on your couch or sunning yourself at the beach, a video doorbell makes it easy to keep an eye on who’s at your front doorstep. Some models even allow you to communicate with visitors or delivery drivers through the supported app.
Many of the top-rated video doorbells are compatible with a wide range of smart home devices and services, including smart lights and bulbs, DIY smart security systems, and Alexa and Google Assistant. Those that are also part of the Apple Home Kit ecosystem have deep integrations with the iPhone and iPad and can be used as a hub for other HomeKit devices.
A few models feature intelligent object recognition of people, animals, vehicles and packages that requires a subscription service, such as Ring’s Nest Aware. For those that don’t want to pay a monthly fee, consider a smart doorbell that doesn’t offer this functionality but still offers the ability to record locally or send alerts based on motion detection. For example, Eufy’s video doorbell works with the app, Alexa and Google Assistant and can store a maximum of 180 days of footage.