Smart Doorbells – Keep an Eye on Your Home Even When You’re Not There

Smart Doorbells – Keep an Eye on Your Home Even When You’re Not There

smart doorbell

Smart Doorbells – Keep an Eye on Your Home Even When You’re Not There

A smart doorbell lets you screen visitors and talk to them via two-way audio on your smartphone (similar to an intercom) no matter where you are. Many also have features to help deter porch pirates or protect packages from theft.

Most models work with your existing chime, and some are battery powered while others require a power adapter or professional installation. Some are even Wi-Fi-only.

Security

A smart doorbell lets you see visitors, and often talk with them via two-way audio, right on your smartphone. It’s a way to keep an eye on your home even when you can’t be there, and it can help ward off burglars who are looking for empty houses to break into.

Depending on the model you choose, it might also let you arm and disarm your full security system from your phone; look in on camera feeds; trigger rules and events based on your location with geo-services; or control your garage door, smart lock, thermostat, or other connected devices. Some models come with night vision and a motion sensor.

If you’re shopping for a smart doorbell, be sure to check the video quality and other features to make sure it suits your needs. You’ll want a camera that delivers a clear image of people head to toe and can zoom in to capture detail, as well as a high-quality speaker and microphone. You should also consider whether you want a wide angle or a zoomed in view, and if you’ll need it to work in low light.

CR’s top-rated model for smart doorbell cameras is the SimpliSafe Doorbell Pro SS3. It earns excellent marks in our ratings for data privacy, is simple to set up with your existing home’s low-voltage doorbell wiring, and costs less than most competitors. It also offers extra features such as monitoring zones, three-second video previews, and facial recognition to alert you of a person or package.

Convenience

A key feature of smart doorbells is two-way talk, which lets you communicate with people at your front door from a smartphone or other device. Some models also have a built-in siren to scare off suspicious guests or unauthorized visitors. And some can record and store smart doorbell video, so you can check on what went on outside your home when you’re not there.

Some models have a wide field of vision, so you can see people head to toe, even at night. Look for models that offer adjustable sensitivity settings and motion zones to avoid false alarms and wasted footage. Also consider whether you want a model that offers local or cloud storage, which may cost extra and require monthly subscriptions.

If you choose a model with voice control, you can ask your smart doorbell to answer or decline visitors, or play prerecorded greetings and messages. You can also use the app to arm or disarm your full home security system, watch a live feed, and access recorded footage. Some models also integrate with other smart devices, such as smart locks and smart thermostats, so you can greet visitors and then automatically lock your house or adjust your energy usage from afar.

The most popular smart doorbells typically connect to your Wi-Fi and work with a dedicated mobile app. Some also offer integration with other smart-home systems, such as door and window sensors and indoor security cameras.

Flexibility

The best smart doorbells are compatible with many other smart doorbell devices and can be integrated into a complete home security system. That way you can control them with your voice, use the camera features on multiple devices and get alerts on all of them.

Most video doorbells work with Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit. And they can also be linked to outdoor cameras and other smart home systems. The flexibility of these products allows you to see who’s there even when you’re away from home, or when it’s impossible to answer the door (such as while your toddler is in the bathtub).

Another key feature for a good smart doorbell is the ability to communicate with visitors. For example, the Nest Hello enables two-way communication with visitors via your smartphone or tablet. You can choose pre-recorded messages that can be played when you’re unable to respond quickly. It also enables you to talk with visitors in the dark via night vision.

Depending on the device, the video recordings from a smart doorbell can be stored locally or on a cloud service. The latter usually requires a subscription and can be expensive. The Netatmo doorbell, for example, stores events on an internal microSD card and uploads them to a server over WiFi. But its onboard storage capacity is limited and the clips are automatically erased after a certain time period.

Privacy

A smart doorbell can capture video of people coming up to your home and even help you track packages. But if you’re concerned about privacy, look for one that doesn’t send footage to the cloud. That’s the best way to keep your home and information secure.

CR’s top pick for privacy, the Nest Doorbell (Battery), is one of the few models on our list that doesn’t lock either smart motion detection or cloud storage behind a paywall. It also gets great ratings in our tests for video quality and data security and offers a wide array of smart features, including monitoring zones, face recognition, and voice control via Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

Other models on our list that don’t send footage to the cloud include the Wemo Doorbell Dual, which is unique in that it uses Apple HomeKit Secure Video—a feature of the Apple ecosystem that provides end-to-end encryption for recordings. It’s also the only Apple-compatible camera that works with a smart hub for better processing of motion alerts and uses an onboard microSD card to store videos rather than iCloud, which requires a subscription starting at 99 cents per month.

Another option is the Eufy Video Doorbell 2K, which is easy to install with or without doorbell wires. It has 16 GB of local storage and no monthly fees, so you can record 180 days of footage. It’s also the only smart cam on our list to offer “quick responses,” which let you instantly reply to visitors with pre-recorded messages.