Of all the recent additions to the ever-growing domestic Internet of Things, smart video doorbells are among the most practical because they allow you to “be” in two places at once—well, sort of. With a video doorbell, you can answer your front door even when you’re not home. When someone rings the doorbell, it activates a camera connected to an app on your smartphone or tablet, and you can both see who rang your doorbell and remotely “answer” and speak to the visitor.
Since this is a fairly new and developing technology, there’s a lot of variation in quality and performance across video doorbells. I’ve reviewed and compared the few that rise to the top so you can find something that works for you and your budget.
|Our Rank||#1||#2||#3||#4||Honorable Mention|
|Product||Ring Pro||SkyBell HD||Zmodo Greet||August||Vivint|
|View Product||View on Amazon||View on Amazon||View on Amazon||View on Amazon||View on Website|
|Video resolution||1080p HD||1080p HD||720p HD||960p HD||720p HD|
|Night vision||Infrared LED||Full-color infrared LED||Infrared LED||Low-light vision||Infrared LED|
|Compatibility||Wink, Kevo, Lockstate, Kisi ADT, Wemo||Frontpoint, Link Interactive, Protect America, LiveWatch, Alarm.com, Nest, Alexa, Echo||Other Zmodo products||August Smart Lock||Vivint Smart Home System|
|Unique features||Custom motion zones||In-app 5x pinch zoom||Personalized voice message||Unlock August Smart Lock from same app||Smart visitor detection|
|Ring Pro||SkyBell HD||Zmodo Greet||August||Vivint|
|View on Amazon||View on Amazon||View on Amazon||View on Amazon||View on Website|
|1080p HD||1080p HD||720p HD||960p HD||720p HD|
|Infrared LED||Full-color infrared LED||Infrared LED||Low-light vision||Infrared LED|
|Wink, Kevo, Lockstate, Kisi ADT, Wemo||Frontpoint, Link Interactive, Protect America, LiveWatch, Alarm.com, Nest, Alexa, Echo||Other Zmodo products||August Smart Lock||Vivint Smart Home System|
|Custom motion zones||In-app 5x pinch zoom||Personalized voice message||Unlock August Smart Lock from same app||Smart visitor detection|
#1 Ring Video Doorbell Pro
Last year we reviewed an earlier model Ring doorbell, and we stand by the brand as a leader in video doorbell technology. The updated Ring Pro model, released in April of 2016, has an upgraded camera and offers truly unique control over its motion sensor feature. From the Ring Pro app, you can draw and create your own custom motion zones so that the motion sensor will pay special attention to certain areas but not to others. For example, if you live on a busy street, you can limit the motion sensor to your walkway and doorstep so it’s not triggered by every car that passes by.
While some of the other devices featured here have multiple color options available, the Ring Pro is the only one that comes with interchangeable faceplates so you can customize according to your own hardware and paint scheme, even if that changes in the future.
The only significant downside to the Ring Pro is its upfront cost and the additional cost of its service down the line. While you can livestream for no additional fee, its cloud service is extra. Your Ring Pro comes with a free 30-day trial of the cloud service, which allows you to download and share clips with neighbors or law enforcement. After those 30 days, it’s $3 per month or $30 per year. Not outrageous, but an extra expense to consider.
- Customizable motion zones
- Lifetime purchase protection—Ring will replace if stolen
- Compatible with Wink, Kevo, LockState, Kisi, ADT, WeMo home security/automation products
- Interchangeable faceplates
- App available for Windows 10 phone
- No camera adjustment
- Some users complain about lag time between the ringing of the bell and the update on the phone
- Price: Around $248.00
- Wi-Fi: 2.4 + 5GHz
- Power supply: 16-12 VAC
- Weather resistance: -5 to 120ºF
- Warranty: 1 year on parts; lifetime purchase protection
#2 SkyBell HD
The SkyBell HD video doorbell is a close second, in part because of its broad compatibility with a variety of services and products that you may already have, including Frontpoint, Alarm.com, Nest, and Echo, among others. It also offers cloud service for recording and downloading video for free, and you can start the video from the app at any time, even if you don’t get a motion or ring alert. The app allows for real-time control over the camera, including motion detection alerts, 5x video zoom, and speaker volume.
Note that there are two SkyBell apps out there, so be sure to download the correct app for the HD doorbell, not the one for the older non-HD model.
- Broad compatibility
- Free video storage and unlimited downloads
- Pinch zoom while watching video
- Quiet mode turns off in-house doorbell chime
- Some users report glitchy motion detection
- App not available for Windows devices
- Price: Around $199.99
- Wi-Fi: 2.4 GHz
- Power supply: 10-36 VAC 10 VA
- Weather resistance: -40 to 150ºF
- Warranty: 1 year
#3 Zmodo Greet
Priced just under a hundred dollars, the Zmodo Greet is the budget option on this list. It still performs the basic functions of a video doorbell, like allowing you to answer your door remotely from a smartphone app, but doesn’t include some of the features of other devices, such as adjustable motion detection sensitivity. When the device detects motion, it sends a 30-second clip to your app for you to review, but little control is available. The manufacturer promises that cloud storage is coming soon, but we’ve yet to see that update in the app.
One unique feature of the Zmodo Greet is that you can record a voice message for when you can’t or don’t want to answer, even via the app. I can see this being useful especially if you work from home and can’t have your focus disrupted every time the doorbell rings (imagine the possibilities during election season).
Note that this Amazon listing includes the Zmodo Beam Wi-Fi extender (Greet refers to the doorbell device), so you don’t have to worry about purchasing a separate Wi-Fi extender if your existing Wi-Fi doesn’t reach the front door.
- Relatively low price
- Compatible with other Zmodo devices
- Automatic 30-second clip when motion is detected
- Record a custom voice message
- Wi-Fi extender included
- No cloud storage
- Can’t set zones or sensitivity on motion sensor
- App not available for Windows devices
- Price: Around $99.95
- Wi-Fi: 2.4 GHz
- Power supply: 16-36 VAC
- Weather resistance: 14 to 122ºF
- Warranty: Varies based on retailer
#4 August Doorbell Cam
The August Doorbell Cam is almost-but-not-quite there. I’ve included it mainly to keep on your radar because the device has great potential. It has less-than-stellar performance reviews and a camera that doesn’t deal well with over or underexposure, making the image almost useless in extremely high or low light (the other options on this list all have infrared LED night vision to deal with low light). Its long-promised motion detection and cloud storage features only recently launched on the newest version of the app, so it’s hard to say how well they’re performing just yet.
Despite its shaky performance reviews, I am still including the August because it has one feature that none of the others do: it’s compatible with the August Smart Lock, meaning you can know whether your door is locked or unlocked from the same app and even remotely unlock the door for someone when they ring the doorbell. With its lock integration, the August Doorbell Cam could be a great product eventually, but August needs to work on its night vision capabilities in order to compete against similar products. In the meantime, this could be a useful device for some users whose top priority is monitoring their door lock.
- Monitor August Smart Lock from the same app
- Live on-demand video
- Bluetooth enabled
- No infrared LED night vision
- Motion sensor and cloud storage in beta
- Some users report spotty connectivity issues, both to the August Smart Lock and to the app
- Price: Around $156.99
- WiFi: 2.4 + 5GHz Wi-Fi; Bluetooth
- Power supply: 16-24 VAC
- Weather resistance: 32 to 104ºF
- Warranty: 1 year limited hardware
Honorable Mention: Vivint Doorbell Camera
I’m listing the Vivint Doorbell Camera as an honorable mention not because it’s an inferior product to the others listed above, but because it’s only available with a Vivint Smart Home Security contract and can’t be purchased separately from the system. Because it’s one component of a full home security system, it’s fully integrated with Vivint Sky, allowing you to unlock doors, turn on lights, etc., all from the same app.
Probably the coolest feature of this device is its smart visitor detection software, which learns to recognize people so that you don’t get a notification every time your neighbor walks by with her dog. It will, however, alert you every time someone approaches the door, even if they don’t ring the bell. The Vivint app also has a significantly better rating (4.5 stars on both iOS and Android) than the other apps on this list.
- Vivint Sky integration
- Smart visitor detection
- Can record 24/7 continuous footage for up to 30 days
- Professional installation
- High app ratings
- Requires Vivint Smart Home subscription
- Online information (including via support chat) is minimal, requiring a phone call for most questions
- Price: Depends on Vivint contract – for more information visit Vivint’s site
- Wi-Fi: 2.5 GHz
- Power supply: 12–24 VAC
- Weather resistance: -20 to 130ºF
- Warranty: As long as you’re a Vivint subscriber
Check your home’s compatibility
Before making a purchase, you’ll want to check the Wi-Fi connection at your front door to make sure your device has a strong enough signal to operate. You can do this by downloading a speed testing app, such as Wi-Fi SweetSpots on iOS or Android. If the signal at your front door isn’t strong enough, you may need to move your router closer to the front door or get a Wi-Fi extender (like this one).
You’ll also want to consider the existing power source situation at your front door. If you already have a mechanical wired doorbell, all the above recommendations should be compatible (exact VAC requirements are listed in the table). If you have either a digital doorbell or no doorbell at all, you’ll need to install the appropriate wiring to your front door.
An extra layer of security
The most obvious reason to have a video doorbell is protection against burglary. Most burglaries happen during daytime work hours, and many burglars will first ring the doorbell to check to see if anyone’s home. If they’re answered by a real person’s voice and recognize that their image is caught on camera, they’re unlikely to attempt a break-in. Doorbell cams are good for more than just that, though. Through your app, you can also know when a package is delivered and even communicate with the delivery person, if necessary. Any worthwhile video doorbell is equipped with motion sensing technology as well, so if your children get home from school before you return from work, you can see when they go through the front door and who accompanies them.
What to watch out for
The biggest complaint across the board, with all video doorbells, is the occasional lag time between the button being rung at the door and receiving the alert on the app. As this technology continues to develop, the best way around this issue is to use the app on the most up-to-date device with the most available storage possible. An app as sophisticated as these requires ample speed and space.
What do you think? Is a video doorbell a worthwhile investment now, even if the app technology hasn’t caught up just yet? What are some features you’d like to see in future smart video doorbells?