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Looking back, it’s hard to believe there was once a time when a doorbell was literally just a bell for your door. The best new doorbells these days go far beyond the simple chime, making old-school doorbells look almost primitive. A smart doorbell lets you safely monitor what’s happening outside, protects your packages from “porch pirates,” and sends you instant alerts to see who’s ringing – all monitored from your device in real-time.
Though any smart doorbell is a step up from a traditional one, there’s still a lot to sift through in order to decide which bell is best for you and your home. Here’s the breakdown of what to look for before you buy.
What to Know About Smart Doorbells
Field of View: Most bells offer a wide field of view, letting you see the whole scene of what’s happening outside – even at night, and often with a decent zoom lens too. You also have the option to set designated and customized “Activity Zones,” letting you pinpoint the exact area to be alerted about whenever there’s motion detected. This is a huge help, not just for security and safety, but to cut down on notifications from a super-sensitive camera that’s sending you constant alerts whenever the wind blows or a cat walks by.
Storage: All those videos and photos of visitors and outside activity need to be stored somewhere, and can add up fast, especially with continuous monitoring. While some units include an SD card or store a finite amount of files locally, space is limited. That’s where the cloud comes in. For a few extra bucks per month, cloud storage provides a big boost in the amount of files you can keep around. It’s an option that’s available on most models, and is great for heavy usage. But for moderate to quiet activity (and frequently deleting big files you no longer need), local storage usually does the trick.
Weather: Even the best bells with the most “bells and whistles” can’t compete if it’s not weatherproof for where you live. If you’re in a climate with extreme high or low temps, be sure your bell can handle the heat and resist heavy rain, snow, and cold. Generally, most units have a pretty wide range, up to the triple digits in Fahrenheit and down into the negatives.
Video Quality: A blurry bell-cam isn’t much good when you can’t see who’s on your porch. While cameras are getting better with each new generation, 1080p is common across the board nowadays, and recommended for a clear and detailed image feed. WDR, or Wide Dynamic Range, helps bring faces into focus in the shadows, HDR corrects for any distortion during daylight, and infrared LEDs light up the night, letting you look out and see the whole picture of what’s going on out there. Some of the more modern models are taking it a step further, offering package detection and face recognition, so you’ll know who it is before they even ring.
Installation: Most smart-doorbells are going to require wires, but not everyone has the proper home wiring; not to mention the know-how, the permission, or the desire to starting messing with them. That’s where you’d need a bell with the option to connect purely wirelessly over WiFi. While one of the big advantage of wiring it up is never having to worry about low batteries and charging ever again, wireless bells will most likely run on rechargeable battery packs, and can last a decently long time on a single charge – usually between 4-6 months. A wired doorbell can also send notifications faster, and integrate with the already existing chimer in your house if it’s electric or mechanical, or connect all your Amazon Echos to ring simultaneously too. However if hooking up an entire smart-home is your goal here, it’s best to be certain the bell can link with your smart-devices of choice before buying. These bells may be modern, but not all are pair-able with everything, and vary pretty widely in terms of which ones they work with. Amazon Echo and Nest are the most common, so double-check before you go all-in.
Security: Having a visible, lit up unit can itself often be a deterrent to package thieves who know they’re being watched, and 24-hour, round-the-clock recording is an option that’s available. However, it’ll eat up storage fast, and will usually require a cloud subscription. As far as hackability, the best defense is a strong WiFi network, and a username/password that’s lengthy, character diverse, and not frequently used across platforms.
We’ve selected four of the best smart video doorbells – both wired and wireless – to help you secure your doorstep.
1. Eufy WiFi Video Doorbell
Eufy is the security division of Anker, a well-known, trusted player in the tech world. Their doorbell’s 2K video quality provides clean and detailed resolution over a wide 160° field of view, as well as a 4:3 aspect ratio. Customized Motion Zones let you create and pinpoint the exact areas you want to monitor for motion outside, and Person Detection Alerts automatically kick a notification to your device whenever it identifies someone (you also get motion detection to be alerted of any other activity), complete with a photo of the person’s face.
Free and secure local storage holds a significant amount of photos and videos (4GB), while 256-bit data encryption keeps your footage secure and private. It’s linkable with Google Voice Assistant and Amazon Echo, and voice-activated commands can show the live feed on Echo Show or Nest Hub. Latency and lag-time are low when on WiFi (this is also adjustable in the settings), and the audio out of the bell’s speaker is clearly audible. You can also temporarily disable the chime and motion notifications, in case you don’t want to be disturbed.
2. Amcrest 1080P Video Doorbell
Amcrest’s bell comes with everything you need to mount it, and installation is fairly simple, requiring an existing 16-24V input to keep it powered.
Alerts are instantaneous, and two-way talk connects you with whoever’s ringing. Built-in night vision lets you identify visitors in the dark (up to 16 feet), and 1080p quality with a wide angle 140° lens means a nice, un-pixelated picture comes through at 30fps. You can also mask the motion sensor, which helps prevent and reduce lots of constant alerts. It’s IP55 weatherproof too, meaning it has limited protection from dust and water.
While it works over WiFi, only a 2.4GHz connection will do. There’s a slot to add a micro-SD card and store up to 128GB of files locally, but a cloud subscription is an even easier option that’s available. While it’s compatible with Amazon Alexa, this was definitely designed to work with other Amcrest products first and foremost. So if you have an existing Amcrest DVR and cameras, everything should be viewable in the Amcrest ViewPro app, and connectable to the Amcrest Smart Home app for getting the full usage out of all the Amcrest smart-home features.
3. ZUMIMALL WiFi Video Doorbell with Chime
For those of us who aren’t able to (or don’t want to) mess with our home’s wiring, the ZUMIMALL is an excellent wireless option. Activation is almost instant – after downloading the app and linking the bell to a device, a couple quick syncing steps get the unit up and running smoothly over a 2.4Ghz WiFi network, and notifications start popping up soon after. The 1080p camera provides a colorful and clear feed of your doorstep whether day or night with a 160° wide angle view, while two-way talk makes it easy to communicate with visitors, and motion sensors alert you to any activity without being overly sensitive. Person detection is another extremely neat feature that works well, and snaps two photos whenever someone approaches.
The unit itself is weighty and feels solid, and is adequately IP65-rated weatherproof to stand up to rain, hail, or snow. Since it’s completely wireless, a rechargeable two-pack of lithium batteries keeps it powered up, and can last all the way up to five months on a single charge. The glowing red ring around the button is eye-catching even for visitors unfamiliar with it, and the light turns blue as soon as they get closer, making it hard to miss.
A microSD card comes standard and offers up to 32GB of local storage, and the company offers a cloud storage subscription as well. You can also authorize friends and family to get in on the live feed too. The accompanying CloudEdge app is frequently updated, and offers multiple helpful options for configuring and customizing alert settings.
As far as installation, this comes with everything you need – a separate chime speaker with charging cable, mounting bracket (as well as a double-sided adhesive), and tools including a mini screwdriver.
4. Arlo Video Doorbell
This bell is easy to wire up in just a few minutes, and comes with all the tools you’ll need. After that, the HD video quality is rich and smooth, at a crisp 1536 x 1536.
The 1:1 ratio provides a full view of your visitors and their surroundings, with an impressively wide field at 180°, and a 12x digital zoom for picking out precise features on a person or a package – even at night thanks to its infrared LED. When someone rings your bell, the Arlo automatically makes a video call to your device, giving you the option to quickly respond with a pre-made message, or answer it and talk to them in real-time.
Arlo also offers more features through their Smart Subscription plan, letting you adjust things like Activity Zone, minimizing the monitored area for any motion and letting you decide the specific area to get alerted about. You can also receive different alerts for different detections, divided up into categories like people, animals, and vehicles.