The video doorbell is a first line of defense for homeowners that not only lets you see and speak with the person outside, but also records footage of visitors that approach your door while you’re away or unable to answer. These devices typically use Wi-Fi to stream live video to your phone and offer a variety of features, including cloud video storage, motion detection, sirens, and interoperability with smart locks and other smart home devices.

When choosing a smart doorbell you have to decide if you want a wireless device that runs on batteries or one that gets its power from low-voltage doorbell wiring. Naturally, a wireless doorbell is the easiest type to install, as it draws power from batteries rather than from your home’s electric and doesn’t require that you turn off power or mess with any wiring whatsoever. The downside to wireless doorbells is that their batteries tend to deplete batteries quickly depending on usage, lasting anywhere from two to six months. If you live in an area where the winters are cold you can expect to recharge or replace your batteries every couple of months, and run the risk of your doorbell shutting down at an inopportune time.

Wired doorbells are not quite as easy to install as their wireless counterparts, but they are far from difficult and you don’t have to worry about losing power unless your whole house loses power. Since most homes already have doorbell wiring, installing a video doorbell is as easy as removing your old doorbell, disconnecting the two wires, connecting your new doorbell to the wires, and attaching it to the outside of your house. In most cases you can connect the doorbell to an existing chime box as well.

Wired doorbells draw power from two wires that are connected to a transformer that steps down your household power to between 16 to 24 volts. If your home is not equipped with doorbell wiring you can wire it yourself using a plug-in transformer, or have an electrician do the work for you. Either way, some drilling will be required to run wires from the inside of your home to an exterior location.

Doorbell camera: Nest Hello

PROS
• Crisp 1080p video
• Facial recognition Motion and sound detection
• Clean, modern design 24/7 streaming
CONS
• Technical electrical setup
• Nest Aware subscription to unlock all its features

Why we recommend Nest Hello
While most doorbell cameras tell you when someone is at your door, the Nest Hello can tell you who is at your door. That’s really cool. The Hello’s Intelligent Alert feature is the superpower that lets the Nest Hello tell the difference between a person and other things the camera picks up. Now you can see if it’s just the neighbor’s cat crossing your doorstep or a stranger.

We also like Nest Hello’s stylish design and high-tech features like sound and motion detection and 8x digital zoom. And, because this is a hardwired camera (warning—setup can be tricky), it’s on the job 24/7, which means you’ll never miss a thing. But you can’t take advantage of the Hello’s coolest features (facial recognition, five-day video history, and continuous recording) without a Nest Aware subscription. The good news is that it’s only around $5 a month, but the bummer is that without it you basically have an intercom with a really impressive video feature.

Tech specs:
Dimensions: 1.7 x 4.6 x 1 in.
Resolution: 1080p
FOV: 160º
Operating temperature: 5ºF-104ºF
Power source: Hardwired
Night vision: Infrared
App requirements: iOS 10.0 or later; Android varies with device

Conclusion: The Nest Hello is one of the most advanced video doorbells on the market. It requires a monthly subscription to save video, but we think you’ll be happy if you want to get an outdoor security camera and video doorbell in one. Plus, it works with the whole Nest ecosystem, so it’s easy to add a Nest thermostat or the Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide alarm.

Ring Video Doorbell 2

PROS
• Wireless power
• Easy setup
• Rechargeable battery
• Cloud recording
• Live on-demand video
CONS
• Bulkier design than original Ring Video Doorbell
• Required subscription to record video
• Spotty Wi-Fi connection

Why we recommend Ring Video Doorbell 2
If you’re renting a house or you simply don’t want to deal with the hassle of hardwiring your doorbell camera, the Ring 2 is your best option. It can be hardwired, but if you’re going that route, you might as well opt for the slimmer Ring Pro.

The Ring 2 is a lot bulkier than the original Ring Video Doorbell, but it records crisp 1080p video, delivers on-demand live video, and stores clips in the Ring Cloud for up to two months. Getting ongoing video storage requires you to pay for a Ring Protect plan.

The Basic Protect Plan starts at $3 per month (a little cheaper than Nest’s subscription service) and offers motion alerts, custom motion detection settings, live HD video, and 60 days of video storage. You get to try out Ring Protect for free for 30 days when you install your doorbell camera, but after the free trial ends, you need to pay up or live without video storage.

Tech specs
Dimensions: 5.1 x 2.4 x 2.4 in.
Resolution: 1080p
FOV: 160°
Operating temperature: -5°F–120°F
Power source: Rechargeable battery with hardwire option
Night vision: Infrared
App requirements: iOS 9.3 or later; Android 5.0 and up

Conclusion: The Ring Video Doorbell 2 offers the best of both worlds—you can hardwire it, but it’s designed to be wireless. This doorbell camera is the ideal choice for renters and anyone who doesn’t want to try their hand at electrical work.

SkyBell Trim Video Doorbell

PROS
• Free cloud storage
• Full-color night vision
• Quiet mode
• No monthly fee for extra features
CONS
• Subpar customer service
• No battery option

Why we recommend the SkyBell Trim
Considering how feature-rich the SkyBell is, it’s surprising that you don’t have to pay a monthly fee to get access to all the perks—including free cloud storage. That will save you a good amount of money over time, considering other plans range from $3 to $5 per month. Plus, the SkyBell’s purchase price is a few bucks lower than other video doorbells.

Some of our favorite features include color night vision and a quiet mode that lets you turn off the chime if you’ve got little ones napping. SkyBell also has the highest level of weather and rain resistance of all the video doorbells we tested. Beyond its features, the SkyBell HD camera delivers sharper video and more reliable motion activation than the spottier Ring cameras. But we’ve been disappointed with SkyBell’s track record for serving customers. That’s one area where this company could step it up.

Tech specs
Dimensions: 8 x 1.44 x 1.13 in.
Resolution: 1080p
FOV: 180°
Operating temperature: -40°F – 140°F
Power source: Hardwired
Night vision: Multicolor LEDs
App requirements: iOS 9.0 or later; Android 4.4 and up

Conclusion: If you’re a bargain shopper—or you simply like to get the biggest bang for your buck—you won’t get more for your money than with the SkyBell Trim Video Doorbell. It retails for a bit less than other doorbell cameras, and SkyBell doesn’t charge you extra to access its robust features or use cloud storage.

August Doorbell Cam Pro

PROS
• HindSight feature that captures every motion detection event
• Sharp video quality
• Built-in floodlight to help low-light monitoring
• 24 hours of free video storage
• Compatibility with August Smart Locks
CONS
• Complicated electrical setup
• Bulky design

Why we recommend the August Doorbell Cam Pro
The August Doorbell Cam Pro uses the same resolution as a GoPro (960p HD) which gives you a higher frame rate for improved motion capture. That means you can slow down footage while maintaining clearer video, letting you get a clear view of whoever’s at your door.

We’re big fans of August’s HindSight feature, which lets you see the full story when you review a motion-activated event. Other doorbell cameras have a delay of one to three seconds between when motion is detected and when they start recording. The HindSight feature retroactively records a few seconds of footage before a motion detection event, giving you extra context when you need to review a video. If you’ve been looking into smart locks for your home, you can pair this doorbell with the August Smart Lock. Combined, these two smart home devices let you see, talk to, and open the door for people on your porch—no matter where you are.

Tech specs
Dimensions: 2.9 x 2.9 x 0.9 in.
Resolution: 960p
FOV: 160°
Operating temperature: -13°F–122°F
Power source: Hardwired
Night vision: Floodlight
App requirements: iOS 11.0 or later; Android 6.0 and up

Conclusion: You won’t miss a thing with the August Doorbell Cam Pro. Its HindSight feature makes sure you catch every second of action when the motion sensor is activated. Video delay is a common complaint with motion-activated video, but August seems to have solved that problem. But the setup is tricky, so call in some handy reinforcements or consider hiring an electrician to get it set up correctly.

Ring Video Doorbell Pro

PROS
• Clear 1080p video
• Slim design
• Multiple faceplate colors
• Higher bandwidth (supports 5GHz Wi-Fi)
• Customizable motion zones
CONS
• No wireless option
• No local storage
• Spotty Wi-Fi connection

Why we recommend the Ring Video Doorbell Pro
Ring Pro has a lot in common with the Ring 2 except it’s slimmer and requires hardwiring. It’s a better option if you’re tight on space or if you don’t want to deal with Ring 2’s rechargeable battery.

We also think the Ring Pro performs a little better in terms of video quality, even though its tech specs are similar to the Ring 2’s. Both Ring doorbells we recommend work with the Ring Alarm security system that was released in July 2018. You can control all the aspects of the Ring security system in the Ring app. That means you won’t lose precious moments during an emergency opening multiple apps to see what’s going on at home.

Tech specs
Dimensions: 4.5 x 1.85 x 0.8 in.
Resolution: 1080p
FOV: 160°
Operating temperature: -5°F –120°F
Power source: Hardwired
Night vision: Infrared
App requirements: iOS 9.3 or later; Android 5.0 and up

Conclusion: It’s no secret that we like Ring video doorbells. This one delivers better aesthetics than other smart doorbells, and its slim profile means it’s easier to fit in spaces designed for traditional doorbells. But it requires a subscription and is known to have Wi-Fi connection issues. Still, if you want a doorbell that won’t distract from your perfectly posh porch, the Ring Video Doorbell Pro could be the perfect stylish choice.

Other brands we considered

SimpliSafe Video Doorbell Pro
If you have a SimpliSafe home security system, it’s worth looking into the new SimpliSafe doorbell camera. It offers a 1080p resolution and 160° field of view. It also gives you features like two-way audio, motion sensor alerts, and pan and zoom. Even if you don’t have a SimpliSafe system, you can still use this smart doorbell camera on its own with the SimpliSafe app.

Arlo Audio Doorbell
If you don’t need a camera, or if you already have Arlo cameras on your porch, the Arlo Audio Doorbell is a cheaper alternative to the video doorbells above. Arlo’s wireless doorbell gives you features like visitor messaging, remote communication, and seven days of free cloud storage for audio recordings.

Blink Doorbell
Amazon hasn’t yet released its Blink Video Doorbell, but it’s something to keep your eye on if you’re looking for a doorbell camera. The camera is going to be wireless with live video streaming, two-way audio, night vision, and motion detection. And it might cost considerably less than the wireless Ring 2.

Our final recommendation

We really like the Nest Hello—it’s the most solid all-around video doorbell camera for both aesthetics and function. If you’re willing to get the electrical work done, and if you’re okay with the slightly higher price tag ($229 compared to $199 for most other doorbell cameras), then it’s simply the best smart video doorbell on the market right now.

For renters: If you’re renting a place and don’t want to deal with complicated wiring, or if you’d rather opt for a wireless doorbell camera, the Ring 2 is your best bet.
For smart home fans: If you want a doorbell camera that works with a keyless door lock, we recommend the August Doorbell Cam Pro. It works seamlessly with August’s smart locks to give you extra security and convenience—all from one app.

Things to consider about smart video doorbells

Should I get a wired or a wireless video doorbell?
It depends on your living situation and your preferences. Most video doorbells are connected to your existing doorbell’s wiring, but wireless options are available. If you own your home, wiring in a new smart doorbell makes sense so you don’t have to remember to change dead batteries. But if you’re a renter it could be a hassle to chase down your landlord for permission to change out the doorbell—and they could tell you no.

We also found in testing that some of our homes didn’t have the doorbell placed in the best spot to keep an eye on what was happening. If you want to use your smart doorbell as a security camera, you might choose to put a wireless video doorbell in a location that’s better for security, regardless of preexisting wiring.

Is it worth it to add a subscription to my doorbell camera?
We think so. Even though none of us like having another monthly expense, the $3 to $5 subscription prices aren’t bad. That’s one fancy coffee splurge per month, which we think is worth it to get cloud storage and other features like facial recognition.

Do I need more internet speed to support a Wi-Fi doorbell?
It depends on what you plan to do with your doorbell camera. If all you’re using it for is to answer the door and say hi to the kids after school, you shouldn’t see it impact your Wi-Fi network speeds or data usage much.

Most of the video doorbells we tried performed best with an upload speed of about 2 Mbps. If you upload and store a lot of video clips, that could slow down your upload speed or impact your data usage. But in our experience, it didn’t make a big difference.

What are the benefits of connecting a smart doorbell to other smart home devices?
When you integrate your video doorbell camera with other smart gadgets like a smart lock or Amazon Alexa, you can get extra security, extra convenience, and extra fun. Here are a few of our favorite ways to combine the power of a smart doorbell with other home automation devices.

Thwart porch pirates. Connect your video doorbell to a smart garage door opener. Use the two-way audio from the doorbell to direct the delivery person to leave your goods in the garage—which you can open from an app no matter where you are.
Guarantee a quiet naptime. Use voice control with Amazon Alexa or Google Home to tell your smart doorbell it’s time to silence the chime. You won’t have to fumble for your smartphone while you’re rocking your little one to sleep.
Come home to paradise. Whether you’ve been on vacation or just survived another day at the grind, come home to a door that opens when you approach (no fumbling for keys or dropping groceries), a warm glow from lights that are already on, and the perfect temperature to put you instantly at ease. When you connect your video doorbell to other home automation devices, you can set up routines that are triggered the moment your video doorbell senses your approach.