The Best Smart Doorbells We Saw at CES 2018
It was over in a flash. The 2018 edition of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas drew to a conclusion on January 12 after four days of action. MakeUseOf was there for the duration; check out our videos over on YouTube if you’ve not already.
Now that the stalls have been cleared away, and the initial excitement has worn off, it’s time to take a step back and have a closer look at what we saw.
The smart doorbells also impressed us. We had a chat with representatives from Blink, Zmodo, Vivint, and Ring to learn about what their respective products offered. Here’s what we found out.
Blink Video Doorbell
Let’s get straight to the good stuff. The standout winner of this year’s show was the Blink Video Doorbell. But what made it so impressive?
Well, it has the basics nailed down. You’d expect every smart doorbell to offer HD video and motion detection, and Blink doesn’t disappoint.
When someone arrives at your door and rings the bell, you’ll instantly receive a notification on your phone, and the video will start to record. If you wish, you can join a live stream with your visitor and have a two-way conversation. This feature will work from anywhere in the world.
As you will see in the video below, Blink has two additional selling points that help it stand out from the competition: the price and the ease of installation.
Blink confirmed to us that the device will go on sale at $99 if you already own one of Blink’s hubs or at $129 for a full system. In an unusual turn for this industry, you don’t need to buy a subscription to use this service; all the cloud storage is free.
The hubs — called Sync Modules — are small. They comfortably fit in the palm of your hand, so you can discreetly hide them around your home. Remember, the company has sold smart camera systems for a while; if you already have a Blink smart camera, you already own a Sync Module. Adding your new smart doorbell to the system is easy.
Blink’s ease of installation also impressed us. Whereas some smart doorbells will only work if they’re connected to your home’s existing wiring, the Blink product works with two AA batteries. The batteries will last for two years before you need to change them. The device does offer a hard-wired option, should you wish to use it.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that the Blink smart doorbell offers integrations with IFTTT and Amazon Alexa, though it’s not entirely clear what voice control brings to the world of smart doorbells.
The Blink Video Doorbell is the best smart doorbell that we’ve seen. Itwill go on sale in the coming months, and will be available in multiple colors.
Zmodo also had a stall at the show. The company had a range of smart devices that covered indoor monitoring, outdoor monitoring, doorbells, and smart home security .
The company’s demonstration was decidedly less impressive than Blink’s, as its gadgets failed to function correctly. Nonetheless, all businesses are susceptible to a “Bill Gates moment,” so what’s the device actually like?
Zmodo offers three smart doorbells: the Greet Pro, Greet Universal, and Greet 1.5. It brought the Greet Pro, the company’s best smart doorbell, to CES. The Greet Pro provides 1080p resolution video, a 180-degree viewing angle, and works on 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi networks. The viewing angle can be adjusted via the accompanying app.
Like the Blink product, the Zmodo Greet Pro includes motion sensors, real-time smartphone alerts, and two-way dialogue from anywhere in the world through the app. You can even pre-record a message for your visitors for when you don’t feel like answering the door.
It differs from the Blink offering in two critical areas. Firstly, it’s a lot more expensive. A single unit will cost you $179. Secondly, it cannot run on batteries; you need to connect it to a main electricity supply.
If you choose a Zmodo Greet Pro, you will have access to three price plans. The entry level is free, but videos are only available for 36 hours. Seven days of saved recordings cost $4.99 per month, while 30 days is $9.99.
Vivint arrived at CES with its second-generation smart doorbell, the Vivint Doorbell Camera. The representative confirmed we could expect to see a new third-generation coming out in the third quarter of 2018. The existing second-gen model retails for around $160.
Given the second-generation model is a couple of years old, it’s no surprise it lags behind some of its competitors from a hardware standpoint. For example, the video is only available in 720p, unlike the 1080p we saw on the Blink and Zmodo models, and it only works on 2.4GHz Wi-Fi networks.
Other features, however, are present. The device offers two-way talk and motion detection.
The Vivint Doorbell Camera works as expected. If someone rings your bell, your smartphone will immediately send you a notification. If you want, you can jump straight into a live chat.
The device excels further thanks to Vivant’s existing product line-up. It integrates with its smart locks, garage door openers , and security cameras to give you complete control of your home’s access points, even when you’re not there.
If you subscribe to Vivint Playback, you can even access DVR footage of up to four cameras for 30 days. You can watch short 30-second clips on the accompanying app without subscribing.
On the downside, the device suffers from the subscription model. The company is not very forthcoming about the cost of a subscription on its website, instead urging you to “call for a quote.”
Ring made a splash at CES thanks to the presence of basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal at its booth. In truth, the smart doorbell wasn’t the star of the company’s show. Instead, Ring was keen to stress that it’s expanding beyond door chimes with a launch of smart lights and a holistic security system.
Ring offers four smart doorbells, each at different price points and with different functionality. The entry-level Video Doorbell ships for $179, the second-generation model costs $199, while the Pro and Elite retail for $249 and $499 respectively.
The first- and second-generation models are broadly the same. The only notable upgrade is a switch from 780p to 1080p video in the newer product. You can run both models via battery or hard wiring.
Oddly, the Pro model removes the battery option, though it does add support for 5GHz Wi-Fi networks. However, it does add advanced motion detection (which can theoretically determine the difference between human motion and other forms of movement) and a wide range of colors.
Finally, the top-of-the-range Elite model adds Ethernet-based network connectivity, thus giving you the strongest peace of mind when you’re not at home. This is Ring’s best smart doorbell.
Would You Buy a Smart Doorbell?
Here are the four smart doorbells that left a lasting impression on the Make Use Of team at CES 2018. As stated earlier, the upcoming Blink model was the most impressive, in our opinion.
Do you have a product from one of the four manufacturers we discussed? Will you add a smart doorbell to your system? Or are you still unimpressed, will you give smart doorbells a wide berth?
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