Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Imagine you’re watching TV or browsing the web and an unexpected visitor knocks on your door. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could see who it is just by looking at your phone?
Or imagine you’re at work and a delivery man comes with a sensitive package. Wouldn’t it be great if you could speak directly to them and give instructions over the phone? What if your doorbell could log all the times someone came to visit?
If these features seem like the perfect mix of practical and futuristic, perhaps you should consider installing a smart doorbell in your home.
What Is a Smart Doorbell?
When we talk about electronic devices, a “smart” device is any device that can connect to the internet that normally wouldn’t be able to. For example, a “smartphone” is an internet-capable phone and a “smart TV” is an internet-capable TV.
A smart doorbell is the exact same thing: an internet-capable doorbell. Most smart doorbells are easy and quick to install, and come with built-in cameras, speakers, and microphones.
There’s no learning curve for your visitors. All they have to do is press a button the same way they would any other doorbell. When they do, you receive an alert on your phone. You can then see who it is (using the camera) and even communicate with them (using the speakers and microphone).
The main benefit is convenience. Being able to answer the door from anywhere is huge! Not to mention the peace of mind that it brings. In the case of a suspicious visitor, you can see who they are without going near the door and can maybe even record their identity.
And when combined with a smart door lock, you can grant entry to visitors who stop by while you aren’t home. Pretty amazing, isn’t it?
Top Smart Doorbells on the Market
The market for smart doorbells is still relatively young — it’s only been around for a few years. In other words, while you can expect these products to work well enough, just be aware that manufacturers are still working out some kinks and evolving their functionality.
If you want a flawless device that’ll last decades, perhaps you should wait a few more years. Smart doorbells are definitely still in the “early adopter” phase. But if you want to try something new and exciting, then these are the best ones to get started with.
The Ring Wi-Fi Video Doorbell is hands-down the most popular smart doorbell currently on the market, and for good reason. It’s a bit on the expensive side at $170, but it offers all the important features: visitor alerts, motion sensors, night vision, live HD video, and two-way communication.
The 180-degree camera has a 720p resolution. The motion sensor is extremely useful for notification of shady visitors who might be scoping out your house. And the night vision quality is surprisingly good. One more thing to note: it’s robust and weather resistant.
As of this writing, a newer version called the Ring Wi-Fi Video Doorbell 2 is available with 1080p video and a rechargeable battery pack. But it costs a bit more at $200, and is currently out of stock for at least a few months. Something to consider if you’re willing to wait.
Alternatively, you might want to save up a bit more and get the Ring Video Doorbell Pro for $250. It’s expensive, but has the ability to automatically record footage when the motion sensor is triggered. Furthermore, the 1080p camera has a wider angle for greater coverage.
2. SkyBell HD
The SkyBell HD Video Doorbell is the second most popular option. It offers a ton of excellent features, including a 1080p camera with a considerable amount of zoom, and only costs $160 (unless you opt for the bronze variety at $250).
This doorbell has sharp night vision, two-way communication, motion sensors, and on-demand viewing so you can tune in to the camera whenever you want, even when nobody has rung the doorbell.
But perhaps most important? It looks unremarkable, like any regular doorbell, and thus doesn’t draw undue attention to itself. The only downside is that the video can be a bit blurry at times, especially at night, and the motion sensor can be too sensitive to movement.
The VueBell Video Doorbell is the least-known option in this article, partly because it’s new and partly because the company is based out of Asia. Despite how new it is on the market, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better-quality smart doorbell at this price.
For just $110, you get a 720p camera with a 185-degree field of view, which counts as a wide angle. It has two-way communication, passable night vision, motion sensors, and the ability to take a snapshot whenever the motion sensor is triggered or somebody rings the doorbell.
While the aesthetics are sleek, it does look a bit futuristic and thus sticks out like a sore thumb. It may not complement your home’s appearance.
4. August Doorbell Cam
August is best known for its smart door lock, so it makes sense to offer a smart doorbell alongside it. Unfortunately, the reception for August’s door lock has been polarized, and much more so for the love-it-or-hate-it August Doorbell Cam.
Not that the smart doorbell is bad. The device is fine in terms of features: two-way communication, HD camera with a resolution slightly bigger than 720p, motion sensors and alerts, and recording of missed visitors. The performance of these features is also good.
Unfortunately, the software can be somewhat buggy at times, and you may experience lag depending on the age and specs of your smartphone. The doorbell’s square shape is also a point of contention for users. But overall, it’s a strong choice that you’ll most likely be satisfied with.
5. Zmodo Greet
The Zmodo Greet Video Doorbell is the absolute cheapest you’ll want to go as far as smart doorbells are concerned. Its $80 price tag might still be a bit much, but go any lower and you’ll have to sacrifice build quality, reliability, available features, or image and sound quality.
In addition to a 720p camera, night vision, and two-way communication, the Zmodo model has motion sensors that can send alerts and record footage when triggered. If you aren’t at home and don’t want to communicate directly, it can play a personalized voice message for visitors.
Which Smart Doorbell Is Right for You?
If money is no concern, go with one of the Ring models. If money is your greatest concern, go with the Zmodo. But if you’re willing to take a risk and you want the best bang for your buck, go with the VueBell.
The very concept of a smart doorbell is silly to some, but the convenience factor is off the charts. Once you can answer your door from halfway across the world, you’ll never want to go back. It’s one of several smart home features worth the cost.
Just be aware that, as with any internet-connected device, there will always be security concerns with smart home products.
Which smart doorbell looks best to you? Are there any other good ones that we missed? Share with us in a comment down below!
Originally written by Dave LeClair on September 17, 2014