A doorbell can be an expensive investment, and even more so if you have to pay a monthly subscription for it. However, what if you could avoid paying a subscription and get all the benefits of a doorbell, without having to pay for it? You could simply get a doorbell that can be controlled over the internet, and you could then use that control to view the live video stream from your doorbell. Ideally, this would all be done through a smart phone app, and you could even receive notifications when there is motion at your door.
It’s that time of the year again: the tech industry is all a buzz about new products, and one of the most anticipated announcements of the year is what’s coming from the video doorbell department. Earlier this year we asked you to pick your favourite, and now it’s time to see how you’ve done.
Video intercoms are an easy starting point for anyone interested in smart home security, and provide extra peace of mind for those worried about unwanted visitors or stolen packages. Over the past few weeks we have been testing video door entry systems from various companies and evaluating their features, subscriptions and capabilities. We found three that should meet your needs, no matter how much information you want about the world outside your door.
Best overall video doorbell
The Ring 2 Pro video door entry system uses radar for highly accurate motion detection, provides excellent video with a wide, high field of view and clear audio, and can even show on a map which way someone took to get to your door.
The best alternative to the ring
The Arlo wired video doorbell has a sleek design and is easy to install. It also offers clear video, many settings to adjust the quality of the video, and an affordable price.
The best wireless video doorbell
The Ring 4 video doorbell is ideal for those who need a wireless, battery-powered doorbell, but still want peace of mind with high-quality video, alarms and a wide range of Ring features.
Jason Cipriani/ CNN
The Ring Pro 2 video doorbell has a wide, high field of view that captures everything on your doorstep – the kind of setup we love about any video doorbell. What’s more, thanks to a range of robust sensors, including radar, you can not only receive accurate alerts, but also reconstruct a visitor’s path to your door, which is useful for checking whether someone has entered. It’s the most expensive of the video door entry systems we’ve tested, but we think the feature set is worth it.
As we mentioned in our full review, it took us about 15 minutes to install the Doorbell Pro 2. This is a wired doorbell that works with the existing doorbell when the included Pro Power Kit is installed. We find the Pro 2’s small footprint and design more appealing than the larger Ring 3 and Doorbell 4 video doorbells. The entire installation process is well documented in the Ring application, including troubleshooting steps, and all necessary tools – with the exception of an electric drill, which we highly recommend – are included.
Doorbell Pro 2’s ultra-wide, high field of view (150 by 150 degrees coverage) gives you a head-to-toe view of your porch – perfect for package detection and visitor identification. Both the Arlo wired video doorbell and the Logitech Circle View doorbell offer the same wide field of view, and frankly, we think all video doorbells should offer a similar perspective. Both the live video and recorded images were sharp and pixel free. Color night vision makes it easy to see what you’re looking at in shots taken in the dark. The Pro 2 uses its intelligence to record a short video clip just before motion is detected. The video preview gives you information about what happened just before the camera went off. It is only available on the top of the range doorbells, such as the Pro 2 or the Video Doorbell 4.
Ring says the Pro 2 can detect motion at any distance, but recommends limiting motion detection to a maximum distance of 30 feet. Pro 2 consistently and reliably detected events within the specified range we had defined in the application and sent no false alarms. This is thanks to the radar technology built into the device and Ring’s advanced motion detection algorithms. False motion alarms were rare and not uncommon with all the Ring doorbells we tested, which has improved dramatically since we started testing Ring products several years ago.
Ring’s aptly named Bird’s Eye View system uses satellite map data and a built-in doorbell radar to record the path of a person or animal approaching the doorbell. You can then view this map – in real time or by watching a recorded clip – to see if the person came directly to your door, walked through the garden, or went through a window before arriving at your door.
No Ring product can notify you when the camera detects a parcel and when a parcel is picked up. This is a strange error that often occurs with other clocks. Google’s Nest Hello doorbell, for example, has had this feature for a few years now if you sign up for a monthly subscription to Nest Aware.
The Doorbell Pro 2, like all Ring products, integrates with Amazon’s Alexa platform (which makes sense since Amazon owns Ring) and Google Assistant. That means you can ask your Nest Hub or Echo Show 8 to show you a live stream of the Pro 2, or use your smart devices as wireless electronic doorbells to alert you when someone rings the doorbell.
If you sign up for the Ring Protect subscription service, you can enable Alexa greetings for the Pro 2, allowing Alexa to open your door when you can’t reach it. Greetings are good in theory, but in practice they are confusing and awkward. The ad will play whether you’re home or not if you don’t answer the call in the mobile app. In our tests, visitors were greeted by Alexa in situations where we were home, then informed that we were not and asked to leave a message before arriving at the door. You can say Alexa, Stop on Pro 2 to stop the ad as soon as it’s started, but we’d prefer ads to be turned on or off automatically based on your location.
A subscription to Ring Protect costs $3 per month or $30 per year. The base price covers one camera, and video clips are kept for 60 days. You can upload and share them, as well as photos, enable people-only notifications, and receive enhanced notifications that include a video clip in the notification. At $3 per month per video call, the Ring plan is affordable and worth it in our opinion.
For $10 a month or $100 a year, you can add as many cameras as you want, plus 24/7 monitoring from Ring Alarm, the company’s home security system (and our overall choice in this category). This is a good choice if you are upgrading to a full system and want professional operation.
With clear video showing everything that happens at your door, accurate motion detection to identify people’s paths, and an affordable basic subscription, the Pro 2 video doorbell is easily the best video doorbell of 2021.
While we believe the company’s products work very well and are often best in class, Ring has been criticized for its information-sharing practices and agreements with local law enforcement. In early June, Ring changed the way police departments receive video footage by requiring them to publish all requests from Ring users, making the request process more traceable and allaying some fears around its relationship with law enforcement.
Jason Cipriani/ CNN
For those concerned about Ring’s relationship with law enforcement in the US, a better alternative to Ring is the Arlo wired video doorbell. The $149.99 Arlo solution combines a sleek design, clear video and convenient motion alerts.
Not only does the Arlo offer crisp, clear video, but it also has an even wider angle lens than the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2, so you can see from floor to ceiling. The lens doesn’t have that fisheye effect like other bells and whistles, so you get better video quality. If you have a slow internet connection, you can lower the quality from the standard 1536p to 720p or 1080p.
The installation of the wired video doorbell went smoothly. Remove the old doorbell, connect the supplied power supply to the existing doorbell and turn on the doorbell. Then launch the Arlo application and follow the on-screen instructions. It also has a very elegant design with a large easy to push button that lights up with a circle of LED lights when someone approaches the door. After a few seconds, the light will begin to dim and eventually extinguish. Very cool.
The wired doorbell has a maximum motion detection range of just over 6 feet, about half the range of the Ring Pro 2. The Arlo app has a built-in motion detection test that helps you determine the ideal level to avoid unintended alarms.
When a motion event is triggered, Arlo can identify multiple objects and tag them. If a bird or dog passes in front of the camera and the camera registers movement, the clip is marked as an animal in the app – the same goes for a person, car or package.
When reviewing the library of recorded clips, there were a few instances where Arlo labeled a clip with an animal as human, but the vast majority of clips were correctly identified and labeled.
Jason Cipriani/ CNN
You must subscribe to one of the Arlo Smart plans to take advantage of object detection features, set activity zones, and access 30 days of video history. The Premier plan costs $2.99 per month for one camera or $9.99 per month for five cameras. The Elite Arlo Smart plan ($4.99 per month for one camera or $14.99 per month for five cameras) offers the same functionality, but stores video up to 4K if you have cameras that support that resolution (a wired video phone doesn’t have that option). If you are a new customer, you will receive a 90-day trial version of Arlo Smart to test these features.
Arlo works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, as well as the automation site If This Then That (IFTTT). For example, you can ask to see your front door on Nest’s smart screen, or record every time someone rings your doorbell with Google Sheet.
The Arlo wired video doorbell is attractive, easy to install and set up, and has a wide field of view so you can see everything. The monthly subscription includes object identification and high-quality video storage, which is well worth the price.
Jason Cipriani/ CNN
The $199.99 Ring 4 video doorbell is the perfect option for renters or homeowners who don’t want to make permanent changes to their home, as it can be powered by removable batteries or a wired connection. Regardless of how the Video intercom 4 is used, it has all the basic Ring functions.
The Doorbell 4 delivers crystal clear video with sound when we watch a live stream or when notifications come in on our phone. We are also satisfied with the quality of the alarms, as we have not received a single false signal of movement, for example from a flying leaf. Instead, the alarm went off when a person appeared or a package was delivered. The video quality was almost equal to that of the Pro 2 and other Ring clocks. Like the Pro 2, the Doorbell 4 features pre-recorded video of the moments before the motion alarm, so you can better tell the full story of what happened.
Installation is easy no matter what you choose. You can power it with rechargeable, removable batteries or connect it to an existing bell and doorbell power supply. It is difficult to estimate the battery life on each charge due to many factors such as motion alerts, recording frequency, etc. If there is a standard electrical outlet near the doorbell, you can purchase the Ring Power Adapter for $24.99 to keep the battery charged. A second battery can also be purchased for $29.99 to keep it charged and ready to use.
Those who choose the rechargeable method can use it with a doorbell to easily hear when someone is at the door. Like many other doorbells we’ve tested, the Doorbell 4 can work with Amazon Alexa and receive notifications on Echo devices when someone is at the door.
You may be wondering about the Video Doorbell 3. It costs $20 less and looks almost identical, but you lose the ability to watch videos that tell you what caused the traffic alert. For our money, we would have spent the extra $20 and bought a Video Doorbell 4.
Jason Cipriani/ CNN
Instead of drilling countless holes in our front door while testing a dozen different video door calls under the same conditions, we built a test bench. We installed all the video intercoms the same way we did on the outside of the house, except instead of using the intercoms’ existing wiring, we used adapters to power each unit. If a video intercom could be wired, we used it to ensure a consistent experience.
We hung the test rig outside our house and placed it in the middle at a height of 48 inches, the recommended height for video intercoms. The area the bells are aimed at is an area of medium traffic: People, pets and strange animals cross their path at any time of the day.
After installing and configuring each video door entry system, we reviewed the settings and tried to align them as much as possible. For example, if the video door entry system allows you to configure an area of activity that it monitors, we create an area the size of the camera’s field of view.
For example, over the past few weeks we have been tracking doorbells that detect the same movements. B. when the dogs go out early in the morning or when someone delivers a package. We paid attention to how reliable the motion alert notification was and how quickly the motion alert arrived on the iPhone, iPad or Pixel 5.
We also tested the reliability of two-way communication by having a family member press the call button, answer the call with a mobile device, and then make a call.
We have taken into account the subscription model for each video door, if applicable. Finally, the evaluation of the results also took into account the safety requirements.
Kangaroo Doorbell Camera + Chime ($24.99, originally $39.98; heykangaroo.com)
If you need a video doorbell for deterrence purposes and are not bothered by complicated features, the Kangaroo doorbell camera is worth considering. It does not record video or allow live streaming of the doorbell when someone rings. Instead, you get an animated GIF that shows who or what triggered the motion alarm or rang your doorbell. The box contains a wireless doorbell that plugs into the house.
For $2 or $4 a month, you get 365 days of cloud storage for all captured content, a 90-day activity plan, and Kangaroo will reimburse you up to $300 per stolen package if you choose a cheaper plan, or $800 per stolen package if you choose a more expensive plan.
Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell ($199.99; amazon.com)
The Arlo Essential wireless video doorbell is almost identical to its wired counterpart. However, the range of the motion detection is much smaller, at 2 meters, and the design is clumsy. This is by far the fattest video intercom we’ve tested, and it clearly stands out on our test bench.
If you don’t have the ability to install a wired video doorbell (maybe you rent and your landlord doesn’t want you to do permanent renovations) and you don’t want a Ring product on the front of your house, the Arlo Essential wireless video doorbell is a good choice.
Logitech Circle View Doorbell ($199.99; logitech.com)
Logitech’s Circle View doorbell is the only doorbell with Apple HomeKit support that we tested. Everything from setting up to streaming and recording video is done through the Home app on your iPhone or iPad. Tight integration with Apple’s HomeKit platform, including notifications on the Apple TV with picture-in-picture live video streaming, makes it appealing to Apple fans. If you pay for additional iCloud storage – 200 GB or higher levels – Circle View Doorbell uses Apple’s HomeKit Secure Video service to store videos for easy access, regardless of your iCloud storage plan.
During testing, we occasionally experienced a disconnect, which was followed a few seconds later by a notification that the doorbell had reconnected to our home’s Wi-Fi network – something we had experienced before with a Circle View personal doorbell we had installed on our front door. Other than that, we’re happy with Circle View’s wide field of view, and if you’re invested in Apple’s ecosystem, Circle Doorbell is worth a closer look.
Nest Hello ($149.99, originally $229.99; target.com)
Google’s Nest Hello video phone has been around for a long time, but it’s no match for the competition. It’s one of the most attractive doorbells we’ve tested, and as expected, it integrates well with Google Assistant and the rest of the Nest range.
For $6 a month, you can add as many Nest cameras to your account as you want, get access to 30 days of video history and advanced features like activity zones and smart alerts for things like package delivery, and turn your smart screens and speakers into security devices.
Ring video intercom with cable ($59.99; amazon.com)
The wired video intercom is a powerful and impressive offering, especially considering the price. Its compact design makes it easy to install, even in the most confined spaces.
As the name suggests, this is a wired installation, but it does not support the existing Curant. Instead, you should buy a Ring chime, which not only emits a sound when motion is detected or when the doorbell button is pressed, but also acts as a hub to connect the doorbell to your home network.
Ring Video Doorbell (2020) ($99.99; amazon.com)
The Ring video intercom features the company’s iconic design and can be powered by battery or cable. It has customizable zones and motion settings and records video in 1080p. It costs $99 and is easy to install and set up. However, the battery is not removable, so you must remove the entire bell from the mounting plate to charge it.
A subscription to Ring Protect costs $3 per month and gives you 60 days of video history, person-only motion alerts, and advanced notifications. If you want to buy a videophone ringer within your budget, you should pay attention to this model.
Ring 3 video doorbell ($179.99; amazon.com)
Ring Video Doorbell 3 is a slightly less functional version of Ring Video Doorbell 4. For $20 less, you only give up one feature: video previews. In other words: The Video Doorbell 3 does not record or play a short clip of what is happening before the motion alarm is activated.
However, it does have a removable battery, hardware ports, HD video with night vision, dual-band Wi-Fi support, and removable faceplates. This is a big step up from Ring’s standard video doorbell, thanks to the additional features.
Eufy 2K video doorbell (wired) ($199.99; amazon.com)
Eufy’s wired video doorbell is meant to replace the monthly subscription fees of a model that offers internal storage (4 GB, to be exact) and enough memory for about two weeks of video, even when recording in 2K resolution. Like our two options and many others on this list, it offers a wide-angle view with a relatively small body. We had some difficulty correctly identifying objects in the image, but the video quality was crisp and clear. This doorbell does not work with the existing doorbell in your home, but a wireless doorbell is included to compensate.
Read the rest of the CNN Underscored practice test:
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best video doorbell 2021?
The best video doorbell is the Ring Video Doorbell 2.
What is the best ring doorbell to buy 2021?
The best ring doorbell to buy in 2021 is the Ring Video Doorbell 2.
What is the most reliable video doorbell?
The most reliable video doorbell is the Ring Video Doorbell 2.
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