Video Doorbell Buying Guide

There’s so much technology out there and so many devices that it gets difficult to keep track of it all. Video doorbells are just one of the many smart home devices that aim to simplify certain aspects of your life. More importantly, these doorbells aim to improve the security of your home or office and if you are planning on this being the next thing on your list of items to buy, you want to make sure that you go in well informed.

How Will This Guide Help You?

After reading this buying guide, you will have a better understanding of what video doorbells are, how they work, and what makes them good. You’ll also learn about the benefits of having one of these devices and about the many features that make them useful. Most importantly, this guide looks at the major players in the video doorbell industry and will explore some stand-out products that you might be interested in.

Overall, you should come out of the reading with a deeper understanding of the technology and a better idea of what you might want for your home or business.

What Is a Video Doorbell?

Video doorbells are modern devices that allow you to monitor who visits your home or building. With the built-in video camera, intercom system, and motion sensors, you’ll be able to keep your front door secure while having greater control over who enters your home and you’ll also be able to communicate or send messages to the visitors.

Just as with any doorbell, these devices attach near your front door but they will also link to a smartphone application so that you can watch the live feed, record videos, speak to visitors, and customize your settings.

Benefits of Video Doorbells

There are many advantages of having a video doorbell and in addition to the added surveillance, they are also extremely convenient.

The smartphone application allows you to respond to visitors remotely and you’ll get an alert on your phone every time that there’s a visitor. So, whether you are busy elsewhere in your building or halfway around the world, you can resolve issues, take messages, accept packages, and dismiss unwanted visitors without actually going to the door.

Other benefits include:

  • Being able to possibly catch criminals
  • Being able to keep an eye on your kids
  • Avoiding delivery waits
  • Screening your visitors before entry
  • Tracking who comes and goes

Video Doorbell vs. Security Cameras: What’s the Difference?

Essentially, all video doorbells are security cameras but not all security cameras are video doorbells. The biggest difference between the two is obviously the doorbell.

This also means that you have a lot less flexibility with the doorbell cameras. For example, you wouldn’t put a doorbell device in your backyard or your child’s bedroom (even though you could) but these are both logical locations for a traditional security camera. Many video doorbells also require a wired connection and these wires would come from an old doorbell.

Technically speaking, there are also some differences. While video doorbell technology is getting better and better, traditional video cameras often reign supreme in terms of video quality, motion detection, and field of view, among other things.

That’s not to downplay the quality of video doorbells because many of them have HD video; however, if you want to monitor areas outside of your entrance, you will need some security cameras.

How Video Doorbells Are Powered

Video doorbells are powered in one of three ways. They’ll either be wireless or hard-wired into the home but some of them are actually able to use solar energy.

Wired Connections

A wired connection means not only that your doorbell is secured to your wall but that it’s also attached to your home through wires that are coming from somewhere inside. There are also two types of wired connection: existing electrical wire and Ethernet cables.

Existing Wires: Your old doorbell will be hard-wired into your home and if your video doorbell requires wires, you’ll simply use the existing wires. The benefits of doing this include:

  • You have a hard-wired connection that is reliable.
  • This is ideal for businesses that need a more consistent connection.
  • These are slightly more difficult to steal.
  • The doorbell will still sound throughout the home or building.
  • This will keep the doorbell charged.

The drawbacks of using existing wires include:

  • The installation process takes longer.
  • You can’t easily change the location.
  • Installation may require professional assistance.

Power Over Ethernet: Power over Ethernet, or POE, describes doorbells that connect to your Ethernet cable. The Ethernet cable supplies constant power and Internet connection. The other benefits of this connection type include:

  • Greater reliability
  • Less cable clutter because one cable supplies power and Internet
  • Advantages for businesses
  • No worry about spotty WiFi
  • Ease of installation over traditional wired connections

The drawbacks would include:

  • They are more difficult to install than wireless doorbells.
  • It may be difficult to hide the Ethernet cable.
  • Not all doorbells are compatible with Ethernet.

Wireless Connections:

On the other hand, you can buy doorbell cameras that are completely wireless, meaning that they don’t require any existing wires or Ethernet cables to get power or connect to the WiFi. The primary source of power comes from batteries but some of them may support solar energy either partially or entirely.

Battery-Powered Doorbells: The battery-powered doorbells will come with a battery that is often rechargeable. This method is completely different from the wired connections and offers a completely different experience with both advantages and disadvantages. The benefits include:

  • The installation is easy without wires.
  • You can install it virtually anywhere along the door.
  • Batteries are rechargeable.
  • It is able to wirelessly transmit signals.
  • It can often connect to multiple receivers.

The disadvantages of a battery-powered doorbell include:

  • The battery will eventually die and need to be recharged.
  • A battery connection is less reliable than a hard-wired connection.
  • These devices are easier to steal.
  • They won’t have an indoor doorbell sound.

Solar-Powered Doorbells: Some video doorbells might be completely solar-powered and others may use solar energy to keep the battery from dying. The Ring doorbells, for example, have a mounting bracket that acts as a solar charger so that your battery stays charged all throughout the day and night. Ideally, the support from the solar energy would ensure that you never have to recharge your battery but it’s not always that perfect and you’ll likely have to buy additional equipment.

For solar power, it also depends on where your doorbell is located. If your doorbell isn’t exposed to the sun, a solar mounting bracket wouldn’t do any good. The other drawbacks are similar to other wireless connections.

How Video Doorbells Store Events

In addition to different power sources, doorbell cameras also store events differently, which will also determine how you access recorded videos. Doorbells either record continuously or record only when there is activity. The type of recording you need will also tell you which type of storage you need. The types of storage are local storage and cloud storage.

Local Storage: Local storage describes videos that are stored directly on the device, usually with an SD card. You’ll be able to remove the SD card whenever it’s full or whenever you need to access some footage and you can usually insert the SD card into your computer to view its contents. The advantages include:

  • You don’t have to pay to store videos.
  • You can replace the SD card once it’s full.
  • You are able to buy and use SD cards with more memory.
  • The device is not as vulnerable.

The disadvantages of this method include:

  • It uses a somewhat outdated technology.
  • SD cards don’t always have a lot of memory.
  • Video files can be large.
  • You can’t access recordings remotely.

Cloud Storage: Most video doorbells upload recordings to the cloud, which is convenient, simple, and accessible. The advantages of this method include:

  • You are able to access files remotely.
  • It is easier to record 24/7 if you wanted to.
  • You never have to buy SD cards.
  • It is easier to manage files.

The weaknesses of this storage method include:

  • The company is usually the one that controls the cloud account.
  • You’ll often need to pay a monthly fee to store recordings.
  • Cloud storage is more vulnerable.

Video Doorbell Features

There are several different features that separate smart doorbells from regular doorbells and even traditional video cameras. Deciding which features are most important to you will help you choose a doorbell that satisfies your needs. Keep in mind that these features won’t be equal across all doorbells and some doorbells are simply better quality. Among the best features are:

  • Motion Detection: Most of these smart doorbells will have some sort of motion detection. There are sensors in your device that look for movement; once there’s movement, the video camera will start recording. Obviously, there are a few issues with this feature, such as cars and birds.

However, some doorbells allow you to limit motion detection to people or adjust the sensitivity. When you are buying a doorbell, pay attention to the motion detection range.

  • Night Vision: How well can your doorbell see at night? After all, most criminal activity takes place at night and during this time, you are likely asleep, out, or just not expecting visitors so you want your doorbell camera to be able to see well at night.
  • Two-Way Audio: Most doorbells will have a microphone and a speaker that allows you to communicate back and forth with visitors. You will speak through a smartphone or another device and they will speak through the doorbell itself. This is one of the most essential features.
  • Live Viewing: Video doorbells transmit a signal back to your cell phone and you’ll be able to open the app and view a live feed of your front porch. If people are currently at the door, you can see them and communicate with them in real time. Depending on who the visitors are, you can choose to address them or simply watch them to see what they do.
  • High-Definition Video Recording: HD video quality is a huge perk but the quality of your video could depend on a few different factors. The quality of your Internet connection, for example, might affect video quality. These days, most doorbells record in 1080p and some even record in 1440p. If there is criminal activity, a clear image will be extremely helpful.
  • Recorded Events: In addition to live viewing, you will also be able to record events. When somebody presses your doorbell, the camera will automatically start recording. Motion will generally trigger the camera but there are several doorbells that make it possible to record 24/7.
  • Weather Rating: Video doorbells have an Ingress Protection rating or IP rating that tells you how well it can handle certain weather conditions. The IP rating will tell you whether or not the device is adequately sealed to protect against dust and water. IP54, IP55, IP65, IP66, and IP67 are all IP ratings. The higher the number, the better the device will resist water and dust.
  • Operating Temperature: Some of them are waterproof and dustproof but if you live in a place with extreme temperatures, you’ll want to make sure that the doorbell can withstand your highs and your lows. Some doorbells can handle temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit while others may not be able to handle negatives at all. As far as heat, these doorbells can withstand temperatures as high as 140 degrees.
  • Remote Viewing: Remote viewing is another essential feature; without it, a video doorbell isn’t nearly as helpful. Remote viewing capabilities mean that you can watch your front door from anywhere in the world that has an Internet connection. Whether you are at work or in another country, you’ll still get alerts and you’ll still be able to check the live feed.

Major Players

There are several stand-out brands in the video doorbell game and all of them have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Ring

Ring is an Amazon-controlled security company that manufactures security products. Their first and most notable product, the Ring Video Doorbell, is a doorbell with an HD camera, motion detection sensors, and Internet connectivity. The device pairs with the Ring mobile app, where users can watch live video, manage recordings, and speak to visitors using the two-way audio system. The device also features infrared night vision and a wide field of view. Their product line includes:

  • Video Doorbell
  • Video Doorbell 2
  • Video Doorbell Pro
  • Video Doorbell Elite

In addition to the tiered product line, Ring also has tiered protection plans for all its devices. The protection plans unlock more features that include professional monitoring.

Strengths of Ring:

  • Backing of Amazon
  • Integration with Alexa and other Ring products
  • Crisp, clear images
  • Ease of use and installation
  • Two-way communication system
  • Functional smartphone app
  • Durability and resistance to water and weather
  • Advanced motion detection

Weaknesses of Ring:

  • Price
  • Monthly fee to access all features
  • Short battery life
  • Costly cloud storage
  • Poor audio has been reported

Zmodo

Zmodo is a global provider of smart home systems and in addition to doorbells, they also sell smart home products, indoor cameras, and outdoor security cameras. Their doorbell product line includes:

  • Greet 1.0 Smart Doorbell
  • Greet Pro Smart Doorbell
  • Greet HD Smart Doorbell
  • Greet Select Smart Doorbell

Zmodo is unique because they own their hardware and their user experience end-to-end, which often makes for a better experience overall. They have a smartphone app for their devices but they’ve had a reputation of being incompatible with other smart home devices. They’ve only recently announced compatibility with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

Their doorbells do require a wired connection so it’s easier if you have an existing doorbell. That being said, Zmodo would work well for businesses that need a reliable connection.

Strengths of Zmodo:

  • Two-way audio
  • HD video
  • Smart motion detection
  • Real-time alerts
  • Ability to record voice messages
  • Free and paid cloud storage
  • Automatic night vision

Weaknesses of Zmodo:

  • You must have existing wires.
  • It is not always compatible with other smart home devices.

Skybell

Skybell has yet to explore other home security products but their doorbell cameras are often considered some of the best on the market. The company is big enough to be able to provide all of the essential features such as motion detection, HD video, and night vision. These doorbells are integration-friendly and work well with a variety of third-party devices. All of their devices are made wholly in the USA and they pride themselves on simplicity and convenience as well as security.

They have two different doorbells: the Skybell HD and the Skybell Trim Plus. The former model won an award for design and engineering and looks a lot different from other doorbells you’ll see.

Strengths of Skybell:

  • Compatible with many third-party devices
  • Simple and easy-to-use devices
  • High weather rating
  • HD video
  • Free cloud storage
  • Quiet mode for nighttime
  • Excellent hardware

Weaknesses of Skybell:

  • No wireless options so you’ll need a wired connection
  • Limited models available

Remo+

Remo+ is perhaps a lesser-known brand that manufactures security cameras as well as doorbells. They are also credited with the world’s first over-the-door, wireless smart camera that has all the capabilities of a video doorbell without the actual doorbell. You’ll be able to see who’s visiting and speak to them through the noise-canceling mic and speaker.

Their doorbells include three versions of the RemoBell, including the RemoBell S and the RemoBell W. The doorbells are hard-wired devices but the smart camera is perfect for apartments and other buildings without existing doorbells.

Strengths of Remo+:

  • Wireless smart cameras for doors
  • On-demand streaming for video products
  • HD video and high-quality audio
  • Ability to customize motion sensors
  • Full 180-degree field of view
  • Weather resistance
  • Compatibility with third-party devices and IFTTT

Weaknesses of Remo+:

  • You will have to pay for cloud storage.
  • Software is lacking.

Which Video Doorbell Should I Buy?

The doorbell camera you choose for your building will depend on which features are most important to you and it also depends on what building you are buying the doorbell for. A product that works perfectly for your home may not be perfect for your businesses.

  • For Businesses: Hard-Wired Doorbells: Businesses arguably need more surveillance than homes but one thing that they definitely need is reliability. Hard-wired doorbells ensure that you can monitor your building’s entrance 24/7 without having to worry about battery loss. Needing to change your battery or address connection concerns might disrupt important business matters but with a hard-wired connection, you always have a reliable connection. Even better, if you use an Ethernet cord, you’ll get power and Internet with a single cable.
  • For Apartments: Wireless Doorbells: For most apartment buildings, it’s perfectly fine for renters to install a video doorbell but there usually won’t be an existing doorbell to work with. Not to mention, landlords might not want you getting into the walls or wiring new devices into the building so wireless doorbells are perfect for this situation.
  • For Homes: Wired or Wireless: If you are buying for your home, you aren’t as restricted and you can choose the doorbell that best suits your need. Not all homes have existing doorbells so some homeowners will find it easier to buy wireless devices but others may take comfort in the reliability that comes with connecting the doorbell to existing wires or Ethernet cable. It’s completely up to you.

Recommended Video Doorbells

Ring and Zmodo are two brands that dominate the video doorbell industry and whether you are buying for your home or for your business, we recommend all of the following:

Ring Video Doorbell 2

The Ring Video Doorbell 2 is a simple product with a range of capabilities. You’ll be able to hard-wire it into your home but it’s also battery-powered for those without existing doorbells. The Ring 2 has all of the best features including 1080p HD video, live viewing, night vision, and adjustable motion detection. It features a slightly upgraded audio system with noise-canceling capabilities and you can purchase it in satin nickel or Venetian.

It’s fully compatible with Amazon Alexa products and other smart home systems using IFTTT applets. Naturally, it lacks a few features that you’ll find with the Ring Pro or Ring Elite, such as customizable faceplates, and as with other Ring products, you’ll need a protection plan to access all of the features.

Strengths of the Ring Video Doorbell 2:

  • Ability to connect to existing wires for constant battery charging
  • Crisp, clear video and enhanced audio
  • Ease of installation
  • Compatibility with other smart home devices
  • Motion detection that triggers recording
  • Name-brand product with Amazon backing

Weaknesses of the Ring Video Doorbell 2:

  • Lacks pre-buffering so some footage may be slow to load
  • Is bulky compared to other Ring products
  • Requires a subscription for cloud storage and other features

Ring Video Doorbell Elite

The Ring Video Doorbell Elite is a professional-grade product that uses POE instead of existing doorbell wires or batteries. This is sort of a luxury doorbell camera with high-end features, top-of-the-line hardware, and better overall design. In addition to the better hardware, it can do everything that the Ring 2 can do. Of course, this does come with a price and the Elite is the most expensive video doorbell out there.

Strengths of the Ring Elite:

  • Professional grade
  • Ability to mount flush to your wall
  • Maximum reliability with Ethernet
  • Ample design and features
  • Audio with noise cancellation
  • Pre-buffering

Weaknesses of the Ring Elite:

  • It will probably require a professional installation.
  • It is expensive.
  • A payment plan is required to access full features.

Zmodo Greet HD Video Doorbell

The Greet HD Video Doorbell is Zmodo’s updated version of their original Greet and features 1080p video, upgraded hardware, and compatibility with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. It also features all of the latest capabilities such as video sharing, custom motion detection, and cloud storage. Zmodo manufactures all sorts of home security products so you know that they are capable. You can download the free mobile app, which allows you to access your video feed from anywhere in the world.

Strengths of the Greet:

  • Wired connection for reliability
  • All of the latest features
  • Security screw that deters theft
  • Certification for outdoor use
  • Device sharing
  • Instant alerts
  • Custom messages

Weaknesses of the Greet:

  • Field of view is just 120 degrees (Ring Elite is 160).
  • It requires a payment plan to access all of the features.

Greet Pro Smart Doorbell

The Greet Pro Smart Doorbell is Zmodo’s most advanced device so it’s got all of the same features as their other models, including the one listed above. One thing that sets the Greet devices apart from others is the ability to record messages for visitors that will play when you aren’t available. Not only does the Greet Pro have a 180-degree field of view but you can also pan the camera to see from side to side, which is not a common feature. The app gives you a lot of control over your settings and alerts so it’s extremely convenient and simple.

Strengths of the Greet Pro:

  • Most advanced Greet device available
  • Affordability compared to other top-tier models
  • HD video
  • Wide camera angle and panning capabilities
  • Real-time alerts and the ability to set messages
  • Wired connection for consistent power

Weaknesses of the Greet Pro:

  • Subscription required to access all features
  • Minor barrel distortion

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