Buyer’s Guide: Doorbell Cameras
Ahead, our guide breaks down the key features of doorbell cameras and offers details on our top-favorite picks.
Doorbell cameras have definitely arrived. They show “who’s there?” and most can be conveniently configured with a smartphone, computer, or smart home device, enabling a range of innovative functionality, such as the ability to remotely converse with the person at the door. It’s a brave new world, indeed, when it comes to the once-humble doorbell.
Want advice on picking the right video doorbell for your home, your budget, and your day-to-day needs? Read on for our guide to what to look for in a quality doorbell camera—and don’t miss our roundup of top-favorite picks among the best doorbell cameras available!
- BEST OVERALL: Ring Video Doorbell 2
- RUNNER-UP: UOKIER Wifi Video Doorbell Camera
- BEST VALUE: Eversecu Smart Home Doorbell with Motion Detection
So, what exactly sets apart the most reliable doorbell cameras? Below, we’ve outlined several of the features you’ll want in this home security gadget.
In order to sync the doorbell to your smartphone, you’ll need to download a mobile app. Through the app, you’ll configure all the doorbell’s features, such as real-time monitoring, taking a still photo, and remotely starting video recording.
Thirty years ago, virtually all doorbells were hard-wired into a home’s electrical system, but in the past two decades, manufacturers have been offering battery-powered models that don’t require wiring. If your home already has a wired doorbell, you can replace it with a wired doorbell camera, and you’ll never have to worry about replacing batteries. If you don’t have a wired doorbell, go with a battery-operated model.
Range of View
In most cases, you’ll want a doorbell camera with a wide range of view so you can see not only what’s directly in front of the door but also to both sides. Some doorbell cameras offer a full 180-degree range of view, allowing a full half-circle in front of the doorbell. Others offer a reduced range of view, some as narrow as 90 degrees. A range of view of at least 160 degrees should provide an adequate viewing area.
Most doorbell cameras offer some type of video recording—either continuous video recording (CVR) or motion-activated recording—which can be played back later. Playback is important should you need to review a portion of the video; for example, if you can’t find a package, you can go back and see where the delivery driver put it. Motion-activated recording stops when no more motion is detected, so you don’t have to sift through hours of recorded video to find a single event. Both CVR and motion-activated recording can be stored in the following three ways.
- To a local wired digital video recorder (DVR).
- To a removable micro-SD disk, inserted in the doorbell.
- To the cloud, which usually requires purchasing a subscription from the manufacturer.
The higher the video camera resolution, the clearer the video playback will be. Some of the cheapest models offer modest resolutions, as low as 480p (pixels), which can result in a grainy picture. Many top-of-the-line doorbell cameras are now beginning to offer resolutions up to 1080p, similar in picture quality to a newer television.
The most popular feature on doorbell cameras is a motion detection that can be configured to send an alert to your cell phone the instant someone approaches the door. If you live on a busy street full of pedestrian traffic and bicycles, however, you might not want frequent alerts every time someone passes by. Motion detection on some doorbell cameras can be configured to start recording video rather than sending an alert if you get too many “false” alerts.
Most camera doorbells come with night vision capability. When it gets dark outside, they automatically switch to infrared night vision mode so you can still see whoever approaches your door. Like daylight imagery, the higher the camera’s resolution, the better the image will
be when night vision is activated.
The newest feature in doorbell cameras is the ability to communicate verbally with the person at your door, via a smartphone or a smart home device. This feature comes in handy if you want to give a delivery person instructions on where to leave a package or ask visitors to state their business.
Smart Home Integration
Many camera doorbells operate as stand-alone recording devices, but others are designed to integrate with a smart home security system and can be configured to function with smart home devices such Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. If you have a smart home devices, make sure the doorbell you buy can be configured to work with the technology you already own.
Our Top Picks
1. BEST OVERALL: Ring Video Doorbell 2
With 1080p resolution, the Ring Video Doorbell 2 offers excellent video quality, both during the day and at night. We love its quick motion detection and 160-degree range of view, as well as its audio clarity and ability to pair with Amazon Echo devices. Motion-triggered video records directly to the cloud, which requires an annual subscription fee after one month of free service (no other video storage option is available). The Ring 2 can be hardwired into existing wiring, or it can be operated via a rechargeable battery pack. With the downloadable app, you can switch on live-view video from your smartphone or tablet.
2. RUNNER-UP: UOKIER Wifi Video Doorbell Camera
The UOKIER Wifi Video Doorbell Camera stands out for many reasons—its motion-detection capabilities, 166-degree range of view, night vision, and easy installation. Upon sensing motion, the UOKIER starts recording video in 1080p resolution and if you like, the device can be configured to send an alert to your phone or tablet via the free companion app. Two-way audio enables you to talk to the person at the door without opening the door, and waterproof construction helps ensure reliable functionality in any weather.
3. BEST VALUE: EVERSECU Smart Home Doorbell with Motion Detection
For the budget-minded, the inexpensive yet dependable EVERSECU Smart Home Doorbell with Motion Detection offers some advanced features, including motion detection, night vision, and real-time audio ability. The EVERSECU provides 720p resolution and comes with a 166-degree range of view. The motion detector can pick up movement within a 120-degree range and alert your smartphone. Because it runs on batteries, this unit a good choice for homes or apartments that lack an existing wired doorbell. Video records to a micro-SD card (sold separately) inserted in the back of the doorbell.