The Best Video Doorbells
Gone are the days of "Knock, knock! Who’s there?" when someone's at your front door. Thanks to technology like networked doorbell cameras and digital peepholes, you don’t need to race from the kitchen to the front door to see who’s outside. Digital peepholes let you see who's there at a glance via a digital display by your door. And remote doorbell cameras let you reach for your smartphone or phone when the doorbell rings to see a photo or live streaming video from your doorbell camera.
When choosing the best video doorbell for you home, you'll want to assess your door answering needs. First, do you just want to see who's there when you're at home, or do you want to "answer" the door when you're away as well? If you just need to check when you're at home, a digital peephole viewer that mounts on your door to give you a large, wide-angle view of who's on your doorstep may be the way to go. Another at-home solution is a phone system that rings and shows you on your handset who's at the door.
If you need to see who's visiting your home when you're away, upgrade to a Wi-Fi-enabled video doorbell. These internet-connected doorbells let you see who's there, and they're also often motion-activated so they can capture and store video of visitors, even those who don't end up ringing the bell.
The final decision is whether to go with a battery-operated or wired solution.
With all of these factors in mind, we found the best, most highly rated and reviewed doorbell cameras plus a digital peephole viewer to cover every video doorbell situation. Check out our picks below.
Brinno Digital PeepHole Viewer (PHV1325)
Tired of having to peep through a small hole at your front door to see who’s outside? The Brinno Digital PeepHole Viewer can do it for you. One tap displays the view on a 2.7-inch TFT LCD panel — much more viewing area than you'd see through your peephole. Zoom the display to enlarge the center of the picture and get a better view of your guest’s face. You can go from a fairly wide, 95-degree area of view to a zoomed-in, narrower 60-degree angle of view.
The Brinno Digital Peephole fits any door between 1.38 and 2.24 inches thick. To install, simply replace your current peephole with the one in the kit, attach the display mounting bracket and pop on the display. Two AA batteries power the device for approximately 1,500 peeps. When the batteries run low, the Brinno PeepHole Viewer alerts you with a blinking red light.
Since this is a door-mounted solution, you'll still need to go to the display panel on the door to see who’s there. But it beats peering through a narrow peephole, and at $75, it's less than half the price of the other video doorbell solutions on our top picks list.
The Brinno Digital PeepHole Viewer is available on Amazon for $75.
Ring Video Doorbell
The Ring Video Doorbell has been described as similar to having caller ID for your front door. It uses Wi-Fi to stream live footage of whoever's at your door to your mobile device. Not only do you get to see who’s at your door, but you can talk to guests via one-way video and two-way audio, even if you’re not at home.
Set the Ring Video Doorbell to detect outdoor movement in preset zones so that when a guest comes within the detection zone (which is as large as 30 feet), the Ring mobile app sends a ring alert to your iOS, Android or Windows device. You can create custom detection zones with the smaller, slimmer and more compact Ring Video Doorbell Pro, which also features changeable face plates.
The Ring Video Doorbell stays on the lookout even at night, thanks to infrared LEDs that help it capture video in the dark. You can record up to six months’ worth of 720p high-definition video (or 1080p full HD on the Pro model), then save it to cloud storage automatically so you can easily review recorded clips or share them with others, such as security or law enforcement. Automatic cloud storage requires a subscription to the Cloud Video Recording Plan at $3 per month or $30 per year. Ring offers a 30-day free trial for both subscription types.
The Ring Video Doorbell’s internal battery powers the device for as long as a year with normal use. Choose the built-in battery, or hook it up to your existing doorbell wiring. The Pro model requires an existing hardwired doorbell.
The Ring Video Doorbell connects to smart home devices through IFTTT recipes, so you can set recipes for a set of actions, like having your Philips Hue lights turn on when the Ring Video Doorbell senses motion at the front door.
For more information or to buy this front door monitor for $198, visit the Ring Video Doorbell product page on Amazon. The $249 Pro model will launch in late April and is available for preorder at Ring.
August Doorbell Cam
The August Doorbell Cam guards your front door 24/7. Whenever someone rings the doorbell, it sends an alert to your phone so you'll know someone’s at the door even if you’re not at home. This doorbell cam also has a built-in motion detector to alert you whenever someone approaches your front door.
The August Doorbell Cam's built-in high-definition camera (1280 x 960 pixels) streams a live video feed over your Wi-Fi internet connection to the August Smart Lock app, reaching you anywhere you have an internet connection. See exactly who your visitors are and speak with them through the built-in mic and speaker. You maintain complete privacy because the video stream goes one way, so visitors won’t see you or even know if you are inside.
One of the best things about the August Doorbell Cam is that it works seamlessly with the August Smart Lock ($199.99 on Amazon). The August Smart Lock replaces the interior part of your current deadbolt lock; you can keep the look and feel of your current hardware on the outside. This system is smart enough to know when you're coming and going and won't unlock the door if you're simply passing by the door inside the house. Yet one tap on the Smart Lock app unlocks the front door from wherever you are in the house or anywhere else with an internet connection. No need to go to the front door, and no need to purchase the August Connect system, since the Doorbell Cam has the technology built for Wi-Fi features like remote buzz-ins and real-time unlock alerts.
VTech IS7121-2 Handset Answering System
The VTech IS7121-2 combines a full-featured cordless phone and a doorbell camera intercom in one convenient system. The doorbell camera lets you see who’s at the door by capturing a photo of visitors who ring the bell. The handset's 1.8-inch display is small, but you can pan and zoom or adjust the contrast to get a better view. Once you know who's at the door, turn on live video streaming to see more of what’s going on, enable two-way audio to chat with your guest or enable both to engage in a quick video chat.
The VTech doorbell cam's night vision technology can capture pictures in low light. If you're not there, the doorbell camera takes a shot so you'll know who rang the bell when you weren't home. The visitor photo log holds up to 100 shots.
The system comes with the doorbell camera, up to five handsets, charging bases for each handset and one charging base with a built-in answering machine. The doorbell camera requires power and is meant to replace your existing doorbell ringer unit using your existing doorbell wiring.
The handsets use DECT 6.0 technology, the best cordless phone technology on the market for distance and call clarity. The handsets also feature Voice Announce caller ID, push to talk, Caller ID call waiting and an eco mode to conserve power when in close range of the base. The system can expand up to 10 handsets and two cameras.
[Image credit: Ring; August; Brinno; VTech; Delivery boy with cardboard pizza box near house of customer via Shutterstock]