(Pocket-lint) - Video doorbells are essential to any smart home. They not only make sure you can see who is at your door and allow you to speak to delivery drivers if you aren't home, but they also keep an eye on what's happening at the front of your house, making for great security devices, too.
There are a number of options available, all of which have some great features, but it's worth considering that each company has different subscription options, as well. You'll need to factor this into the overall cost if you want to see what your video doorbell records during its time on your door.
The main thing you'll need to decide when buying a video doorbell, though, is whether you want a wired option or a battery-operated option. If you go for wired - like the Nest Hello - then you'll need to get an electrician to install it if you don't have an existing wired doorbell. The battery-operated options - like the Ring 3 Plus - can just be mounted to your door, but you'll need to charge the battery or buy a replacement battery to switch over.
We have a separate feature comparing the options from Nest, Ring, Arlo and Netatmo in detail, but here are our choices for the best video doorbells, all reviewed and rated by us.
Reviewed: Best smart video doorbells
The Nest Hello is our top choice for a video doorbell, but it is wired, so it may not be right for every home.
For those who can accommodate a wired variant, the Hello has some great features, including facial recognition, HDR imaging and a lovely, premium design.
Video and image quality are excellent, integration with Google Smart Displays is great and facial recognition works well. It's not cheap, but it is worth it.
Just keep in mind that you'll need a Nest Aware subscription to take advantage of some of the more premium features.
Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus
The Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus is our top pick for those who require a battery-operated video doorbell.
Its design isn't as sleek as the wired Nest Hello, but it has a great feature set and its outer casing can be customised.
It also offers customisable motion controls, pre-roll to capture events before they happen - delivering good quality footage throughout.
You'll want to pick up a Chime or Chime Pro in order to hear a ring throughout your home, and likely a Ring Protect subscription - which is needed to get the most out of the device.
Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free
Arlo's Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free is a great option for those that like the flexibility the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus offers, but the slimmer design of the Nest Hello.
It's bulkier than it looks from the front, but it offers great video quality, easy setup and integration with Arlo's wider system.
Just be aware that, as with pretty much every video doorbell, you'll have to subscribe in order to get the most out of it.
Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2
The Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 is another hardwired option, and it's got plenty of features, along with a good wide-angle view and decent quality footage.
It doesn't offer facial recognition like the Nest Hello, and you'll need to buy a Chime or Chime Pro separately, but the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 is an excellent choice for those after a wired option.
Once again, you'll need a Ring Protect subscription to access some features.
Ring Video Doorbell 2
The Ring Video Doorbell 2 has been superseded by the Doorbell 3 and 3 Plus, but it's still a great option with lots of features, and it's cheaper than its successors.
There's vibrant and clear footage to enjoy, and there are additional fascias and mounts for unusual doorways. So, as long as you don't require the improved Wi-Fi support and motion detection of newer models, it's well worth considering.
As with the other Ring doorbells, you'll need to buy a Chime or Chime Pro and a Ring Protect subscription to get the most out of this one.
Ring Door View Cam
The Ring Door View Cam is designed for those living in an apartment or flat, adding a viewfinder to enable you to replace your existing viewfinder and turn it into a video doorbell.
It offers a host of features, including an impact sensor for when someone knocks on the door rather than pushes the bell and privacy zones.
It's battery-powered for convenience but it, like others, still needs a Ring Protect subscription for all the features.
Arlo Video Doorbell
The Arlo Video Doorbell offers a similar design to the Wire-Free option from the company - albeit slimmer - but this model is wired and therefore requires professional installation.
It has a good feature set, including video calling your phone when someone pushes the doorbell, reducing lag, and it also has a 180-degree field of view and a square aspect ratio.
You'll need an Arlo Smart Plan, too, in order to take full advantage of this device.
How to buy a video doorbell
There are plenty of video doorbells to choose from, ready to keep your property secure and alert you when someone’s there, wherever you may be. Here’s how to pick the one that’s right for you.
What do I need from the camera sensor?
The higher the resolution, the greater the level of detail in the footage, and the chance that features like facial recognition will be useful. Additionally, some cameras have a wider field of vision than others, which is worth checking out so you know exactly what you’ll get to see.
Note that video doorbells use a lot of data, so if your wifi is slow, you may not see the benefits of a pricier camera with higher-resolution video.
Simplicity of installation
Do you want a wired or wireless video doorbell? Wired means there’s no battery to run flat, wireless means installation is significantly easier – just mount the doorbell in the right place and you’re done. But you will need to recharge the battery, sometimes as often as every couple of weeks.
Wired installation isn’t always tricky as in most cases the doorbell wiring is already in place. Unsure about doing it yourself? Factor in the cost of an electrician.
Does it need a home hub?
Some video doorbells connect to a hub that plugs into your broadband router, others connect directly to the router. Both work well, but the hub-free system takes less space. On the other hand, if you’re building a complete smart home system, you may need a hub to link them all together.
While video doorbells usually work independently, a hub can mean greater versatility. So, for instance, when the doorbell spots movement, if it’s in the same set-up as a smart light, you could program it so the light comes on at the same time.
Do you need a chime as well?
In many cases, the video doorbell will simply connect to the wiring for your existing bell, so the chime is already there. If not, or if the current chime isn’t compatible, you will need to buy a new chime.
There are plenty of features available, but these are a few you should check for.
Can you edit what part of the camera view it responds to? If you’re getting notifications every time a car passes the end of the drive that will get old quickly.
Does it have facial recognition? This is ideal if you want a quick message to confirm that the person on your doorstep is the dog walker or your child arriving home from school.
Does it have night vision? Is that in colour or black-and-white?
Does it record when it sees someone nearby rather than just when they actually press the doorbell?
Prices vary a lot, so this is always going to be a consideration. Sometimes, a more expensive model merely adds a spiffier design, a slimmer shape or a metal finish. Or you may be paying for features which you don’t need, so check carefully.
Is there an ongoing subscription?
In most cases, to get the absolute maximum out of your video doorbell, you’ll need to stump up for a monthly or yearly subscription. Without a subscription, you’ll still get notifications when the doorbell rings, but the camera may not store footage online, or not for as long.
Some extras, such as facial recognition, or the capability to tell the difference between a person or a parcel, cost extra, too.
Many subscriptions at least let you cancel at any time, so you might choose to subscribe for the extra features just in the months in which you’re going on holiday, say.
Additional reporting by David Phelan