Video doorbells are a relatively new smart home category, but they closely overlap with standard home security cameras. They are, in fact, doorbells with built-in security cameras

With doorbell cameras, your guests will ring the buzzer just like they normally do, but you’ll get real-time alerts on your phone and a live video look at whoever’s there (in addition to a regular ol’ chime sound). You and your guest can then chat via a built-in speaker and microphone in the doorbell. In some cases, the device will also work with smart locks so you can let the person in without physically opening the door yourself. 

Most of the best video doorbell options today are Wi-Fi-enabled and offer features such as a rechargeable battery, two-way communication, a video feed and recording, along with the traditional doorbell button. But the designs, video quality, video storage subscriptions and general installation of each doorbell cam can vary a lot. Below in our doorbell reviews, we’ve highlighted our favorite models, and we’ve explained exactly how we test video doorbells, too. If you’re looking for the best video doorbell, chances are it’s among those we’ve tested.

The best video doorbells we’ve tested

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Arlo’s $150 Video Doorbell cam is easy to install, performs well and has competitive features and cloud storage fees, starting at $3 per month. With a cloud storage subscription, you get access to advanced functionality like custom person, animal, vehicle and package alerts.

The Arlo Video Doorbell, our pick for best video doorbell overall, also features a built-in siren, two-way audio, motion detection zones and arm/disarm modes.

Read more about the Arlo Video Doorbell.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Arlo’s Video Doorbell isn’t cheap, but this device offers an excellent overall value. For $3 per month you get access to advanced doorbell cam features like person, animal, vehicle and motion alerts. The camera also has arm/disarm modes, two-way audio, motion zones and a built-in siren, just like the Arlo Pro 3 outdoor security camera.

Read more about the Arlo Video Doorbell.

In addition to the basics such as 1080p HD video footage live streaming and motion detection and alerts, the Hello camera also offers free person detection. Person detection won’t tell you who’s at the door (not facial recognition — more on that below), but it will tell you it saw a person. For a monthly or yearly fee, you can also upgrade to the Nest Aware cloud storage subscription service. Along with access to saved HD video recordings (hello excellent video quality), this service adds that aforementioned facial recognition.  

Read the Nest Hello review.

More video doorbell options

How we test video doorbells

Testing a smart doorbell is similar to testing any other home security camera. First I download the corresponding app and create an account (if I don’t already have one). While a lot of products include tutorial booklets in the box with your purchase, I prefer to start with the app. A good app includes detailed steps on the installation process, as well as how to connect to your Wi-Fi network and actually get the device up and running. It’s your one-stop shop for taking your doorbell setup from start to finish.

Make sure the doorbell is installed based on the manufacturer’s specifications — either hardwired or battery- or solar-powered. As soon as it’s connected and I’m able to view the live video feed, I check the settings. I make sure features like motion detection or activity zones are enabled (they aren’t always enabled as a default) to get a complete sense of what it’s like to use the product — and to see how well the device actually works as a replacement to a regular, nonsmart doorbell. 


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What to look for

Does it work with smart home platforms? If so, do they work well? Nowadays smart home devices are expected to work with at least one major smart home platform — Amazon AlexaGoogle Assistant and Apple HomeKit are the main ones you need to look for.  

How’s the latency? If your smart doorbell camera takes a long time to get a push alert after someone rings your doorbell, then you risk missing your visitor completely. The same might even be true when the doorbell simply detects motion — you can set the motion sensor of most video doorbells to notify you to activity happening near your door, even if no one rings the buzzer.

If you have latency problems, start with your Wi-Fi connection. If it isn’t strong where the doorbell is installed, you might consider moving it (or, more easily, getting a Wi-Fi range extender). But it could also be the way the software works.

How’s the live view? Doorbells are often exposed to direct sunlight, but many others are installed under porches, near shady trees and in all sorts of other settings. It’s important that the camera has night vision and can handle any of these scenarios so you don’t get stuck with a nonfunctioning product that can’t see faces under a porch. 

How’s the two-way audio? If the doorbell’s microphone and speaker don’t work well, you’re going to have a tough time communicating with whoever’s there. I test this out multiple times to see how the doorbell’s audio sounds over my phone. 

Originally published in 2018, this guide was extensively rewritten in 2019. The RemoBell S was most recently added as the best overall pick and the best value pick.

The best facial recognition cameras: And how we test them.

The best products of 2020: Hand-picked by CNET’s experts.

Read more: 

Editors’ note, Dec. 19: Over 3,000 Ring customers have recently had their personal account information exposed, according to reports. We are removing all Ring products from recommendation. 



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