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Best video doorbell 2020: Video doorbell systems with or without a subscription

Best video doorbell 2020: Video doorbell systems with or without a subscription
(Image credit: Ring)

The best video doorbell will combine great camera quality with two-way audio, and will be a breeze to install. 

In this guide, we run down the best video doorbell cameras that means you can see exactly who’s at your door, even when you’re not at home. With so many video doorbells on the market nowadays, you’ll want to know where to get the most bang for your buck and our reviews will help you find out. 

The best video doorbells will connect to smart home products including Amazon Alexa, but you’ll also be able to log in to a smartphone app and speak to visitors via your phone as the video doorbell will have an in-built microphone and speaker.

Some people want a video doorbell without a subscription and many of the top picks do offer this, however, if you want to record video, rather than just watch it live, you can expect to pay a monthly subscription. 

What else should you look for in a video doorbell? Camera quality is key so you’re getting a nice crisp video, our top pick the Ring Video Doorbell 2 offers a 1080p camera resolution, whereas others offer less than 800p. 

Ease of installation is also important so that you can set up your video doorbell without much hassle. Other features such as two-way audio and compatibility with smart locks will make your video doorbell a worthwhile investment. 

What’s more, take note of the field of view each video doorbell offers, this means you’ll be able to spot deliveries or visitors wherever they’re standing. 

For many, though, choosing a video doorbell will depend on how much they cost. The best video doorbell doesn’t necessarily cost the most and the models in this guide range from around $90 up to over $400. 

To find the best video doorbell for you, check out the options below.


1. Ring Video Doorbell 2: Best video doorbell overall

Ring Video Doorbell 2

(Image credit: Ring)

Ring Video Doorbell 2

The best balance of features we've seen in a smart doorbell

Camera resolution: *: 1080p | Field of view: 160-degrees | Audio: Two-way | Compatible smart locks: Kevo. Lockitron & Remotelock | Smart home platforms: Alexa, ADT Pulse, IFTTT, Wemo, SmartThings | Connects to existing chime: Optional

Easier to install than any other smart doorbell
Works with many smart home products
Excellent video quality
Lifetime warranty requires subscription
No free video storage option
Can't silence doorbell chime

While it's not as sleek as the Ring Video Doorbell Pro and lacks the brilliant smart lock controls of the August Doorbell Cam Pro, the Ring Video Doorbell 2 has the best balance of features we've seen in a smart doorbell.

Foremost is the doorbell's easy installation, you can install it anywhere if you run it off the battery, but it can also connect it to your existing doorbell chime to keep it powered all the time. Its excellent video quality shows enough detail day and night, even though it didn't perform as well as some competitors in our testing.

The removable battery pack is easier to charge than the original Ring's battery, which required removing the entire unit from the wall. Aside from hardware differences between the Ring Video Doorbell 2 and its predecessor, both products work the same on the software side, though the Ring mobile app reacts more quickly to the Ring 2.

While there's no free video storage option like the ones from August and SkyBell, Ring's cloud storage prices are the lowest in our comparison, starting at $3 a month per doorbell camera. However, if you choose Ring's most expensive plan, you get a lifetime warranty and can store footage from an unlimited number of cameras. The Ring Video Doorbell 2 doesn't let you silence your doorbell chime like with Ring Pro, August, Nest and SkyBell.


2. Ring Video Doorbell: Best value video doorbell

Ring Video Doorbell

(Image credit: Ring)

Ring Video Doorbell

It may be cheap, but comes with great smart home connectivity

Camera resolution: *: 720p | Field of view: 180-degrees | Audio: Two-way | Compatible smart locks: Kevo. Lockitron & Remotelock | Smart home platforms: Alexa, ADT Pulse, IFTTT, Wemo, SmartThings | Connects to existing chime: Optional

Installs anywhere
Works with many smart home products
Lowest video quality in our tests
No angled mounting brackets
Lifetime warranty requires subscription

The original Ring Video Doorbell only costs $99/£89, making it about $100/£90 cheaper than the average video doorbell on test. 

After installation, you connect this doorbell to your WiFi network using the Ring smartphone app, which lets you take calls, speak to visitors and give instructions to delivery people using the doorbell’s built-in speaker and microphone. You can also connect it to other smart home products such as Amazon Alexa, SmartThings and Wink.

While you can view your Ring's live video anytime without a subscription, you can expect to pay between $3 and $10 a month to record video. The $3 cloud storage plan is the most affordable compared to paid plans we looked at, but the $10 plan includes a lifetime warranty for your Ring products and records video from unlimited Ring doorbells and security cameras.

As with most smart doorbells, the Ring only works with mechanical doorbell chimes, though you can buy the Ring Chime for an extra $29 or rely on alerts sent direct to your phone. 

At 720p, the Ring Doorbell’s video quality isn't as good as other products we tested, though certainly good enough for most people considering the price. Unlike the Ring Video Doorbell 2, this unit doesn't come with angled brackets for mounting in tight corners.


3. August Doorbell Cam Pro: Best video doorbell for smart locks

August Doorbell Cam Pro

(Image credit: August)

August Doorbell Cam Pro

Offers seamless integration with August smart locks

Camera resolution: *: 720p | Field of view: 120-degrees | Audio: Two-way | Compatible smart locks: August | Smart home platforms: Alexa, Nest, IFTTT, Google Home, Honeywell | Connects to existing chime: Required

Uses same app as August Smart Lock
Free video storage option
Answer calls from phone lock screen
Only works with mechanical chimes
Short battery life

This doorbell camera has excellent video quality, despite only featuring a 720p camera, while we really like its innovative call format that shows a video on your phone's lock screen rather than a simple notification like other smart doorbells we tested. Connect it to an August Smart Lock and it even allows you to let people into your home without leaving the call. It's the only smart doorbell we tested that does this while others require you to leave the call or the app to unlock a companion smart lock.

August's basic cloud video storage is free, but is limited to 24 hours. There's also a paid plan that costs around $4.99 a month, which is competitive with similar offerings from other video doorbells. As with similar products, it records video when it detects motion, but it also saves 30 seconds of footage from before the sensor was triggered to give you more context into what happened, provided you pay for a cloud storage plan.

To install the August Doorbell Cam Pro, you need a mechanical doorbell chime since it doesn't work with digital chimes. Unlike SkyBell and Ring, it doesn't have an adapter or add-on for digital chime functionality. As with most video doorbells, this one has a built-in battery, but it can't run off the battery for very long, less than a day in our experience, so you’ll want to think about a wired connection if this is the doorbell for you.


4. Nest Hello: Best video doorbell for advanced features

Nest Hello

(Image credit: Nest)

Nest Hello

Facial recognition, people detection and pre-recorded responses featured

Camera resolution: *: 720p | Field of view: 160-degrees | Audio: Two-way | Compatible smart locks: Nest X Yale | Smart home platforms: Nest, IFTTT, Google Home | Connects to existing chime: Required

Advanced detection
Pre-recorded responses
Slim design
Most expensive video storage subscription

Nest Hello comes with the most advanced features we've seen in a smart doorbell: facial recognition, people detection and pre-recorded responses you can use to relay information to visitors without answering a call.

Our favorite feature was the pre-recorded responses that inform visitors to leave a package, wait for someone to come to the door or say no-one is available. During our tests, we found that the Nest Hello produced the second-best video quality, only Ring Pro had better video.

Nest Hello has a slim form factor that fits on most door frames and is the only video doorbell we reviewed with a two-year warranty. It's a great option if you have other Nest devices in your smart home but has limited smart home functionality otherwise. If you want to record video, prices start at $5/£4 a month for five days video history (that’s footage recorded 24/7, not clips), and goes up to $30/£24 for 30 days video history.


5. Ring Video Doorbell Pro: Best premium video doorbell

Ring Video Doorbell Pro

(Image credit: Ring)

Ring Video Doorbell Pro

Its attractive design lets you customize it to match your tastes

Camera resolution: *: 1080p | Field of view: 160-degrees | Audio: Two-way | Compatible smart locks: Kevo. Lockitron & Remotelock | Smart home platforms: Alexa, ADT Pulse, IFTTT, Wemo, SmartThings | Connects to existing chime: Required

Slim design
Interchangeable faceplates
Customizable motion zones
No battery back-up
Installation process could be easier

Ring Video Doorbell Pro looks more like a traditional doorbell button than other video doorbells we tested. Its attractive, slim design and interchangeable faceplates let you customize it to match your tastes.

While 20% smaller than the Ring Doorbell 2, the compromise here is that it requires a power supply, so installation might require some professional help if you don’t feel confident doing this.

It's the only Ring doorbell we tested with people detection features and fully-customizable motion detection zones. It also has the best video quality of the smart doorbells we tested, though it's not so much better than the competition that it's worth the higher price.

As with Ring's other doorbells, you can get excellent smart home options and cloud video storage for as low as $3 a month.


What to look for when buying a video doorbell

When someone calls at your door, the video doorbell is only as good as the video and audio available.

In essence, the higher the video resolution, the sharper the footage captured. Some video doorbells feature 720p HD recording, but for those looking for the best clarity will want a video doorbell that can record in 1080p Full HD. While footage recorded in 720p is perfectly adequate, footage at 1080p will have much more detail, making it that much easier to work out what’s going on and who’s visiting your front door.

It’s not just video capture during daylight hours that you need to think about, but night-time as well. Video doorbells handle this in a couple of different ways, with some using motion-activated LEDs to light the area in front of the camera, while others use infrared night vision to see what’s happening. Unlike motion-activated LEDs, infrared night vision sees footage recorded in black and white.

Field of view shouldn’t be ignored either. Some video doorbells like the Ring Video Doorbell 2 features 160-degree viewing angles, which depending where its positioned, will allow you to potentially see your whole porch and driveway. Others feature narrower fields of view, which means you won’t get quite the same ultra-wide coverage.

It’s not just about the picture quality - audio can be just as important when looking for the best video doorbell. Units should have both microphones and speakers built into them, allowing you not only hear what’s being said, but to reply and have a brief conversation, even that’s to simply to tell the FedEx delivery man to leave the package on the porch.

Video doorbell installation

Video doorbells either require mains power or rechargeable batteries to work. If you opt for a mains powered device, most doorbells require 16 volts or more to work. This shouldn’t be an issue on newer houses, but might be a problem on older properties.

Installation should take between 10 and 20 minutes to install most video doorbells, though it can take longer if you're not experienced with electrical work. In most cases, you only need a screwdriver to install a video doorbell, though you may need to drill some holes beforehand and if you're installing it on a door frame, make sure there's enough space since video doorbells aren’t as slim as normal doorbell buttons.

If the prospect of finding your doorbell transformer, turning off the power and manipulating electrical wiring to set up a smart doorbell is too much for you, some retailers offer installation services. Another option is to hire a licensed electrician to do the work.

Alternatively, some doorbells like the Ring Video Doorbell 2, can run entirely on battery power, making installation a much more painless process. While you’ll have to recharge these units, battery life can be anything up to 12 months, though expect less.

Will you be able to hear the doorbell?

As well as getting an alert sent to your phone, you’ll probably want the doorbell to ring traditionally as well. To do this, you’ll need a chime unit. Most of the time, these can be wired to your existing mechanical chime unit if you’re replacing a doorbell with a mains powered device, while others will require a digital chime unit. Some supply these in the box with the doorbell, while they can be an extra purchase. Easy to install, they connect wirelessly and simply need to be plugged into a power socket.

Video is stored in the cloud

Video doorbells don’t need a subscription to view live video, get notifications or speak with visitors. However, you need one if you want to record your video to the cloud, where footage is stored remotely and securely and available to view if you need it.

They aren’t a substitute for dedicated outdoor security cameras, it can be handy to have footage backed up should you need it, so expect to pay between $3/£2 and $30/24 a month for cloud storage, depending on how long you want access to older videos.

Smart lock pairing

One of the most exciting features of video doorbells is that you can pair most of them with a smart lock such as the Kwikset Kevo and August Smart Lock to let guests in when you're unable to come to the door. However, the level of integration between a doorbell and lock can vary.

The biggest difference comes from doorbells and locks designed to work together. August and Nest make both smart locks and video doorbells, which let you unlock the door without leaving the app, though August is the only smart doorbell that lets you unlock the door from within the call. However, Ring and SkyBell don't make smart locks but give you a shortcut to partner apps instead.

Aside from smart locks, you can connect the video doorbell to voice assistants and smart speakers, such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, to get notifications and sometimes speak with people at the door. As part of a security system, the unit can help protect your home by detecting motion outside.

For more handy advice, check out our features including Breaking the system: Common methods thieves use to disable your home security, Are home security cameras legal?, Home Security: Wired vs. Wireless, and Are fake security cameras a smart idea?