Do you really need a video doorbell?

Video doorbells claim to help enhance home security and make it easier and more efficient to organise deliveries. But do you really need one? We reveal all...

Do you really need a video doorbell: Nest Hello review
(Image credit: Nest)

Video doorbell manufacturers claim that these handy – and increasingly popular – devices offer an easy solution to home security and make the process of receiving parcels easier and more efficient. But do the best video doorbells stand up to the test? And do you really need one?

We've enlisted the help of TechRadar's Gerald Lynch to clarify exactly what a video doorbell is and provide insight into whether you actually need one in your life. Read his thoughts below, then decide whether this smart device is for you.

What is a video doorbell?

A video doorbell – also know as a smart doorbell – is a web-connected, intercom system for your home. But, unlike a standard system, these doorbells also send notifications straight to your mobile devices, showing you a live video feed of whoever is waiting on your doorstep.

This makes it easy to communicate with visitors via an installed speaker, without having to open the door. This is ideal if you're away from home and want to organised a parcel delivery; or if you find the prospect of opening the door to a stranger daunting and want to see who's there first.

Some video doorbells are also equipped with infrared sensors, motion detectors and AI facial recognition systems, letting you know when someone is approaching your property without them even pushing the buzzer – handy if you’re finding your home attracts nefarious or undesirable guests.

Is it easy to install and set up a video doorbell?

For the most part, yes. Especially if you opt for one of the battery-powered options. The Ring Video Doorbell 2, for instance, is one of the best smart doorbells on the market, and can be either wired up to your home, or powered by a rechargeable battery.

In the case of the latter set-up, it’s merely a matter of securing its casing to your doorframe with adhesive tape, and then pairing it with your home Wi-Fi connection though the Ring app to get started.

Can video doorbells interact with other smart devices?

If you have a screen-packing Amazon Echo device, like the Amazon Echo Show or Echo Spot, Ring doorbells can beam video feeds to the display’s of those Amazon Alexa products.

Elsewhere, you can use IFTTT (If This Then That) applications to make smart doorbells communicate with and trigger other smart devices in your home. For instance, if you had Philips Hue Smart Bulbs installed, you could program them to come on whenever the doorbell is pushed – useful for giving the appearance that you’re at home even when you are away.

Read our reviews of other smart lighting devices:

What are the best smart video doorbells?

There are many options on the market when it comes to buying smart doorbells. But at this present moment, it’s only really two companies – Nest and Ring – who are battling it out for dominance. Here are our picks for the top three smart doorbell devices. You can find the best of the rest video doorbells in our buyer's guide.

The Ring Doorbell 2

The Ring Video Doorbell 2 is our overall top pick when it comes to buying a smart doorbell which can be installed with wired or wireless installation. Powered by either the mains or a rechargeable battery, it’s very easy to install, offering installation flexibility that no other doorbell can lay claim to. Its notification alerts are swift, and the full HD video it sends to your smart device is clear and of consistently good quality.

The wide angle lens it uses also gives you a great view of your property, whereas other options can be a bit more narrow. Working with screen-equipped Amazon Echo devices, it also has one of the more affordable video storage plans, starting at £2.50 a month.

Ring Doorbell Pro

Though its name would lead you to believe the Ring Video Doorbell Pro is superior to the Doorbell 2, there’s actually not much to separate the two in practical terms of functionality. It’s slimmer, but that’s because it doesn’t offer a battery installation option, and uses AI video analysis rather than an infrared sensor to detect motion.

In theory, that should make it better equipped to differentiate between a pigeon flying past your door and a burglar scoping out your property, but it’s for you to decide if that’s worth the extra expense. It’s a great doorbell either way though, and offers the same video storage plan pricing as the other Ring models.

Nest Hello

If you’re serious about home security, the Nest Hello is what you should be considering. Whereas the competition only record video when triggered by motion sensing, the Nest Hello is constantly recording video, giving you a complete record of the goings-on around your property. It also uses facial recognition analysis to detect over time who is approaching your home and alert you to specific visitors headed your way, known or unknown.

That comprehensive approach to video surveillance however brings with it additional but optional storage costs – the Nest Aware subscription starts at £4 a month for access to five days worth of video history. 

But to make the most of that 24-hr video service, the key differentiator between Nest Hello and the competition, you’re probably going to want the premium £24 a month package, which offers a 30-day video history to browse.

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Gerald is Home Tech Editor for the UK's largest tech site, TechRadar. When he isn't writing about the latest tech he is living it and can often be found gaming (but only on a 4K HDR screen with 7.1 surround sound of course...)