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Best video doorbell cameras for 2021

If you want a smart doorbell to monitor deliveries or for answering the door while you're away, these are the best options.

A video doorbell is half doorbell and half security camera. Video doorbells work by sending real-time alerts to your phone and giving you access to a live video feed of who's ringing the bell. A built-in microphone and speaker allows you to chat with your guest via two way audio, and in some cases, the device will also have smart features like smart locks so you can let the person in without physically opening the door yourself. 

Most candidates for best video doorbell camera today fall into the smart video doorbell category. They're Wi-Fi-enabled and offer features such as a rechargeable battery, two-way communication, a motion detector, video feed and recording, along with the traditional doorbell button. But the designs, video quality, video storage subscriptions and installation process for each doorbell cam can vary.

We've highlighted our favorite models below, and we've explained exactly how we test video doorbells. So if you're looking for the best video doorbell, chances are it's among those we've tested. We update this list periodically.

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 a 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.

 

David Priest/CNET

Ring's Video Doorbell Wired is one of the best deals on the market: It's a fully functional video doorbell, with 1080p resolution and the standard notification features, including motion alerts and person-only alerts. Ring's app is easy to use, and gives fairly quick push notifications when people approach the door. It also offers two-way talk and reliable night vision.

Ring's $3 subscription service allows for 60-day video storage and a handful of other useful features, including Smart Responses with Alexa.

Editor's note, Dec. 14, 2020: Ring has been called out for its partnership with local police departments in the US, leading privacy advocates to express concern about the data Ring shares with law enforcement and how they use that information. In December 2019, thousands of Ring users' personal information was exposed, leading us to stop recommending Ring products.

Ring has since updated its security policies, from offering customers a Control Center dashboard to more easily access privacy and security settings to requiring two-factor authentication. We have resumed recommending Ring's products with this caveat: If you have concerns about Ring's privacy policies, make sure to familiarize yourself with its privacy statement. You can read more about how we factor Ring's privacy policies into our recommendations here.

Read our Ring Peephole Cam review.

Read CNET's review.

 

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 (it's 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 facial recognition.

Read the Nest Hello review.

 

Chris Monroe/CNET

The $199 Peephole Cam is Ring's answer to apartment doors -- or any doors with peepholes. If you don't want to -- or can't -- drill into a door frame to install a hardwired or battery-powered doorbell, the Peephole Cam is a solid alternative.

Entirely battery-powered, the Peephole Cam replaces your standard peephole in a few simple steps. You'll still be able to see through it like a regular peephole, but you'll also be able to pull up a live video feed of your front door on demand and talk to any visitors. If you subscribe to Ring's Protect cloud service, you'll also be able to view saved clips.

With its streamlined installation and clever workaround for apartment-dwellers, the Ring Peephole Cam is definitely worth considering.

Read our Ring Peephole Cam review.

 

How we test video doorbells

Testing to determine the best video 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 turned on by 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 together? 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 of 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. 

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