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Nest Doorbell (wired) review: A smart but dated video doorbell from Google

Google's 2018 video doorbell still holds up -- though it's not the standout it once was.

nest-hello-product-photos-3
Tyler Lizenby/CNET

In 2018, Google launched its first video doorbell, the Nest Hello. Now in 2021, the device has gotten a new name: the Nest Doorbell (wired). The question is, how does the 2018 video doorbell -- impressively smart for its time -- hold up three years on?

At first glance, the Nest Doorbell (wired) is an HD livestreaming camera-buzzer combination like any other smart doorbell. You can view the video feed from your phone or computer, receive push alerts and emails when the camera detects motion, sees a person or hears a loud sound. There's other neat stuff, like scheduling and geofencing if you want to control when the camera is on and off.

Read more: Google goes after Ring with new Nest home security cameras and a video doorbell

But the Nest Doorbell can also scan faces and tell you who is at your front door from images of friends and family members you ID in the app -- a truly unique feature that still impresses years after its introduction. However, you have to subscribe to the Nest Aware service to create your own face-scanning database, which starts at $6 a month. The fact that Nest offers such a comprehensive lineup of smart home and home security products doesn't hurt either, because many of the devices work together fairly seamlessly. You can also ask Alexa or Google Assistant to pull up your Nest Doorbell's live feed on a screen-compatible device. 

The big problem with Nest's wired doorbell in 2021 isn't its features, but the competition it faces from its wireless counterpart. The $230 price tag, which was a little high in 2018, feels completely incongruous now: the Nest Doorbell (battery) coming Aug. 24 costs $50 less, includes more free features (like three free hours of event storage and smarter notifications), a wider array of colors and the flexibility to install it whether you have doorbell wiring or not. In short, the Nest Doorbell (wired) is still a solid gadget -- but it's not the standout it was three years ago.

7.7

Nest Doorbell (wired)

Like

  • Familiar Faces feature
  • Image quality
  • Smart notifications with subscription

Don't Like

  • Expensive
  • $6-a-month subscription fee

Wired for sounds

The Nest Doorbell (wired) has a fairly traditional design, in that it actually looks like a doorbell and it's narrow enough to fit on most door frames. It's a little chunky, and the black-and-white color is limiting -- but I far prefer it to Ring's signature boxy look.

Installing it was easy, too, despite an important caveat that I'll get to in a minute. You download the Nest app for Android or iOS and follow the step-by-step guide to get everything going. Like the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2, the Arlo Essential Video Doorbell and the Logitech Circle View Doorbell, the Nest Doorbell (wired) is, as the name indicates, a hardwired buzzer.

Strangely, Nest's doorbell comes with a "required" accessory called a "chime connector." This odd-looking gizmo is supposed to connect to your mechanical or digital doorbell chime to help with power management. Digital chimes are often more problematic for smart doorbells than mechanical ones, so companies often provide workarounds so digital chimes will work with their products. Ring includes a small piece of hardware it calls a Diode for anyone installing a Video Doorbell 2 with a digital doorbell chime, but it isn't required for folks with a mechanical chime. SkyBell offers something similar called a Digital Doorbell Adapter.

The Nest Doorbell's chime connector appears to perform a different function, but the most information I could get from Nest was that it helps prevent shorting. While it's inconvenient to install this thing, it wasn't hard -- and like Nest's other installs, everything is detailed clearly in the app.

Nest, three years later

Since 2018, the video doorbell industry has changed dramatically. Competitors from before, like August, have dropped off the map. Others, like Arlo, have risen to the fore. So how does the Nest Doorbell (wired) hold up after all this time? It's a bit of a mixed bag.

When I first reviewed the Nest Doorbell (wired), I loved the person alerts and excellent image quality. With a subscription to Nest Aware, you also get facial recognition and package alerts.

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The Nest Doorbell (wired) looks great, but only one model is available: black and white.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

But many of these features have become industry standards by now. The Arlo Video Doorbell, which is also wired and costs $130, includes person, vehicle, animal and package alerts -- and its subscription fee is only $3 per month, as opposed to Nest Aware's $6 monthly fee. 

That doesn't mean the Nest Doorbell (wired) isn't a good device. It still has a solid 1,600x1,200-pixel resolution (that's a 4:3 aspect ratio) with high dynamic range and night vision. In short, the footage looks great, and while the 160 degree diagonal field of view isn't quite what it could be, it gets the job done better than many competitors, including Ring's latest wireless doorbell.

And the Familiar Faces feature remains impressive: if friends or neighbors arrive at the door -- and if you've labeled them by name in the past -- your Google Assistant-equipped devices inside will simply tell you, "[name] is at the door." That's a cool feature, and it makes a practical difference for your day-to-day usage.

Nest vs. Nest

The Nest Doorbell (wired) might have its worst enemy in the Nest Doorbell (battery). Unlike how the new Nest cameras are replacing the old ones, the newer video doorbell is joining the older one on Google's online store and in brick and mortar retailers. But the new Nest is better in almost every way, as we detailed in our recent comparison article. It has a better 3:4 aspect ratio for doorbells, smarter notifications, 3 free hours of event storage, more color options and a more appealing price tag.

So is the erstwhile Nest Hello -- which we gave an Editors' Choice Award in 2018 -- worth buying in 2021? Possibly, but likely not. The only feature the Nest Doorbell (wired) has that its newer companion device won't is 24/7 continuous recording, a feature most users aren't dying to use. That said, if you are, and if your home is loyal to Google Assistant, then check it out.