August Doorbell Cam review: Knock, knock: August's Doorbell Cam helps you see who's there

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The Good The $199 August Doorbell Cam has on-demand live streaming and a 1,280x960 HD resolution -- two features we haven't found on many other first-gen Wi-Fi buzzers. The video feed and push alerts are responsive and the app is easy to navigate.

The Bad This smart buzzer has to be hard-wired and it isn't compatible with digital chimes or intercom systems (only mechanical chimes). Its square shape won't fit on every door frame and its motion sensor and video storage features haven't launched yet.

The Bottom Line August's Doorbell Cam is the best model we've reviewed to date and is especially appealing if you have a Smart Lock or are planning to get one. Just keep in mind that it may not fit in the same spot as your old doorbell.

7.6 Overall
  • Features 7.5
  • Usability 8
  • Design 7
  • Performance 8

A square gizmo that looks nothing like your standard door buzzer (and may even confuse people expecting a regular doorbell), August's $199 Wi-Fi Doorbell Cam can alert you to visitors via your existing mechanical chime (it doesn't work with digital chimes or intercom systems), but it's also equipped with a lot of smart functionality. With a built-in 140-degree camera, 1,280x960-pixel live streaming video resolution, integration with the brand's own Smart Lock, clear two-way talk, and responsive push alerts, this doorbell is definitely smarter than the model you have at home today.

But it isn't perfect. The square design didn't fit on our door frame (and might not fit on yours, either). Motion-related alerts and video storage features are supposed to be added soon, but aren't ready yet and the Doorbell Cam doesn't integrate with IFTTT, SmartThings or any other major smart home platforms.

Even so, its performance and Smart Lock integration set it apart, making August's new Doorbell Cam a product worthy of your consideration -- especially compared to the other smart doorbells we've reviewed so far.

August, you're such a square

There's one really obvious (potential) problem with August's Doorbell Cams -- something that could make DIY installation much more complicated. Yes, these buzzers look nice. Really nice, in fact. They even come in four colors -- silver, gray, copper and red -- to suit all sorts of aesthetic tastes.

But they measure 2.9 inches tall by 2.9 inches wide. That isn't that big, but it's significantly bigger than a regular ol' doorbell, measuring less than an inch wide.

How's it hanging? The Doorbell Cam didn't exactly fit on the door frame.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

And since these units have to be hard-wired to a traditional mechanical chime, you don't have a lot of leeway in terms of the install location (unless you're comfortable rerouting your wiring, and possibly having to tear into brick or another surface that requires a special drill bit). Also, many wired doorbells are installed on door frames -- and while door frame width can vary, 2.9 inches is definitely pushing it.

That begs the question, why did August opt for this square design? To support the built-in camera and all of the other tech packed into this thing? Maybe.

August definitely isn't the only smart doorbell maker that went this route. The circular SkyBell 2.0 is roughly the same size as August's Doorbell Cam at 2.75 inches tall. The now-defunct Doorbot was 5.7 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide, and its successor, Ring, is about the same at 4.98 inches by 2.43 inches.

Be sure to measure your space before you settle on the Doorbell Cam, because its size/shape could rule it out automatically if you're dealing with a small install space -- maybe even more than the other models out there, as it's the widest.

Otherwise, the installation went smoothly, with a couple of small exceptions. August provides plastic wire connectors that aren't especially easy to use, so we used electrical tape instead. And, when you're attaching the base plate, there's a small security screw in the bottom that helps the base plate and the face plate connect and power the doorbell -- this wasn't that easy to line up, so it might take a little extra effort, but it's an important step that helps ensure solid contact between the two pieces of hardware.

Configuring Doorbell Cam

After the install, download the Android or iOS August app. This is the same app that you'd use for August's first- and second-gen Smart Locks, its Wi-Fi-enabled Connect lock accessory and its new keypad lock accessory, which makes things simple.

If you don't already have an account, the app will walk you through the setup, including configuring your doorbell. August sent me a beta version of the app and this part of the process wasn't particularly seamless, though this may have been partly due to some local Wi-Fi network spottiness. Here's how it's supposed to go:

  • If the LED indicator on your doorbell is flashing green (meaning you've installed everything correctly), select Start Setup in the app
  • Name your house and the door where the buzzer is installed
  • Make sure your phone is connected to your Wi-Fi network and it will search for the doorbell
  • It will then connect to the doorbell over Wi-Fi

That's it. It should take just a few minutes, but I got a handful of error messages during the connection step that slowed things down a bit. It did work eventually, though -- after five or six tries.