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

An inside look

Once your Doorbell Cam is connected, you can access it through the August app immediately. While I did miss the motion-triggered alerts and optional video clip storage that the team promises to launch in short order, overall usability and performance for this doorbell was better than the other three models I've reviewed.

First, the August app is easy to navigate -- the launch page lists any houses with related products. Click on your house -- I named ours CNET's House, and you have access to any and all August devices connected at that location. We set up a first-gen August Smart Lock, a Connect accessory to get the lock on the Wi-Fi, the new Bluetooth Keypad and the Doorbell Cam to get a sense of how all of the products interacted in the app. This was extremely straightforward.

Whenever someone rings the doorbell, any phones with access to this account or these products will get a push alert (you can extend either 24-7 or limited access to other people, depending on your comfort level). Click on the push alert and "accept the call," and a live video feed will appear showing you who's at your front door.

The green icon in the third image shows that the Smart Lock is unlocked. Press it to lock the door.

Screenshots by CNET

From there, you have the option to talk to that person via your phone and the doorbell's built-in microphones and speakers. And, if you have a Smart Lock too, you can unlock or lock your front door straight from that video streaming page. This feature really rounds out the usability of this app and highlights the value for folks using both the Smart Lock and the Doorbell Cam together.

Imagine a relative with limited mobility -- they could theoretically pull up a live feed, see that a friend or family member is at the front door, talk to them and even unlock the door -- all without having to walk to the door.

And, everything worked pretty well. The alerts were prompt, the two-way talk audio quality was solid, the 1,280x960 resolution was decent and had minimal lag time and the lock was responsive 9 out of every 10 times I triggered it from the doorbell's live streaming page. (Keep in mind that a front porch or other obstruction can affect lighting and making it much more difficult for the Doorbell Cam to make out faces and other details.) This pretty good performance is unique to the Doorbell Cam, as all of the other models I've reviewed have fallen short in at least one notable way.

The standard-definition DoorBot had serious issues with lag time and overall video quality; Ring was more polished, but its 720p live stream was laggy on occasion and didn't offer a video feed as an on-demand feature (this is about to change, as Ring recently announced an all-new Ring Pro with on-demand live streaming and a planned software update that's supposed to give the original Ring live streaming capabilities). SkyBell 2.0 allows for live streaming and some other advanced features, but had a 640x480 standard definition video feed (this has changed too, as SkyBell has released a newer version called SkyBell HD with the promise of improved video quality).

Still, I do wish that August's Doorbell Cam had an IFTTT channel or at least some sort of partnership with another manufacturer. But, its integrations with its own Smart Lock -- our favorite connected lock to date -- makes a difference.

The verdict

August isn't the first brand to add a smart doorbell to its repertoire, but its Doorbell Cam is definitely a step in the right direction for the category. Where previous models suffered from significant lag times, standard-definition live feeds and more, this model seems to nail more of the basics. Even so, we're interested in revisiting the review after August adds its upcoming advanced features, like motion detection and video storage.

There's also a clear concern about whether or not it will fit where your current doorbell is installed and if not, whether or not it's worth it to reroute your wiring to a different spot. And again, the August Doorbell Cam, along with other smart wired models, will only work with a traditional mechanical chime.

The $199 Doorbell Cam is now for sale on August.com and at Best Buy in the US. International availability is in the works, but August hasn't shared a time frame just yet; prices translate to roughly £130 and AU$275 at the current exchange rate. Overall, if you can get past the potentially tricky install, this smart doorbell could prove to be a truly useful upgrade.

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