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BOT Home Automation Doorbot review: This smart doorbell sends signals straight to your phone

BOT Home Automation's Wi-Fi-enabled Doorbot packs a doorbell, a video camera, and an intercom into one tidy package, but is it really ready for prime time?

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Megan Wollerton
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Megan Wollerton

Senior Writer/Editor

Megan Wollerton has covered technology for CNET since 2013. Before that, she wrote for NBC's Dvice.com (now SyFy). Megan has a master's degree from the University of Louisville and a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College, both in international relations. She is a board member of the Louisville chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. When Megan isn't writing, she's planning far-flung adventures.

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4 min read


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5.6

BOT Home Automation Doorbot

The Good

BOT Home Automation's Doorbot is a doorbell, camera, and intercom hybrid. Use the related Doorbot app to see live video of whoever just buzzed your front door and chat with them via two-way talk.

The Bad

The video quality is lacking and the app's "hold to talk" button is inconsistent at best.

The Bottom Line

Doorbot is an excellent idea poorly executed -- hold off for now and hope that this glitchy device improves with time.

BOT Home Automation's $200 (available internationally for about £120, AU$215) Doorbot is an all-in-one security and convenience device -- with companion app -- that gives you front door visibility and communication capabilities whether you're home or away. Replace your current doorbell with Doorbot, connect it to your home Wi-Fi, download the Android or iOS app, and receive alerts whenever someone buzzes your front door. Thanks to Doorbot's built-in video camera and speaker-and-mic combo, you can also see live footage of visitors and chat with them without opening your door.

In contrast to these promising features, I experienced poor video quality and found the two-way talk feature completely unusable. While a Doorbot-style product definitely has a place in the smart home market, I'd skip this model and look for future iterations with improved performance.

Doorbot brings the front door to you (pictures)

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Doorbot is an 8.1-ounce (230g) outdoor-rated device that measures 1.30 inches deep by 2.4 inches wide by 5.7 inches tall (3.3cm by 6cm by 14.5cm). It has a silver finish and a solid build. You have two installation options -- hardwire it directly to your existing doorbell cables to avoid any low-battery concerns, or rely on the built-in battery for power and recharge it roughly once a year with the included USB charger.

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The setup process, including installation, took about 20 minutes. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

I downloaded the Doorbot app on my iPhone 5 to start the setup process. Doorbot is compatible with iOS 6.1 or later and version 2.3 or later on Android devices, and can operate on 3G, 4G, LTE, and Wi-Fi (both home and away). That means that you should be able to see who's at your front door whether you're sitting on the couch at home or on vacation thousands of miles away.

Next, I created an account, named my Doorbot, provided my time zone information, removed my old doorbell, and mounted the new one. I installed my review unit at home and simply used some strong two-sided tape to mount it to the door frame. You'll definitely want to mount it properly for a more permanent install, but this worked well for testing. Since my old doorbell wasn't wired in, I didn't have to deal with hardwiring at all.

The app then instructs you to press the doorbell button, causing the LED ring around it to flash blue. Select the Doorbot Wi-Fi network in your settings, wait for the app to prompt you to enter your home Wi-Fi information, and let it connect. Now you're ready to use Doorbot.

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Blue LEDs illuminate when you ring the doorbell. Colin West McDonald/CNET

Doorbot has a video camera, a doorbell, a speaker, a microphone, and a related app. It connects to your local Wi-Fi and any time a visitor rings the doorbell, you will receive a push notification. The camera will also automatically start recording live footage of your guest and give you the option to talk to them using the app's "hold to talk" feature (Doorbot doesn't save video clips like an Wi-Fi camera). Any time you use "hold to talk," you won't be able to hear your visitor speaking. Just release the button to hear their response -- think of it as an intercom system that enables communication between your connected device and your Doorbot.

I tested Doorbot using both a cellular connection and Wi-Fi and found the results to be pretty much the same. The overall video quality was very poor and the two-way talk feature worked roughly 10 percent of the time -- whether I was 5 feet or 5 miles away.

Specifically, the video was extremely pixelated, making it very difficult to determine who was actually at my front door. And, if they happened to move at all, the video would blur beyond any possible point of recognition; this was true using both day and night vision modes.

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Performance was pretty disappointing. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

The "hold to talk" feature was even more disappointing. I tried it multiple times under different scenarios -- both as the person with the app and as the person actually ringing the doorbell. Only infrequently did I hear audio coming out of the Doorbot speakers, but I was never able to pick up on any return audio coming back through the the Doorbot microphone to my phone.

If I were depending entirely on Doorbot for clear video and two-way talk I doubt that I would be able to distinguish my next-door-neighbor from the UPS delivery person and so on. As a result, I'd likely need to default back to the traditional get-up-off-the-couch-to-see-who-is-at-the-door.

Aside from needing better video quality and two-way talk, this unit could benefit from a motion sensor, too. Not everyone will ring your doorbell and you won't be notified when someone knocks. And since Doorbot doesn't really look like a traditional doorbell, it's likely that some of your guests might opt to knock instead anyway.

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Doorbot looks nice, but don't expect it to work as promised. Colin West McDonald/CNET

As far as the DIY smart home market is concerned, Doorbot offers a unique combination of features and has relatively few competitors. Recently, a 23-year-old student won a competition by tech company Sharp for his SmartBell concept, which isn't available for retail yet, but offers many of the same features as Doorbot. Currently, the $200 SkyBell Video Doorbell (also available internationally; converted, about £120, AU$215) is Doorbot's closest competition, and was listed as an iOS 8 HomeKit partner at Apple's recent WWDC 2014. I've requested a review unit, so comparison testing of its features and performance against Doorbot is forthcoming.

Right now, Doorbot needs too much work to justify spending $200. Still, I'm hopeful that this doorbell-video camera-intercom hybrid will undergo some much-needed tweaks and return with a vengeance. Until then, hold on to your cash and continue squinting through that tiny peephole.

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5.6

BOT Home Automation Doorbot

Score Breakdown

Features 6Usability 5Design 7Performance 4
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