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Nest Hello review: The smartest video doorbell around

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The Good Nest's $229 Hello video doorbell looks great and works consistently well. Its optional facial recognition feature and advanced integrations with the Nest Cam IQ Indoor and Google Home speakers set this smart buzzer above the rest.

The Bad A seemingly unnecessary "chime connector" accessory comes with your purchase and is a required part of the installation for "power management" purposes whether you have a manual or a digital doorbell chime. There's no free video clip storage.

The Bottom Line The Nest Hello is the smartest video doorbell available today, and a really solid choice for anyone -- but it's especially appealing if you're sold on a broader Google/Nest smart home.

8.5 Overall
  • Features 9
  • Usability 7
  • Design 9
  • Performance 9

Editors' note (Sept. 13, 2019): Nest ended the Works with Nest program on Aug. 31. 

I really, really like the $229 Nest Hello video doorbell (roughly £165/AU$290 converted) and believe it deserves your strong consideration alongside Ring, August and SkyBell.

At first glance, the Nest Hello is an HD live streaming camera-buzzer combination like any other smart doorbell. 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 -- and review three hours of saved images for free. There's other neat stuff, like scheduling and geofencing if you want to control when the camera is on and off.

Read more: Google is replacing Works with Nest with Works with Google Assistant and it could make your smart home worse.

But my favorite thing about the Nest Hello is its ability to scan faces and tell you who is at your front door from images of friends and family members you ID in the app. Unfortunately, you have to subscribe to the Nest Aware service to create your own face-scanning database, which starts at $5 a month. No other video doorbell I've tested offers facial recognition, though, and I liked it more than I expected. The fact that Nest now 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 Hello doorbell's live feed on a screen-compatible device. 

Yes, you have to pay a little more for the Hello, and I wish Nest offered free cloud video history like August and SkyBell, but this full-featured smart doorbell is worth it. For these reasons, I'm giving the Nest Hello video doorbell an Editors' Choice Award.

Well, 'Hello' there

The Nest Hello looks more like a traditional doorbell than, say, August's square Doorbell Cam Pro. I personally like the Hello's design, because it actually looks like a doorbell and it's narrow enough to fit on most door frames.

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, the August Doorbell Cam Pro and the SkyBell HD Wi-Fi Video Doorbell, the Hello is a hardwired buzzer.

Strangely, Nest's Hello 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 Hello'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.

The Ring Video Doorbell Pro does come with a transformer accessory that seems to offer the same functionality as Nest's chime connector. Ring doesn't explicitly state that the transformer is required, though: "This kit contains the transformer we recommend for powering a Ring Video Doorbell Pro along with a 16-24 volt AC doorbell chime (required). This transformer is meant as a drop- in upgrade for existing doorbell systems, to solve power-related issues." Read more about Ring's transformer accessory here.

img-20180316-111937-01

Nest's chime connector accessory.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Charting new territory

Check out the chart I painstakingly put together below to see how the Nest Hello stacks up against two different Ring buzzers, August's Doorbell Cam Pro and the SkyBell HD:

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