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SkyBell HD Wi-Fi Video Doorbell review: SkyBell's HD door buzzer steals the show

The SkyBell HD Wi-Fi Video Doorbell packs 1080p video resolution and integrations with Amazon's Alexa, Nest and IFTTT into one tidy package.

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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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SkyBell's $199 US-0nly HD Wi-Fi Video Doorbell caught me off guard. The previous SkyBell buzzer I reviewed was all right, but lacked a handful of major features. It didn't have HD video, it didn't work with third-party products, and you couldn't record or save video clips.

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SkyBell HD Wi-Fi Video Doorbell

The Good

SkyBell's latest $199 Wi-Fi doorbell has a 1080p high-definition resolution, on-demand clip recording and free video storage, as well as an IFTTT channel and integration with Amazon's Alexa Skills Kit and Google/Alphabet's Nest.

The Bad

There's no Web interface, it doesn't work directly with Samsung's SmartThings or Wink, and you can't tweak push alert settings or the quality of the video resolution in the app.

The Bottom Line

The SkyBell HD Wi-Fi Video Doorbell's 1080p resolution and array of third-party integrations set it apart from the pack, including August's impressive Doorbell Cam.

But the startup's next-gen doorbell is upping the ante in a very real way, with features competitive with the all-new (and noticeably pricier) $249 Ring Video Doorbell Pro. Specifically, the latest SkyBell comes complete with a 1080p resolution, on-demand live streaming and free clip storage, as well as integrations with Amazon's Alexa and Google/Alphabet's Nest. It also has its own IFTTT channel.

Tack on its responsiveness and straightforward app interface and you end up with an unexpected leader in the burgeoning smart doorbell category. The SkyBell HD Wi-Fi Video Doorbell is definitely worth consideration, especially if you aren't sold on August's Doorbell Cam and its other brand-exclusive smart home accessories.

SkyBell's newest buzzer is a smarter door accessory (pictures)

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Pretty, pretty SkyBell

With a rounded design measuring 2.8 inches by 2.8 inches and a depth of 0.9 inch, SkyBell's HD doorbell looks virtually identical to the previous model. I like the style of this doorbell, though, so that's a good thing. Plus, you can get it in either brushed aluminum or oil-rubbed bronze for matching it to the other hardware in your home, HGTV-style.

The issue arises at install time. At nearly 3 inches wide, this thing is not going to fit on every door frame. And, since it requires a hard-wired set up to work, you'll have to relocate your existing doorbell wiring for a more permanent, tidy-looking install (unless you don't mind your doorbell hanging into your doorway).

This isn't unique to SkyBell. August's $199 Doorbell Cam clocks in at 2.9 inches wide, and the $199 Ring Video Doorbell measures 2.43 inches. It's as if every smart doorbell brand was searching for a way to differentiate itself from your everyday buzzer that's small and rectangular and unobtrusive. But, these in-your-face designs aren't particularly door-frame-friendly. It's little wonder, then, that Ring's newest model, the Video Doorbell Pro, looks a lot more doorbell-y at just 1.85 inches wide.

Despite the whole doorframe overhang issue, the SkyBell HD was simple to install. Just switch off power to your doorbell, remove your old buzzer and attach the existing wires to the included SkyBell mounting plate. If you aren't rerouting wiring to a new location (which could require a specialized drill if you're installing it on a brick facade or some other tough surface), all you really need is a Phillips-head screwdriver, which SkyBell includes in the box.

Note: This unit will only work with a hard-wired system and is easiest to install with a traditional mechanical chime. SkyBell does also provide a digital door chime adapter, but that requires some additional effort. Check out this tutorial video for more information.

Setup and such

Like any good DIY software, the SkyBell HD app walks you through the steps you need to take in order to get your new Wi-Fi doorbell online.

  • Download the SkyBell HD app for Android or iPhone
  • Create an account with a unique username and password and select "Add a new SkyBell"
  • Wait until the LED indicator on your SkyBell HD begins to flash red and green (if no indicator light appears, there may be an issue with your installation)
  • Select the SkyBell Wi-Fi network in your phone's settings
  • Add the details for your local Wi-Fi network and you're done

It might take a few more minutes than some other in-app configurations since you have to wait for the LED to blink red and green, but it was still very easy to get up and running.

After that, you're ready to view the live feed on-demand, receive push alerts, and opt-in to motion detection. You can also scroll through the activity feed to see saved clips and download them to your phone's photo storage.

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The live stream during the day.

Screenshot by CNET

Everything worked very well. I received prompt push alerts whenever someone rang the doorbell or if motion was detected, the 1080p live feed was solid (although this could vary based on the quality of your Wi-Fi connection), the built-in LEDs captured low-light very well, and I was able to record, review and download video clips for free, as well as take photos. The free video storage is of particular note, as Ring charges $3 per month (or $30 per year) for this feature.

The SkyBell HD also works with Amazon's Alexa, IFTTT and Nest Cam (if either the SkyBell HD or Nest Cam detect activity, you can program the other device to start recording, too). I didn't have a Nest product handy, but I did test out its IFTTT and Alexa integrations. Both worked as expected. With IFTTT, I created a simple recipe that would shoot me a text any time the doorbell detected motion activity. Of course, you already get push notifications natively through SkyBell, but this adds another alert layer. I also enabled Amazon's SkyBell HD Alexa Skill using an Amazon Echo Dot.

Here's what you can say with the Echo Dot added into the mix: "Alexa, tell SkyBell to turn on/off quiet mode," "Alexa, tell SkyBell to take a snapshot," and "Alexa, tell SkyBell to record video." Both the quiet mode and the record video command worked perfectly, but I was unable to get the snapshot function to work. Alexa would say, "Your SkyBell device has taken a snapshot," but the picture was nowhere to be found.

Here's everything the Amazon Echo can do

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The takeaway

Overall, the $199 US-only SkyBell HD has better video resolution and more third-party integrations than many of its competitors. It also performs well and the app is simple to use. I do wish you could adjust the resolution in case 1080p is too much bandwidth and there's no way to opt-in or -out of push alerts directly in the app. Even so, SkyBell's HD buzzer is significantly better than its previous-gen model. Give it strong consideration if you're interested in smart-home partnerships with other manufacturers. The August Doorbell Cam is also a solid option, particularly if you also have the August Smart Lock and other related accessories.

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8.0

SkyBell HD Wi-Fi Video Doorbell

Score Breakdown

Features 9Usability 8Design 7Performance 8
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