The ultimate guide to smart doorbells

Ned Browne 20 November 2021

An American import, video doorbells are now taking off in the UK. But why might you need one and how do they work?

More than security

Historically, cameras around the home have been used solely for security, and that’s a pretty good reason to have cameras. However, the new generation of smart doorbells can do so much more.

The ones with built in speakers and microphones enable you to talk to the person at your door, via your smartphone, tablet or laptop. This means you can, for example, ask delivery drivers to drop your package at a neighbour’s house—even if you’re in Australia! Video doorbells allow working parents to check that their kids have arrived home safely. And, of course, they record video footage of potential criminal activity.

How do they work?

Equipped with motion sensors, video doorbells start recording video when someone approaches your property. The quality of the video tends to be exceptional, even with the cheaper models. That means high definition and colour.

Many doorbell cameras also feature night vision technology, which is definitely a benefit if security is high on your agenda. Doorbell cameras deter thieves—some even state out loud that they are recording—and also provide the police with invaluable evidence should a crime take place.

You can also programme your device so it’s right for your home. If you’re close to a road, you don’t want the camera recording every time a car drives past, so you can adjust your doorbell camera accordingly. You can also change the angle of the recording and the type of footage it records.

Power

Different video doorbells are powered in different ways—either wired into the mains or battery powered—so make sure you get the one that’s right for you.

The batteries on battery-operated video doorbells will need to be changed every few months, depending on the model. The setup is pretty straightforward as well, assuming you have the equipment to screw it to the wall. There are loads of helpful videos on YouTube too, posted by users and manufacturers.

Cost

Good models start at around £80, rising to several hundred pounds. Generally, the more features, the higher the price. There are established brands too such as Ring and Nest, which do seem to be a cut above the rest. You can also pay for video storage. 

Ring’s “Ring Protect” basic package costs £24.99 a year and includes 30-day video history, video saving and sharing, and snapshot capture. You may have to pay for a chime unit too— which, in simple terms, means the doorbell rings in your house and not just on your phone.

Ring is owned by Amazon and Nest is owned by Google.  And, yes, they are compatible with each company’s other smart products such as Alexa and Google Home.

Are video doorbells worth the money?

As with all new technology, prices will continue to fall. They are neat bits of kit, and definitely worth having if you’re away a lot or if security is a concern.

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