Welcome to intelliGadget’s video doorbell review / buyers guide. The WiFi enabled video doorbell market is kind of light in the competition department. Currently, the Ring Video Doorbell is the best of the bunch and our review below reflects this. Skybell has a decent offering as well. If you’re looking to save some money over Ring it does a decent job. Most of the other video doorbells out there are cheap knockoffs, so buyer beware.
The Best Video Doorbell Camera
The Ring Video Doorbell System offers the best feature set and performance for the money. Wifi enabled video doorbell’s are a relatively new market and the current alternatives can’t match Ring’s crisp audio/video, ease of installation and excellent technical support. The night vision capability is great as well. All in all, Ring is a solid product and intelliGadget’s current top pick for video doorbell. Read the guide below to learn why or buy it now from Amazon.
Our Runner Up…
The Skybell Video Doorbell System offers a comparable but lesser value than the Ring system. As we mentioned above, the market for video doorbells is relatively new. The Skybell is currently a main competitor to our top pick. SkyBell has similar features but the installation is slightly more involved and the overall look of the unit isn’t quite as nice. It does cost a bit less which is a high point. Read our full review below or check it out on Amazon by clicking the button below.
Before you Buy… Research, Research, Research!
Doorbell Cameras are hot right now. They’re expected to be big business over the next few years and we’re now starting to see ads for them regularly. There is a problem though. The market is swamped at the moment with knockoffs and garbage. Since these items aren’t particularly cheap ($100+) doing some research on the available models and reading some reviews can save you headaches down the road.
On this site you’ll find in-depth information on the best doorbell camera systems for your money. It’s that simple. Reviews, features, common problems and common fixes. We’ll cover it all.
Not all video doorbells are created equal. Since they’ve become popular many knock-offs and imitations have come about. Some of these are OK and work well enough. Some are useless and should be avoided. We’ll show you the winners. The ones that function as advertised. Read on below.
What We Cover…
This page covers doorbell cameras that are WiFi enabled and have a smart-phone component that allows you to interact with the camera and intercom via smart phone. There are other video doorbells on the market that come with a video screen but they only work if you’re home to watch the screen. They’re great in their own way & we’ll cover them in another section. Not on this page though.
Doorbell camera systems typically have a video and intercom component that allow you to see exactly who is ringing. You can also communicate with people who ring the doorbell with an intercom function. This is all done wireless with your smart phone. You receive the video and audio via an app on your phone. Android and Iphone versions of these apps are available for all of the major brands and players.
Why Would I want one?
Wireless doorbell cameras are a great addition to your home and they add an extra layer of security by giving you the ability to answer your doorbell via intercom when you’re away, over your smartphone. This gives the impression that you’re home even when you’re not which can help keep your property and valuables safe. Some even come equipped with sensors that can be set to record when movement is detected in front of your home. Another great feature to have if you’re away often.
Reviews & Recommendations
Below I’ll be detailing two models of WiFi enabled doorbell cameras / video doorbells. As I mentioned earlier, the market is currently full of cheaply made units that aren’t worth your money. These are the only two I’d be willing to recommend. Some of the others you’ll find out there are cheaper but they’re shoddy, prone to failure and lack features. I’ll also be recommending WIFI range extenders, for those of you who need them. Often times a WIFI hotspot being far away from your video doorbell will cause problems. Range extenders clear this issue up.
Ring allows you to see and speak with people ringing your doorbell via Smartphone or tablet regardless of where you are like the other entries here. The setup is fairly straightforward meaning you can have this unit up and running quickly.
As you’ve probably guessed the unit is WiFi enabled and will communicate with your Smartphone or tablet wireless over your homes network connection. Yay! No wires! Don’t get too excited. Depending on the distance to your wireless router the signal can be a bit spotty. Range extenders can help clear this up, as can moving obstacles that may be between your router and the Ring unit. You also have the option of moving your router to a location that’s a bit closer to the unit as well. I had no problems of this type myself but I’ve heard of others who have.
The companion app that you install on your phone or tablet can be tailored to your tasted and includes the ability to customize alerts and live video recording triggers. The trigger can be motion activated (someone walking around your front door for instance) or a push of the doorbell. The motion sensor is a great feature to have if you’re away from home. If someone decides to skulk around the front door, you’ll be alerted immediately.
As for the camera, it’s wide angled and offers a great view. It was crisp and clean during the tests I performed. I was impressed. I was expecting grainy, low resolution video but it surprised me. Ring is also night-vision enabled and gives you a typically green/grey night recording that is clear and easy to make out.
The dual power feature of the Ring system was particularly convenient for me. You can power it via rechargeable batteries OR your traditional doorbell wiring. I chose the battery option for my tests but I haven’t heard any complaints yet about the wired setup. From what I’ve read it works fine.
The technical support for this unit was great. Ring technical support is only a phone call away and ready to sort out your troubles. My limited experience with them was great and I’ve read similar reviews elsewhere.
I did notice that in my situation the motion detection was a bit sensitive. It turned out the sensor was detecting the motion of a bush I have in front of my home and sending a constant stream of alerts on windy days. The fix was as simple as adjusting the mount and aiming it a bit differently. Ideally you want your sensor directed front facing enough to capture motion at your front door without capturing the movement of cars (if you’re close to the street) or trees and bushes. It’s honestly not as difficult as it sounds. Small adjustments in sensor direction are enough to exclude almost anything. Thankfully it’s adjustable.
Ring offers users the ability to record all video to the cloud for playback. This is a great feature as it allows you to store and retrieve important videos. People ringing the doorbell might not be that important, but a person trying to break in who trips the motion sensor…that might be video you’d like to have on hand. The drawback here is that their cloud service requires a monthly fee of $3.00 and you need it to save videos. Personally I think $3.00 is more than fair since it gives me the ability to record and playback videos from my Ring Unit. Still, I would have liked the option to save to my home computer or Smartphone.
This is one of the more expensive doorbell cameras on the market. I’ve seen them going for over $200.00 in some places. You get what you pay for though and of the models I’ll be reviewing here, Ring offered the most bang for my buck. And it comes in a variety of finishes and colors to boot!
- Excellent Technical Support
- Easy Installation
- Crisp Video / Audio
- Great Night Vision
- Motion Detector is Super Sensitive
- Cloud Feature requires a $3.00)monthly fee
I’d have to give Ring a 4.5 out of 5. The hardware looks great and functions as advertised. Technical support was great and the installation was easy. I would have given it a 5 out of 5 if it wasn’t for the $3.00 monthly fee for the cloud service. I still think $3.00 a month is fair. If you can afford a $200.00 doorbell, you can probably swing it. It would have been nice if local recording was available is all. This is the best of the three I reviewed.
Next up is the SkyBell Wifi Video Doorbell. Skybell has many features in common with Ring at a better price. Skybell offers the ability to see who’s ringing your doorbell from anywhere, at anytime via your Smartphone (Android, IOS) and their proprietary app. Along with the live video feed, Skybell has a fully functioning intercom system that allows you to hear and speak to visitors as well.
Like the other two entries here, Skybell is WiFi enabled. All communication between the device and your Smartphone or tablet takes place wirelessly over the internet. Router placement is important with this unit, as with the others, if you want a strong signal and trouble free use. Range extenders are often paired with video doorbells for the best possible results but aren’t required.
The Skybell’s camera is wide-angle, high definition and night vision capable. The unit features a weatherproof plastic exterior that helps maximize WiFi effectiveness and cuts down on signal interference.
Another great feature of the Skybell is the on-demand camera feature. At anytime, from anywhere, you can switch on the camera and watch a high definition video feed of what’s taking place in front of your home. No doorbell press or motion sensor activation required. This is a feature that separates Skybell from some of the other names.
SkyBell’s Smartphone app has a variety of settings you can customize for receiving alerts. Alerts can be triggered by a doorbell press, motion sensor activity or both. The motion sensor feature is a great addition to your homes security system. If you’re away and someone trips the motion detector, you’ll receive an alert and video feed of whoever is near your front door.
I’ll go into a bit more detail below on the installation, features and my opinion of the Skybell below.
The installation procedure for the Skybell is fairly straightforward. I was able to pull it off with minimal fuss and I’m not particularly handy. Installing the unit is not rocket science. The following are the steps I took:
1. Remove the screws securing your old doorbell to access the wires
2. Push the wires through the SkyBell back plate
3. Attach backplate to your wall with the provided screws
4. Attach the doorbell to the backing plate on the wall with the tool they provide
5. Synchronize the SkyBell unit to your WiFi network and start configuring the app
That about covers it. Five simple steps. Just make sure your wires are trimmed short enough so they don’t get jammed up between the backing plate and the unit itself. No room for even a bit of extra wire. Just cut it all to length and you should be fine. In my case, there was no way to mess this up. I’m sure some people may have different styles of doorbell or even different voltages at the wall but mine was apparently standard and exactly what SkyBell wanted.
CONFIGURING APP (Setup):
Like the installation of the Skybell unit itself, I found the app setup easy enough. The instructions that came with the unit were kind of light but it was simple enough that they didn’t need pages to explain it. Once the doorbell is installed and wired into your home you have to sync it. This is accomplished by holding doen the doorbell button for 20 seconds. Once you’re synchronized to your home network you can log into the app on your Smartphone.
Here are a few of the basic features of the app and my personal setup preferences:
-Automatic Login Feature: Setting this to “ON” will make your life easier if you’re as nosey as me. It will automatically log into the app for you WITHOUT a password. If you leave it off, you’ll need to enter your pre-configured password each time you want to interact with the doorbell camera. This is a pain when you get a notification and have to spend a minute (or two if you enter your password wrong) trying to get your pass in. I like to be able to click a notification and see whos there immediatley so I set auto-login to on. My phone has it’s own password so I’m not worried about someone getting at the app when I leave my phone unattended.
-Push Notifications: You can use this setting to choose whether or not you want to be notified on your phone when someone rings.
-Do Not Disturb: This is a handy feature if you need some quiet in your house. It turns off the door chime and sends a notification to your phone silently without setting off the bell in your house.
-Motion Sensor Settings: This is to set whether the doorbell rings when the motion sensor is tripped. This can be a great thing or a nightmare depending on your personal situation. It’s worked flawlessly for me but for some, not so much. I’ve read stories about the rain setting it off or the cars on the street. Maybe I got lucky but you need to be within 3 to 5 feet of mine to trip it which is perfect.
Once you’re logged into the app and you’ve chosen your settings, you’re ready for the fun. You can access the SkyBells audio and video in one of two ways. When someone rings the bell you’ll receive a push notification. You simply click it and you’ll be taken to the feed. Or, you can click to manually watch the audio/video feed at anytime just to have a look. I’ve wasted entirely too much time watching my front yard through the camera when bored. I find it more interesting than I probably should.
Once you’re looking at the video feed you can take pictures and save them for viewing later, click a button to speak with a visitor at your door over the intercom, adjust the contrast of the video feed between low and high, or simply end the call and kill the video feed.
FUTURE FEATURES (as per SkyBells website):
SkyBell has already put their video doorbell through 2 versions and has plans for the future. Most of these are software based, so regardless of the model you own you can simply upgrade the app and enjoy the new features. The only two features that I’m interested in are the “Activity History” feature and the “Cloud Video Storage” option.
The Activity Feature is supposed to give you the ability to log everything your Skybell unit does. You can keep track of every ring, every trip of the motion sensor and most importantly everything that happens while you’re away from home.
The Cloud Video Storage option is supposed to be similar to the storage option offered by Ring. It gives the ability to store every bit of video your SkyBell captures to the cloud for later viewing. It may not seem like a great feature, but when you view the motion detection/video recording as an extra bit of home security it becomes a big deal. God forbid your house should be broken into or you should have something stolen from your step but if the video recordings were saved to the cloud, at least you’d have some evidence of the event.
In summary I’ll list my own take on the Pros and Cons of the Skybell:
- Very slick. Useful. More than a novelty item.
- Reliable video and audio whether home or away from home.
- Camera field of view is plenty wide. Great view.
- Night Vision video is pretty good
- You can sync more than one Smartphone to the device. You, your wife, kids, etc. can all receive notifications
- No recurring fees. Buy it and it’s yours.
- Easy installation
- Do not disturb option is a great feature
- App is simple and easy to figure out
- The Motion Sensor feature rings the doorbell. This is pretty crappy. If you want the motion sensor to kick in and allow you to view when someone DOESN’t ring the bell, having the outside door chime go off ruins that. If the motion sensor is on, it will ring automatically for whoever comes to your door. It’s kind of off-putting.
- You can’t save video yet. I know. This sucks. That being said, it’s only a con for now. If you read the “Future Features” section above, you’ll know there is a save to cloud feature on the way. I can’t wait.
- No battery power option. The Ring unit, listed on this page, has a battery option which I took advantage of during testing. I think rechargeable batteries would be an improvement to the SkyBell and make the installation even easier for those who aren’t particularly handy (like me) or for folks who haven’t got a wired doorbell in place.
Well, that about covers it. Overall I’m extremely happy with the Skybell. They’re constantly sending out updates to the units firmware. The updates are automatic so you’re always current. With their promises of new features and updates in the near future I have a feeling this one is only going to get better.