One of the smart home security device trend is the rise of the wireless video doorbell. It is also known as a smart doorbell, which I believe will be the eventual term that folks settle down to since it is easier to remember and spell.
The first smart doorbell was shipped last year. However, reviews weren’t positive. I kind of expected that since first generation products tend to have flaws in its execution. Fortunately, the second generation products have arrived with better reviews. If you are interested to buy a wireless video doorbell, this might be a better time.
What is a smart doorbell?
For those who don’t what is a wireless video doorbell, it is basically a doorbell fitted with a video camera and linked to the Internet. Just these simple changes have transformed what is possible when you used one for these smart home security device at home.
For example, when someone rings your smart doorbell, it will now send a notification straight to your phone and broadcast the video of who is standing outside. This saves you the trouble of having to walk to your door just to see who is outside.
Smart doorbell brands
Currently, there are only a couple of smart doorbell brands in the market. In 2014, the two brands that launched the wireless doorbell first was Doorbot and the Skybell. As mentioned, both brands meet with lousy reviews. For instance, the Skybell had a one minute lag from someone pressing the bell to receiving a video alert in your phone.
Now, in 2015, there are a couple of new developments. First, Doorbot has transited to Ring, which is basically a version two of the product. This has meet with strong positive reviews as 63 out of 84 reviewers on Amazon gave it an average of 4 star and above ratings. There are still issues but they were not as serious as before. In the review section below, I will highlight what some of the minor flaws are.
Best smart doorbell for your money
Currently the best smart doorbell for your money is Ring’s wireless video doorbell. It has received top rated reviews from techies to home installers. If this product can satisfy these bunch of guys, you know it is good quality smart doorbell.
- See and speak to your visitors via your smart phone or tablet
- Easy to install
- Motion detection
- Dual power sources
What I like
The Ring is a big leap over its predecessor. It feels a completely new product when I first tested it. For ease of reading, I have grouped my experience into point forms below;
- Fast set up: Set up was always going to be the first problem you encounter for any smart home devices. The Doorbot needed a Wireless B which nobody has anymore. Fortunately, the Ring smart doorbell needs only Wireless N, which is the normal standard. To connect, simply press a button, type in your wifi password and the system will do the rest. However, once connected to the network, I did not get a successfully confirmation but when I tested it, it works! Maybe the confirmation portion has some bugs but the set up is easy and can be within 10 minutes, depending on how good you are with your wifi configurations.
- Comes up set up tools: Related to the above is the fact that the Ring comes with all the necessary tools you need to do the set up. The Skybell doesn’t, which means you need to hunt for them before you can do your set up.
- Clear video: Once I have the Ring smart doorbell set up, it is time to test the video. I had my wife standing outside to see how fast I would receive the notification and the quality of the video stream. The response had about a 3 second lag which is not a big deal. The video quality was great as I could see her clearly. After reading up on some forums, I moved the router closer to the doorbell and the video quality improved more than the initial test.
- Voice reception: Speaking over the phone to the doorbell was also met with no problems. My wife could hear me clearly and there was little lag.
- Fast updates: As mentioned below, there are still a few software flaws that should be corrected. Fortunately, the company is also aware of this and has been sending firmware updates. So far, I have received one already for the motion detection and I believed it will continue to do so. This gives confidence as a consumer that the product will improve over time.
Flaws but no deal breakers
Being such a new product, there are somethings that can be further improved on. Fortunately, most of these are on the software which can be improved rather quickly.
- Have to pay for the app: Interestingly, you need to pay for the app that comes with the Ring. I would have thought it is a bundle service but no.
- Limited setting control: Currently, there are certain settings that you can’t control. For example, you can’t turn off the ringing chime from the doorbell. Also, you cannot delete videos from your activity log.
- Lagging motion sensing: The motion sensing feature was not available if you purchased it in Jan but it is now working. I tested it but found the result to be laggy. Overall, I don’t find this feature to be that useful so I didn’t turn it on.
- Battery lift is limited: The power drain on this device is significant but I guess that is hallmark of any smart devices currently, including our smart phones and tablets.
Overall, the Ring smart doorbell is a product that is quite ahead of its peers. If you want to buy a wireless video doorbell, this will be the product to get.
Here are some common questions that I have seen being asked in forums and on Amazon.
Can I connect the smart doorbell to multiple devices?
Yes you can. I have personally linked it to my smart phone and tablet as well as my wife’s phone. That makes it 3 devices and all of them show good quality video as mention above in my review.
Do I need an existing doorbell?
No you don’t. The only reason why you want to connect it to an existing doorbell is hear the traditional chime when someone presses your smart doorbell. If you don’t need that function, you don’t need an existing doorbell.
Can you lock or unlock doors with this?
I wish it can but it can’t. The only way is to connect this device to a smart lock device. From what I have read, Lockitron seems to be compatible with the Ring smart doorbell.
How do I recharge the battery?
If you have an existing doorbell, the Ring will be able to charge using the power source of your existing doorbell. If not, you need to use a micro usb. In terms of frequency, you probably need to recharge it once or twice a year, depending on how frequently your doorbell is being rang.
Can I view the video from non android and apple devices?
Currently, no. You can’t view it on your own computer or from Windows 7 OS. I believe that might change in the future but for now, you cannot view it on a non android or apple device.