A Video Doorbell Is A Home Security Must-Have: Here Are 3 You Should Buy

A Video Doorbell Is A Home Security Must-Have: Here Are 3 You Should Buy

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CNN —  

Video doorbells offer a simple starting point for those interested in smart home security, and offer a little extra peace of mind for anyone anxious about unwanted visitors or stolen packages. For the last few weeks we’ve been testing an assortment of video doorbells from various companies, assessing features, subscription plans and capabilities. We found three that should fit your needs, no matter how much information you want on the world beyond your front door.

Ring’s Video Doorbell 2 Pro uses radar to give you highly accurate motion alerts, has stellar looking video with a wide, tall field of view and crisp audio, and can even show you on a map the route someone took as they made their way to your door.

The Arlo Wired Video Doorbell has a sleek design and is easy to set up, plus it gives you clear video, a multitude of settings to fine-tune the video quality, and an affordable price.

Best wireless video doorbell

The Ring Video Doorbell 4 is ideal for someone who wants a wireless battery-powered doorbell, and still wants the added peace of mind and the security of Ring’s quality video capture, alerts, and extensive feature set.

Jason Cipriani/CNN

The Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 has a tall, wide field of view that captures everything at your door — it’s a setup we wish every video doorbell offered. Plus, a robust set of sensors, including radar, gives you not just accurate alerts but the ability to reconstruct the path a visitor took to your door, handy for checking to see if anybody was casing the joint. It’s the most expensive video doorbell we tested, but we think the rich feature set is worth it.

As noted in our full review, installation of the Doorbell Pro 2 took us about 15 minutes. It’s a hardwired doorbell, and it works with your existing chime when you install the included Pro Power Kit. We think the Pro 2’s small footprint and design is more appealing than the larger Ring Video Doorbell 3 and Doorbell 4. The entire installation process is well documented in the Ring app, complete with troubleshooting steps and all of the required tools — save for an electric drill, which we highly recommend — are included in the box.

The Doorbell Pro 2’s super-wide, tall field of view (150 degrees by 150 degrees of coverage) gives you a head-to-toe perspective on your porch, perfect for spotting packages and identifying visitors. The Arlo Wired Video Doorbell and Logitech’s Circle View Doorbell offer similarly wide fields of view, and frankly we feel all video doorbells should offer a similar perspective. Both livestreamed video and captured clips were clear and free of any pixelation. Color night vision makes it easy to identify what you’re looking at in clips captured in darkness. Pro 2 leverages its smarts to record a short clip of video just before any movement is detected. The pre-roll video gives you information about what was going on just before the camera was triggered, and is only found in Ring’s higher-end doorbells like the Pro 2 or Video Doorbell 4.

The Pro 2 can detect motion at “any distance,” according to Ring, but they suggest limiting its motion detection to only check for movement at up to 30 feet away, and consistently and reliably detected events within the specified range we set in the app, and didn’t send any false alerts. This is thanks to the radar technology inside, but also due to how far Ring’s motion detection algorithms have come. False motion alerts were few and far between on any Ring doorbell we tested, much improved since we began testing Ring products a couple of years ago.

Ring’s aptly named Bird’s Eye View uses satellite mapping data and the doorbell’s onboard radar to map the path a person or animal took as they approached the doorbell. You can then view that map — in real time or when viewing a recorded clip — to see if a person walked up straight to your door, across your yard or maybe to a window first before arriving at your door.

No Ring product can alert you when the camera detects a package and when the package is picked up. It’s a weird miss and is common on other doorbells. Google’s Nest Hello doorbell, for example, has had this feature for a few years now as long as you sign up for the Nest Aware monthly subscription service.

The Doorbell Pro 2, like the rest of Ring’s products, integrates with Amazon’s Alexa platform (which makes sense, as Amazon owns Ring) and Google Assistant. Meaning you can ask your Nest Hub or Echo Show 8 to show you a live feed from the Pro 2, or use your smart devices as electronic wireless chimes to alert you when someone rings the doorbell.

If you sign up for Ring’s Protect subscription service, you can turn on Alexa Greetings for the Pro 2, which allows Alexa to answer your door if you can’t get to it. The greetings are good, in theory, but in practice they’re confusing and awkward. The greeting will play, regardless if you’re home or not, whenever you don’t answer the doorbell ring in the mobile app. In our testing, in situations where we were home, visitors were greeted by Alexa, then told that we weren’t home and asked to leave a message before we got to the door. You can say, “Alexa, stop” to the Pro 2 in order to stop greetings after they’ve started, but we’d rather have greetings automatically turned on or off based on location.

Ring Protect, the company’s subscription service, starts at $3 per month or $30 per year. The basic paid plan covers a single camera, and video clips are saved for 60 days. You can download and share those, along with photos, and can enable people-only notifications as well as receive rich notifications that include a video clip in the alert. At $3 per month for a single video doorbell, Ring’s plan is affordable and in our opinion worth paying for.

For $10 a month or $100 a year, you can add as many cameras as you want along with 24/7 monitoring of Ring Alarm, the company’s home security system (and our overall pick in that category). This makes sense if you’re going to upgrade to a full system and want professional monitoring.

With sharp video that shows everything at your door, accurate motion detection that maps out people’s paths and an affordable base subscription, the Video Doorbell Pro 2 was an easy top pick for the best video doorbell in 2021.

While we think its products perform very well, and are often best in class, Ring has run into controversy given the company’s sharing practices and agreements with local police departments. At the beginning of June, Ring changed how police departments can obtain footage — requiring them to make any requests from Ring users public — adding accountability to the request process and mitigating some of the anxiety over their relationship with law enforcement.

Jason Cipriani/CNN

For those who find Ring’s relationship with law enforcement agencies across the US troubling, then Arlo’s Wired Video Doorbell is our top pick for best Ring alternative. For $149.99, Arlo’s solution pairs a sleek design with clear video and handy motion alerts.

Arlo not only delivers crisp and clear video, but it has an even wider-angle lens than the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2. This allows you to see from the floor to the ceiling. The lens doesn’t have as pronounced a fish-eye view as other doorbells, which makes for better video. If you have a slower internet connection, you can reduce the quality down to 720p or 1080p from the default 1536p.

Installing the Wired Video Doorbell was a breeze. Remove your old doorbell, connect the included power kit to your existing chime and power up the doorbell. From there, fire up the Arlo app and follow the on-screen instructions. It also has a really sleek design, with a big, easy-to-press button that illuminates with a circle of LED lights as a person approaches the door. After a few seconds, the lights begin to fade and eventually turn off. Really nifty.

The Wired Doorbell has a maximum motion detection range of just over 16 feet, roughly half the distance of the Ring Pro 2. There’s a motion detection test built into the Arlo app that helps you figure out the ideal level to help eliminate errant alerts.

When a motion event is triggered, Arlo can identify multiple objects and label them. If a bird or a dog walks past the camera and it detects motion, the clip will be labeled “Animal” in the app — same goes for a person, vehicle or package.

Looking through the library of captured clips, there were a few occasions when Arlo labeled a clip of an animal as a person, but the great majority of clips were accurately identified and labeled.

Jason Cipriani/CNN

You’ll need to sign up for one of Arlo’s Smart subscription plans to take advantage of the object detection features, set activity zones and get access to view 30 days of video history. The Premier plan costs $2.99 per month for a single camera or $9.99 per month for up to five cameras. The Elite Arlo Smart plan ($4.99 per month for a single camera, or $14.99 per month for five cameras) offers all of the same features but stores up to 4K video if you have cameras that support that resolution (the Wired Video Doorbell doesn’t). You get a 90-day trial of Arlo Smart to test these features, if you’re a new customer.

Arlo works with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant, as well as the automation website If This Then That (IFTTT) so you can ask to see your front door on your Nest smart display or log every time someone rings your doorbell in a Google Sheet.

The Arlo Wired Video Doorbell is attractive, easy to install and set up and has a wide field of view that ensures you see everything you possibly can. Its monthly subscription includes object identification and high-quality video storage that make it worth the asking price.

Jason Cipriani/CNN

The $199.99 Ring Video Doorbell 4 is an ideal option for renters or homeowners who might not want to make permanent modifications to their residences since it can be powered via removable batteries or a hardwired connection. And regardless of how you power the Video Doorbell 4, it offers all of the mainstay Ring features.

The Doorbell 4 delivered clear and crisp video with audio to match when we viewed the stream in real time or when alerts came through on our phone. We’re also pretty pleased with the quality of the alerts, as we didn’t receive any erroneous motion alerts from something like a leaf blowing by. Instead, alerts were properly triggered when a person appeared or when a package was delivered. Video quality was nearly on par with the Pro 2 and other Ring doorbells as well. And like the Pro 2, the Doorbell 4 gives you pre-roll video of the moments

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