The best video doorbell cameras of 2020

The best video doorbell cameras of 2020

The video doorbell is a pretty new consumer tech category that overlaps with standard home security cameras since they’re part doorbell, part built-in security camera.

A video doorbell works by sending you a real-time notification on your phone with a live video look at who’s ringing your doorbell; you will also hear a regular ol’ chime sound. A built-in microphone and speaker in the doorbell allows you to chat with your guest, and in some cases, the device will also work with smart locks so you can let the person in without physically opening the door yourself. 

Most candidates for best video doorbell camera today are Wi-Fi-enabled and offer features such as a rechargeable battery, two-way communication, a video feed and recording, along with the traditional doorbell button. But the designs, video quality, video storage subscriptions and installation process for each doorbell cam can vary.

We’ve highlighted our favorite models below, and we’ve explained exactly how we test video doorbells. So if you’re looking for the best video doorbell, chances are it’s among those we’ve tested.

The best video doorbells we’ve tested

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Arlo’s $150 Video Doorbell cam is easy to install, performs well and has competitive features and cloud storage fees, starting at $3 a month. With a cloud storage subscription, you get access to advanced functionality like custom person, animal, vehicle and package alerts.

The Arlo Video Doorbell, our pick for best video doorbell overall, also features a built-in siren, two-way audio, motion detection zones and arm/disarm modes.

Read more about the Arlo Video Doorbell.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Arlo’s Video Doorbell isn’t cheap, but this device offers an excellent overall value. For $3 a month you get access to advanced doorbell cam features like person, animal, vehicle and motion alerts. The camera also has arm-disarm modes, two-way audio, motion zones and a built-in siren, just like the Arlo Pro 3 outdoor security camera.

Read more about the Arlo Video Doorbell.

In addition to the basics such as 1080p HD video footage live streaming and motion detection and alerts, the Hello camera also offers free person detection. Person detection won’t tell you who’s at the door (it’s not facial recognition — more on that below), but it will tell you it saw a person. For a monthly or yearly fee, you can also upgrade to the Nest Aware cloud storage subscription service. Along with access to saved HD video recordings (hello excellent video quality), this service adds facial recognition.  

Read the Nest Hello review.

Best for apartment-dwellers

Ring Peephole Cam

Chris Monroe/CNET

The $199 Peephole Cam is Ring’s answer to apartment doors — or any doors with peepholes. If you don’t want to — or can’t — drill into a doorframe to install a hardwired or battery-powered doorbell, the Peephole Cam is a solid alternative.

Entirely battery-powered, the Peephole Cam replaces your standard peephole in a few simple steps. You’ll still be able to see through it like a regular peephole, but you’ll also be able to pull up a live video feed of your front door on demand and talk to any visitors. If you subscribe to Ring’s Protect cloud service, you’ll also be able to view saved clips.

Its streamlined installation and clever workaround for apartment-dwellers, the Ring Peephole Cam is definitely worth considering.

Read the CNET review.

More video doorbell options

How we test video doorbells

Testing to determine the best video doorbell is similar to testing any other home security camera. First I download the corresponding app and create an account (if I don’t already have one). While a lot of products include tutorial booklets in the box with your purchase, I prefer to start with the app. A good app includes detailed steps on the installation process, as well as how to connect to your Wi-Fi network and actually get the device up and running. It’s your one-stop shop for taking your doorbell setup from start to finish.

Make sure the doorbell is installed based on the manufacturer’s specifications — either hardwired or battery- or solar-powered. As soon as it’s connected and I’m able to view the live video feed, I check the settings. I make sure features like motion detection or activity zones are enabled (they aren’t always turned on by default) to get a complete sense of what it’s like to use the product — and to see how well the device actually works as a replacement to a regular, nonsmart doorbell. 


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What to look for

Does it work with smart home platforms? If so, do they work well together? Nowadays smart home devices are expected to work with at least one major smart home platform — Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit are the main ones you need to look for. 

How’s the latency? If your smart doorbell camera takes a long time to get a push alert after someone rings your doorbell, then you risk missing your visitor completely. The same might even be true when the doorbell simply detects motion — you can set the motion sensor of most video doorbells to notify you to activity happening near your door, even if no one rings the buzzer.

If you have latency problems, start with your Wi-Fi connection. If it isn’t strong where the doorbell is installed, you might consider moving it (or, more easily, getting a Wi-Fi range extender). But it could also be the way the software works.

How’s the live view? Doorbells are often exposed to direct sunlight, but many others are installed under porches, near shady trees and in all sorts of other settings. It’s important that the camera has night vision and can handle any of these scenarios so you don’t get stuck with a nonfunctioning product that can’t see faces under a porch. 

How’s the two-way audio? If the doorbell’s microphone and speaker don’t work well, you’re going to have a tough time communicating with whoever’s there. I test this out multiple times to see how the doorbell’s audio sounds over my phone. 

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