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Video doorbells are a relatively new smart home category, but they closely overlap with standard home security cameras. They are, in fact, doorbells with built-in security cameras

With a video doorbell, your guests will ring the buzzer just like they normally do, but you'll get a push alert on your phone and a live video look at whoever's there (in addition to a regular ol' chime sound). You and your guest can then chat via a built-in speaker and microphone in the doorbell. In some cases, they also work with smart locks so you can let the person in without physically opening the door yourself. 

Most of today's Wi-Fi-enabled doorbells offer features such as these, but the designs, video quality, video storage subscriptions and general installation can vary a lot. Below, we've highlighted our favorite models, and we've explained exactly how we test video doorbells, too. 

Note that the products discussed here are independently chosen by our editors. AppaEconomicDevelopment may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.

The best video doorbells we've tested

Tyler Lizenby/AppaEconomicDevelopment

Editors' note (Oct. 7): As Nest accounts migrate over to Google, we're re-evaluating whether the Nest Hello is still the best doorbell you can buy today. 

It's hard to match the Nest Hello in terms of performance and features. Its high definition resolution, motion alerts and free person alerts work well. It also works with Alexa and Google Assistant. 

Pay $5 per month for Nest Aware, Nest's cloud storage service that offers some advanced options like facial recognition, access to saved cloud video and more.

Runner up: The Ring Video Doorbell Pro  Read more about the Nest Hello

Chris Monroe/AppaEconomicDevelopment

The RemoBell S costs just $99. That's enough on its own to make it a contender for the best overall value, but this smart doorbell from startup Remo Plus also comes with free three-day cloud storage. Cloud storage gives you access to saved video clips so you can review motion activity after the fact, in case you miss it in the moment. Most doorbell companies charge for this feature, making free cloud video storage is kind of rare and incredibly appealing.  Read more about the RemoBell S

Chris Monroe/AppaEconomicDevelopment

Ring's $199 Peephole Cam has HD live streaming, motion detection and alerts and other standard smart doorbell features. The main difference is that this model replaces existing peepholes, making it an ideal choice for folks living in apartments.

Pay $3 per month to see saved clips. The Peephole Cam works with Alexa smart displays, so you can view your live feed and talk to who's there via two-way audio.  Read the Ring Peephole Cam review

In addition to the basics such as 1080p HD 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, but it will tell you it saw a person. For a monthly or yearly fee, you can also upgrade to the Nest Aware cloud subscription service. Along with access to saved HD video recordings, this service adds facial recognition.   Read the Nest Hello review

More video doorbell options

How we test video doorbells

Testing a smart 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 product 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 enabled as a default) to get a complete sense of what it's like to use the product -- and to see how well it actually works as a replacement to a regular, nonsmart doorbell. 

Now playing: Watch this: How to install the Ring Peephole Cam
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What to look for

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

How's the latency? If it 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. 

Originally published last year, this guide was extensively rewritten in 2019. The RemoBell S was most recently added as the best overall pick and the best value pick.

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