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Doorbells are a necessary nuisance in our lives, but they're also among one of the best household features to go "smart" in years. Video doorbells have been around for ages, but cloud-connected smart video doorbells are pretty much a revelation if you've never experienced one. You'll know every time someone is at the door, be able to check for packages without getting up from your couch, and avoid pesky door-to-door solicitors (when we have those again). Arlo, Nest, and Ring all have compelling options, but there's one we think is the best choice for most people, especially if you're using an Android phone and a Google-powered smart display like the Nest Hub.
Google's Nest division launched the Nest Hello a few years ago, and it integrates cleanly with all your other Google things. This camera requires existing low-voltage doorbell wiring, but installation is pretty simple. The Hello has high-resolution 1600p video in a square ratio so you can see the entirety of your porch, and it's HDR. That means you can see every detail even if the sun is shining directly into the camera.
The Nest Hello automatically plugs into Google Assistant speakers to announce visitors, so you can shut off your traditional indoor chime. If you've got Assistant displays or a Pixel Stand, the video feed will automatically pop up whenever someone rings the bell. The Hello saves recorded video to the cloud, but sadly, there's no local storage option. Google also won't save any video without a paid Nest Aware plan, though we think they're a far better value under the new pricing scheme at just $6 a month (or $60 per year, which is definitely the plan you should buy) for an unlimited number of cameras. The camera itself costs $230, making Hello the most expensive option on our list, though it does go on sale frequently. Check our full review here.
Arlo Video doorbell
The Arlo Video Doorbell is extremely similar to the Nest Hello—it even looks like the Nest with a bar-shaped design with a camera at the top and button at the bottom. It connects to standard low-voltage doorbell wiring, and it's a snap to install. The Arlo doorbell records clips when people walk up to the door or press the button, but it won't record continuously like the Nest Hello.
The 1538 x 1538 video is almost as good as the Nest Hello, allowing you to see most of your porch area, but we don't think the quality is quite as good as Nest. There's also limited integration with Google Assistant speakers and displays. Arlo's cloud plans start at $3 per month, but you can also use local recording via the optional hub. The $150 price tag is also much easier to swallow, but an Arlo hub will cost you another $100. Check our full review here.
Ring Doorbell 2 and 3
Unlike Arlo and Nest, Ring has numerous doorbell options, and you can use them in battery-powered mode. That's great for homes that don't have existing low-voltage doorbell wiring. Ring's most popular model right now is the Ring Doorbell 2, which retails for just south of $200. Ring integrates well with Amazon's Alexa ecosystem but not so much Assistant. It also has 1080p video, which isn't as good at showing everything in front of your door.
The Ring 3 was also just released, but it doesn't change much beyond the addition of 5GHz Wi-Fi. The Ring 3 Plus adds a secondary low-power camera system that can show you monochrome video of what happened immediately before motion was detected. As with other Ring doorbells, you don't get continuous video recording. The regular video is the same 1080p feed you get with the non-plus. Ring's devices require a $3 monthly plan for online video storage.
Given Nest's new subscription model, we think the Nest Hello offers the best overall experience with awesome HDR video, plus powerful Assistant and smart display integration. At $60 per year plus $230 in startup costs for the doorbell cam itself, it's not cheap, but now that Nest's subscription includes unlimited cameras, the math quickly starts to work out much better if you add even a single Nest Cam into the mix along with your Hello. And even if you don't, we think the $5 per month (under the annual pricing) is well spent given the tangible perks Nest Hello offers. The Hello has gone on frequent discount, too, and is regularly available for under $200 — meaning you should wait for a sale if you're planning to buy one.
If you want a solution that allows you to save video locally, the Arlo is a strong option, but the $100 Arlo Hub add-on in order to do so makes the value equation a wash in our book. Nest's new plans make scaling your home camera network far more affordable, and the seamless integration into your phone, smart display, and smart speakers is a major value add that Arlo can't match.
As for the Ring, we really only recommend for Alexa-first households. Weak Assistant integration and comparatively low video resolution also just make it less attractive overall, though the low-power monochrome always-on camera of the Ring 3 Plus is an intriguing feature. Still, we think the Hello just makes way more sense for anyone living a Google-first digital lifestyle.