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Nest Doorbell (battery) review: Solid but unexceptional

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
180
inc. VAT

The Nest Doorbell is a solid video doorbell, but it’s not quite the best

Pros 
Battery or wired installation
Some free video clip history
Most features are unlocked and free to use
Cons 
Doesn’t come with a chime
Facial recognition only available via subscription
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The Nest Doorbell is Google’s replacement for one of my all-time favourite smart home products, the Nest Hello. It was pricey but combined excellent reliability with superb video quality and accurate facial recognition, and sat atop of the Expert Reviews best video doorbell list for a long, long time.

On paper, it looks like the new pretender ticks all the boxes. It now comes with a built-in battery that allows you to use it without having to run wires to the rear of the doorbell. And it builds on that by giving you some free video storage so you don’t have to worry about paying for an ongoing subscription.

It’s also been redesigned to look more modern and minimalist, which is nice, and at £180, the price is more reasonable than the original Nest Hello as well.

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Nest Doorbell review: What do you get for the money?

As usual with products of this type, the Nest Doorbell comes with a selection of bits and bobs to help you mount the doorbell to your door frame and connect it up to any existing mains and chime wiring you might have.

Unlike some doorbells, there’s no mains transformer provided in the box but, since the Nest Doorbell has an integrated 6,000mAh battery, that’s not too much of a problem. There’s also no chime unit supplied, which means you’ll either have to connect the doorbell physically to an existing doorbell chime, or use a Nest smart speaker to announce when there’s someone at the door.

The design is simplicity itself, with the lens located at the top of the unit and the doorbell button at the bottom. It’s sleek and modernist in appearance but a little on the large side compared with other smart doorbells we’ve reviewed, measuring a full 160mm from top to bottom. At least anyone who comes to the door will be in no doubt as to what to press.

The camera captures HDR video footage at a resolution of 960 x 1,280 at 30fps with a 145-degree field of view. There’s support for two-way audio as well, so you can see and talk to visitors via your smartphone or tablet. That’s all pretty respectable, but some rivals are more advanced. The Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2, for instance, captures square aspect-ratio video at a sharper 1,536 x 1,536 and the Eufy Video Doorbell 2K (battery) does even better, recording clips at 2,560 x 1,920.

Video footage and audio is transferred over single-band 2.4GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi, which is also a tad disappointing since, in the US, the doorbell works over both 2.4GHz and 5GHz network bands. I haven’t had any issues with connectivity during testing, but in built-up areas where the 2.4GHz band may be more congested this could prove to be a problem.

Otherwise, the Nest Doorbell works exactly as you’d expect a video doorbell to work. You get a notification when someone approaches the front door and an alert when someone rings the bell. At this point, you can choose either to talk to your visitor via the app on your phone or issue one of the doorbell’s canned audio responses. You have three to choose from here – “You can just leave it”, “We’ll be right with you” or “We can’t answer the door” – which is useful if you don’t fancy talking directly with strangers at the front door.

You can also tap into the live feed from your smart screen – that’s if you already own a Nest Hub or Nest Hub Max.

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Nest Doorbell review: How easy is it to install?

You have two choices when it comes to installing the Nest Doorbell. The easiest way is to simply charge it via the USB-C port on the rear using the supplied cable, install the Google Home app on your phone and run through the setup routine.

This helps you through the process of adding the doorbell to your wireless network and also includes a selection of video tutorials showing you how to physically attach the doorbell to your door frame. If you’re connecting the doorbell this way (assuming you have all the tools at your disposal), it shouldn’t take longer than half an hour to complete.

The downside to installing this way is that you’ll periodically have to recharge your doorbell. Google says it will last up to two-and-a-half months per charge, although if you have a lot of callers you’ll probably have to recharge more frequently than this.

The more difficult setup choice (and the one I chose) is to connect the Nest to existing doorbell wiring, although it’s not that much more complicated. In this case you’ll need to attach the supplied spade connector wires to the back of the device and your existing doorbell wires.

The Nest Doorbell works with 8-24V AC transformers, which covers the majority of domestic doorbell installations, and you don’t need to fiddle around adding a module to your Chime, either. Just connect the wires, mount the doorbell to the door frame and you should be good to go.

Things get more complicated if you don’t already have wiring in place and you want the convenience of not having to recharge every two months or so. In this case, you’ll either need to get a professional electrician to set up a doorbell transformer for you and run the wires, or purchase the optional power adapter, drill a hole to the rear of your doorbell and plug into a nearby mains socket.

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Nest Doorbell review: What does it do well?

Of all the doorbells I’ve tested, the Nest Doorbell is among the most responsive I’ve used. By that, I mean when I get an alert and tap it to open the app, there’s barely any delay in launching the video stream, even over the mobile network. Even the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2, one of the quickest I’ve tested previously, takes longer to open the live stream.

Alerts arrived at my phone speedily as well, mostly taking less than five seconds – and never more than ten seconds – once the doorbell had been pressed. Announcements to a Nest Audio speaker took an average of 10 seconds to arrive.

Two-way audio works speedily as well, allowing you to carry out a conversation with visitors over the doorbell without frustrating delays, and video clarity is excellent. The HDR feature ensures that, even on bright days, when visitors are heavily backlit, you can see faces clearly.

The same goes for the AI object detection system, which is able to detect not only people, but also packages, animals (dogs and cats) and moving vehicles. It will even recognise when you’ve retrieved a package if it has been left on the step (or if someone else has). The activity zone system is equally sophisticated, allowing you to add up to four detection zones, assigning each one its own notification and event detection settings.

Finally, it’s worth reiterating that, for all these features, you won’t have to pay a penny in ongoing subscriptions as you do with other systems. Ring, for instance, only gives you alerts and Live View for free, and the same goes for Arlo. With the Nest Doorbell, your video clips are stored locally and you get three hours to review and download clips no matter whether you’ve paid or not.

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Nest Doorbell review: What could it do better?

For most people, setup will probably go without a hitch but, for me, it was complicated by the fact that I’d previously had a Nest Hello installed. In short, the new Nest Doorbell decided it desperately needed to talk to the old Nest Hello doorbell to complete setup, despite the fact that it wasn’t installed any more and hadn’t been for months. Only after finding said doorbell and removing it from the old Nest app was I able to complete installation.

The way the motion zones feature works is a little confusing, too. You might have thought that setting up an activity zone would automatically disable notifications outside that zone – that’s certainly the way it works with every other doorbell and security camera I’ve used – but no. Instead, after adding a motion detection zone, you have to then go in and turn off event notifications for out-of-zone detection. Again, a peculiar decision from Google’s software engineers.

And although most aspects of performance are fine, Google could also certainly improve the speed with which the camera wakes up once it detects motion. I found there was a delay of at least four seconds between detection and recordings starting. This means that video clips at my front door started only once visitors had arrived on the step, instead of a couple of seconds earlier as they approached down the path.

This is something the wired Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 did much better – its pre-roll feature enabled it to capture every second of the action from the moment a visitor entered the detection zone, all the way up the path to the front door, giving me that crucial second or two prior warning that someone was about to ring the doorbell.

Finally, given that all the other AI features are provided for free, it’s a touch disappointing that you need to pay for Nest Aware to unlock the camera’s Familiar Faces feature. This is a superb feature that uses facial recognition to let you know when people you know are at the door and when a stranger rings the bell.

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Nest doorbell review: Should I buy one?

Since the advent of the Nest Hello, smart doorbells have come a long way and there’s now plenty of choice on the market. As a result, despite the fact that it works well, the Nest Doorbell doesn’t stand out as much as it once might have done.

I applaud the fact that the doorbell can be used without the need for a subscription, and it’s also great that you can install it without the need for existing wiring or a professional install. Combined with Nest’s object detection, a modern look and a surprisingly reasonable price, it’s a very solid all-rounder.

However, it can’t quite match the Eufy Video Doorbell 2K (battery), which comes with a chime included in the box, has 16GB of storage built in and effectively unlimited subscription-free video clip storage.

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