Overview: Nest Hello VS Ring VS Skybell HD
Right now the biggest market in smart home security is smart video doorbells. These doorbell cameras are popping up in pretty much any electronics store you can imagine and have become a major category for smart homes. We’re talking about small smart home security cameras that are integrated into a doorbell housing that can capture video as well as… you know… ring…
It’s perhaps the perfect application for smart home cameras since people are increasingly receiving packages from online deliveries and working long hours. When you can’t be around all of the time a doorbell that can keep an eye on your front entrance is the next best thing.
Not everyone needs a smart video doorbell but it could be an excellent hassle free way to add video security to your front door. In most cases the wiring is already there which will power the camera, and the fact that it will be located at the front of your house is perfect for those looking for a first line of defence from criminals and annoying door to door salesman.
Lastly, a lot of the new smart doorbell cameras are part of larger ecosystems. This means that their smart home smarts don’t end at the front door. In many cases they integrate nicely into other smart home products to enhance their already high tech features.
This doesn’t mean that all smart video doorbells are created equal though. Far from it actually. A few years ago it was really only one company, Ring, offering a great smart video doorbell option. Now there are several awesome alternatives. And we’re going to compare the best of the best to figure our which smart video doorbell deserves your hard earned cash. We are looking at the Nest Hello VS Ring VS Skybell HD in our ultimate video doorbell smart home smackdown. Here we go!
What they can do
As we mentioned above, all of these smart video doorbells are at their core doorbells that contain HD cameras in them. Each of them will link up with a smartphone app to be able to alert you when someone approaches your door and presses the doorbell button. Simple enough right? Well, there are some major functionality differences that we need to highlight.
Ring Video Doorbell 2 features
The Ring Video Doorbell 2 is the latest in Ring’s video doorbell offerings. Ring is the granddaddy of the technology as they were first out of the gate with an excellent smart doorbell option several years ago. An Amazon acquisition and a few models later, we are left with the Ring Video Doorbell 2. This is probably the best bang for the buck out of all of them on our list as it offers excellent features for a very reasonable price. We’re looking at full 1080p HD footage on this doorbell. It also offers very decent two-way talk capability. This is a function where you can actually talk to whoever is at your front door through the video doorbell. It’s super helpful for letting the delivery guy know to just leave the package at the front door or to yell at would-be criminals. The Ring Video Doorbell 2 also has built-in motion sensors that are used to trigger the doorbell’s feed on your phone or even show the video feed on an enabled Amazon Alexa device with a screen like the Amazon Echo Show. But the standout feature with Ring is the fact that their video doorbell can be either hardwired or use battery for power. This is great news for folks who can’t connect to an existing doorbell location. I could also see if being really handy in an apartment where you aren’t wanting to spend money on a hardwired install. The camera captures footage with 160° horizontal and 90° vertical footage which should be good for most users.
One very unique feature on the Ring Doorbell 2 is its ability to adjust its sensitivity in different physical directions. It has the ability to lower the trigger sensitivity for notifications or turn them off entirely in six different zones in front of the camera. This means you can make sure you aren’t constantly getting false positives from your tree swaying in the wind in a certain zone. Great idea? Yes. But how does it work. We actually had more false positives from Ring than either the Skybell HD and the Nest Hello. Go figure…
But what about the competition?
Skybell HD features
Pretty much everything we mentioned for the Ring above applies here. The Skybell HD offers similar 1080p resolution on its camera, two-way audio, and motion sensor triggering of recorded events. Where Skybell differentiates its feature set is in a few areas. For one, the Skybell HD offers a quiet mode which you can set in the app. This means that when someone rings the doorbell, your house’s chime does not go off, but you still get a notification on your phone that someone is there. New parents with sleeping babies rejoice! The Skybell HD also offers a very awesome full color night vision mode which is pretty wild. Instead of the regular gray-scale that most systems offer, you’ll be able to catch color details even in the dead of night. The camera on the Skybell HD is only 120° which is a good deal less than its dirext competitors.
But the core functions are quite similar here as with the Ring Video Doorbell 2. Skybell does not offer battery power though, so if that is a concern you should be looking at Ring.
Nest Hello features
Last but certainly not least is the Nest Hello. Nest took their sweet time coming out with a smart video doorbell to compete with these other guys. But the wait was definitely worth it. In terms of features, Nest equals or beats everyone. And there are some smart features here that really put it over the top for most users. Again, we have a slim doorbell which houses a 1080p camera which captures in a nice portrait format. Nest Hello offers similar two-way talk capability, full recording history (if you opt for the extra Nest Aware subscription) and motion sensing. And it matches the Ring’s 160° field of view. Like the Skybell HD, the Nest Hello offers a quiet mode to turn off the in-house physical chime when someone rings the doorbell.
Where the Nest stands out is in the little additions that result is a much better experience. For one, Nest Hello uses a tall 4:3 aspect ratio with its video which is much better for capturing a taller image at a doorway. This means that generally you see more of the person at the door than bit the Ring and Skybell. In fact, the image almost perfectly fits on the smart phone screen when looking at the video footage. With the extra Nest Aware subscription the Nest Hello really goes into overdrive. If you pay $5 a month you will get full 24/7 full motion video recording instead of relying on clips like the Skybell HD and Ring 2. If you’re using the camera as a major security camera, then this is almost a must if you ask me. Nest Aware also adds in not only just motion and sound alerts to your app, but it also can detect people and differentiate them from “things” like leaves blowing or rain. Let’s take that one step further! The Nest Hello uses the AI technology pioneered in the excellent Nest Cam IQ which can recognize specific people’s faces. It can then alert you that that specific individual is at the door. How cool is that?
Nest Hello also offers quick audio responses that you can pick when you can’t talk. For example, if you see the UPS delivery person at your door waiting to get a signature but you’re in a business meeting, you can discreetly choose the “Just leave it at the door.” message from the Nest app. Awesome. And useful. That’s sort of the trend here. Nest has taken a winning formula pioneered by Ring and perfected it. If you don’t need battery power, then Nest is definitely the best video doorbell out there right now in terms of features.
Winner: Nest Hello
We’ll keep this section a bit more brief. Each of these three doorbell cameras will offer very good video quality. The Ring Video Doorbell 2 and Skybell HD look very similar. Bot capture the image in a horizontal 16:9 format which does a good job of capturing the outdoor environment. However, in our tests we found the Skybell’s quality was just a bit better than Ring’s. The detail was a bit better in further away objects and the contrast tended to be better between light and dark images.
The winner in terms of image quality though is Nest Hello. One of the biggest differences here is that Nest Hello captures its image in a 1600×1200 resolution. This is essentially the same quality (pixel-wise) than the two others, but it captures in portrait instead of landscape. Why does this matter? Well, doorways and people are vertical. It just makes sense to look at doorway images in this tall format. This means the Nest Hello captures more of what you actually care about. You can see more of a person’s legs or head closer up. Instead, with the other cameras we see a lot of extra wall being captured on the sides of the image. This isn’t overly helpful for a doorbell camera. On top of this, the Nest Hello carries over excellent HDR (high dynamic range) capability from the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor. This means you’re seeing excellent separation between light and dark on screen. Overall the video quality is a no brainer. Nest kills the other two here.
Winner: Nest Hello
Install and setup
Install of the Nest Hello VS Ring VS Skybell HD is quite similar. Each can be wired directly to your existing analog doorbell wiring. As we mentioned earlier, the Ring Video Doorbell 2 offers battery power so this is ideal for someone who simply can’t get access to traditional doorbell wiring. We do, however, recommend plugging in the Ring 2’s included battery to USB power to charge it as soon as you take it out of the box. You don’t want to be left around waiting for the battery to be fully charged…
The Ring and Skybell HD doorbells are fairly large in terms of the size of their casings (particularly the Skybell HD with its circular shape). Because of this, Skybell actually offers a thinner alternative called the Skybell Trim Plus which offers all of the same features in a much slimmer package. Nest Hello is about the perfect size. It has rounded edges so it can fit more snugly in a small install location. On top of that, Nest offers a wedge shaped add-on that can allow you to mount the Nest Hello on a 45 degree corner. This comes in handy with a lot of doorways that have the doorbell mounted on the very slim door jam portion of the door.
Setup-wise each of the these cameras are very easy to set up. Connecting them to wifi was a breeze in each of the cases and adding them to the requisite app was simple. Nest’s was probably the easiest with their QR code system for scanning the camera (like the rest of their smart home offerings). Both Ring and Skybell go through the slightly tedious process of connecting to custom wifi networks and then returning to the app (like many smart home devices). This isn’t a problem but it certainly isn’t as slick as Nest’s connection wizard.
However, the Nest Hello is the only one that offers both 5GHz and 2.4Ghz wifi. Both the Ring and Skybell HD are limited to 2.4Ghz only. This means that Nest Hello can operate on the much more congestion-free 5Ghz wifi band which generally has higher download and upload speeds than 2.4Ghz. For most people this won’t be a major issue, but for those of you in particularly crowded wifi locations (apartments for example) the 5Ghz support is nice.
Winner: Nest Hello
Like many smart home devices, there are premium subscriptions at play with these video doorbells as well. Ring’s is probably the most stingy of the bunch with their premium features. Out of the box, with their free plan you don’t actually get any motion event or audio event storage whatsoever. This means that the doorbell can only be used to look at live video feeds. In order to get this you need to subscribe to their Protect Basic ($3 a month) or Protect Plus ($10 a month) plans. Protect Plus actually adds professional monitoring to your camera if you are in the US. Both plans get you storage of motion events for up to 60 days. This professional monitoring is actually a unique feature to the Ring doorbell.
Nest offers video snapshots for up to 3 hours after they happened for free. This isn’t all that useful though… Luckily Nest’s Aware premium subscription is actually very worth the money. With it you get 5, 10 or 30 day full 24/7 full motion video recording. Yes, this means that you can watch full recordings of the day’s events on your camera through the Nest cloud. The Nest Aware service also gets you the advanced familar face people detection which is well worth the cost. The $5 (5 day) a month subscription is actually a pretty good deal when you consider what you are getting here.
Skybell HD is unique because it doesn’t have a monthly fee at all. While it doesn’t offer full motion video recording like Nest, it does offer 7 days of free motion event recording to the cloud. Not a bad deal at all.
Overall we have to give a tie between Skybell and Nest here.
Winner: Tie between Nest Hello and Skybell HD
Design is always a bit subjective. But we think the Ring Video Doorbell 2 is simply objectively an uglier device than both the Skybell HD and the Nest Hello. Its a pretty ugly, and cheap-looking, plastic box. On the other hand, Skybell HD is a very elegant-looking brushed aluminum look. The circular shape is eye-catching as well. The Nest Hello also has a very nice design aesthetic with its rounded edges and glowing center ring.
The Nest and Ring apps are much better designed than the Skybell HD’s however. Software-wise Skybell has a long way to go to match both the features and the user interface that Ring and Nest bring to the table.
We’re going to give the win here to Nest because the physical design is really functional and beautiful AND their app is well-designed.
Winner: Nest Hello
Durability and weather-resistance
Since these video doorbells are inevitably going to be installed outside, weather-proof ratings and ruggedness are important.
The Skybell HD’s operating temperature is 40 – 140 °F (-40 – 60°C). This is a pretty great range actually, meaning that the Skybell HD will be at home in both the wilds of Minnesota in January and the heat of Florida in June. However, the water-proofing on the Skybell HD leaves something to be desired. It is rated IP54 water resistant which is really only dust-proof with limited water-proofing. This likely wouldn’t be an issue at first, but we can imagine moisture becoming an issue in winter environments or very wet weather with this doorbell camera.
The Ring Video Doorbell 2 has a worse operating temperature range of -5 – 120°F (-20 – 50°C). While this will be fine for most moderate climates, forget about this one if you live in the Northern US or Canada where winters can be harsh. This low range is because the Ring 2 uses a rechargeable battery which does not fare well with cold temperatures. Ring actually recommends bringing the whole unit inside when it hits below -5°F (-20°C). The weatherproofing on the Ring 2 is pretty bad. We couldn’t find what IP rating it has but upon visual inspection the doorbell doesn’t seem to have much protection from moisture at all. Stay away from this unit if you are in damp environment.
The Nest Hello’s operating temperature range is 5 – 104°F (-15 – 40°C). This is actually the worst of the bunch. However, we have heard that the unit actually runs fairly warm so it makes up for any lost heat during its normal operation. You may experience small stutters or lags in cold temperature but so far in out testing we haven’t seen an all out failure. Since the Nest Hello does not use a battery we would be comfortable recommending it in cold weather. The waterproofing is rated at IPX4 which is recommended for units withstanding rain or snow (and dust).
Overall, the Skybell HD is the most rugged of the Nest Hello VS Ring VS Skybell HD.
Winner: Skybell HD
Smart home integration
The Ring Video Doorbell 2 is integrated really nicely with Amazon Alexa (as expected for a device now owned by Amazon). You can use your voice to send the video feed from the doorbell to your Amazon Echo Show or an Amazon Fire TV device. The Ring Doorbell also obviously works very nicely with Ring’s stable of other smart home devices like their security system, floodlights and wireless chime. If you’re using the battery only method with Ring you will want to pickup one of these wireless chimes. You also have a full IFTTT channel to make some smart automations with the Ring Doorbell 2.
Skybell plays well with others as well. It actually is part of the “Works with Nest” program so it can communicate with indoor Nest Cams and the Nest thermostat to figure out when you are home or away. It works with Amazon Echo, several smart lock makers like Kwikset as well as has full integration with Stringify and IFTTT for automation. You can also add the Skybell HD to your SmartThings setup if you want to control it with the rest of your smart home goodies.
The Nest Hello obviously is perfectly integrated with the larger Nest and Google ecosystem. One really unique feature here is how the Nest Hello can announce people who appear at your door on your Google Home devices. In fact, if you have familiar faces enabled, it can even say things like “John is at the door” if it already knows that person. Amazing right? On top of that, the Nest Hello works with Amazon Echo (Alexa), IFTTT and Stringify.
Overall we have to give the win here to Skybell HD as it is the most flexible and “ecosystem agnostic” when it comes to smart home integration. But Nest is close behind with its amazing Google Home integration.
Winner: Skybell HD
The Skybell HD and Ring Video Doorbell 2 are priced almost identically while the Nest is quite a bit more expensive. We’d argue that the advantages laid out so far still make the Nest Hello the best value of the bunch. But due to the fact that the Skybell HD doesn’t have any monthly fees, its hard not to give the nod for value to Skybell. The Skybell HD is also a better construction than Ring so you really are getting a more durable device for the money.
Winner: Skybell HD
🏆 Overall Winner
Overall we have to give the win to the Nest Hello. We consider basically a new generation of smart video doorbell and now Ring (and everyone else) are playing catchup. Their vertical video recording, use of AI and smart integration with Nest and Google services make this the smart video doorbell to beat. If you don’t have the extra cash for the Nest Hello we recommend the Skybell HD since there are no monthly fees and the weather resistance on the unit is best in class.
Winner: Nest Hello