Nest Doorbell (wired) review: A solid upgrade
Over the past few years, video doorbells have become commonplace, and Google’s Nest Doorbell series has long been among the best of the best. Following the brand new battery-powered doorbell last year, the new Nest Doorbell (wired) replaces the Nest Hello. Is it worth the upgrade? Let’s talk.
A camera that actually makes sense on the veranda
One of the biggest upgrades to the new Nest Doorbell is the camera.
The original Nest Hello had a standard camera that streamed a landscape-oriented wide-angle image to your account and apps. It worked well enough, but the biggest problem was that it couldn’t see the face of anyone standing within a few feet of the doorbell, or packages on the ground and near the door.
The second-generation Nest Doorbell (wired) solves this with a new approach to the camera.
Instead of a landscape angle, you will now see everything through an almost square view that is very wide. Google notes a 145-degree field of view from the 1.3 MP camera.
In practice, this means you can see the doormat under your doorbell and gain more than enough height to see the face of even the tallest visitors. It’s definitely a change for the better because, frankly, this orientation makes sense for the front porch.
How is the camera quality? To be honest, it could be better. The details aren’t nearly as sharp as I’d like them to be, which makes sense given the image’s mere 960 x 1280 resolution. Still, it is good enough for the intended purpose.
The HDR performance makes up for the lack of resolution, doing a fantastic job of illuminating faces and details in the foreground. Like many others, my doorbell is covered on my front porch, which leads to some blown out backgrounds and dark faces for older cameras. My Nest Hello, which was previously in this location, often had problems with this, especially on particularly bright days, but the new Nest Doorbell (wired) works brilliantly on all subjects it has seen so far. Night vision is nicebut not impressive.
On a related note, the sound quality is quite good. I can’t say it’s drastically improved from the Nest Hello, but I can hear clearly in the recordings and talk to visitors and get them to understand me without a problem.
Perhaps the only slight annoyance this causes is that notifications from the Nest Doorbell (wired) look a little odd since the format is designed for landscape-oriented video, but that’s not really a problem.
Compact size that should age better
Google’s Nest Doorbell (battery) was one huge hardware, but luckily this new wired model is quite compact. It’s slightly taller and ever-so-slightly thicker than the Nest Hello it replaces, but you won’t notice them unless they’re side by side.
The design of the bell is also quite nice. It has a subtle look with four color options, so you can choose the one that best suits your home. In my case I chose the gray “Ash”, but Google’s neutral tones should cover the vast majority of homes.
The finish on this model should also age far better than the Nest Hello. That doorbell developed problems with the glossy finish peeling off from long-term users over the years, and also just collected dust and stains much more easily. I’m pretty sure this new design will do better over the years.
Easy to install, especially if you’re upgrading
Installation on the Nest Doorbell (wired) is extremely easy. If you’re coming from a Nest Hello, like I was, it can take as little as 10 minutes.
Upgrading to Google’s latest doorbell simply required me to remove the Nest Hello, then screw the included base plate from the new model into the exact same screw hole—a nice touch on Google’s part.
Your doorbell wires go into the exact same place on the new model (Google includes wire connectors for a more secure fit, but they’re not required), and then you just put the new doorbell on the plate. I ended up having to do this twice as I needed to add the 20 degree wedge – included in the box, another nice touch – to get the right view. The home’s existing doorbell doesn’t play well with Google’s system, so at that point I was done.
If you are setting up for the first time, the setup may be a bit more complicated. You will need to remove your existing doorbell, identify which wire is which, and then connect to the doorbell controller in your home. It can be a time-consuming process the first time, but Google’s instructions in the Home app are very helpful.
The only thing I can say I took issue with is the lack of room for the doorbell wires this new design leaves. Where the back plate of the older model provided plenty of room for excess wiring, the new one do not unless you use the 20-degree wedge.
Another nice addition this time around is a security screw to prevent someone from just pressing the doorbell and taking it. A wrench is included to tighten and remove the screw. Someone could probably pull this off if they really wanted to, but at least it’s a deterrent.
Local storage is great if the internet is unstable
Like the rest of Google’s refreshed Nest range, this new doorbell has support for local recording. This is not done through a microSD card or something like that. Rather, the device has internal storage that can hold an hour of footage if the internet connection or Nest’s service goes down. It’s not as useful without battery backup, but it’s certainly a nice addition.
In particular, this is also useful if the Nest Doorbell (wired) has problems with your network in particular. Some have noted that this device seems to have some trouble holding a connection to a 2.4GHz network, but I can’t say I’ve had any issues with it. Network performance feels about on par with the Nest Hello when connected to your home’s Nest Wifi network, but local storage will certainly come in handy if the connection proves to be spotty.
The Bad (for now)
The Google Home app is still a mess, but it’s getting better
The Google Home app has been, and still is, a huge mess for security cameras. As we’ve detailed on several occasions, it has confusing menus, inconsistent performance with history, and still lacks feature parity with the older Nest app it’s supposed to replace. All of this remains true when using the new Nest Doorbell (wired) because, no, you can’t use it in the Nest app.
But things are about to get a lot better.
Earlier this month, Google announced a revamped Home app that’s in testing now and looks to fix all the issues we’ve been having. A better history view, a web app and much more. If it sticks the landing, it will be a massive improvement.
Meanwhile, the Nest Doorbell (wired) is still in a bit of limbo. It gets near-instant notifications and I’ve found that the app’s performance by loading live view from a notification has drastically improved over the past few months, but you’ll still see hiccups from time to time. The core feature of notifying you of an event and letting you see it works, but my main gripe is still interaction with the story. Sometimes it works fine, but other times you can’t see a specific moment if Google hasn’t marked it as an “event.”
Either way, the situation right now is one of pros and cons.
Google has really good features here. Processing on the doorbell device can recognize people, animals, packages and other objects and send you alerts quickly as such. “Familiar Faces” takes it a step further by letting you assign names to specific faces the camera has seen, and get notifications as such. You can also get video previews of who’s at the door and voice alerts from Google Assistant speakers and customizable ringtones, which I trust given the home’s situation with the right chimes. Plus, there’s integration with Pixel’s excellent “At a Glance” widget.
It’s a very good suite of features, but the reliability and design of the Home app takes it all down a notch.
You need a subscription to get the most out of it
I always have mixed feelings about Google’s take on smart home cameras, because it essentially requires you to pay a monthly subscription to actually make it useful.
Without any additional subscription, the Nest Doorbell (wired) only records three hours of event-based history and deletes it immediately after that, making it useless as a security camera if something happens overnight.
Related: How to view and manage the video recordings from the Google Nest camera or Nest Doorbell
With a subscription, you unlock much more. $6/month provides 30 days of event-based story and familiar faces.. $12/month unlocks 60 days of footage and the ability to record 10 days of footage with 24/7 coverage. Both plans support unlimited cameras, but I feel most people should go for the $12/month with this wired doorbell, as 24/7 recording is the biggest advantage this model has over the battery option.
However, you get more for free on this model than you did on the original Nest Hello.
After a couple of weeks of running the Nest Doorbell (wired) in place of my older Nest Hello, I have to say I’m pretty happy with the upgrade. The new features unlocked by the Google Home app are very useful, and the updated camera that sees more of the porch is really valuable.
Actually, there is not much to complain about with the new Nest Doorbell. It’s a solid upgrade on just about everything; just wait for the Google Home app to catch up. If you want to upgrade from Nest Hello, I would wait until the new Home app is fully released. If you are buying for the first time, there is no point in going for the older model at this point.
The new Nest Doorbell (wired) is available for $179 from major retailers.
I wish the price was a little lower since it lacks the battery feature of its similarly priced sibling, but it’s still a pretty reasonable price point.
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