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Smart doorbells are a natural part of the smart home, bringing interactivity and smartness to the front door, perhaps alongside a smart lock.
By integrating a microphone, Wi-Fi, sensor and video camera, they allow owners to know who’s coming, to avoid missing important messages or deliveries, and let them see what’s going on outside their property.
By directing alerts to the smartphone, you can still be at home and know who’s coming, which is good for ignoring cold callers. or, if you’re out and about, you can chat and tell the delivery man where to leave a parcel, or that you’re not interested in more double glazing, a condo or similar offer.
However, there’s a lot of risk in putting something so valuable outside your home, so any purchaser needs to consider their security and ensure the product can’t be misused.
The Skybell and Doorbot are two recent popular examples. In our review, we consider them in terms of features, ease of use, device compatibility and pros and cons.
Contents (Jump to)
Key Features of the Skybell and Doorbot
The SkyBell 2,0 is a second generation smart video doorbell that allows you to see, hear, and speak to the visitor at your door whether you’re at home, at work, or on the go.
The first version was roundly criticised for launching without many of its features in operation, but hopefully the SkyBell 2.0 is a more rounded offering.
It is a powered model, requiring a connection to the mains, there is a battery, but it won’t work without power. It also needs connecting to a wired chime, if you want to use it like a traditional doorbell. If you’re lucky, you can simply replace your old doorbell with this model, but the chances seem pretty slim.
It also needs a link to your 2.4GHz WiFI router, so won’t work with some older models. It requires a 1.5Mbps connection for video, which should be achievable if the router is close enough. However, if its on the other side of the house, and the bell is outside a thick wall, then that may be an issue.
When installed, it will communicate with your iOS and most Android devices, with a video feed on the screen so you can see who’s calling and voice communications to chat with them.
Doorbot looks a lot larger, more like a security system, but inside is the same type of technology, with a camera that offers night vision, a smart buzzer and WiFi connectivity.
The extra space has battery power, so it will still work without power, but of course, your WiFi will be down at that point, limiting its functionality. It does come with a anti-theft guarantee, so if your unit does get stolen, then you will get a free replacement.
On looks, we’d have to go with the the SkyBell, which has the feel of a smart device. While the DoorBot might have a bit more flexibility, as you’ll soon read, the features don’t stack up, so we’ll stick with the SkyBell.
Both devices sound heavily reliant on replacing your existing doorbell system, which means a lot of work if there’s not one there, or you have an old battery model, intercom or other system to contend with. The SkyBell is fidgety to install but the DoorBot, being bulkier and bigger, is less hassle.
The pair are very different when it comes to design, the SkyBell takes its cues from the Nest with a sleek and circular design, that makes it almost innocuous. The DoorBot looks more like a security feature with a sizeable case.
Still, the SkyBell has too many small bits and a scarily thin allen key to get things connected together. There’s also the risk you’ll find that the unit isn’t compatible with an existing digital chime or other installed bell, and you may need an extra part (that you can order from them) but will delay installation, and ruin your day.
Pros and Cons
SkyBell looks the part for a smart home, and it seems like the company is evolving the device neatly up the versions, solving problems and adding features. SkyBell is listed as being signed up to HomeKit, but there’s no specific integration in this product.
It can still be tricky to install and may not offer perfect operation, depending on your home set up. One minor issue for some is that SkyBell is listed as not being compatible with any Samsung phones sold by T-Mobile.
The doorbot looks quite old fashioned, and the internal tech isn’t up to much, with a 640 x 480 video camera which is no good for identifying people or taking screenshots of someone you think is suspicious. The WiFi module also seems pretty flaky with plenty of dropped contacts or failure to work at all.
This could be down to environmental issues but since you also need the app open to get a real time response, it feels more like a cheap solution all round. Features like the Hold to Talk button on the app don’t work well, and the video is rarely stable enough to identify callers.
There is supposed to be a new, or related model from the company’s new owners, Ring, but we have yet to test the Ring Doorbell.
Comparison – Just the Specs
|Dimensions||0.8 x 2.8 x 2.8 inches||1.30 x 2.39 x 5.68 inches|
|Color options||Brushed Aluminum, Rubbed Bronze||Silver
|Price||see here for live pricing||see here for live pricing|
Which Would I Go With?
Moving any smart device outside the home presents new challenges. There are reports of both these devices triggering false positive reports, just as the light or other conditions change.
With a raft of installation issues and troublesome performance also reported, it would be hard to recommend anything in this category.
However, if you were going to pick between the two, then the SkyBell is still being developed, and looks more like a smarthome device, making it the more evolved and likely choice for buyers.
Early 2.0-era models were problematic when it came to connectivity, but this issue seems to have been resolved in later production runs.
Compare that to the DoorBot for which production has ended, as the company was acquired by Ring. That might make it a bit of a bargain, if you can find one, but once they’re gone, they’re gone and there’s only limited support.
Patrick Sinclair is a geek; make no mistake about that. He runs All Home Robotics in his spare time so he doesn’t have to think about his depressing cubicle and it gives him an excuse to buy expensive gadgets to review!