When Doorbot was first released after a successful Kickstarter campaign about three years ago, the technology was ahead of its time.
Riding the edge of the tech boom that is now referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT), Doorbot introduced people to yet another cool thing that could be accomplished with a small Wi-Fi enabled device and a smartphone app.
I originally reviewed the Doorbot here, but I’ve since found a few interesting alternatives.
Despite how popular Doorbot was as a novelty item, there were some serious problems with the overall design that significantly affected the usability of the device.
From garbled audio to video feeds that refused to work sometimes for no apparent reason, Doorbot has received its fair share of customer complaints.
Although no one would necessarily call Doorbot a failure as an innovative product, today’s consumer demands much more functionality from IoT-enabled devices, including smart doorbells.
Fortunately, since Doorbot’s release in 2012, some new options have been released that have greatly improved upon the original concept of the smart doorbell and this article compares the top three alternatives to Doorbot to determine which smart doorbell is worthy enough to be mounted on your front door.
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Ring Video Doorbell
Ring is made by the same company that originally created the Doorbot but do not let that fool you into thinking that Ring is anything like its predecessor.
BOT Home Automation went to great lengths to learn from the Doorbot experience and instead of ditching the project entirely, decided to put that knowledge to use with the introduction of Ring.
Ring doesn’t look like the original Doorbot, the camera has a much better resolution with expanded field of view (180°), and significantly improved audio. Motion-sensing abilities have been added to the new smart doorbell.
Cloud recording and storage are also available. Ring even has a built-in weather station that reports humidity, temperature, and barometric pressure.
Another nice feature of Ring is that unlike Doorbot, it is available in four different finished to compliment the exterior of your home perfectly. Satin nickel, venetian bronze, antique brass, and polished brass finishes are all available.
Ring can be setup using existing doorbell wiring or using the included rechargeable battery. The faceplate can be removed quickly and recharged using a standard micro USB cable (included).
When tested at two different locations with different WiFi setups, Ring’s dependency on a high-quality wireless network became readily apparent. With a basic WiFi package installed at the first home, video feeds often lagged or were grainy (sometimes to the point that you couldn’t tell who was at the door).
Also, response time of the unit varied from 2 seconds to an annoying 30 seconds.
When tested at a location with a premium wireless setup designed for streaming and gaming, Ring performed much better. Response times were more consistent (around five seconds) and video quality was vastly improved.
The 720p video feed definitely suffers on substandard wireless networks – something to keep in mind before installing this unit in your home. To save on the Ring Doorbell, see here.
Chui Intelligent Video Doorbell
Chui adds many features of top of its smart doorbell functionality that make it a decent home security system as well. Motion detection and the ability to view live feeds allow you to monitor what is going on inside the home no matter where in the world your travels may take you.
As a side note, Chui hasn’t actually been released yet. You can still sign up for the Kickstarter here and will receive a finished product when (and if) they ship.
Another interesting feature of Chui is the facial recognition built into the unit.
By programming the unit to recognize specific faces, the unit can be used to unlock the door automatically (when combined with a smart door lock such as Lockitron) and can even be set up to ignore the presence of certain people when they come to door (think about that annoying neighbor that tends to stop by for no apparent reason).
The pre-recorded messages feature also relies on facial recognition.
If, for instance, you want to leave a message for the postal carrier to leave a package at the door even though you aren’t home, Chui can do this for you by recognizing the postal carrier’s face and automatically playing the recorded message for him or her when the doorbell is activated.
It’s the little features like this that really set Chui above the other two options in this list.
Other features of the Chui Intelligent Video Doorbell include real-time notifications, the ability to leave pre-recorded messages, and a Do Not Disturb feature.
Chui has taken the smart doorbell to a whole new level and the added functionality presented by this unit allow you to fully customize your smart doorbell experience.
SkyBell WiFi Doorbell
SkyBell takes a slightly different approach to the smart doorbell in that it only uses a VGA (640×480) resolution instead of the HD quality provided by both Chui and Ring.
While this may seem like a drawback at first, one of the biggest complaints about both of the aforementioned competitors is that the video quality often lags or is grainy.
Obviously, this mostly has to do with the quality of the wireless network within the home, but if you are concerned that your wireless network’s ability to stream an HD video signal might be questionable, the SkyBell may be exactly the product you are looking for.
You can check out my full SkyBell Doorbell review right here
Unlike Chui and Ring, which can operate via an electrically-wired connection or via onboard batteries, SkyBell is a wired-only setup. Also, SkyBell does provide users with on-demand live streaming, but no activity log is available to view past events.
Perhaps the biggest thing to consider when using SkyBell is that because it requires a wired setup, homes without a wired doorbell will not be able to install SkyBell (at least not easily).
To make matters even more complicated, SkyBell requires the use of an additional $12 adapter when using the product with an existing digital doorbell assembly. Finally, SkyBell does not work at all with any doorbell systems that have an intercom system built-in.
If you home has a mechanical or digital wired doorbell already, SkyBell installs quickly and easily but the addition of a battery-powered option on this unit would certainly make SkyBell more versatile and easy to setup whether you have any experience wiring electronics or not.
The SkyBell is comparably priced to the other smart doorbell options, although you’ll find a slightly better price at this listing.
Which Smart Doorbell is the Best?
The short answer is that it depends. Each of these units are priced the same (right around $200 at the time of this writing), but the available features presented by each unit will dictate which option is best for your home.
In homes with a basic wireless network, Ring isn’t a good choice because the unit struggles to broadcast audio and video over these slower connections. People with slow WiFi should definitely consider SkyBell as the VGA resolution streams much more reliably.
In homes where faster WiFi is available, any of these options are a good choice. Just keep in mind that SkyBell does not allow for cloud storage or archival playback of video whereas both Ring and Chui do offer this feature.
Also, the fact that SkyBell requires a hardwired doorbell connection could mean a lot more work when initially installing the unit. This isn’t a problem for everyone, but those who aren’t electrically-savvy may have trouble setting up and configuring this unit.
Chui is unique because it offers facial recognition software that can really pay for itself in no time at all.
Whether setting Chui to ignore certain visitors, play a recorded message, or even let friends and family inside when you aren’t home, the added features of this unit are definitely something to consider when shopping for a smart doorbell setup.
While the first generation of smart doorbells left much to be desired by consumers, these new home automation devices promise to provide all of the features that Doorbot couldn’t deliver on in an affordable package that, at least in most cases, can be installed in just a matter of minutes.