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Google Nest Doorbell review: Catching up to the competition
Google Nest Doorbell
Retail price: $179.99$179.99 at Google Store
What we like
What we don't like
Google’s first foray into smart doorbells started with the Nest Hello in 2018. Unfortunately, that doorbell had a small audience due to its high price and huge limitation of only working with existing wired doorbell systems. This year, though, the company is finally offering a totally wireless solution with the Google Nest Doorbell.
Without a doubt, the Nest Doorbell is the smart home entry device Google fans have been waiting for. However, this is a product people have wanted since even before the Nest Hello launched over three years ago. How many of those folks have already jumped ship to one of the many competitors out there that have offered truly wireless doorbell solutions for years?
Regardless, in this Google Nest Doorbell review, we’re going to tell you what you can expect from this highly-anticipated product.
What you need to know about the Google Nest Doorbell
- Google Nest Doorbell (Battery): $179 / £179 / €199
The Google Nest Doorbell is a fully wireless smart entry camera. It has a camera with a 1,280 x 960 vertical resolution as well as a doorbell button. Although it works wirelessly, you can also wire it to your existing doorbell chime system. This makes the product much more versatile than Nest’s previous wired-only doorbell.
If you go wireless, doorbell chimes will happen on your Google Assistant-powered smart speakers. If you have Google Assistant-powered smart displays, the video feed, as well as the chime, will appear on those displays when someone rings. You’ll also get notifications on your smartphone. In fact, smartphones will be your only way to use the camera if you don’t have smart displays/speakers.
Out-of-the-box, the device offers three free hours of cloud video storage. You can pay a monthly/annual fee through Nest Aware to increase that if you wish. It also has plenty of AI smarts to do cool things like recognize if someone has dropped off a package or even tell you who is at the door. Some of these features are locked behind the paid subscription, though.
The Google Nest Doorbell comes in one color around the world: Snow. This is the color seen in this review. In the United States, though, there are other color options including Linen (beige), Ivy (grayish-green), and Ash (gray).
Finally, do note that Google has rebranded the 2018 Nest Hello as the Google Nest Doorbell (Wired). It also lowered that device’s retail price. For the purposes of simplicity, we will refer to the 2021 wireless version as the Nest Doorbell in this review.
What can the Nest Doorbell do?
It’s easiest to think about the Google Nest Doorbell as a small wireless security camera with a doorbell button attached. In that vein, it will do pretty much everything you want from a security camera. It will monitor your front door, alert you when it spots someone, record footage of what happens, etc.
The doorbell feature works in tandem with the camera. When someone touches the doorbell, the device will alert you on all your Google Assistant-powered devices, including your smartphone. On your phone and smart displays, you can tap a microphone button to directly communicate (audio only) with that person. If this makes you uncomfortable, there are also canned responses you can issue through the Google Assistant voice.
The audio quality of these interactions is OK. I could hear people from the doorbell just fine, and audio coming out of the doorbell sounds about as good as a loud smartphone speaker. There were some slight audio delays here and there, but nothing that impeded the conversations. I do wish there were a few more canned responses available, as the three on offer don’t really cover every hypothetical situation. These are your only choices:
- “You can just leave it”
- “We’ll be right there”
- “No one can come to the door”
Options such as “Please come back in 10 minutes” or even a simple “Thank you very much” would be nice additions here. I understand that Google is trying to keep things simple, but there’s definitely room for expansion. The responses could at least be a little more friendly-sounding!
It should be noted, though, that the camera works flawlessly with Google Assistant and Assistant-powered smart displays. If you ask your smart display to show you the doorbell’s camera feed, it’s on the screen in a few seconds. If someone rings the bell, the chime is loud and clear and the video feed appears quickly automatically.
There is no extra setup involved with this either since you use the Google Home app to configure and operate the device, so it all just works. However, you cannot issue Assistant commands to the doorbell itself.
Unlike a lot of competitor products, the aspect ratio of the Google Nest Doorbell’s video feed is 3:4 instead of the usual 16:9. This taller ratio (seen in the screenshots above) with a 145-degree diagonal field-of-view (FoV) allows the camera to see all the way down to the floor, which helps it recognize when packages are left there. The downside, of course, is that you don’t get the same wide view of other cameras.
As for the camera itself, it is fairly large for products of this type. You can see it compared to a Google Pixel 5 below.
Interestingly, the Google Nest Doorbell has a lower resolution than the Nest Hello — 960 x 1,280 for the former and 1,200 x 1,600 for the latter. It also has a lower FoV at 145 degrees instead of 160 degrees.
Obviously, a lower resolution video feed isn’t great. The feed looks fine and I could see all the details I needed to see, but some competitor products at this price point offer the 2K resolution of the Hello or, at the very least, the standard 1080p.
Google downplays this by focusing on the HDR capabilities of the camera, a feature not too many competitors offer. HDR helps with better contrast and definition between shadows and highlights. This does help a lot with making the video feed look good, but HDR combined with a high resolution would make it look much better.
Of course, it’s not like you’ll be using this for a photo shoot. For what it is, the video quality of the Nest Doorbell is good enough to get the job done, but hardly a new gold standard for the market.
Google is a software company first, so it shouldn’t be surprising to hear that the software aspects of this device are the big selling points. The camera can recognize people, packages, animals, and vehicles all separately.
This allows you to be notified not only that there’s a person at the door, but that they left a package behind. It also means you can program the camera to notify you if a car goes by but not if an animal does.
Google's object recognition works pretty much flawlessly.
I found the camera to be incredibly accurate with this feature. It recognized people, packages, and vehicles pretty much flawlessly. It even recognized a bag of food left at my door as a package, even though it obviously wasn’t shaped like a box.
This is all possible thanks to on-device machine learning capabilities. The Nest Doorbell doesn’t need to ping Google’s servers for basic determination of what’s going on, which makes it more efficient at identifying things.
IP rating and internet outages
Since most people will install the device outside, it has an IP54 rating. This means it can prevent dust and other particle ingresses from affecting operation. It can also withstand significant water splashing, i.e. rain. The device survived tropical storm Henri when it hit my home of New Haven, CT, over last weekend, so it’s pretty durable.
Finally, if your internet goes out, the device can record up to one hour of footage on its onboard storage. When internet connectivity resumes, it will upload that footage to the cloud. See further down for more information on cloud saves and other connected features.
Can you install the Nest Doorbell yourself?
If you choose to go wireless, installing the Google Nest Doorbell is simple enough that anyone can do it. If you want to make sure you can handle it, Google has a helpful tutorial on the full process.
For this Google Nest Doorbell review, I installed the device at my front door in about 15 minutes. All it took was a drill, a drill bit, and some measuring tape. In a pinch, I probably could have done it all with just a screwdriver, though if you have thicker walls you may need a drill to create pilot holes for screwing in the mount.
Outside of those tools, everything you need to install the Nest Doorbell is in its retail box. That includes the mount, a tool to detach it from the mount, and an optional wedge plate that can angle the camera slightly to the left or right to gain maximum coverage of your entryway. You’ll also need a Google account and the Google Home app on your Android or iOS smartphone.
Installing the Nest Doorbell wirelessly took me about 15 minutes with everyday tools.
If you want to see if your front door is a good fit for the Nest Doorbell, grab a measuring tape. You’ll need about two inches of width and about eight inches of height for the install. You’ll also want the center of the device to be about four feet from the floor as this is the ideal position to see both faces and packages left on the ground.
Once installed, it holds fast. The device won’t budge if you just try to yank it off. Do note, though, that the supplied removal tool is not intricate in any way. If a thief knew how to remove it, a flathead screwdriver would do the trick. As such, theft isn’t dead simple, but it also isn’t difficult. Keep this in mind if you live in a neighborhood in which this could be a problem. Thankfully, Google does offer theft protection for this product, assuming you get a police report and follow the proper procedures.
As a final note, installing the Nest Doorbell wired to your existing chime system doesn’t appear to be too difficult, either. However, I did not do that for this review, so I can’t say whether or not a professional installation would be advised.
How is the Google Nest Doorbell’s battery life?
I installed the fully-charged Google Nest Doorbell in the afternoon on Thursday. By the following Monday afternoon, its battery was at 73%. Extrapolating those results, I should see about 7% battery loss each day for a total period of about two weeks before I would need to charge it.
Keep in mind, though, that your results may vary significantly from mine. For example, if your front door area is busier than mine, you’ll see reduced battery life. You’ll see further reductions if you increase the wake-up sensitivity and overall video recording/streaming quality.
Conversely, if your front door is much less active and you drop down all those settings, you could see significantly increased battery life at your home. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that low-traffic households could see over a month of battery life.
Also, it is entirely possible that my results so far don’t represent long-term results. We will update this review after having more time with the product.
If you already own a smart doorbell, it is very likely you’ll see similar battery life results with the Nest Doorbell as you do with your current device. The 6,000mAh battery inside this product is comparable to most competitors (the Ring Video Doorbell 4 has a similar capacity, for example). This combined with the controls you have for video quality, wake sensitivity, etc., should keep things fairly consistent.
If you don’t already own a wireless doorbell, it’s very difficult to judge how long this one will last you. Doorbells are like smartphones: if you have your phone’s screen brightness way up and use GPS navigation constantly you’re going to see pretty weak battery life compared to someone who doesn’t do those things as often.
Related: The best Google Nest products
Regardless of how long the Nest Doorbell lasts, it takes about five hours to charge its battery using the in-box USB-C cable (there is no wall adapter included). Its maximum charging speed is 7.5W, so you’ll want to use a charger that meets or exceeds that speed, if possible. If you’re ever curious how long you’ve got left for battery power, the Google Home app gives you that info. It will also notify you as you get close to zero.
The battery in the device is non-removable, so you’ll need to physically remove the doorbell from your front door to charge it. This is not ideal for obvious reasons, and other products (such as the aforementioned Ring Video Doorbell 4) offer swappable batteries. This is likely a case in which Google put form over function with the design of the product.
Keep in mind that if you install this wired to your doorbell chime system, you don’t need to worry about charging it. The device will draw power from your chime system. In the event of a power outage, it will operate on its battery until power returns. As such, if you don’t want to be bothered with charging the Nest Doorbell, wired is the way to go. Just make sure your chime system fits the proper requirements.
Do you need a Nest Aware subscription to use the Google Nest Doorbell?
Without a Nest Aware subscription, here’s what the Google Nest Doorbell can do:
- Alert you when it sees a person, animal, or vehicle
- Alert you that someone has pressed the doorbell
- Allow you to communicate with the person at the door through either your phone or smart display
- Tell you that someone has left a package
- Save one hour of onboard footage
- Save three hours of cloud footage
For most folks reading this, that should be all you need to get what you pay for from the Nest Doorbell. However, a Nest Aware or Nest Aware Plus subscription does offer some perks.
A Nest Aware subscription ($6 each month or $60 each year) ups your saved cloud footage significantly from three hours to 30 days. It also offers a feature called Familiar Face Detection. This feature uses your Google Photos and Google Contacts data to actually tell you who’s at the door using facial recognition.
Unless you need tons of cloud event recording time, you probably don't need to bother with Nest Aware.
A Nest Aware Plus subscription ($12 each month or $120 each year) gives you a full 60 days of event recording in the cloud. It also gives 24/7 video history from the past 10 days. Obviously, it also includes the Familiar Face Detection feature.
As cool as it is to have Google Assistant say “Tom is at the door,” it’s probably not worth paying a monthly fee for it. As such, unless you need tons of cloud event recording time, you probably don’t need to bother with Nest Aware for this smart doorbell.
- No Nest app: Google is moving away from the Nest app. All features of the Google Nest Doorbell, including setup, are exclusively accessible through the Google Home app.
- Wi-Fi only: Although you can deliver wired power to the Nest Doorbell, you cannot deliver wired internet. As such, you’ll need a decent Wi-Fi signal (2.4GHz or 5GHz) at your front door for this to work well.
- Night vision: The Nest Doorbell will switch automatically to night vision mode when appropriate. You can turn this off or leave night vision on permanently in the Google Home app.
- Video feeds are not constant: Since most people will install this wirelessly, it’s important to note that it will not have a constant video feed. In other words, if you are hoping to have your doorbell camera streaming to a smart display 24/7, this won’t work for you. If there are no events happening and you haven’t manually activated the camera, the feed will be off. Even when you first open the Google Home app, you’ll see a blank screen for the camera until you manually turn it on or an event occurs.
- Quiet Time: Google’s Quiet Time feature allows you to shut off notifications and audible chimes from the doorbell for a short period of time. This is helpful if you are taking a nap at home and don’t want to be disturbed. You can set Quiet Time for 30 minutes, one hour, 90 minutes, two hours, or three hours.
- Privacy and video history: It is incredibly easy to get rid of any video history the doorbell records. In the Google Home app, there’s an easy-to-find red button that says “Delete video history.” A tap of that and then a confirmation tap deletes everything you have saved. Remember, too, that the AI detection smarts happen on-device, making this a relatively secure and private security camera.
Value and competition
At $179, the Google Nest Doorbell is not cheap. If you’re looking for a basic smart doorbell experience, there are plenty of competitor products out there that will cost you less cash. Those competitors will also outdo the Nest Doorbell in its weakest area, which is camera resolution.
The Ring Video Doorbell starts at just $99 and even offers a full 1080p resolution. Like the Nest Doorbell, it’s wireless, comes in multiple colors, notifies you on your phone when someone’s at the door, and can be installed by anyone in minutes. Since it’s an Amazon product, it integrates well with the Alexa voice assistant, which can do many of the same things as Google Assistant.
Check out: The best video doorbells
If you want something with an even higher resolution, the wireless Eufy Security Video Doorbell offers 2K experience for $169. It even comes with a free wireless chime system for an audible household chime and works great without any monthly subscription.
The wireless Ring Video Doorbell 4 is technically more expensive than the Nest Doorbell at $199 but does offer quite a few advantages. It has a 1080p resolution, swappable batteries, theft protection, and noise-cancelling audio. However, it does not have free cloud backups and its AI detection features aren’t as advanced.
What the Google Nest Doorbell offers that competitors don’t is deep integration with Google Assistant and extra AI smarts. If you want a wireless doorbell that will automatically show who’s at the door on your Google Nest Hub this is literally your only option. Likewise, if you want Google’s Familiar Face Detection and accurate notifications for things like packages, the Nest Doorbell is a must-buy.
Google Nest Doorbell review: The verdict
During my time with the Google Nest Doorbell, I was impressed with it. It nails all the basics one needs from a smart entry camera. It also offers a few perks for people who are already invested in a Google-powered smart home, such as smart speaker chimes and smart display feeds. Its free three hours of event recording history is a nice perk that many competitors don’t offer, and if that’s not enough you’ll only pay $6 each month for plenty more space. Battery life right now isn’t impressive, but I’m confident that most people will get better results than me due to how active the front of my house is.
The big problem Google faces with this product, though, is how many customers might not be in the market for it anymore. Google’s given its competitors years to convert buyers to other platforms, with Amazon’s Ring being the big winner. If you’ve already got a wireless Ring doorbell camera, for example, you probably won’t find many reasons to switch over to this.
The Google Nest Doorbell is now the best option for Google fans who haven't already committed elsewhere.
Even ignoring that, this device is actually weaker in a lot of ways compared to the original Nest Hello, now known as the Nest Doorbell (Wired). The fact it offers a wireless configuration and on-device AI detection puts it ahead of that earlier product, sure. However, people who own the older Nest Doorbell won’t find much in the new one that would necessitate an upgrade, outside of the Familiar Face Detection feature and the ability to chime on smart speakers.
The bottom line here is that Google’s created a great product that might be years too late for the party. If you’re just getting into setting up a Google Assistant smart home, the Google Nest Doorbell is one of the best options — if not the best. Everyone else who’s already got a smart doorbell of some kind probably won’t find much here to sway them towards upgrading — especially for $179.