“There is a person at the door.” My doorbell, like most things these days, is smart and connected to an app on my phone. It’s just popped up an alert to tell me someone has rung my bell. I’m not even in the house, but I can talk to the delivery driver trying to drop off a package and give instructions as to where to leave it.
At the very least, it means fewer trips to the local post depot to pick up missed parcels; at best, it means I’m aware of who is approaching my house throughout the day, whether I’m there or not.
The Nest Hello is my second bash at a video doorbell. Looks-wise, it's slimmer than the typical doorbell we had previously, although it's slightly bigger. It replaces your wired bell, so if you are good with all things electrical, you could probably install it yourself. Me? I left it to the professionals, so there was minimal fuss, a very neat looking installation and more importantly, no unnecessary holes in the wall.
Features include high definition video recording, night vision, a video format that shows people from head to toe rather than cutting them off somewhere around the knees, and sound alerts. You can check in on the video stream at any time through the Nest app, as long as your internet connection is working. It’s like having a security camera at your front door.
The company tries to distinguish itself from the competition with a continuous recording feature rather than an event-triggered one. That means at any one time, you have three hours of footage on your account, and it will pick out the events - the doorbell being pushed, someone walking up the driveway, and so on - that it thinks are relevant to you and organises it in a nice neat timeline on the app. If someone does call to your home, you don’t have to scroll through hours of footage.
One thing you do have to get over is the idea of speaking to someone through the bell. The first few weeks I had a video bell, I didn’t speak to the person who called to the door unless I knew them. I’ve dealt with that particular hang up. But the Nest Hello has a feature for people who won’t – or can’t – speak to their visitors: pre-recorded responses. You don’t have to speak to them at all, the nice sounding person who Nest got to record some pleasant but neutral phrases will do it for you.
The bell itself is handy for when you are away. Because you answer through the app, you can make out as if you are at home but just too busy to come to the door. Yes, they may suspect you’re not in the building, but they couldn’t be 100 per cent sure.
You can set quiet times too. It’s inevitable that after starting the long process of herding my children towards their room in the evening, the doorbell inevitably rings. If I leave to answer it, both children are suddenly wide awake. But it could be important. The Nest Hello has two things going for it here. Not only can I see who is at the door and decide if I want to answer it (neighbour, yes; salesperson, no) but I can silence the doorbell for periods of time through the app. By the third day it had already earned its keep through this feature alone.
There is, of course, a subscription service to keep you spending money each month with Nest. But you don’t actually need it to use the doorbell day to day. In fact, it functions perfectly well without it. The Nest Aware service means you can store a minimum of three days worth of video clips, and get extra features such as the ability to set familiar faces and have the bell announce the arrival of your best friend or sister at the door. That requires some facial recognition, which isn’t everyone’s comfort zone.
Depending on how long you want to keep your video clips, you can spend €5 a month for five days of history, or €30 a month for 30 days. Without the Nest Aware subscription, you get three hours. If you miss that window, your clips are lost. That only happened to me once, and that was before I realised there was a time limit on the video footage rather than an event-triggered one. So most can probably get by without it.
The quality of the camera and its images are excellent, even at night. Plus the person alerts distinguish between someone approaching the house and your neighbour’s car arriving back, making it easier to pick out what’s important to you.
The not so good:
The Nest Aware subscription is an additional cost, although it’s not necessary to operate the bell. You can pay between €5 and €30 per month, depending on the subscription and your needs. You get a few extra features for that fee though, so it’s not simply storage. You can set up activity zones, which should cut down on the amount of false motion alerts as people pass the end of your driveway. But the latter is a feature that is included for free on other bells, so it would be nice if you didn’t have to pay for it here.
If your doorbell is in an awkward place for capturing video. The Nest Hello has a mount that will put it at angle, capturing everything that goes on at your front door. Plus removing the bell unit requires a special tool.
Works well, although the extra subscription really shows what it can do.