Video doorbells are the next big smart-home thing, it would appear. First popularised by Ring and latched onto by a security-conscious public over the past year or so, the number of these devices on consumers’ front doors – if a straw poll of my local area in north-east London is anything to go by – has skyrocketed. So much so that Google’s smart-home arm Nest now has its own model: the Nest Hello.
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Nest Hello review: What you need to know
The idea behind the Nest Hello is pretty similar to the products Ring offers. It’s a doorbell with a camera, microphone and speaker embedded in it and a wireless connection that connects it to your home Wi-Fi network.
This allows you to see who’s at the door through a smartphone app, record clips of comings and goings automatically, and even talk to people who come to the door when you’re not in.
As yet, the Nest Hello is the only product of its type Nest offers, and the first thing to be aware of is that it’s not yet available as a battery-powered device like the Ring.
It’s mains-powered-only and, unless you’re a keen DIYer, installation is quite involved, so I’d recommend getting a friendly electrician to put it in for you or take advantage of the £100 installation fee Nest itself charges. It also doesn’t come with a chime in the box. You’ll have to buy one of those separately, too.
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Nest Hello review: Price and competition
That makes the Nest Hello potentially much more expensive than its main rival, the Ring Video Doorbell 2. The bell itself is £229 and if you include installation it’s £329. If you’re not replacing a classic wired doorbell, this isn’t covered by the Nest installation fee, so you’ll need to budget extra for the running of new wires and the cost of a chime box as well.
The Ring 2, on the other hand, costs a more reasonable £179. It’s powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and all but the most DIY-phobic should be able to install it in around 15 to 20 minutes. Even if you buy the Ring with the Wi-Fi chime extender – which I’d recommend – the price is £199, and that too is very easy to set up.
Next, you’ll need to take into account the cost of subscriptions. If you want to take advantage of the Nest Hello’s advanced features – continuous video history, storage and download, familiar face recognition and timelapse clip creation – you’ll have to stump up at least £40 per year, with different tiers available depending on how long you want to access the video recorded via the Nest Hello’s camera.
Buy the Nest Hello from nest.com
Nest Hello setup, features and design
Despite the higher price, there are definitive advantages to Nest’s approach. Because it doesn’t have a battery built in, it’s much more elegant than the Ring 2 and it looks much less like a security camera, too. Because it’s a mains-only device, there’s no battery to pull out and recharge every couple of months or so, and it’s nice to have full integration with your existing door chime if you have one.
The Nest Hello’s video resolution isn’t as high as the Ring Video Doorbell 2. It’s 1,600 x 1,200 (recorded on a 1/3in sensor), where the Ring 2 records 1,920 x 1,080 video. In most other respects, however, the Nest matches or betters its rival.
The first area of superiority is that the Nest records video 24/7, just like a regular security camera, and it saves that video direct to Nest’s servers. This means you can review any minute of the day, where the Ring 2 records clips only when it detects motion.
The level of subscription you buy determines how far back you can go in your video history. The cheapest £30-per-year subscription gets you access to continuous video recording five days into the past; the next level up is £40 per year for ten days; and if you want a full month (30 days), it’s an incredibly pricey £200 per year.
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Ring’s subscriptions, conversely, are far more reasonable. You don’t get continuous video recording, but at £25 per year for 60 days of access to your recorded clips, it’s much more flexible.
It is possible to run a Nest Hello without one of these subscriptions. You’ll still get alerts on your phone when someone rings the doorbell, and you’ll still be able to carry out a conversation remotely via the doorbell’s speaker and microphone when you’re not in.
But if you do, you’ll miss out on many of the system’s more advanced features. You won’t be able to access your continuous video recordings, for a start, and you’ll also be blocked from the Nest Hello’s cleverest features.
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The best of these is the Hello’s “familiar 0face alerts” feature, which works in a similar fashion to Nest’s IQ security cameras. Whenever someone new comes to the door, the app asks you if you want to ignore or add that person to your list of familiar faces. Then, whenever that person comes to the door again, you get a personalised announcement via (if you have one) your Google Home or Home Mini speaker.
Oddly, and frustratingly, this doesn’t work via the app – all you get is a notification that someone is at the door and that a “familiar face” has been spotted on the app’s timeline. You can filter by familiar faces to make it easier to track down when people are coming and going, but it would be nice to have all the features accessible via the app.
The ability to create timelapse movies of sections of saved video is another neat feature, as is the closeups feature, which automatically zooms in on areas of action when something happens within the frame. These are considerably less useful than knowing when your kids get home from school, however.
The Nest Hello doesn’t neglect the basics, either. Video quality is crisp and clear, as is the speaker and audio quality; HDR ensures the camera copes with tricky lighting conditions well; and infrared LEDs mean it can see in the dark.
It’s wonderful being able to converse with couriers and let them know where to leave a parcel but, if you don’t want to talk yourself, the Nest Hello also offers a list of canned responses you can use.
The one big caveat, perhaps, is that with continuous video recording, you’ll be using an awful lot of data on a day-to-day basis. In Low quality mode, this equates to 30GB per month, in Medium quality it’s 120GB per month, and in High quality it’s a mind-boggling 300GB per month.
It is possible to disable the recording to a schedule or to disable it automatically while you’re home, but that does negate its usefulness as a security device somewhat. Essentially, you need an uncapped data plan to make the most of the Nest Hello. If you don’t have one, this isn’t the product for you.
Nest Hello review: Verdict
The Nest Hello is clearly a fantastic product. It works beautifully, and it’s more elegant and far more clever than its main rival, the Ring 2 video doorbell. However, it suffers from the same issues as the rest of the Nest cameras in the range.
The first is that it’s expensive to buy and install, considerably more so than the Ring 2, and the second is that the subscription is more expensive, at £40 per year for the cheapest plan. It’s also pretty data-hungry.
All these factors mean that, while brilliant, the Nest Hello isn’t for everyone. It’s replete with clever and convenient features, and a step ahead of the Ring Video Doorbell 2 in terms of features, but overall I’d say the Ring just edges it.