Google Nest Wireless Doorbell REVIEW
A digital doorbell with all the bells and whistles might seem a step too far for some, but PAT PILCHER reckons Google’s Nest is hot stuff.
Google’s newest battery-powered wireless video doodah has a slick design and some nice tweaks. But does the Nest Doorbell have what it takes to dethrone Ring, whose wireless/wired doorbell scored well in previous Witchdoctor reviews?
Would you like to support our mission to bring intelligence, insight and great writing to entertainment journalism? Help to pay for the coffee that keeps our brains working and fingers typing just for you. Witchdoctor, entertainment for grownups. Your one-off (or monthly) $5 or $10 donation will support Witchdoctor.co.nz. and help us keep producing quality content. It’s really easy to donate, just click the ‘Become a supporter’ button below.
The Nest’s wireless doorbell might not be super innovative, nor does it come with much that is new, but it does have the goods where it counts. For your money, you get an HD camera (with a 145-degree field of view and a 3:4 aspect ratio), object recognition and a bunch of other nifty stuff.
It costs around $359 (depending on where you shop) and is also slightly more affordable than its competitors. Having installed it and put it through its paces over the last four weeks, I came to appreciate its usability and performance. Google offers smart detection features by default without any additional “premium subscriptions” which also earn the Nest Doorbell serious brownie points. Out of the box, it can detect packages, people, pets, and vehicles. If that wasn’t enough, it also comes with three hours of event video history, which is of mixed usefulness. If you want face recognition, you’ll need to add a Nest Aware subscription (prices start at $9 per month) which gets you up to 60 days of video event history.
Performance-wise, I liked how responsive the Nest Doorbell was. Alerts turned up super quick. The delay between being notified and seeing the video feed was minimal, with video streaming in near real-time. This might not sound like much of a big deal, but when it comes to a doorbell, it makes all the difference. With the Ring, when couriers rang the doorbell, by the time the live video/audio had started, they were gone – leaving one of those really annoying cards to call thingamajigs.
Much of the Nest’s performance is due to Google building AI smarts into the Nest hardware instead of relying on external data centres. In use, this not only translates into more timely alerts but more accurate ones. The Nest alerted me to delivered packages, people (and yes, pets) at our door while the number of false-positive alerts was zero.
Being battery-powered, the Nest Doorbell was a doddle to install. The review unit came in Snow (white) and is a slick-looking unit that’s longer and slimmer, which makes it significantly easier to fit it onto narrow doorframes and tight spaces. If having to remove and charge its battery every few weeks isn’t something you can be bothered with, the Nest can also be wired into most existing doorbell connections to continually charge.
Being a Google widget, the Nest works with Google Hub smart devices and can act as door chimes. Nest Hub screens can pull up a video feed while Nest smart-speakers (and screens) can act as an intercom for conversations with visitors. Amazon Echo Show and Echo Spot users can also use the Nest Doorbell. They must first install and enable the Nest Camera skill. Unfortunately, Alexa can only access the Nest Doorbell’s video feed. This is because Amazon Alexa doesn’t allow sound notifications from third-party hardware. This frustratingly means that there is no way to use Alexa as a chime with the Nest Doorbell. I don’t know about you, but the lack of interoperability of smart home ecosystems really pisses me off.
Ecosystem issues aside, the Nest Doorbell has a great vertical field of view. While this might sound a lot like nitpicking levels of detail, it does mean when someone is at your door, you’ll be able to see all of them, not just from the waist up, as with competing brands.
While Google’s marketing bumf makes a big deal of three hours of video event history, it isn’t always terribly practical. If something happens at 12am, the footage won’t be available when you wake up. Getting around this requires a subscription. That said, a subscription does give you plenty for your money – facial recognition and 30 days of video event storage.
The Nest Doorbell (with or without a subscription) is a decent option if you inhabit the Google ecosystem. Paying a monthly fee will greatly extend its usefulness. Either way, you’re unlikely to be disappointed.