Why the Nest Hello Doorbell Has Been the Best Upgrade I’ve Made to My House
- Value: 16/20
- Functionality: 19/20
- Ease of Use: 17/20
- Aesthetics: 19/20
- Video/Audio Quality: 18/20
- TOTAL: 89/100
Maybe the 1999 Disney Channel Original Movie Smart House influenced my tweenage mind more than I’d like to admit, because the one upgrade I didn’t pay much attention to at first has quickly become my favorite home purchase of the past three years. (And I’m the kind of crazy who put a Skee-Ball machine in the basement.) But ever since a pro helped me install the Nest Hello—a smart doorbell that streams who’s at your door straight to your phone so you can always see who’s coming or going—I’ve gained a kind of peace and reassurance I didn’t anticipate.
Initially, buying the doorbell was just a fast fix to get rid of the ear-piercing gong sound our existing one made every time it chimed. We already owned Nest’s smart thermostat and had a Mini speaker in just about every room of the house (largely so I can obnoxiously ask about the weather and get an answer no matter where I am). It seemed fitting that if we were upgrading, we might as well opt for a doorbell you could answer no matter where you were, using your phone. Here’s what pushed me from “that’ll do” to uh, unexpected doorbell evangelist.
It’s sleek—but doesn’t stand out.
I chose the Nest Hello over its top competitor, Ring, despite the fact that the Ring was battery-operated, making it much easier to install. The Ring was much wider and thicker, looking like a bulky growth off of the side of our door, and let’s be real: curb appeal matters. Part of my incentive to buy the Nest Hello was the thought that it may boost my home’s value—after all, Coldwell Banker’s 2018 home survey found that most buyers expect smart home tech as part of the deal when making an offer. This was an easy way to achieve that goal.
It was easy to set up (even if tricky to install).
Though the Nest Hello markets itself as something you can install yourself, my home was built in 1947 and has the complicated wiring to prove it. So I called in an electrician, who got it running in less than 30 minutes. From there, syncing the doorbell to my phone was as simple as downloading the Nest app and creating a login. You use the same app to control any Nest devices, making it a hub to quickly see at a glance what the temperature’s like in the house (so I can easily adjust the temp before I get home), what’s going on in the living room (where I have a Nest cam) and what’s going on just outside my front door (via the Hello).
It’s peace of mind when you’re away from home.
We’ve all heard warnings that 1 in 3 people are victims of “porch pirates,” aka strangers seeing a package sitting on someone’s stoop and walking off with it. The Nest Hello’s HD camera has a 160-degree field of view, so it doubles as a front-door security camera, allowing me to see what’s going on in my entire front lawn at once. Combine that with its Night Vision feature and motion detection—which sends a push notification to your phone if someone approaches your door, even if they don’t ring the bell—and I feel oddly reassured that no one’s running off with my latest Amazon impulse buy.
You can also adjust the sensitivity levels, so you’re not getting an alert every time a squirrel decides to dart across your lawn or a car goes by. I live on a pretty quiet street, so the default settings have worked out just fine for me.
You can talk through the doorbell (from 4,000+ miles away).
The Nest Hello also features a built-in mic and speaker, so even if you’re not at home, you can answer the door. Like the time I was on vacation in Italy and the gas company rang my doorbell to alert me that they needed to turn off my gas for the day while construction was being done nearby. From 4,148 miles away, we were able to chat clearly through the doorbell, taking care of everything—without having to make a phone call and incur international rates either.
I’ve also used it when a delivery person has a question about where to drop something off: I just get the alert to my phone and hit the “talk” button in the app to reply.
It’s not so Big Brother-y.
Even though the mic and speaker are outdoors, I still wondered: What happens to those motion and sound recordings? Is it always listening? Nest is pretty clear that it doesn’t use your personal information for commercial/marketing purposes (unless you specifically say OK to that). The brand also uses a few layers of security to protect data as it’s being delivered from the doorbell to my phone.
I’m not so crazy about the recurring costs.
At $229, the Hello is more of an investment than a $35 standard one, or even the $99 second-gen Ring. (The latest, the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus, is comparably priced at $230.) But given its video alerts, wide field of vision and speaker functionality, it was well worth the price to me. The only aspect I dragged my feet on—for two years!—was investing in Nest Aware, the subscription service that stores footage in the cloud for you to review later. Without it, you can see what’s going on in real time, and check out clips of any motion detected within the past few hours. If you’re at work and miss an alert, then want to go back the next day and find out what happened, you’re out of luck unless you’re a subscriber.
Nest Aware comes with two options: A $6/month service that provides you with video history for the past 30 days, and a $12/month one that will show you the past 60 days of motion detection and a full 24/7 stream of the past ten days. I chose the former, because I haven’t found an instance where I really need 60 days’ worth of motion detection. So far, I think my husband’s gotten the most use out of creating time-lapse videos out of the footage more so than anything else.
The bottom line: It’s…oddly comforting.
When so many home upgrades wind up costing you twice what you’d budgeted and take three times as long to complete, this update was refreshingly straightforward. And there’s a strange joy to sitting on my lunch break and taking a glance at my home to see the snow starting to fall on my front steps in the winter. Or catch trick-or-treaters eye my camera and think twice before dumping the whole bowl of candy into their pillowcases (I’m onto you, Freddie Krueger!). Only time will tell if it boosts my home’s value—or is totally outdated by the time I decide to move—but right now, it works for me.