Review: The Ecobee Smart Doorbell Camera - A Reliable Solution for Front Door Security
Doorbell cameras are a great way to keep a watchful eye on your front door. Along with providing 24/7 surveillance, the Ecobee Smart Doorbell Camera sports unique integrations with the company’s other smart home products.
The Ecobee Smart Doorbell Camera provides a perfect way for you to keep a watchful eye on your front door. Along with 1080p video, the camera features a 175-degree vertical field of view so you can see what’s on your porch from top to bottom with no fisheye effect. To cut out unwanted notifications, you can create an Activity Zone and customize the radar’s detection range. Smart Focus will pan and zoom to give a closer look at visitors. You need a subscription to view recorded video, but it’s inexpensive and also unlocks several security features with other Ecobee devices.
Installing the Doorbell Camera
Smart home products, for the most part, are easy to install. But as with smart thermostats and smart locks, wired doorbell cameras do take a substantial amount of DIY knowledge. While some doorbell cameras are powered by a battery and take much less work, the Ecobee Smart Doorbell Camera uses your existing home wiring from a traditional doorbell. Having 24/7 power brings many advantages, and you’ll never have to worry about charging or replacing a battery. The only downside to a wired doorbell camera is that if your power goes out, the camera won’t work. If you’re interested in the smart doorbell, make sure to head to Ecobee’s compatibility checker before making the purchase. It offers all the information you need to determine if you can use the doorbell camera. Even if your home is compatible with the video doorbell, Ecobee offers a network of trained professionals who can take care of the installation for an additional fee. But if you’re prepared to do it yourself, Ecobee provides complete instructions through the Ecobee app that you will also need later to use the doorbell camera. Along with the doorbell camera, Ecobee provides the required chime adapter and other fixings. You’ll need to provide a Philips screwdriver, power drill, masonry bit, and needle-nose pliers. First, if you want the doorbell to use your existing chime, you will need to install the chime adapter indoors. That brings the correct power to the doorbell camera. You can use that chime or be notified with a chime from another Ecobee product like a smart thermostat or indoor camera. It’s also possible to use an Amazon Echo or Apple HomePod to hear a doorbell chime. Then, you’ll attach the new doorbell camera to the existing wires from the previous doorbell. Ecobee’s companion app, which you’ll need to use to control the camera, offers a comprehensive installation guide. Since I was replacing another smart video doorbell, installing the Ecobee took me around 30 minutes. If this is your first smart video doorbell, that might take longer depending on many factors, like the length of your power wires and drilling holes for the backplate.
Works With Apple HomeKit and Amazon Alexa
The smart doorbell camera is compatible with both Apple HomeKit and Amazon Alexa. I was able to add the doorbell camera to my Apple Home during the well-designed setup process that includes connecting the camera to your home Wi-Fi. With Apple HomeKit, you can see a live view of your doorbell camera through the Home app or Apple TV. When someone rings the doorbell, you can also see a notification and talk to the person with two-way communication. Unfortunately, the doorbell camera doesn’t support Apple HomeKit Secure Video, which provides some advantages, including using existing iCloud storage. Using Alexa, you can see when someone rings the doorbell, or a live view at any time, on an Echo device. You can also communicate with the visitor. Just like with HomeKit, there is no way to view recorded video. You’ll need the Ecobee app to do that. One of the biggest downsides with the Ecobee Smart Doorbell Camera is that there’s no free access to recorded video. You’ll need a Standard subscription, which is $5 per month or $50 per year, to access a 30-day video history, package detection, and rich push notifications for a single camera. You can upgrade to a Complete subscription for $10 per month or $90 per year; that brings video history, package detection, and rich push notifications for unlimited cameras and 24/7 professional monitoring. Without a subscription, you can still talk to people at the door, receive notifications when a person or motion is detected, and see photo snapshots of motion or person events. In the modern smart home landscape, being able to view the recorded video without needing a subscription is a tough thing to find. Other smart video doorbells don’t require a subscription, but the Ecobee option still has a lot of advantages.
Always Watching Your Front Door
The Ecobee Smart Doorbell Camera sports 1080p video quality. Even though some video doorbells are available with higher resolution, up to 4K, I didn’t have any issues with the Ecobee option. Video was high quality and sharp during all times of the day. My doorbell is under a covered porch and in the shade for most of the day, but I could see details in the bright light in my yard and further without any issues. A standout feature is the 175-degree vertical field of view. That lets me see the entire porch, including deliveries left on the walkway. Other video doorbells offer a similar field of view but suffer from a strong fisheye effect. Ecobee’s video looks great and doesn’t suffer from those same issues. When dark, the night vision feature works well and shows substantial detail, which is always helpful to discern faces and more on your porch. There are additional ways to cut down on unwanted notifications, like from a blowing tree branch. You can set an Activity Zone where activity will be detected. The companion app also allows you to customize the detection range of the radar in the doorbell camera. There are four ranges to select from—7 feet, 10 feet, 20 feet, and 30 feet. Smart Focus is also another great feature. Even though it’s turned off by default and currently listed as Beta in the app, it can pan and zoom to keep motion, people, and packages in view. When active, it will start zooming in when, for example, a delivery person is walking up to your door with a package. The feature worked well enough, but since the video itself is 1080p, the zoomed-in results weren’t particularly impressive. But it might be something you’d want to use if you have a longer porch area. I was pleased with the overall video experience, with one substantial caveat. Even though the Ecobee Smart Doorbell Camera is compatible with both 2.4 and 5GHz Wi-Fi, there was a sometimes long delay in bringing up a live view in either the Apple Home or Ecobee app. I occasionally waited up to 10 seconds to bring up a live view. My first thought was an issue with my mesh Wi-Fi, but with a bit of digging, I found the doorbell camera connected fine to the 5GHz wireless. And I had an eero node a little more than 20 feet away in my living room. Oddly, when the doorbell was pressed, or I received a motion or package notification, the video was accessible immediately. Likely, that’s because the doorbell camera was awake and prepared to send live video.
A Bigger Part of a Home Security System
You probably know that Ecobee’s lineup of smart thermostats are some of the best on the market, allowing you to save cash on heating and cooling bills and more. And if you have the Ecobee Premium Thermostat, you can use it in a unique way with the company’s doorbell camera. After someone presses the doorbell, a live view will appear on the screen of the thermostat. You can talk to the person and end the video. Not having to pull out my phone to see who’s at the door has been great. Even though the thermostat’s screen is little more than four inches tall and wide, I could easily see and hear the person at the front door. Using a thermostat as a dedicated smart video screen for a thermostat doesn’t sound like a natural combination, but it works extremely well. My other family members aren’t usually tied to smart home devices, and everyone has enjoyed being able to see the live view themselves instead of having to ask me who’s at the door.
Ecobee also offers an optional SmartSensor that can monitor when a window or door is open or closed. Combine those with the smart thermostat and doorbell camera, and you can create an inexpensive security system. The thermostat also doubles as a hub for the entire system, allowing you to arm or disarm security. Along with the video recording options, the Standard plan brings smart alarm detection and reminders to arm your system when a home is empty. The Complete plan also provides 24/7 professional monitoring. That’s a spectacular deal for that service, especially compared to other competitors’ options. I’ve been trying out a bundle that included the thermostat and two smart sensors along with the video doorbell. The real advantage of the system is its simplicity. It’s great for everyone in the home to be able to arm and disarm the system directly on the thermostat keypad right along with the app. It’s obviously not going to replace a full-fledged option, being able to take advantage of professional monitoring for $10 a month is great and provides peace of mind for almost anyone.
Ecobee Smart Doorbell Camera: Crown Jewel of a Great Ecosystem
Even though you’ll need a subscription to view recorded video, Ecobee’s Smart Doorbell Camera provides a great way to see visitors, protect from porch pirates, and provide security for your home. While the doorbell camera is a great choice, the compatibility with other Ecobee products to create a full-fledged but inexpensive home security system is the real standout feature. Adding the video doorbell camera is a no-brainer if you already have an Ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium. Even if you don’t, you can add one later.