The Nest Doorbell (battery) - review

I love a smart home.  Things that allow me to operate them with just speaking to some unseen assistant.  And then go further, appliances, lights... One I added in a little over a year ago was our Nest Hello.  I liked having a doorbell that would recognize faces and ring not only my little ringer, but alert my speaker as well.  It had the added advantage of being a security camera for us, that not only allowed me to see who was coming, or watch the front door where my son is waiting for the school bus while I wash dishes in the morning -- but it can watch for packages (and alert me when someone takes one - which is a story for another day).

Having one we registered it with the city's police department for security and we even had them show up to see if something was able to be seen on the camera.  That's really cool.

Now - we have 2 doors... why not 2 doorbells?  

For some reason the extra work I put into making sure the front worked (needed a new transformer for the house) somehow made the backdoor old doorbell stop working (must have pulled a wire in all that seeking.  So to either fix it and find where the wire issue was... OR the new Nest doorbells are wireless.  

What used to be called Nest Hello they now call Nest Doorbell (wired) and the new one is now Nest Doorbell (battery).

Great that it's wireless, that means less for me to have to fiddle with wires and whatnot.  Perfect for a guy like me who's not so great at installation work.

So, let's dive in on this $239CDN home addition.

First up let's take a look at some of the specs on this one:

  • 1.3MP with a 3:4 ratio [previous model was 3MP 4:3]
  • 145° viewing angle [previous was 160°]
  • IP54
  • 6Ah

Interesting - with just a battery I was kinda thinking that maybe it would have the option to start storing some of the video on board, but nope it's still cloud based - but we'll get to that.

I surprised myself that I noticed the ratio was rotated (it's showing taller than it is wider) before I looked up the spec.

Anyways, I'm ready to set it up.  I'll be putting it at the back door so just need to pick a spot where it's going to be mounted.  Let's open the box and get the hardware out.

While it's out, you can see that the device has a USB-C port at the back; so I best put that on charge now while I figure out a drill.

Plug it in!  My estimates were that it would need about 8 hours for a FULL charge (it was about 70% and I charged it up to 80% by the time I was ready to put it to work)

So in the box there are a few things to work with as you want to put it on the wall:

  • A base plate
  • Jumper wires (if you want to plug it in - that way it can ring your doorbell chime)
  • Screws with masonry anchors
  • small screws to connect the wedge to the plate
  • a special 'release' tool
  • spongy spacers

And watch the video to help prep you:

Right away you can go into the Google Home app to add the new device (if you try to do it from the Nest app it'll just tell you to go to the Home app).

When you add a new item you can pick the Nest doorbell and it'll want you to scan the QR code of your device specifically so it connects to it and share wifi with it and walk you through the rest of the process.

When picking a place for the device they remind you that you'll need to put it in such a place that you'll have room above it so you can access the release mechanism.

Now to drill into the brick you'll need the proper drillbit and then bang in the anchors in.  Plop the baseplate on the wall over the holes and drill in the screws to make the anchors bite in and hold fast.

I thought I would do a really good job so went and got specialty anchor screws for masonry, the problem was that the head of the screw wouldn't fit in the little recessed part of the plate (woops).  So back to using stuff it came with.

I also liked to use the rubbery spacer to help so it wasn't pressed superhard against the brick, and maybe with the unevenness can make it look a little more proper.

I didn't end up using the wedge this time.  In the front I wanted it slightly toward our driveway.  For the backyard I don't have that, so we just want it flat / straight out.

On the back of the unit there's a circle that lines up with the circular hole (oh yeah, make sure that that bits on the bottom or it'll be upside down).  You try to put the circle bits together first then angle the top on and slide it down snug.

Once the doorbell is steady, the Google Home app recognizes it's mounted, then it'll start to work.

Now the fun begins.

Out of the box the device without any service plan you get 3 hours worth of access to 'events' that happen.

It was interesting as I was used to the cameras in the Nest Hub Max and the wired doorbell where in the Home app you can always see the device's live stream; but because this has a battery it can't have itself constantly on all the time.  Constantly using battery then charging it etc... so it sits itself idle until it detects something worth recording.

It's a different way to use this.  It's not wrong, it's just different.

Now for the features of the app - I'm going to do a different review of just that, so I'm just going to give a quick overview of some of the features now.

Essentially, you have access to the camera now - except that because it's battery operated it's not going to give you a live feed until you ask for it.  It's in a bit of 'wait and see' mode.  

Tapping the camera in the app just brings you to the display of the battery (and estimated length of time before it needs to be recharged).  

Then you have the option to look at a live video feed (the battery will run down a little faster).

You can also see 'history' via a button which you have a timeline that you can scrub back and forth on.  On the timeline you'll see little blue 'blobs' to indicate an event that you can then review what occurred.

There's also the 'full history' where you can see a tally of events over time (won't be many if you are still limited to just the past 3 hours).

Other options you can set are controlling what it might detect as an 'event' (a car, a person, an animal, sound) and when you get notified of those events, how long it should record of those events (remembering that without a service, if it's older than 3 hours, it's gone).  

Interesting about the notifications, is that you get notifications on your phone with a pulldown to see a preview of the image.  Nest used to share that image preview with Android Wear... however it's no longer doing that... sigh.

Similar to the previous iteration you can set zones of importance to watch those with different settings (maybe you don't care if you see an animal by the door, only by the shed).

Without the service of  Nest Aware it won't recognize faces - even if I have them recognized in my front doorbell; it doesn't automatically carry over to the patio door (I'm going to have to subscribe to the service and I'll report back).

Overall, I like it.  It's a different method of interacting than what we're used to from the front being wired.  And even wiring it in you wouldn't get easy live 24/7 feed because the wiring is used just to charge the battery, so it doesn't want to be constantly charging and using etc... 

Interesting, you have to be cautious when the temperature gets lower than -20℃.  It doesn't like to operate (extreme battery use) and it won't even charge when it's that low.

That temperature happens a fair bit in my neck of the woods, luckily since we've installed it's probably not going to hit that again until next winter.

I've liked having this in the back and being able to watch our backyard and monitor any activity for our shed, watching some animals running around.

I also had some installers in the house and doing work requiring them to be in the backyard - so it kept notifying me a ton that day.  But, luckily there was one that was within the 3 hour window we were able to record their conversation - something that helped us with an issue about a debate with them.

I mean it also can act as a doorbell.  Our neighbours sometimes come to the backdoor and knock and now we can get a ring on our Google devices - and see them on the displays (or phone) and can talk to them through the devices before we get to the door.  How weird, using a doorbell as a doorbell 😄.

Now it being a wireless - how does that deal?  

Well, it's been over almost 2 weeks  since we installed it, we had one super busy day of installers and it recording videos for it.

After 2 weeks it's gone from 80% to 35% ... the device says it still has a week to go. [quick math is that's about 22% per week, so a full charge should be almost 5 weeks - which is in line with their ~month estimates].

As I said earlier it should be about 8 hours for a fully dead device to fully charged, but if you want to do it sooner (say you know you're home for the next few hours and don't expect any activity), pop it off and give it a charge.

Keep that little key thing ready at hand so you can pop it off and give it some juice.  (Apparently you can use a flathead screwdriver as well)

For $239CDN it's a good security camera (not great as it's not always readily accessible, you're kind of at its whims of what it thinks it should record) but it's also a great doorbell that integrates with your smart devices.  For that I like it and is a great addition to the home.

Stay tuned for a review on just the app itself and the features of that, as well, we'll do an article once I get the subscription for it (we've been torn as we have the legacy Nest Aware for the front wired one and we get the 24/7 ... which we don't want to lose, but if we want features for the back it's starting at just the $8/month and you get ALL of the devices covered, but not at that 24/7 option).

Anyways, stay tuned.