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Google’s take on a video doorbell checks all the boxes and then some
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Google is well known for its varied and robust family of home security and assistance products, so we were really excited to get our hands on their take on a video doorbell — the Nest Hello. Given the unit’s pedigree we had pretty high expectations, and we’re happy to report that after a few days of in-depth testing, those expectations were satisfied — albeit with a few caveats.
Here’s a quick rundown of our experience using the Nest Hello:
The Nest Hello comes elegantly boxed in a well-designed package that slides open revealing the video doorbell itself. Underneath that, we found everything necessary for installation including a chime connector, a release tool, a wall plate, a 15-degree wedge in case the doorbell needed to be angled, wall anchors, and screws. They also included a masonry drill bit in case we had to mount the unit on brick, and a window decal so we could show off a little. Thanks Google! Little details like this really reassure us that they’ve carefully considered the design and user experience of their product.
The first thing that stood out to us about the Nest Hello was its size. The unit itself is about four and a half inches by two and a half inches, making it significantly smaller than other doorbells like the August or Arlo. This was great news for us since we live in a condo with a pretty narrow door frame — the Nest Hello fit perfectly.
Also worth noting, the Nest Hello’s mounting bracket is made of metal giving it a much sturdier, substantial feel than its plastic cousins. Once we snapped the unit into place, we knew it was there for good. We think you’ll like the construction of the device.
But before we get to that, let’s talk about the install process.
Like most doorbell cameras, the first thing we needed to do was download its app. We were a little worried about this since we’re an Apple household, but we were happy to report there were no hiccups whatsoever related to running Google software on an iPhone — again, points to Google there. We were already a Gmail user, so the sign-up process was pretty simple; we just logged in using our already existing Google account.
Pro Tip: Google offers a compatibility checker for some of its wired products, including the Nest Hello. If you’re unsure if this doorbell will work with your home’s electrical system, you can find out if your set up is compatible.
After plugging in some basic information and linking our phone to the doorbell using a QR code to finish the app’s initial set up, we were ready to start the physical install. We’ve worked with quite a few video doorbells in the past, so we were pretty confident in what we were doing. If you’re not, though, Google recommends pro set up for their products through HelloTech. If you’re skeptical of your DIY abilities, it’s nice to have that option.
If you think hardwiring sounds like too much of a hassle, consider going with a battery-operated doorbell like the Ring Video Doorbell 3. You might also want to take a look at the hybrid Vivint. But trust us, if you follow the steps laid out in the Nest Hello’s app, it’s super easy.
To get an understanding of the scope of what we were doing, we first watched the five-minute instructional video provided by Google. This walked us through what to expect and gave us an overview of what we would be doing. We highly recommend you do the same.
First, we turned off the power to the doorbell and the chime at the breaker. It can be a little confusing figuring out which circuit controls which zone, so we always just kill the power to the whole house to be on the safe side. Remember, electricity is super dangerous, even when you’re doing a minor DIY project like this1.
After that, the app prompted us to go locate our existing doorbell’s chime and identify how it’s wired. We promise, you don’t need an electrical engineering degree for this — the app provides you with options and you just have to click on the picture that looks most similar to your chime.
Once we did that, the app walked us through the installation of the chime unit. Again, pretty simple stuff, but we recommend following the instructions really closely, as a mistake in the wiring process will definitely impact the unit’s functionality, but could also create a hazard once you cut the power back on.
Did You Know: Mechanical door chimes rely on moving parts to sound. If the chime sounds muffled after you install the Nest Hello, try moving the chime unit to the outside of the housing.
We wanted to call out something specifically here. When we first unpacked the unit, we were wondering what the white plastic clips on the ends of two of the chime unit’s four wires were for. Turns out they’re receivers for connecting the unit to our existing chime’s wiring. We’ve never seen this before, and think it’s a much more elegant solution than messing with electrical tape and wire caps. Way to go, Google!
After following the instructions on the chime install, it was time to install the doorbell itself. We started by unscrewing our dinky, standard doorbell and disconnecting it from the house’s wiring. We then pulled that wiring through the Nest Hello’s metal mounting bracket, which we then screwed into our door frame using a power drill.
Pro Tip: Make sure you install the bracket correctly, or else your unit will go in upside down. The vertically oriented screw hole should be on top, and the internal Nest logo should be right-side up.
Once the bracket was in place, we had to connect the house’s wiring to the contacts on the back of the Nest Hello. While it seems pretty easy, sometimes this can be easier said than done — particularly if your house has older, inflexible copper wiring. We’ve found it’s easiest to make two facing loops in the wire and use a hand-held screwdriver to attach them to the contacts. Make sure you screw the contacts down completely — you don’t want them to come off when you snap the unit into place.
Now for the moment of truth. After turning the power back on, the app told us the unit would have a glowing blue ring around the chime button to indicate it was connected properly. We walked outside to look, and nope — it was a yellow ring. Don’t worry if you see the same thing, though, that ring will be blinking yellow if the unit isn’t getting enough power. We just had to push the button once and our solid yellow ring switched over to blue and we were in business.
After the firmware updated we were asked to connect the doorbell to our home’s Wi-Fi network. Since we cut off the power to the whole house, it took a minute for our router to come back online. After a minute or two, it was up and running, though, and we were watching a live video from our doorstep. From unboxing to fully functioning Nest Hello, we’d say the set up took about 45 minutes or so.
Pro Tip: When you’re prompted to connect the doorbell to your Wi-Fi network, make sure you select the 2.4 GHz option rather than your 5 GHz. While 5 usually offers faster speeds, 2.4 has an easier time penetrating through walls and will ultimately provide you with better connectivity2.
Okay! Now that we had the Nest Hello up and operating, it was time to dig into the functionality.
Right away we were really impressed with the video quality of the Nest Hello. It’s 1600 x 1200 resolution video is captured using a 160-degree field of view, meaning it captures everything with crystal clear quality — good news if there’s ever an emergency or an incident where the authorities need to get involved3.
If you’re worried that 160-degrees might be a little too narrow, consider a unit that will see a little more, like ADT’s Doorbell Camera. Or if you want total coverage, we would even recommend checking out SimpliSafe’s doorbell, which has pan and zoom capabilities.
The audio was also super sharp — so sharp in fact that in our notes we wrote “Wow the audio quality is great on this thing!” At one point we were alerted that the Nest picked up motion, and we watched a recorded video of two handymen discussing how to repair the metal around our stairs. We now know it’s going to be completed next week.
We need to point something out here, though. While you can customize the setup of the Nest Hello in a multitude of ways, the app isn’t super intuitive to find the functionality you’re looking for. The unit comes with a free trial of Nest Aware, which gives you access to Google’s cloud storage and activates some of the Nest Hello’s more advanced features like facial recognition and package detection.
Even with Nest Aware set up, though, we found ourselves fumbling for an embarrassing amount of time trying to figure out how to play back recorded events. We finally realized that you actually have to toggle audio and video recording on in the settings before the functionality works, as recording isn’t the Nest Hello’s default state. A little annoying, but forgivable.
That said, the day-to-day functionality of the Nest Hello was almost beyond reproach. The doorbell cam always captured everything, and it always alerted us based on the parameters we set in the app.
One of the reasons for the Google Nest’s reliability, we imagine, is that you can set the camera to always be on — meaning there’s no lag like some other doorbells experience when motion wakes them up. We really loved this feature and loved even more that we could toggle it on and off based on proximity to our phone, meaning our system could operate differently when we were at home versus when we were away. Super versatile and super customizable… just like we like it.
Did You Know: You can set up the Nest Hello to turn on and off as you come and go based on its proximity to your phone, or you can set it up on a fixed schedule for video capturing and alerts.
That said, that responsiveness could be a little annoying. We’re really splitting hairs here, but sometimes we felt like the triggers were a bit too sensitive. One of the Nest Hello’s more unique features — the sound detection alert — happened so often we eventually had to turn off the notification for it. Seriously, we’d get an alert to a sound and then watch a video recording of the wind blowing slightly. It would be nice to have a slider to set how sensitive this function is in future iterations, but as of now, it’s either on or off.
One thing we really liked about the Nest Hello was its pre-recorded quick responses. Sometimes you don’t want to have a full-blown conversation with the Amazon guy, you know? When someone rings the bell, we could select between “You can leave it,” “We’ll be right there,” and “No one can come to the door.” All of the phrases are spoken in a feminine voice and come in a variety of languages. Just for fun we set it to German for a little while and confused a FedEx person.
If you’re a bit more extroverted and want to converse with the person at the door, though, we found the talk function to be superb. Conversations happen in real-time — no “push to talk,” walkie-talkie functionality — and there is very little lag. In our tests we found the audio quality in these conversations was outstanding as well.
Finally, we also appreciated the “quiet time” function. With a few taps in the app, we could mute the indoor chime and notifications from the Nest Hello from 30 minutes to 3 hours. This was super helpful when we didn’t want to be disturbed while working. If we’re being honest, though, we only used it when we were taking a nap.
If this was it for the Nest Hello, we’d say it’s a really solid doorbell and would recommend it for most people; however, we think the bells and whistles that come with Nest Aware really bump it up into a class of its own. There are two options for subscriptions, and both are super reasonable for what you get in our opinion.
|Nest Aware||Nest Aware Plus|
|30 Day Event Video History||60 Day Event Video History + 10 Day 24/7 Recording History|
|$6 per month or $60 per year||$12 per month or $120 per year|
So after some digging, we figured out the subscription to Nest Aware gave us access to the cloud storage of our recordings, but it also enables a few interesting features we’ll look at next.
Nest Hello let us block off different hot spots in our camera’s field of view and alerted us to activity in each specific zone. This functionality isn’t exclusive to the Nest Hello, but it’s usually only offered on higher-end doorbells. While these zones are a neat idea in theory, we’ve found it to be not very helpful in practice. Unfortunately, this was also true of the Nest Hello’s activity zone functionality. We placed Zone One around our letterbox to see if it would give us some different results, but pretty much every alert we received after that point was for Zone One.
Now, to be fair, we live in a condo and the Nest Hello is looking out onto a landing, so there’s not a lot of room for differentiation. We could see this function being useful for someone whose doorbell looks out onto a big yard or a busy street so they could make sure their motion detection was meaningful.
So this is a pretty unique function. When activated, over time the Google Nest will start remembering familiar faces and giving you specialized alerts when someone it recognizes stops by. Unfortunately, since we’re all confined to our couches (thanks, coronavirus), we weren’t able to test this out by having friends come over. We were able to get it to recognize me, though, and it started giving us alerts when it saw me coming back from a jog or the pool. Taking it a step further, if you have Google Assistant-enabled speakers, you can set them up to announce when a particular person is at the door by name. That’s some George Jetson-level stuff right there.
Pro Tip: Before you turn this function on, make sure it’s legal to do so. Consent laws for these technologies differ from state to state4.
The Nest Hello is also able to detect packages to let you know when something’s been delivered. There are a handful of doorbells on the market with this type of functionality, but we were excited to see how the Nest Hello performed. Unfortunately, we were a little underwhelmed. It’s not that the functionality misidentified anything or didn’t trigger correctly — it’s that the camera wasn’t able to see packages where they’re normally delivered.
If the unit is installed where a regular doorbell would be, it won’t be able to see directly in front of the door where packages are usually left. It recognized packages in our tests, but those packages had to be placed about three feet away from the door for the camera to pick them up — you know, where no delivery person would leave them.
That said, we imagine this functionality would be great for very specific door setups, or if the doorbell is coupled with another Nest camera.
Overall, we were super impressed with the Nest Hello, and with it currently retailing for only $229, we think the price is more than reasonable for what you get. We love its size, we love its reliability, we love its functionality, and we love how we could tell people to leave our packages at the door (even in German!) by simply pressing a button. It’s hugely customizable and versatile, and while there are a few drawbacks to some of the more advanced functions, we feel confident in saying this is one of the better video doorbells on the market today.
Purchased as a stand-alone device the Nest Hello certainly holds its own, but knowing it’s part of Google’s family of home security and smart home products makes it even more desirable. If one were so inclined, we think the Nest Hello could be the starting point of total home integration and automation5. To give you an idea of what that might look like, here’s a list of some options to consider:
|Nest Product||Device Type||Price|
|Nest Learning Thermostat||Smart Thermostat||$219|
|Nest Cam||Outdoor Security Camera||$199|
|Nest x Yale Lock||Smart Remote Door Lock||$249|
At the end of the day, this is a great choice for the money. If you’re looking for a solo doorbell or if you’re looking to make yours the home of the future, we think you really can’t go wrong with the Nest Hello.
The Nest Hello is a wired video doorbell.
Despite needing some minor electrical work, the Nest Hello is simple to install, taking around 45 minutes from start to finish.
The Nest Hello retails for $229. Perfectly reasonable, in our opinion.
No, the Nest Hello doesn’t require a subscription to Nest Aware, but you’ll miss out on several of the doorbell’s advanced features if you don’t purchase one.
Both the audio and video quality on the Nest Hello is better than most doorbells we’ve encountered.
Maxwell, S. (2020, February 10). Should You Do Your Own Electrical Work? Family Handyman. https://www.familyhandyman.com/article/should-you-do-your-own-electrical-work/
Klein, M. and Glenn, W. (2018, October 21). What’s the Difference Between 2.4 and 5-GHz Wi-Fi (and Which Should I Use)? How-To Geek. https://www.howtogeek.com/222249/whats-the-difference-between-2.4-ghz-and-5-ghz-wi-fi-and-which-should-you-use/
Woollaston, V. (2020, August 27). Back at work? So are burglars. Here's how to keep your home safe. Wired. https://www.wired.co.uk/article/home-security-system-tech-cctv-locks
Crawford, S. (2019, December 16). Facial Recognition Laws Are (Literally) All Over the Map. Wired. https://www.wired.com/story/facial-recognition-laws-are-literally-all-over-the-map/
McHugh-Johnson, M. (2020, May 18). How the Nest Hub Max helps keep families connected. The Keyword. https://blog.google/products/google-nest/nest-hub-max-covid-19-merrill-garden/