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An affordable DIY video doorbell camera from SimpliSafe
We get excited about nifty features around here. But we also value simplicity. With SimpliSafe, we’ve found that you get the best of both worlds. Their Video Doorbell Pro isn’t the most cutting-edge device we’ve tried, but it did a great job protecting our entryway. So if you’re looking for a basic doorbell camera to keep porch pirates at bay — and a doorbell cam that doesn’t skimp on helpful features — then we think you’ll like SimpliSafe.
In our experience with the product, SimpliSafe strikes a nice balance between affordability and performance. Even though it’s not a perfect solution, it’s certainly worth a closer look (and with a 60-day money-back guarantee, there’s not a whole lot to lose). We’re going to share our full experience with SimpliSafe’s one and only doorbell camera. So let’s find out if it’s right for you!
If anything turns you off about the Video Doorbell Pro, it probably won’t be the price. Affordably marked at $169, SimpliSafe is right in-line with the industry average here — maybe even slightly cheaper.
Now, if you’re looking for a low-cost video doorbell, we’d recommend checking out Ring’s lineup, as they have highly-rated doorbell cams for as low as $99. At the other end of the spectrum, you could spend $229-$249 for the Nest Hello or Vivint Doorbell Camera Pro, both of which are fully-loaded with smart AI features. So again, we think SimpliSafe falls in that affordable middle ground at $169. And trust us, that’s by design!
The only other cost to consider is a cloud video storage subscription. Note that SimpliSafe’s subscription is optional, but if you want to record and store video for up to 30 days, you’ll need to spring for their $4.99 per month cloud plan per camera. This is a bit more expensive than some of our favorite cloud recording plans. Ring, for instance, charges $3 per month per camera or $10 per month for unlimited cameras for 60 days of cloud storage. That being said, if you have multiple SimpliSafe cameras, the $9.99 a month plan would make more sense, as it provides cloud storage for up to five cameras.
FYI: We typically recommend signing up with a cloud storage plan. If a thief steals a package or breaks into your home, it’s important to be able to show proof. A little bit of evidence can go a long way.
One nice thing about SimpliSafe is that their products are widely available. We purchased a Video Doorbell Pro directly from the company’s website, but you can also find it online at Amazon or in big-box stores like Best Buy. You should have little hesitation purchasing the product, as it comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee. If you don’t like it, simply send it back. Sure, it’s a generous guarantee, but we’re seeing more and more brands offer 30- to 60-day guarantees to stay competitive. No complaints here!
If you’re anything like us, you don’t mind rolling up your sleeves, but you always prefer fast and easy DIY installation. SimpliSafe’s doorbell only took us about 5 minutes to install, but we suspect that most folks will have their device up-and-running in less than 15 minutes. Note that you will need a phillips screwdriver and a little patience.
The Video Doorbell Pro wired directly into our existing doorbell wiring, so the installation was a little more involved than battery-powered setups, but it was still surprisingly simple. Also note that SimpliSafe has step-by-step tutorials on their website1 and inside their mobile app. No doubt, this is a main appeal and competitive advantage of SimpliSafe (simple is even in their name!).
Not the DIY type? If you’d rather have an expert install your doorbell cam, SimpliSafe charges $79 for a “partner” to come out and get you squared away. Not a bad price, but we’re used to seeing $100 installation fees for a whole home security installation. So $79 seems a bit steep for a single camera installation, but worth it for a whole system installation. At any rate, we recommend you do it yourself. Installation couldn’t be any easier.
FYI: We didn’t love the design of the SimpliSafe doorbell. The big chrome button resembles an elevator button. Going up or going down? And the unit isn’t as low-profile as other doorbell cams we’ve used. But this wasn’t a deal-breaker for us.
First things first, you don’t need to be a Harvard grad to use the SimpliSafe doorbell camera (even though it was created by Harvard students, but we’ll get to that). In fact, if you can use a smartphone, you’re in good hands — as we found the in-app controls to be intuitive and… well… simple. A few screen taps is all it takes to field instant alerts, view live-stream footage, and even tell would-be package thieves to scram! using the built-in two-way talk.
We found the feature-set to be a little lacking compared to, say, Nest and Vivint. For instance, SimpliSafe doesn’t have AI facial recognition like the Nest Doorbell, and there are no active deterrents (lights and sirens) like the Vivint Doorbell Camera Pro offers.
It also doesn’t boast an impressive 180-degree field of view like you’d get with either Vivint or certain Arlo doorbell cameras. And… there’s no smart home integrations. We could go on, but the point is that SimpliSafe only covers the basics, with a focus on keeping things easy.
That said, sometimes basic is all you need. We still enjoyed ultra-sharp 1080p HD resolution, infrared night vision, and a commendable 162-degree field of view. So we were able to keep an eye on our doorway 24/7, without feeling burdened by unnecessary features.
FYI: We’ve tried some brands, like Nest, that require a subscription plan to access advanced features. So just because a doorbell camera offers fancy features doesn’t mean you’ll get free access to them.
The way we see it, SimpliSafe Video Doorbell Pro is like the Model T car. The Model T wasn’t the first automobile on the market, but Henry Ford designed it to be the first car that was affordable, easy to operate, and ideal for getting from point A to point B.2 That’s SimpliSafe in a nutshell. It’ll get the job done, but if you’re looking for a Mercedes Benz, we suggest checking out the Ring Video Doorbell Elite.
One thing we liked about SimpliSafe was their dual-sensor trigger for motion detection. Unlike most doorbell cams we’ve tried, the Video Doorbell Pro senses both the heat signature of people and the human form. This resulted in more thoughtful alerts than we’ve seen from much of the competition. We were also able to dial-in the motion sensitivity within the app so that the camera ignored passing cars, tree branches swaying, and the like.
Did You Know: SimpliSafe claims that their secret sauce is their video compression. In their own words, their engineers have developed a “variable bitrate compression algorithm” that supposedly improves the HD video.3 We did like the video quality, but no need for all the flux capacitor talk.
SimpliSafe’s customer service is good, but, in our experience, it wasn’t anything to write home about. They have a live chat feature on their website, and their customer service call center is open from 9 am – midnight (ET) 7 days a week. There’s also an online community of fellow SimpliSafers. So if you run into any issues, you should be back in business pretty quickly.
Each time we phoned SimpliSafe, we were helped within a matter of minutes. The staff seemed knowledgeable and friendly, but keep in mind that we’ve come to expect this with the best home security companies in the industry. It’s also worth noting that SimpliSafe was a recipient of the Angie’s List Super Service Award.4 That’s a nice feather-in-the-cap, we must say.
Priced at $169, we were plenty impressed with the performance of the SimpliSafe Video Doorbell Pro. It added an extra layer of protection to our entryway, with standard features like night vision, two-way talk, 1080p HD resolution, and remote smartphone controls. But standard features aside, here are the features we liked the most (we think you’ll like them, too).
SimpliSafe uses a pair of sensors to ensure the system is only triggered by people, not passing cars or pets. We think this is especially helpful if you live in a high-traffic area.
We liked being able to adjust the angle of the camera and zoom in to get a better picture. Not all doorbell cams have this feature, so we were glad to see it offered by SimpliSafe.
We recommend this doorbell for current SimpliSafe users. If you already have a SimpliSafe security system, the doorbell camera will integrate seamlessly. When a sensor is triggered, the doorbell automatically begins to record.
Did You Know: If you’re a current SimpliSafe customer, you’ll be glad to know that the Video Doorbell Pro wirelessly connects to every sensor in your system (via Wi-Fi). When a sensor is tripped, it will immediately signal the doorbell camera — and any other SimpliSafe camera installed — to begin recording footage.
With a wide field of vision, we were able to see visitors at our doorstep from head to toe. We could also see large packages left at our door, which was nice. A 162-degree field of vision is certainly competitive in this category.
The SimpliSafe Video Doorbell Pro is designed to work with most doorbell setups, as it can connect to 8- to 24-volt AC power supplies. Note that there is no battery-powered option for this doorbell.
With just a phillips screwdriver and a bit of patience, our Video Doorbell Pro was up-and-running fast. The DIY install requires some basic wiring, but it will only take about 15 minutes using SimpliSafe’s step-by-step instructions.
SimpliSafe doesn’t offer a whole lot in the add-ons department. But we like the few products they do sell. Note that SimpliSafe is a perennial favorite of ours when it comes to total home protection. We think there’s a lot to love about their alarm systems. And as you’ll see below, SimpliSafe has DIY home security systems starting at only $183 and ranging to $391. Not bad at all.
|SimpliSafe Add-Ons||Product Type||Price|
|SimpliCam||Indoor HD Camera||$99|
|SimpliSafe Outdoor Camera||Outdoor HD Camera||$169|
|Smart Lock||Electronic Door Lock||$99|
|Home Security Kits||Entry Sensors, Base Station, Keypad, etc.||$183+|
SimpliSafe was founded back in 2006 when Harvard students, Chad and Eleanor Laurans, grew tired of break-ins in the Cambridge area. They quickly found there weren’t any security companies or systems designed specifically for renters. So they set out to imagine, create, and sell their own system.5
It took a while to catch on, but by 2010 the company was doing over $1 million in revenue, and by 2013 sales had skyrocketed to a whopping $38.5 million annually. Then, the very next year, Sequoia Capital infused SimpliSafe with $57 million in funding,6 and the rest they say is history.
Today, SimpliSafe remains one of the top choices for do-it-yourself home security systems.
Did You Know: Prior to attending Harvard Business School, Chad Laurans studied electrical engineering at Yale.7 In our eyes, a background in business and electrical engineering is the ideal recipe for success in the competitive home security industry.
There’s a reason why SimpliSafe makes our top 10 list of doorbell cameras. Actually, there are several reasons. This easy-to-use doorbell will give you just enough features to protect your entryway. We think you’ll like the HD resolution, dual-motion sensors, and wide field of view. Also, keep in mind there aren’t any long-term subscriptions to worry about, and the equipment price is reasonable at $169.
But there are some things we didn’t love about the SimpliSafe doorbell camera. First off, it doesn’t integrate into an existing smart home ecosystem, which is disappointing. Also, the device doesn’t have detection zones — it’s either sensing everything in view, or nothing. And finally, the design leaves a little to be desired (cue the elevator music); but again, this wasn’t a deal-breaker for us.
All in all, we do think the SimpliSafe Video Doorbell Pro packs quite a punch for the price. With this in mind, we recommend it as a standalone unit, or as an add-on if you’re already running with SimpliSafe products. Either way, we think you’ll find plenty of value with this DIY doorbell cam.
No, unfortunately SimpliSafe products don’t work with third-party platforms like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT, etc.
Yes, you can have your video doorbell installed by a pro for $79. But we recommend taking advantage of the DIY installation option, which is simple and free.
With 1080p HD resolution, we found that the doorbell camera offered sharp image quality.
Yes, the camera does offer infrared night vision, allowing you to see in low-light conditions and at night without losing picture quality.
The SimpliSafe video doorbell replaces your existing doorbell. It’s a wired setup that takes about 10-15 minutes to install (do-it-yourself installation).
SimpliSafe.com. (2020). Installation Guide for Video Doorbell Pro.
History.com. (2010, April 26). Model T.
SimpliSafe.com. (2020). Home Security Systems.
Angieslist.com. (2020). What’s so Super about the Angie’s List Super Service Award?
SimpliSafe. Wikipedia. Retrieved June 10, 2020.
Boston Business Journal. (2014, May 21). Home security company SimpliSafe lands $57M from Silicon Valley's Sequoia Capital.
Yale Daily News. (2009, September 10). Elis offer home security options.