You would not think that doorbell’s were a portion of the market that could expect to see a lot of innovation. Push the button and a noise or light goes off in the house. The coming of wireless doorbells in the 70’s made this all a little easier but did not really change the situation.
In the last couple of years there have been signs that this is about to change. The Internet Of Things has started to become a reality and one of the more popular ideas is an internet connected doorbell. Put a box outside your door and connect it to your wifi and not only can you get a ringer inside but you can get a notification on your phone or tablet wherever you are. DoorBird have taken this several steps further and offer devices that can do almost everything you can think of outside your door.
I was sent the D101 and the hardware is not just a push and call system. It has microphones, speakers and video cameras built in so when your visitor gets to your door and presses the button as well as letting you know someone is there is lets you know who it is – seeing them – and lets you speak to them. The video is 720p which is more than sufficient for something like this and DoorBird play up both the wide angle lens and the infra-red LEDs that give it some night vision.
DoorBird’s potential Achilles heel is its setup. I found it straightforward but not as simple as it might have been. As a device that runs from mains electricity the DoorBird has to be wired in to your mains supply. How easy or hard this will be will depend largely on your houses location and what you already have. In my case I had a wireless ‘dumb’ doorbell previously and so needed to drill through my external wall and run the wires through and to a plug. If you already have a wired alarm it will probably have power going to it already and hence this will be fairly straightforward. The device can also be powered via a Power Over Ethernet POE system if you happened to have one near your front door. In all it took me around an hour but I’m an acceptable DIYer and comfortable with this – if you’re not you might need to consider an electrician or builder to do it for you.
Once it was wired in and setup was straightforward and stepped through via the app. It took around 10 minutes although I had a problem doing the setup up on my OnePlus Two running Android 5.1.1 – for some reason it refused to authenticate. A quick switch onto the iPad and I had more success. Once setup I was able to use the OnePlus Two with no issues so it may have been a temporary issue.
Over the next week I was able to answer the door from a number of locations on both devices on wifi and on 3 or 4g networks. I hit two problems – If the phone was muted it was possible to miss the notification and second if I was in an area with no signal I didn’t get anything. Because of the design of my house my kitchen gets no wifi and very spotty cell phone signal and the fact that the DoorBird does not come with a physical ringer means that I almost missed a couple of parcels.
The other aspect of the DoorBird is as a security device. The motion sensor can be setup to send a notification on movement and it’s possible to watch a live stream of what the camera sees with the system records still images of the last 20 times people rang the doorbell. My five year loved watching what was going on in front of the house but was very disappointed to realise she couldn’t easily record what was happening. As a security device it would also have made sense to record a little video when the motion sensor was set off. It was also a little disappointing to realise that although there are iOS and Android apps there was no way to monitor via a PC – I spend a lot of my time at my desk and notifications or the ability to watch the video stream there would have been great.
Price: £249 or 349 Euros for the D101
Included in the box: DoorBird alarm box, mounting plate and screws, connectors, cable ties, security screw and screwdriver, terminal wires, mains adaptor, POE cables, manuals, quick start guide and admin information in plain text and as a QR code.
About Manufacturer: DoorBird
DoorBird was setup as Bird Home Automation in 2011. They’ve expanded and built on the technology and are currently the biggest smartphone door system manufacturer in Europe. They currently make one base system with a number of cosmetic types and a number of extra parts.
The Ergohacks Evaluation
The DoorBird base unit is quite versatile – it’s a doorbell, intercom system and security camera but it really shows off its versatility when you add in the extras. Some of these include an extra external camera that gives you another angle, a plug in chime that gives you a reliable audio alarm in the house, door (or window) sensors that let you know if doors are open, motion sensors, sirens that have a 100dB alarm and a lock that lets you unlock and relock the door remotely.
Set up the whole system and you could be notified as visitors came up your drive, get multiple angles on them as they ring the doorbell, talk to them, open the door remotely, get video of them inside and notification when the door was closed again and watch them leave and you could do all of this from anywhere you had a reasonable internet connection. For someone who is away from home or finds it hard to get to the front door in time or safely the advantages are obvious. If you really want to get into it there’s a new API that lets the DoorBird interface with other devices so in the longer term it might be possible to setup a connection to a whole smart house system.
As a product that is designed to be fixed outside its important that it wills stand up to the weather and vandalism and the DoorBird fulfills these well. It’s IP54 certified which among other things means that it can handle water splashed from all directions, dust and temperatures from -20 degrees C up to 40 degrees. To prevent removal it uses a backplate that can be securely fixed which is hidden by the body of the DoorBird which itself is secured by a proprietary included screw and screwdriver. The lens is in a perspex dome and while it would be possible to spraypaint it it is as secure and toughened as it could reasonably be.
The DoorBird is very ergonomic for the visitor to the house. The single button is large and when pressed gives both a audible feedback that it has been pressed and a light. Once you answer the speaker quality is good and we were able to hear it over road noises and in windy conditions without any problems.
The house owner (and family) get an audible notification on the Android and iOS devices and can pull up the video feed and choose to speak to the person at the door. The DoorBird will tie in with up to 8 external devices which sounds a lot but if you consider a household of 4 that’s likely to be 4 smartphones and a couple of tablets so 8 is a reasonable number.
Environment & People
The DoorBirds are made specifically in Germany and sell primarily in the EU which avoids a number of potential social issues with outsourcing production as well as keeping the product’s mileage low. Once produced they are very resilient systems and should last for a significant number of years. When the time comes to replace they are separable into constituent parts – the box, wall plate and circuit boards and could be recycled.
The DoorBird is not a cheap system and if you compare it directly to other video doorbells it is significantly more expensive. This would however be doing it a disservice for two reasons – most video doorbell systems go to a specific receiver which limits them to only being used at a certain place. You might have the video plate just inside the door but you’d be tied to that point. The DoorBird lets you answer the door from many places via many devices.
The second thing the DoorBird has is the ability to tie in extras and make it into a whole system. I could easily see a setup where if you needed to receive a number of deliveries but could not receive them in person you could add the DoorBird to the SmartLock and possibly another internal camera. Delivery man comes and rings doorbell, you talk to him and buzz him in and are able to view him putting down the parcel and leaving again.
The final aspect is one of build quality – the unit we were sent is built to last and looks like it’ll still be working on the front of the house in many years time. It’s changeable faceplate also means that if it is damaged it is potentially repairable rather than needing a full replacement.
Power: Wall supply 110-240V
POE: 802.3af Mode A Optional
Wifi: 802.11 b/g/n
Internet connection speed: At least 1meg/second
Lens: 180degree horizontal 90 degree vertical
Protection: IP54 and A1
The DoorBird requires a consistent power supply and internet connection. If the power is interrupted or there is interference in the wifi network then it will stop operating. I’ve tested it with a wifi network not connected to the internet and it was able to operate once setup although it did need the internet connection to get setup.
The DoorBird iOS app requires iOS 7.0 or later or on Android 4.0.3 and up. There is no PC or IP access method and the app is not on the Amazon App store.
Lets get it out the way to start off with. The DoorBird is an expensive piece of hardware and many people will be satisfied with the traditional doorbell. There is however a growing range of customers who are looking both for something which is higher security and which will let you answer the door without being there or having to rush to get there. For these people a system which rings your phone and tablet is ideal.
The DoorBird is a very impressive looking and well made piece of hardware and should stand up well to its outside placement. The camera gets a good field of view and at night is acceptable. It is a little let down by some of its software – the ability to record conversations and movement rather than just static pictures would be a big plus but the hardware extras such as the tie in to unlocking the door and other camera more than make up for this.
Recommended for those who want a complete solution that will last.
The review is based on the DoorBird DC101 kindly lent by DoorBird. This post contains affiliate links.