If you’re making your foray into the world of home security, you might be wondering whether it’s best to start with a video doorbell or a security camera?
A video doorbell is better than a security camera for beginners because they function as both a security camera to monitor your home and an intercom to speak with anyone visiting your home. However, they can only be used on your front doorstep so a security camera is better elsewhere.
In this guide, I’ll run through the pros and cons of both video doorbells and security cameras as well as looking at how they can be used together. At the end of the article, I’ve also provided some up-to-date device recommendations for both.
- Pros and Cons of Video Doorbells
- Pros and Cons of Security Cameras
- Which is Better?
- What’s the Best Video Doorbell?
- What’s the Best Security Camera?
- Can You Use a Video Doorbell with A Security Camera?
Pros and Cons of Video Doorbells
A video doorbell is a device that sits near your front door much like a traditional doorbell, only it connects to the internet so that you can use it as an intercom to speak with your visitors whether you are home or not.
Here are the pros and cons of a video doorbell:
When deciding whether to opt for a security camera or a video doorbell, it’s easy to forget that a video doorbell IS a security camera with other features bundled in. A video doorbell essentially acts as a security camera, a doorbell, and an intercom in one device.
Some typical features that you’d expect from a standard video doorbell:
- Get alerts to your phone when someone rings the doorbell
- Two-way audio to speak with visitors from anywhere in the world
- A live feed of your doorstep whenever you like
- Motion detection which triggers the recording and storage of clips
That’s just the beginning of it. Many of the best video doorbells have AI to tell the difference between people, animals, and objects, plus some even have facial recognition.
With a huge range of cheap video doorbells on the market, they are more accessible than ever before. Even big-name brands like Ring have launched budget devices that can be picked up for less than £50. However, keep in mind ongoing costs which I’ll discuss in the cons below.
Video doorbells have been designed with beginners in mind which means that they are very simple to use. If you opt for a well-established brand such as Ring or Google Nest, they have been refined via updates and new models to offer a seamless experience.
Plus, if you opt for a battery-powered video doorbell, they are also very easy to install by yourself without wiring.
1. Many require subscription
Although there is a growing range of video doorbells without a subscription, they are still in the minority with most manufacturers opting to charge a subscription for cloud storage as part of their business model.
It’s generally not worthwhile to use a Ring doorbell without Ring Protect or a Nest doorbell without Nest Aware as you’ll lose access to many of the primary features such as saving and watching back clips of motion recordings or previous visitors.
This is a con of both video doorbells and security cameras as you’ll see below. Although there is more variety of subscription-free outdoor security cameras.
2. Only useful for one place
Whilst a security camera can be used almost anywhere inside or outside your home, by comparison, a video doorbell is only useful in one place and that’s your front door. With this in mind, it’s only feasible to have one video doorbell in your home security network.
3. Not suitable for all doorsteps
Certain homes just aren’t well suited to video doorbells. For example, when you live on a busy street that frequently activates your motion detection sensor.
By their nature, a video doorbell must always face outwards but some homes require different angles which is where an outdoor security camera would be better.
Pros and Cons of Security Cameras
Unlike video doorbells, security cameras offer a more limited feature set but do it incredibly well. They have been around for many years but with the growth of smart homes, newer cameras usually connect via Wi-Fi and integrate with your other smart home devices and voice assistants.
Here are the pros and cons of security cameras when compared to video doorbells:
1. Can be installed anywhere
Unlike a video doorbell which is only suitable for your doorstep, a security camera can be used anywhere inside or outside your home which makes them much more diverse.
This is particularly helpful when you want to angle the cameras to protect certain areas which you cannot do as well with a video doorbell.
2. Can be more discreet
A video doorbell is very obvious and most thieves will recognise what they are dealing with. On the other hand, a security camera can be hidden to catch any unwanted intruders off guard.
That being said, I’m always an advocate that a deterrent is better than punishment so I would usually opt to have a device in an obvious place to prevent crime in the first place.
3. Better video quality
Whilst video doorbells are trying to be multifunctional devices, security cameras do one thing and they do it well. This is why they tend to have much better video quality and wider viewing angles than video doorbells.
It’s not uncommon to find an outdoor security camera with 4k resolution whereas there aren’t currently any 4k video doorbells on the market (although there are 2k).
4. More to choose from
Security cameras have been around for many more years than video doorbells so there are far more brands and more choice of products. Options include battery-powered cameras, wired cameras, wi-fi cameras, ethernet cameras, pan-and-tilt cameras, POE security cameras, and more. This gives you a lot of customisation over your security setup.
1. More expensive
As mentioned in the pros, security cameras tend to have much better video quality than video doorbells so, for this reason, they are usually more expensive to buy. For example, the cheapest video doorbell from Ring is under £50 whereas the cheapest outdoor security camera from the same brand is closer to £100.
2. Many require subscription
This is a con for both video doorbells and security cameras so neither has a clear advantage but it’s worth mentioning. Most of the main security camera brands do require some sort of subscription for cloud storage to get the most out of your security cameras.
That being said, there is slightly more choice when it comes to security cameras without subscriptions compared to video doorbells.
3. Harder to install
This disadvantage may be objective and completely depends upon which camera or video doorbell you choose. However, in my experience, security cameras are harder to install than a video doorbell. This is because there are no existing wires so you may have to go to extra lengths to put them in.
If you’ve opted for a battery-powered device, this can be slightly easier, however, it can be more difficult to take them down for a recharge since security cameras tend to be placed higher up than a video doorbell.
Which is Better?
So, is a video doorbell or a security camera better? Well, if you are just getting into home security, a video doorbell is better. It’s more versatile and offers several security features including the ability to monitor parcels on your doorstep and interact with visitors even when you aren’t in.
Once you have a video doorbell, then I recommend you start adding to your security setup with additional security cameras. Try to pick one ecosystem and stick with it for simplicity, especially if you are giving non-techie family members access too.
Ring and Nest are my favourites since they integrate very well with Alexa and Google Home respectively. If you’d like some alternative brands to consider, Arlo are great and Eufy devices tend to operate without ongoing subscriptions. I’ll share some specific device recommendations below.
What’s the Best Video Doorbell?
If you’re opting for a doorbell, the Ring Video Doorbell 4 is a clear winner in my eyes. Newly launched in 2021, it brings many of the features that were previously in the ‘Plus’ version of the 3rd gen into the standard version.
Ring doorbells are incredibly fast to alert you when someone rings the bell compared to some other brands that can take up to 5 seconds. They are also very reliable and user-friendly.
See my full guide to the best video doorbells in the UK for more recommendations.
What’s the Best Security Camera?
Again when it comes to security cameras, I’m a big fan of Ring devices for their user-friendliness and reliability. The Ring Spotlight Cam is great for use outdoors and has similar two-way audio features as the video doorbells so you can speak with anyone you see.
For indoors, their Ring Indoor Cam is smaller and cheaper so it can be discreetly hidden without feeling too obtrusive. Both work very well with Alexa, allowing you to pull up a live feed on your Echo Show with your voice.
If you prefer Google’s ecosystem, you might want to consider something that works better with Google Assistant such as the Nest Cam or Arlo.
Can You Use a Video Doorbell with A Security Camera?
Yes, there is no reason why you can’t use both video doorbells and security cameras. In fact, I’d encourage it if you can afford to.
Some brands (such as Ring) will allow you to link your devices together which enhances your home security.
You might also consider the Arlo audio doorbell. This is similar to a video doorbell, only without the camera. It can be paired with an Arlo security camera instead which gives you more customisation over the placement of the camera.