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Most of the popular video doorbells (also known as a wi-fi doorbell), including market leader Ring, require a subscription in order to get access to recorded footage.
However, there’s growing demand for devices that don’t come with any added strings or monthly fees.
In this guide I’ll take a look at the best video doorbells that you can enjoy subscription-free and answer some frequently asked questions about video doorbells.
How Do Video Doorbells Work Without Subscription?
Many of the top video doorbells such as Nest and Ring don’t have any built-in memory which forces you to use their cloud subscription to access the basic function of reviewing footage.
However, there’s a growing market for video doorbells with local storage, this means recordings are saved on the device or a base unit in your home.
By storing the footage locally, you’ll be able to access old recordings without needing to pay any ongoing fees.
However, locally stored footage is harder to review as you will usually need to be in your home to watch it back. The exception to this is Eufy which is why it’s my number one pick below.
Is it safe to store footage locally?
It’s more of a risk to keep your footage on the device as thieves could steal the device and take their snapshots with them. This is especially problematic for battery powered devices which have no cabling at all.
Some brands such as Eufy and Arlo have overcome this by having the local storage on a separate unit inside your house.
Best Video Doorbell Without Subscription
These are my top recommended video doorbells without ongoing costs:
- BEST OVERALL: Eufy Video Doorbell (Battery Powered)
- RUNNER UP: Amcrest Video Doorbell
- MOST RELIABLE: Arlo Video Doorbell
- BUDGET PICK: Kamep Video Doorbell
- WITH INTERNAL SCREEN: Brinno Peephole Camera
Below are some more details about each device along with the key considerations to help you choose.
Eufy Video Doorbell (Battery Powered)
Eufy are best known for their power banks, but they are making a name for themselves through smart devices such as this Eufy security video doorbell which is the only one on the market to feature 2k video resolution through its professional grade Sony sensor.
There is both a wired device that uses existing doorbell cables or a battery powered option with 4-6 months battery life, far longer than any competitors.
The battery version is my recommendation as it has a base unit in your home which stores the footage. This means that even if someone steals your doorbell, you’ll still have the footage.
Unlike some brands, you can access all of Eufy’s features without any subscription or ongoing costs. The device allows you to prerecord a number of messages that you can send when you don’t want to answer.
It is compatible with both Amazon Echo and Google Home so you can use your Echo or Google Home device as a chime and stream the doorbell footage via a Chromecast.
Amcrest Video Doorbell
Amcrest have been busy building a range of network connected devices for home security geeks and now they’ve added a video doorbell to their line up.
The device is designed to work without relying on the cloud or a subscription thanks to a built in SD card slot. It also works nicely with AMcrest network video recorders and Blue Iris so you can be completely free of any monthly cost or commitment.
Not only does the doorbell look smart with a very ring-esque style. But it lives up to this with 1920x1080p resolution and customisable activity detection zones to select which parts of the camera view to monitor.
There is also the option of cloud storage if you want to remotely view recordings with a one year subscription included for free.
Arlo Video Doorbell
The Arlo video doorbell has features that rival the most premium devices but at an affordable price.
You’ll receive alerts when motion is detected, but once the doorbell has been rang, it will come through just like an incoming call.
A new update has meant the Arlo doorbell is viable without a subscription thanks to local recording.
To use local recording, you’ll also need an Arlo smart hub. You can then connect an external SD card or hard drive to keep your footage. It will rewrite over the oldest footage once the device nears capacity. However, you can only review recordings whilst on your home Wi-Fi.
It integrates fully with both Alexa and Google Home or announcements on speakers or live streams on devices with a screen.
Unfortunately the more premium features do require a subscription such as activity zones, intelligent alerts and cloud storage.
The Kamep is the cheapest device here, but that doesn’t mean its features are anything less than good. It has a 1080p camera with a decent video quality that still works well at night thanks to infrared cameras.
It has real time viewing as well as the option to leave pre-recorded messages. The chime is included with 38 different ringtones, and when nobody is in, the device will call up to 4 users via the smartphone app for two-way audio.
The biggest selling point to this device is the free 7 day cloud storage for life, this is far more generous than any of the other free options and makes it very useable without the need for a subscription. However, I should note that there is no local storage.
The device isn’t as sleek as the other devices here and is actually quite large which is a set back if style is important to you. It’s also a wireless only device and will require charging every few weeks.
Brinno Peephole Camera
If none of the above devices did it for you, I’ve included this Brinno as an alternative style device.
This Brinno doesn’t have remote live view and two-way audio as the others do, instead it focuses on giving those at home a quick peek of who’s at the door and keeping a security backup.
The device fits to a peephole with the main camera on the inside, making it very inconspicuous and impossible to steal. When the doorbell rings or it detects a knock, the indoor screen displays who’s at the door and it records the interaction to send a record to your inbox.
The video quality leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s adequate for its purpose and is a sincere upgrade on the traditional peep hole method, especially for elderly relatives or younger people who can’t reach the peephole.
Video Doorbell Buyers Guide (Without Subscription)
If you’re still struggling to decide, here is a run down of some key things to look out for when buying a subscription-free video doorbell:
Battery vs WIred
If you have an existing doorbell or are happy to install cables yourself, then a wired doorbell offers a hassle-free experience.
However, for a simple installation (or if you are renting), a wireless battery powered doorbell is best. Be sure to check the battery life as some are much longer than others.
If opting for battery powered, check whether it uses a removeable rechargeable battery or if you need to take the doorbell down for charging.
Where is the Footage Stored?
Most video doorbells that don’t have any monthly fees will require local storage rather than the cloud.
If this is on the doorbell itself, remember that it can be problematic if a thief steals the doorbell.
Look for devices with a hub inside your home that stores the footage for added protection.
Motion Detection and Alerts
All video doorbells will have motion detection, but they will all have varying levels of sensitivity and accuracy.
Also, beware that some doorbells (such as the Arlo) have advanced motion detection behind a paywall so you’ll have to subscribe to access it.
Video doorbells aren’t just for fun, they also serve a purpose as a serious security device.
For this reason, you want to be able to trust the device to do it’s job properly. Cheaper doorbells from unrecognised brands may be less reliable and have less accountability.
Smart Assistant Integration
If you have a favourite voice assistant (most likely Google Home or Alexa) make sure that the video doorbell can integrate with it.
This will unlock extra benefits such as using smart speakers as chimes or viewing the doorstep with your voice.
Can You Use Ring or Nest Doorbell Without Subscription?
Unfortunately, the very best devices on the market do require a subscription to get the full use of them.
Whilst Amazon say you can use Ring doorbells without any monthly commitment, you will forego key features such as actually being able to go back and see your recordings so I wouldn’t advise it.
The Nest Hello doorbell is slightly better as it saves a screen shot of any activity detected for 3 hours.
However, this is still very limited in comparison to Eufy and the other options recommended above so the Nest Hello isn’t worthwhile without a Nest Aware plan.
Congratulations, you’re now an expert on subscription-free video doorbells.
As you can see the feature sets and pricing varies greatly between the devices but overall, the Eufy battery powered doorbell is a great all-rounder and comes in at a middle of the range price.
Anker are continually updating the device too, so I look forward to seeing what features are released in future and fingers crossed for better integration with Google Home to make this device really excel.