Smart doorbells are now a common sight on doors around UK homes, and the majority of them seem to be Amazon Ring cameras. Even my parents-in-law have had one for years, and techy they are not. They’re popular as having one makes a lot of sense. When someone rings the doorbell they send notifications to your phone or tablet so you can view the camera to see who’s there and communicate with them – whether you’re upstairs or on the other side of the world.
My problem with the Amazon Ring is simply that I find the doorbell sound annoying so when the time came to acquire a video doorbell it made me want to look elsewhere. As its main rival in the smart home space, it’s no surprise that Google offers an equivalent – the Google Nest Hello. the RRP in the UK is a hefty £229 ($229 in the US) but is commonly now available for £179.
The Nest Hello gets one over the Ring straight away by having a default door chime noise that’s not annoying. You can also change it, which you can’t do in the Ring. In a nice touch offers a range of seasonal themes, for Halloween, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s Eve. They’re fun but inevitably cheesy; they had the kids running for cover whenever somebody rang the doorbell which is the opposite of what I wanted.
Image quality is very good, with the camera delivering a 1,600 x 1,200 resolution and in a sensible 4:3 aspect ratio so you can see tall rather than wide; all the better for seeing the while person at the door – depending of course how you mount it. It also automatically switches into night mode at dusk, making it easy to see what’s going in lower light.
The camera also records audio, and the range is good. Indeed, I was able to hear what my people were saying when chatting outside my house. Beware – walls now really do have ears…
To get the most out of your Nest Hello you’ll need to subscribe to the Nest Aware service. This is a downside compared to cameras that just record to your own NAS drive, but if you want to outsource the hard work of camera monitoring it’s, literally, the price you’ll have to pay.
Google until recently used to charge on a per camera basis but earlier this year moved to a scheme where a single payment covers all the Nest cameras you own, thereby making it more attractive to move to a Nest-based ecosystem in your home. However, if you have only a single camera it works out worse value, as on the old model you got access to 24/7 video recordings as standard – but to get that you’ll have to pay for a higher tier. For multiple Nest cameras though it’s a better deal.
While you can watch your live camera feed at any time, once subscribed to Nest Aware for (£5/$6 or £50/$60 a year) your cameras will alert you to “event history” over the last 30 days, enabling you to review key moments that trigger motion or sound. If you want to be able to scroll through your recordings 24/7 for the last 10 days, you will have to stump up £10/$12 a month or £100/$120 for Nest Aware Plus and it will also show you event history for the last 60 days.
You’ll probably want to go for the Nest Aware Plus as scrolling through your video history is very easy, with a simple timeline approach – and you can do it on both your smartphone and in a web browser. Each moment is indicated on the timeline as a “Sound” or “Motion”. The software has a “Parcel alert” feature which can tell if a delivery is left on your driveway, but that wasn’t useful for me as if someone left a packed in view, they’d essentially be leaving it in the street, so I turned it off.
You can set “Zones”, so you’re only alerted to those things that come within that area, and it’s also very easy to create a short clip that you can send to someone, such as the Police if you have to.
My favorite feature is that face recognition technology, which shows you all the faces that have come up to the camera. You then label them as when they return the notification will say who is at the door – it works well. You can review who it has seen on regular intervals and help the camera identify them in case it has trouble.
Getting it up and running
The Nest Hello uses Wi-Fi to connect to your network (there is no Ethernet connection) and must be plugged into a power supply to operate (there is no battery option). Installation is not the easiest and has certainly been designed with the US in mind. It requires a power transformer to work on UK electricity networks, though these are quite easy to come from the likes of Amazon or Screwfix.
Fortunately, I had a competent friend to assist me but if you do not and you’re not handy, you’ll have to factor in the cost of professional installation. Search for a “Nest Pro” in your search engine to find someone near you.
I already had bell wire running from the door through to a cupboard under the stairs where I could plug it in. If you have a chime, the Nest can connect to that, but I didn’t bother getting one put in. Instead, you can use Google Nest Home Mini’s as doorbells – and these will announce your visitors when the doorbell is rung.
I also have a Nest Home Max downstairs and a Nest Home Hub upstairs in the bedroom, and as these have screens, they can show you who is there when the doorbell rings. The integration works well.
Once installed it’s a case of getting it connected to your Wi-Fi, but I did run into a problem. Since acquiring Nest, Google has transitioned over from Nest account to Google accounts – however, the Nest eco-system does not support G-Suite accounts, even though it’s a paid-for Google service so I have to log in using a regular Gmail account. Also, slightly confusingly, set up is via the Google Home app, but to use all your Nest products you use a separate Nest app.
The app lets you see all your cameras in one view and a Nest Thermostat if you have one. You can have a live view of your cameras when you open the app, but I turned that off as it made it quicker to load.
Worth a look
Overall, then the Nest Hello proved to be a fantastic addition to my home and one of the most useful “smart home” devices there is.
What blotted the copybook though was a consistent, ongoing problem. Often while launching the app, or viewing the live feed, the message, “There was a problem while connecting to the Nest service. Try again in a few minutes,” appears. Pressing retry always lets me back in, but after months of use, across different iPhones, different routers and different ISPs the message is still a regular occurrence.
It’s pretty darn annoying, to be frank, and isn’t something you expect for a device that costs as much as the Google Nest Hello. However, as retrying always works, and it doesn’t happen, every time, it’s an annoyance I’ve reluctantly learned to live with.
That aside Nest Hello is a good home security camera. The connection problem is likely an issue with my home networks, so if you’re confident that your Wi-Fi is up to the job, and you are prepared to deal with the installation, then the Nest Hello is worthy of consideration.