Ecobee Smart Doorbell Camera review: Impressive features, yet supremely simplistic

Ecobee, a company mostly known for making smart thermostats, has been somewhat quietly expanding its product line and creating a suite of home security devices that all work very well together. The latest part of that puzzle is the Ecobee Smart Doorbell. Not content to make just another video doorbell, Ecobee looked at ways to tie into the rest of the device portfolio. The end result would be quite nice if it didn’t rely so heavily on a monthly subscription.

Considering the bigger picture

ecobee Smart Doorbell Camera

(Image credit: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

I was fortunate to get to review the Ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium, and even then, I could see how the company approached smart home devices differently than others. For example, Ecobee’s built-in feature ties its window/door contact sensors to the thermostat and can disable your HVAC to run if the window is open. So, it was no surprise that the new Smart Doorbell Camera would have deep ecosystem integrations like the best smart thermostat does.

One of the things that I really like about Ecobee is its commitment to being as eco-friendly as it can, and that starts with the packaging. There is no plastic inside the box, including the pouches for the mounting screws, except for the protective plastic covering the front of the device. This was odd considering the stance of the company and the fact that there are paper versions of that protective accessory.

Ecobee makes smart choices when making its smart devices, and it shows in the integrations for the Smart Doorbell Camera.

For a video doorbell that needs to be hardwired to your home, Ecobee did a good job of walking users through the steps within the app and, of course, providing the necessary hardware to do so. I like that it also included a wedge plate to angle the doorbell in the box.

Aside from wiring the doorbell in place of your old one, you also have the ability to wire in the chime adapter from Ecobee to your home’s existing chime. The Smart Doorbell Camera can also chime through your other Ecobee devices, including thermostats.

Once installed, the Ecobee app walks you through tutorials on what the device can do and how to tie it to other devices in the ecosystem. One such integration is with the Smart Thermostat Premium. Aside from being a chime extension, when you link the two products together, you expand the system’s security abilities.

With the Ecobee Smart Doorbell Camera and Smart Thermostat Premium linked, you’ll see a live video feed on the thermostat with the ability to have a two-way conversation with the person. This might seem unnecessary, and maybe it is, but it’s a great way to utilize the display and Alexa smart device features, speakers, and microphones to offer another access point to your front door. Something none of the other top video doorbells offer.

Not only does the Ecobe Smart Thermostat Premium turn into a video comm system for the doorbell, but it also becomes a security hub.

If you already have an Ecobee SmartCamera and Smart Thermostat Premium, you may already have enabled the Smart Security features. This opens up additional alert options using the smart sensors placed around your home, the camera, the radar sensor in the thermostat, and more to help keep your home secured. The new Smart Doorbell Camera offers another point of surveillance to the system.

While currently, you can only use the Ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium to view a live feed from the doorbell, Ecobee has said it will come to other compatible models. Something else that will be added later is Google Assistant support, as Amazon Alexa and Siri are currently supported.

As for the camera quality and what the doorbell can do, it’s quite a lot. The Ecobee Smart Doorbell Camera packs a 5MP camera sensor with up to 1080p video quality and HDR. One of my favorite parts of the video feed is that the doorbell provides 175° of vertical field of view in a 3:4 portrait aspect ratio. This lets you see so much of what’s going on at your door without adding additional cameras.

From the app, you can digitally zoom in up to 8x, which can be helpful, but the 5MP sensor can get pretty grainy at the zoom level. However, a feature that takes advantage of its zoom capability is Smart Focus. Though it is beta, this feature is interesting as it will digitally pan and zoom to keep whatever motion is detected in the frame, including packages.

Ecobee does a good job utilizing the hardware within the doorbell and ties it to clever software tricks to enable features like Smart Focus.

Along with recognizing motion and tracking it with this clever feature, the Ecobee Smart Doorbell Camera uses radar technology to detect motion and locate it, much like the Smart Thermostat Premium does. This feature is great for getting rid of many of the false notifications that somebody is at my door that other doorbells send my way. It also lends to faster detection, meaning I’ll know if someone is at my door sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, this doorbell doesn’t support facial recognition, so you won’t actually know who’s there until you look.

Ecobee Smart Doorbell Camera sample yard view during the day

(Image credit: Chris Wedel / Android Central)

Ecobee Smart Doorbell Camera sample yard view at night

(Image credit: Chris Wedel / Android Central)

You get many of the quality-of-life features found in the competition, like the Arlo Video Doorbell (2nd gen) that I recently reviewed. You can create custom activity zones where the doorbell will only send you notifications if it detects motion within the area you set. Of course, there is also two-way communication and quite good night vision built-in.

The radar sensor also offers the ability to set a detection range. With distances of seven to thirty feet, you can adjust how far from the doorbell you want motion to be monitored. By pairing this with Activity Zones, you can really narrow down the space being monitored for more precise notifications and monitoring.

Ruining the party

ecobee Smart Doorbell Camera

(Image credit: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

It’s a good thing that we all know that nothing is perfect. Everything I’ve written up until this point has made the device out to be such. There is so much going right for the Ecobee Smart Doorbell Camera, but like so many other great smart home devices these days, most of the product’s features, even basic ones, are locked behind a paywall.

The first issue is possibly my biggest gripe: there is zero local storage available for the Smart Doorbell Camera. This limitation isn’t isolated to Ecobee, but it is irritating nonetheless. If you want to have any of your motion detection events from the device saved at all, you’ll need to pay for the Smart Security subscription. I really don’t like that to save even a week of events, I have to pay. 

The trend over the past few years of putting much of what a smart device can do behind a paywall is frustrating, especially when local storage for events isn’t an option.

The other issue I have isn’t with the product but the after-service and how features like the radar and package detection are only available if you pay for the Smart Security subscription. I am far more willing to put up with keeping some of the more advanced features like these behind a paywall, but not for things like event storage.

The pricing is $7/mo or $70/yr for the Standard option and $14/mo or $125/yr for the Complete package. Standard gets you coverage for one camera, and that $7 is a bit on the high side when compared to other brands’ plans, but at $14 for unlimited cameras and 24/7 professional monitoring, it isn’t too bad of a price.

If you recall, I mentioned the Smart Focus feature being in beta right now. Well, the Package Detection isn’t marked as in beta, but it has some things that need to be worked out to make it worth paying for in the subscription. While it does a decent job of recognizing that a package has been left, it stops there in terms of detection.

What I mean by this is that if somebody comes to my door with a package, all I’m told initially is that a person is at the door. Then, if the package is left within view of the Ecobee Smart Doorbell Camera, I’ll be notified of such. However, unlike how the Nest Video Doorbell (2nd gen, wired), I’m not told a person with a package is there or that a package has been removed. That last part is important and really should be part of the feature if it’s being placed within a subscription.

Should you buy the Ecobee Smart Doorbell Camera?

For all of my complaints about the Smart Security subscription, aside from the recording storage part of it, depending on the person, I do think it adds some real value to some of the features. The lack of local storage — or any storage at all — without a subscription isn’t the end of the world and not an issue for some in the least. But it is something to keep in mind if you consider the Ecobee Smart Doorbell Camera.

If you’re okay with that subscription or you have other Ecobee products, then you definitely should consider this device. As a smart doorbell, it does a lot right by providing clear video, including helpful tracking and detection features, and the integration with other devices in the ecosystem is impressive. Couple those things with an affordable entry price, and you have a really great option to consider for your home’s front door.

Via: Androidcentral

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