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Home security reminds of that joke about outrunning a bear. You don’t actually have to be faster than the bear, just faster than the other guy. With you house, you just need to make the criminal think your neighbors house is a softer target. A doorbell camera can help.

For additional security tips, read our article on upgrading to electronic smart locks.

The promise

You’ve probably seen the video. The guy in uniform sets the package at your doorstep, scans it, photographs it, then walks off with it. He thinks he got away with it, but it’s all on video. Ring, Nest, or Skybell doorcams can all protect you by deterring theft and break-ins. They can even help catch the bad guys and hold them accountable.

That’s how it’s supposed to work, anyhow. Your mileage may vary depending upon the brand you choose.

I have a SkyBell HD which does a pretty good job of motion activated video recordings that trigger a mobile phone alert. From my phone I can see who’s at the door, listen, and speak (even if I’m not home), and keep the video if I want to.

The image quality is pretty sharp, even at night. The audio is satisfactory. And the doorbell unit itself looks pretty good. SkyBell offers a range of color choices and you can customize brightness from the app (the default is too much for my tastes).

Videos are stored for about a month in the cloud at no extra charge. You can download, and even share, videos if you like.

Imperfections

I’ve had a few problems with the SkyBell. I live in an old house with a thick stone wall that is enough to interfere occasionally with the Wi-Fi connection. Occasionally the SkyBell gets some false positives. It thinks that the trash truck driving down the street is a person at my door. Same with bright sunlight at dawn and dusk, and trees moving in strong wind. Frankly, none of these things really bother me.

But what does bother me is that the letter carrier can drop the mail a few feet below the doorbell, every day, without being noticed. Hey, maybe this is a feature, not a bug. Maybe it took hundreds of hours of training to develop this amazing artificial intelligence. But the SkyBell misses other events, too, like package deliveries, occasional visitors, and who knows what else?

With SkyBell, I’d guess you’ve got an 80% chance of catching a bad guy on tape. That’s not great. But what would you pay have a hilarious video of your drunk friends ringing your doorbell at 2 AM? Some things, like laughter and security, are priceless. The deterrence, at least, is worth it.

Still, the developers at SkyBell need to up their game. Meanwhile keep your eyes out for our upcoming review of the Nest camera.

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