On October 4th, Google launched the 2nd generation Nest Doorbell (wired), replacing the ageing but much-loved Nest Hello released in 2018, later rebranded as the Nest Doorbell (wired).
Google first teased us almost a year ago that this new video doorbell would make up for many of the complaints people had with the Nest Doorbell (battery), like lack of 24/7 recording, and told us it was "coming soon", so it's been a bit of a wait. But has it been worth the wait? And, how does it compare to the original Nest Doorbell (wired) and the 2021 model Nest Doorbell (battery)?
Let's dig in and find out.
First, we should say that we were, quite honestly, disappointed with the Nest Doorbell (battery) launched in Fall 2021. We wrote about this at the time. We felt that, compared with the Nest Doorbell (wired), formerly known as Nest Hello, the new Nest Doorbell (battery) offered subpar video quality, poor night vision, and its large size meant that it wouldn't fit in many of the spaces near your front door that you would typically position a doorbell.
So, we were surprised to see that the key camera specs for the new 2nd generation Nest Doorbell (wired) look at first glance firmly middle-of-the-range for video doorbells:
W 1.7" x H 5.2" x D 1.1"
1/3" 1.3MP, 3:4 Aspect Ratio
960 x 1280
Field of View
10 IR LEDs (850nm)
Of note is the fact that, like the Nest Doorbell (battery) with its sometimes anemic images, the latest doorbell has the same HD resolution, 960 x 1280, whereas many competitors are now offering devices with significantly greater pixel counts. And yet, Google themselves say:
DXOMark, the international leader in quality assessment of smartphone image, display, audio and battery, and other consumer electronics, tested eight doorbells across the industry and says: “The Google Nest Doorbell (wired, 2nd-gen) is the best camera doorbell we have tested so far in terms of image quality, with a high level of detail and accurate exposure, allowing you to easily recognize whoever is at the door, even at night.”
Could this be true? The answer, at least in theory, is yes. Pixel counts for smart cameras very often have little correlation with the actual quality of images the cameras produce. More important are high-quality optical designs for the lens system, and image processing to optimize the output images for the use case of the camera (which is quite different for a video doorbell than for a security camera, for example). Google has significant expertise in both fields, and utilizes cutting edge AI in the new camera model to achieve the claimed high level of performance.
We decided to check it out for ourselves. We set up a Nest Doorbell (wired, 1st gen), a Nest Doorbell (battery) and the latest Nest Doorbell (wired, 2nd gen) outside a home, all positioned with the lens at 55" above the ground, and tested the doorbells during the day and at night. Prepare to be surprised by the results:
The first difference between the original Nest Doorbell (wired) and the newer models is the aspect ratio of the image, which has changed from 4:3 to 3:4 (which is a much more common format for modern video doorbells). The rationale is that the tall-and-thin aspect ratio is better at showing packages close to the front door, as well as more of a person on your front porch. We see this clearly in our comparison - the package on the floor is not visible at all on the image from the original Nest Doorbell (wired), but is clearly visible from the 3:4 aspect ratio cameras. This change won't be a 'win' for everyone - for example, if you need to mount your doorbell far to the left, or far to the right, of your front door, the narrower framing won't be helpful. But for the majority of people, we think 3:4 is a good choice. Winners, for most front porch layouts: Nest Doorbell (battery) and Nest Doorbell (wired, 2nd gen)
Image Quality and Contrast
In the daytime, you'll note that the image from the original Nest Doorbell (wired) shows a lack of detail (see the trees in the distance), and generally poor contrast, compared with the newer cameras. This may be surprising given the original doorbell has the highest pixel count (1600 x 1200), but illustrates what improved optics and image processing can achieve. The Nest Doorbell (battery) shows improved detail, but there's poor exposure balance between the foreground and background parts of the image, making it hard to see the person at your front door. The Nest Doorbell (wired, 2nd gen) however gives excellent sharpness, color and exposure balance across the whole image. Winner: Nest Doorbell (wired, 2nd gen)
In the night, cameras switch to IR illumination and therefore a greyscale image. To achieve good image quality, bright IR LEDs are important, but so is IR lighting control and effective image processing to ensure that the foreground is not overexposed relative to the background. The image from the original Nest Doorbell (wired) shows a good exposure balance between foreground and background, but the foreground image appears 'washed out' which suggests insufficient IR illumination power. In comparison, the Nest Doorbell (battery) shows better foreground contrast, but the background is much too dark and almost invisible, with its 5 IR LEDs inadequate to illuminate the porch space. The Nest Doorbell (wired, 2nd gen) literally shines, offering excellent foreground contrast and light levels thanks to its 10 IR LEDs, with the background kept in balance and showing an excellent level of detail. Winner: Nest Doorbell (wired, 2nd gen)
How about non-Nest doorbells? We have seen many video doorbells in our time here at Starling, including native HomeKit doorbells like the Logitech Circle View Wired Doorbell and the Arlo Essentials Video Doorbell. Despite superior-on-paper specs, these doorbells produce significantly poorer images than the Nest Doorbell (wired, 2nd gen) in both day-time and night-time conditions. To our surprise, Google's claims to image quality seem spot on. Winner: Nest Doorbell (wired, 2nd gen)
The Best HomeKit Doorbell?
If you're an Apple home, you need all your smart home devices in HomeKit. Nest products don't support HomeKit out of the box, which is why we created Starling Home Hub. It's the only way to seamlessly integrate and automate all your Nest devices with HomeKit, and of course, Starling Home Hub fully supports the Nest Doorbell (wired, 2nd generation), including HomeKit Secure Video (Nest Aware and iCloud+ plan required). So - like a 'native' HomeKit Secure Video doorbell - you get not just live video and two-way audio, but also iCloud+ recorded event history (with the ability to download and share video clips), HomeKit Activity Zones, face recognition, rich event notifications and more, all from the Apple Home app.
Together with the fact that the Nest Doorbell (wired, 2nd generation) produces the best images we have ever seen from a video doorbell, we are confident in saying that, together with Starling Home Hub, the Nest Doorbell (wired, 2nd generation) is the best HomeKit doorbell on the market, and will likely remain so for a long time.
The new Nest Doorbell (wired, 2nd generation) is available now. You can buy it for $180 directly from the Google Store, or from tech retailers including Best Buy and B&H. (We don't earn any commission from these links.)
Want to see how Starling Home Hub can transform your Nest/HomeKit home? Check out our video.