Google Nest Doorbell Battery review: Smart software, poor design
Quick verdict: Google's Nest Doorbell has lots of inbuilt AI and integrates beautifully with existing Google Nest speakers and smart displays, but its mediocre design and installation leaves us wanting.
- Smart AI detection
- 3 hours of rolling storage for free
- Works well with Nest speakers and smart displays
- Poor installation system
- No colour choices in Australia
- Expensive compared to other video doorbells
- Announces to every speaker by default
- Slower response than Ring
Google's ownership of Nest has allowed the search giant to sell a wide array of smart home devices. Here in Australia our primary exposure to the Nest brand has largely been through Google shifting the brand name onto existing speakers and smart displays. Far fewer of Nest's cameras have made it down under, until now.
The Google Nest Doorbell Battery aims to take on the likes of Ring and Arlo as your preferred smart doorbell provider. It offers a different suite of features without subscription compared to its rivals.
However, a lack of choices in colour and mediocre installation options, along with its asking price, make it a less compelling option unless you're heavily into the Google ecosystem.
Design: You can have any colour you like, as long as it's white
Smart doorbells all tend to look quite similar, because the essential idea of putting a camera and a button together can only really end up one way.
You want the button to stand out while the camera gets good placement to spot visitors, delivery people and miscreants.
The Google Nest Doorbell Battery is available in a single white "Snow" colour in Australia. It stands out, but it's not going to work for every front door colour scheme.
Annoyingly, Google does make the Google Nest Doorbell Battery in other colours. If you live in the US, you get Snow, but also Linen, Ivy and Ash options, giving you a range of grey to brown hues to meld in more seamlessly to your home or office décor.
The doorbell unit itself measures in at 46x24.1x160mm, making it a large unit to install, but also quite an obvious one.
During my review period there's been no issue with delivery folk recognising it for what it is and pressing it upon arrival to my property.
Installation: Simple enough, but not all that secure
The installation process for smart doorbells typically isn't that difficult. You fit a backing plate, you attach the doorbell to it and off you go.
The Google Nest Doorbell Battery gave me a few challenges I wasn't expecting.
For a start, the default URL printed on the quick start guide tries to find a relevant YouTube video to guide you through installation. That makes sense given YouTube is a Google company.
The printed URL led me to an installation for the Nest Hello camera, the older model never actually sold in Australia. Whoops.
Then there's the issue of actually placing the Google Nest Doorbell Battery camera itself. The backing plate requires a gap of at least 5.5cm above the doorbell.
Google's fixing mechanism involves popping off its securing latch from the top. It's the reverse of the way Amazon secures its Ring cameras, which use a custom hex screw at the base of the camera unit.
That presented a problem in my case, because my standard mounting point for smart doorbells is on a slatted wood frontage at an angle. That means there is no top access, because there's an angular board right there. In the end, I settled for installing it on a nearby flat vertical slat.
However, my installation woes didn't end there.
Once the Google Nest Doorbell Battery was clicked into place, it never felt terribly secure compared to other smart doorbells. I didn't want to damage the front fascia around my door, but it very much felt as though a determined thief could rip it off my wall without too much effort.
The other challenge here is one of chime sounds. By itself, the Google Nest Doorbell Battery has no inbuilt chime.
If you have an existing wired doorbell chime, you can get an electrician to wire that in for you. Otherwise it relies on the idea that you'll have notifications and sounds set up on your phone or Google Assistant capable smart speakers and displays only.
Not shockingly, you're going to need a Google account to set up the Google Nest Doorbell Battery, as well as a robust enough NBN connection.
The recommendation for the Google Nest Doorbell Battery is for a minimum 2Mbps upstream connection. Those on slower NBN 12/1 connections will struggle here.
Even 25/5 connections might find it challenging. You've got to factor in a little network congestion and Wi-Fi distance into those equations.
For review, the Google Nest Doorbell Battery was tested on a home NBN HFC 250/20 connection through Aussie Broadband.
Disclaimer: For the sake of full transparency, Aussie Broadband is the current sponsor of my weekly podcast, Vertical Hold: Behind The Tech News.
Performance: Smart detection, but not the fastest
The big benefit that Google can bring to the smart doorbell and camera space is its exemplary work in the field of machine learning, object detection and recognition.
As soon as the Google Nest Doorbell Battery is installed, it's capable of detecting people, packages, animals and vehicles as distinct entities.
As they approach your Google Nest Doorbell Battery device, you'll get an alert based on what it thinks it sees. It'll even alert you if a package is left and then vanishes from view, which is smart.
Those features are free, but Google does offer a subscription tier through Nest Alert.
For $9/month, covering all Nest cameras at a location, you get facial recognition, as well as a 30-day rolling cloud archive of recorded events.
The Nest Aware Plus subscription bumps that figure up to 60 days, along with 24/7 video archiving over a rolling 10-day period.
Right now in the middle of lockdown that might be overkill, especially if you don't expect too many visitors. One nice detail here is that Google offers a 3-hour bank of recorded events for free without a subscription to Google Nest Doorbell Battery owners.
The current lockdown did somewhat limit my ability to test the Google Nest Doorbell Battery's video streaming.
A small number of simulated tests while I was out doing the family shopping showed few issues attributable to the Google Nest Doorbell Battery itself. You're always more at the mercy of mobile and broadband connection speeds if you're using a smart doorbell as a remote security camera.
The Google Nest Doorbell Battery works well for detecting motion, but I couldn't help but notice that its actual detection and notification was notably slower than the Ring devices I've tested in the same location and on the same network in the past.
A Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 in the same space typically alerted me before anyone got to the actual bell, where the Google Nest Doorbell Battery only managed to get alerts out as someone reached the doorbell over a number of metres down my driveway.
Google's default if you do have smart speakers is one that you won't miss in any case, because it announces the doorbell press across every single speaker. If you only have the one or two or live alone that might be ideal. If you're stuck at home in lockdown with a house that's working and schooling from home, it's slightly less endearing to have it announce loudly that the doorbell has been pressed.
One neat feature that Google bakes into the Google Nest Doorbell Battery system is alerts when the camera goes offline.
The idea here is that if criminal types cut power to your house to disable alarm systems, you'd still get notified by the camera and Google's own systems.
I inadvertently got a taste of how well its notifications can work when the power to my house was cut due to maintenance works nearby.
Almost immediately, my phone alerted me that the camera was offline. All the lights going out was something of a clue, really, but it's nice to know that feature does work as advertised.
Should you buy the Google Nest Doorbell Battery?
- Buy it if you've got Google speakers already installed and don't mind a white-only doorbell.
- Don't buy it if you want fast detection or a robustly secured doorbell.
The Google Nest Doorbell Battery is very much a doorbell for the Google faithful. If your smart home speaker of choice is, say, a Nest Audio or a flock of Nest Mini 2nd Gen speakers, it'll integrate nicely and you'll benefit from its robust AI.
However, it's not the most secure doorbell, or the easiest to fit in every circumstance. It's also not the fastest to send notifications, which could be problematic.
Given Google's only got the one doorbell it sells in Australia, it's certainly worth considering your alternative options from the likes of Amazon's Ring or Arlo.
Pricing and availability
Where to buy
How we tested
The Google Nest Doorbell Battery was tested at a Sydney suburban home over a 2-week period on an NBN 250/20 connection, testing for detection of people, packages, animals and nearby vehicles. Limitations around Sydney's current lockdown did limit the quantity of remote testing that was feasible in this timespan.
Dimensions, Weight, Color
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