Nest Doorbell 2nd Gen (wired) review: Useful features, simple design

Nest Doorbell 2nd Gen (wired) review: Useful features, simple design

Nest Doorbell 2nd Gen (wired) review: Useful features, simple design

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  • High quality audio and video
  • Lots of customizable settings
  • Free cloud storage for up to three hours
  • Compatible with Google Assistant and Alexa

Do not like

  • Recorded events are automatically deleted after 3 hours
  • Slightly limited field of vision

Google relied on the design and functionality of its Nest doorbell with battery to create a second generation doorbell. Unlike the first generation, where the wired and wireless versions were very different, the second generation devices, both wired and battery-powered, have the same look and functionality.


There’s a lot to love about this next-gen video doorbell but, as with everything smart home device, it is not entirely free from defects. After a week of testing, I encountered minor issues such as the brief 3 hour window to watch recordings and a slightly limited field of view, but I wouldn’t consider any of these to be deal breakers. However, you will want to be aware of this before purchasing.

David Anders/CNET

Even with a few blemishes, the new wired Nest Doorbell is a decent value at $180. It is not the cheapest video doorbell you will find – older Arlo models and wyze, for example, are cheaper, as are cloud storage subscriptions. Even so, if you prefer Google devices and you are looking for a user-friendly and feature-rich solution home security upgrade to your front porch, you’ll likely find the new Nest Doorbell worth it.

I should note that Google also released a second-generation battery-powered Nest doorbell along with the wired version. Both devices share similar features and the same $180 price tag, though the battery-powered version is about an inch longer at 6.3 inches.

With that in mind, you can broadly apply my findings by testing the wired version to both devices (other than installation, more on that in a moment). So if you’re interested in either, read on for a full rundown of what to expect.

Video and audio quality

Featuring 1280 x 960 pixel resolution with HDR and clear night vision, the video quality of the second-gen Nest Doorbell is as good as any. I could see everything from my porch and beyond in great detail pretty much any time of the day. Colors are bright and vibrant in the daytime, and shapes and movements are noticeable at night, even with no lights on.

However, as we discovered with the previous generation Nest Doorbell, I found the field of view at 145 degrees diagonally and at 3:4 ratio to be somewhat limited, at least horizontally. If your doorbell is like mine and positioned six inches or more from the door, the camera view may not fully capture people or packages directly in front of or slightly on the other side of the door when mounted flush with the wall or door frame.

Google also seems to be aware of this minor issue. To remedy the problem, the package comes with a 20 degree corner bracket to better angle the doorbell and camera towards the door. After installing the wedge, I had a sufficient view of everything in front of the door.

As for the sound quality, I could clearly hear someone talking or the thud of a package being dropped off and the sound quality wasn’t too disrupted by background noises like the wind or a passing car. Likewise, anyone on the porch could hear and communicate with me via the two-way audio without issue.

About these smart alerts and recorded history

Screenshot by David Anders/CNET

You can customize the second-generation Nest Doorbell to monitor people, packages, animals, vehicles, or any other movement, limiting recordings and notifications to only the events you want to see. I started by selecting all alert options but after a day of many notifications I changed it to people and packages only.

Anyway, the smart alerts were smarter than I expected. For example, the “People” alert setting sent notifications and recorded video when someone approached the door, of course, but also when someone walked along the sidewalk in front of my house. However, I wouldn’t mind getting a notification when my neighbors across the street were getting in their car or playing in the yard, though they were certainly visible in the camera feed. The “Parcel” setting showed similar intelligences and sent a notification not only when a parcel was delivered, but also when someone picked it up.

By default, the Nest Doorbell 2nd Generation (Wired) is set to automatically record video of all your selected events and store them for up to three hours. Audio recording is not enabled by default, but you can enable it in device settings if you want to record audio along with the video. If you don’t want or need either, just disable event logging in the device settings.

The free recording feature is nice, but as we’ve already noted with the first-gen Nest Doorbell, it’s not much use beyond that three-hour window. If your doorbell captured activity at 3 a.m. but you didn’t wake up and see the notification until 7 a.m., that recording will have already been deleted.

For 24/7 recording and longer duration of recorded activity, you will need a Nest Aware subscription. Starting at $6 a month, Nest Aware includes 30 days of event history storage (but no 24/7 recording). For double the cost of the subscription, you can upgrade to the Nest Aware Pro plan and get 10 days of 24/7 recording and 60 days of event history storage.

If you opt for 24/7 video recording, keep in mind that the Nest Doorbell is connected to your Wi-Fi network and can potentially use a significant amount of data. Google notes that a month of 24/7 recording could use up to 300GB of data, so keep in mind whether your internet service provider has a data cap.

Other customizable settings

Another unique benefit of Nest Aware is Familiar Faces, a facial recognition feature that can alert you to who, in particular, is at your door. Other extras that come with Nest Aware include sound detection for smoke detectors or broken glass and the ability to call 911 from the Google Home app in an emergency.

But let’s say you don’t want to sign up for a monthly $6 or $12 Nest Aware subscription, what else comes with the standard doorbell? A guaranteed delight for the crowd: themed doorbells.

Specifically, the 2nd Gen Nest Doorbell comes with seven ringtone themes, including the traditional “ding dong”, “happy birthday” and others, as well as limited-time seasonal themes. As of this writing, it’s about a week away from Halloween and yes, I’m so glad the Nest doorbell greets my trick or treaters with ghostly boos and spooky music when they ring for candy.

To clarify, theme rings only play for your visitors. Your indoor chime is the standard “ding dong” regardless of the outdoor chime, although you can adjust the duration of the indoor chime or disable the chime altogether in the device settings.

Design and implementation

Features are impressive with Google’s second-generation wired Nest Doorbell, but I have to say I’m a little indifferent to the design. Google has toned down the shiny, high-tech look of its previous wired doorbell in favor of a more modest, almost muted design.

The change seems intentional (Google notes it’s “designed for simplicity”) and I like how the softer look and four color options – ash, ivy, linen and snow – help the doorbell sound better. integrate with any home exterior. The color I chose, ash, matches my house well, but I would compare the look of it to the key ring at my neighborhood pool. Something less utilitarian might have suited a $180 device better.

The Nest Doorbell comes in four colors to choose from: Snow, Linen, Ash, and Ivy.


Another thing to consider: Do you want your video doorbell to blend in with the decor? Granted, a good smart device should complement your home and go virtually unnoticed, except perhaps if said device is intended in part for home security. I would argue that a flashy video doorbell might serve as a more recognizable and effective deterrent to hackers or potential porch intruders than a discreet doorbell.

So I’m not totally in love with the design, but I’ll admit it makes installation quick and easy. The Google Home app walked me through a series of easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions from start to finish. Other than spending a few minutes figuring out which switch on the electrical panel controlled the doorbell, the only issue I had was with the doorbell wiring.

The wiring configuration is a good inch or two longer than I needed and connects to the doorbell wiring via two somewhat bulky connectors instead of just twisting the wires together. This definitely simplified the wiring process, but since the doorbell needs to be flush with the bracket to fit properly, I ended up having to tuck the excess wiring and connectors into the hole for the doorbell wiring. If the existing hole isn’t big enough, you may need to do like me and break out the drill to enlarge it. A minor inconvenience, but one that you may encounter all the same.


In summary

Whether you find the design appealing or not, there’s no denying that the features and smart tech that come with the second-gen Nest Doorbell (wired or battery-powered) are impressive. It’s not the cheapest video doorbell on the market, but I’d say the video and audio quality, customizable alert and ringtone settings, and compatibility with Google Assistant and Alexa devices more than justify the cost.


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