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Lifewire / Andrew Hayward
Strong core functionality
Great video quality
Expandable storage with no fees
No smart home connectivity
Mobile app lacks polish
The RCA Video Doorbell Camera is a strong smart doorbell camera option that lacks some of the polish of its rivals, but gets the job done without subscription fees.
When choosing a smart video doorbell for your home, there are a number of considerations that extend from look and functionality to initial price point and ongoing investment. Choosing something like Ring's Video Doorbell Pro or Video Doorbell 2 comes with some added features, such as a neighborhood social feed and compatibility with other smart home devices, but you'll have to pay an ongoing subscription fee to use some of its cloud-based features.
Want something that's simpler, straightforward, and doesn't require an ongoing fee? RCA's Video Doorbell Camera is an ideal choice, offering strong performance and useful core features. This wired option doesn't have the same level of premium polish or allure as some rival smart doorbells, but the affordable, one-time price point is appealing.
We tested the doorbell mounted on a house for more than a week, answering doorbell buzzes, viewing motion detection recordings, and considering how the RCA Video Doorbell Camera stacks up against some of the key competition.
The RCA Video Doorbell Camera isn't the most stylish-looking video doorbell around. In fact, the shape, size, and thoroughly plastic design remind us of a Roku streaming box remote, and it looks like it has a trio of large buttons on it.
In fact, it has just one button: the large one at the bottom with the alarm icon, which has a glowing blue ring around it that's visible at night. That might be confusing, however, as the large motion sensor in the middle also looks like something you'd want to press. At the very top is the 3-megapixel camera, which records a live view of its surroundings for you to view on your iOS or Android device via RCA's app.
It's not flashy, certainly, but the RCA Video Doorbell Camera is functional and hardly an eyesore. You can also swap between three included faceplate colors: Satin Black, Satin Silver, and Venetian Bronze. It's also relatively slim, at 5.08 x 1.77 x 0.83 inches, which should make it an easy replacement for your current doorbell on your doorframe.
The RCA Video Doorbell Camera must be hardwired to existing doorbell wiring, with an 8-24V AC transformer. Aside from a drill and a pencil or marker, the box comes with everything you should need to complete installation. That includes a small power kit for your chime box or resistor for your existing wiring, the needed screws, anchors, and wire nuts, wire leads, drill bits, a small screwdriver, and a bubble level for aligning the doorbell on your exterior wall.
It's not flashy, certainly, but the RCA Video Doorbell Camera is functional and hardly an eyesore.
It also comes with three mounting plates: one is flat, the other is angled slightly left or right, and the last can be angled up or down. These allow you to mount the doorbell to best suit your entrance and walkup. For example, our doorbell was mounted with the side-angle mount to accommodate for the raised lip of the storm door frame. If your door is up a small flight of stairs, then you might consider angling the doorbell downwards.
If you are comfortable handling electric wiring, then you should be able to complete installation by yourself. However, if you're concerned about interacting with the transistor or wires, then you may want to hire an electrician or professional installer. In our case, we had a licensed electrician come out to repair the existing wiring at the test house, and he installed the device during that process.
Once installed, getting the doorbell up and running via the RCA Security smartphone app takes only a few minutes. You'll scan the QR code on the doorbell itself or the instruction manual, connect to your home Wi-Fi network, and then should be all set within a few quick steps.
The RCA Video Doorbell Camera is designed to monitor your entrance thanks to its combination of motion sensor and video camera, which constantly scans the area for movement. When it senses movement within the specified range, you'll get a notification via the smartphone app. When someone presses the doorbell button, it makes a quiet chime noise and then alerts your smartphone, letting you view the feed and opt whether or not to answer. Additionally, you can peer into a live view at any time, even without movement or a button press.
Initially, the motion sensor was far too sensitive out of the box, alerting us to movement as far as 18 feet from the door. Unlike Ring's Video Doorbell Pro, you cannot create a custom zone within the camera view, but you can choose preset areas of distance from the doorbell. Every passing car sent an alert, and even at nine feet of sensitivity, we got a notification for every pedestrian that wandered by. Ultimately, we chose to recognize movement within just three feet from the door, so that only people who actively approached the entrance would trigger the alert.
The RCA Video Doorbell Camera hits a sweet spot in terms of quality, feature set, and price point.
From that point on, the RCA Video Doorbell Camera worked as advertised. It triggered an alert when we came and went, or when the postal carrier delivered mail. When a utility worker came to check the gas meter, we spoke with him through the iPhone app and asked him to wait a moment so that we could restrain the dog. We both heard each other clearly and effectively.
The RCA Video Doorbell Camera does not come with any kind of plug-in chiming mechanism for your home, although if you have an existing chime box, it can be connected to that. Unfortunately, RCA's device doesn't have smart home hooks to connect with other devices, so you cannot set an Amazon Echo or Google Home to alert you when someone presses the buzzer, or use IFTTT applets for added functionality. If your phone is silenced and you are not within earshot of the doorbell's own chime, then you probably won't know that someone is buzzing.
RCA's device doesn't rely on cloud storage for its recordings. Instead, it ships with a 16-gigabyte microSD card (and can fit up to 128GB), which stores the local recordings and lets you access them via the smartphone app. This is why you don't have to pay for a subscription service, unlike with Ring's doorbells.
The three-megapixel video camera offers a 180-degree vertical and 105-degree horizontal field of view that goes beyond the bounds of your smartphone display, letting you drag the image to see a bit more in all directions.
RCA's camera can also capture Ultra HD (4K) video, promising 50 percent more detail than the standard 1080p image. From the standard view, we couldn't tell a difference, however zooming into the shot did reveal a crisper view of farther-off objects and people in Ultra HD. However, that high-quality setting eats up more space on the microSD card, which is normally pegged to record hundreds of motion-detected events.
The RCA Video Doorbell Camera also automatically switches to a night vision mode without proper illumination, although an external light above the door was enough to keep the standard view enabled at night.
The RCA Security app works well enough, but it isn't pretty. The interface is clunky and much less polished than Ring's app, and the interface didn't even fit properly on our iPhone XS Max — the bottom buttons were partially cut off. It will get the job done, however, alerting you to motion events and sending along the call to answer when someone presses the doorbell buzzer.
At $149.99, the RCA Video Doorbell Camera is significantly less expensive than its closest wired competition, the $249 Ring Video Doorbell Pro and $229 Nest Hello. There are cheaper doorbells available in the sub-$100 range, but they provide lower-quality video recording capabilities and don't have expandable storage options. The RCA Video Doorbell Camera hits a sweet spot in terms of quality, feature set, and price point.
The RCA Video Doorbell Camera and Ring Video Doorbell Pro boast similar core functionality but vary in approach. Ring's doorbell has a sleek, minimal design that better emphasizes the button and doesn't look like the sibling of a TV remote.
Ring's app experience is also significantly more polished and includes a neighborhood/city social feed for sharing threats and concerns, as well as the ability to pair in an Amazon Echo and other smart home devices. However, you'll have to pay for Ring's subscription service to access motion and doorbell press recordings. Overall, the Ring Video Doorbell Pro offers a more premium and feature-rich experience (including custom motion zones), but comes at a sizable added price — both initially and over time.
Still want to take a peek around for some other options? Check out our article of the best smart doorbell cameras to pick up today.
Good value, good quality
RCA's Video Doorbell Camera is very good at what it does, providing a straightforward smart video doorbell experience with the expected abilities to monitor what's happening outside your door, get motion alerts, and talk to anyone who may be outside. It's not stylish, but the multiple faceplates offer options, and the device itself is functional and easy to understand and use.
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