Ezviz DB1 full review

If you're after a video doorbell so you can see, hear and talk to who's outdoors without getting up from your sofa - or while you're out - most people would buy either a Ring or Nest doorbell, each from Amazon or Google respectively and tied to their smart home services. If the price of either puts you off, the DB1 Wi-Fi Video Doorbell from Chinese manufacturer Ezviz has a feature set to rival the Google Nest Hello or the Ring Video Doorbell Pro - but while those both cost £229/US$229, the DB1 will set you back only £134.99/$153.99.

We’ve reviewed a number of the company’s security camera products before - including the ezWireLess Kit and Ezviz Mini 360 Plus – and found them all to be excellent low-cost alternatives to the big brands. They all use the same app to view all of your cameras – including this new video doorbell.

Installation

Unless you're experienced with wiring electrics and comfortable possibly having to add a transformer – depending on your current setup – you'll also need to pay for professional installation. This is also true for the Nest and Ring Pro models. My DB1 was installed by TSG in a swift and professional fashion in a couple of hours, who took the time to take me through the setup process for getting the doorbell connected to my network and working through the app.

In the UK, a base installation will set you back £68.50, though this cost is based on you already having a wired doorbell – my 1950’s village semi didn’t, so installation from scratch was necessary. You can book an installation through TSG separate to buying the DB1, so you can buy the doorbell from wherever has it cheapest or can delivery quickest. Installation of a Ring Pro or Nest Hello costs around £100, so again you’ll save money here.

None of these prices savings matter if the doorbell and associated app don’t deliver – and the same is true if the doorbell itself isn’t something you’d be happy to have attached to your front door. The DB1’s design is good, but not great. It’s a tall bar with rounded corners with three circles on it: from top to bottom, the camera, speaker and ring. It’s larger than either of its rivals and, to my mind, the three large shiny circles make it look cheaper too.

There are a choice of three faceplates: black, white and brown. The faux-wood brown one is horribly tacky, but the black and white options are decent enough (I went for black because with a white door and surround, we’ve found visitors don’t see white doorbells and just rap on the door itself – your mileage will vary). Changing the faceplates is relatively easy to do as long as you’ve a small screwdriver to hand.

The 3mp camera records video at a resolution of 2,048 x 1,536 – higher than that of the Ring Pro or Nest Hello – with a wide field of view. By day, the picture quality is more than good enough to recognise individuals, even if they’ve stepped back away after ringing. For late night visitors, the camera uses IR to see in the dark. Here the picture quality degrades a lot, but that’s IR for you – if you want to improve on that you’ll need to fit a motion-activated light to accompany.

Also included in the opportunity to capture your friends and loved ones in a funny poses

As well as being triggered by the button, you can view a live view of what’s through the doorbell (and up to three other Ezviz cameras if you have them). This may seem like an invitation to be overly paranoid, but I found it to be very useful for checking the weather at home while at work 20 miles from the Tech Advisor office, or keeping an eye on my daughter on the trampoline outside while working at home.

The doorbell as security camera

The camera also uses IR for motion activation – allowing the DB1 to act as a security camera. Stills are recorded to your phone, while clips are recorded either to cloud storage or to a micro-SD card that you install at the same time as the doorbell itself. Cloud storage costs depend on whether you want to keep seven or 30 days of recordings. Seven days is £4.99 per month, or £49.99 for a whole year – or £9.99/£99.99 for 30 days. This is affordable, except that if you already have an Ezviz camera and a subscription you have to pay again - the subscription price is per camera, with no discounts.

The micro-SD card storage option is great if you don’t want to pay for a subscription, though the cloud storage does offer an additional level of security. If you’re concerned about someone stealing the DB1, as they have with Rings in the past, a set-up DB1 is locked to your account and can’t be used by anyone else (though whether potential thieves would know this is anyone’s guess).

You can set the DB1 to make a warning noise whenever it detects motion, but the sharp sound it makes would likely frighten visitors you do want there. You can adjust the volume of the noise from a setting of Soft to Loud – realistically ‘makes you jump’ to ‘WTF’ – but not the pitch away from unpleasant. But some (antisocial) people might find it useful.

As a doorbell and security camera, the DB1 works perfectly. My family and I have been using it for a month with apps across a Huawei P30 Pro, an iPhone 7 and an iPhone SE – and it never missed a ring whether I was at home or out. It also did a great job of capturing visitors but not our cats running past – once we reduced the motion detection from five to three metres (you can also reduce it to one if you prefer). However, the app also doesn’t have the Ring Pro’s advanced tools to select areas in its view to use/not use motion detection within (below), which is great if part of its view is a communal path, for example. It also doesn’t have the facial recognition of the Nest Hello – which can can get your Nest Hub Max to announce your visitors it recognises by name – nor its prerecorded quick responses (“be there in a minute”).

You can set the distance for IR detection, and the times of day and days it should work - though for recurring overnight periods you have to break it at midnight. We found this out through trial and error as we just got an unspecified error when we tried to add daily overnight alarm periods.

The DB1 can work with both Amazon and Google devices, so you’re not tied to one system, though the implementation is more basic than each vendor’s own. You can also use IFTTT to build you own automation.

The app itself can be rather clunky once you get into doing anything more complicated than answering a call, viewing a live stream or playing back a pre-recorded clip. It suffers from poor UX and a complete lack of instructions that might compensate for the former. For example, you might think that to save a captured clip is best done from the Messages tab on the main screen, but that requires going to that clip, playing it and quickly pressing record to record it in real-time from the cloud down to your device. You then have to navigate four taps away to My Album, where you can save it to your phone.

Instead, what you should do is navigate to the DB1 screen, which gives you the live view. Then click on CloudPlay or Video History - depending on whether you have a cloud subscription or an micro-SD card installed. From here, you find a full set of recordings that you can go into and quickly save or take snapshots - but it's glitchy and often doesn't behave how you expect. 

The notifications system for using it as a security camera is also annoying, with almost no per-user control - for example if you want notifications but your partner doesn't. You can turn off notifications from the camera - while leaving the video doorbell working - but that turns off notifications for all users (though it's still recording the footage to the cloud or SD card). If you turn off notifications within the app on your phone (or through your phone's settings), but then it doesn't ring when someone presses the doorbell. This all or nothing approach also applies to the Apple Watch, where you likely want ring notifications but not security ones. 

None of these UX annoyances are dealbreakers, but it smacks of retrofitting doorbell functionality to a security camera app - a separate app for the doorbell would perhaps have made more sense. UX matters, especially when you're up against Amazon and Google.

Verdict

The Ezviz DB1 is an affordable, well-specced video doorbell that's reliable and flexible. The UX issues we experienced we largely confined to features you'll (hopefully) use rarely – so this is a strong lower-priced competitor to the Nest Hello and Ring Pro.