What is an intelligent doorbell

Smart doorbells: what to look out for

Tillmann Braun

The demand for smart doorbells is increasing and the choice is growing. With a smart doorbell you never miss a visit or parcel delivery and you are always "at home" even when you are absent or on vacation. On closer inspection, however, the products of the various providers differ significantly from one another. Which solution is the best depends heavily on the respective circumstances and needs.

EnlargeDoor intercom systems are available with and without a camera - here two sets from Siedle

Like many smart home products, smart bells promise more convenience and security - and sometimes rightly so. Instead of having to rush to the door every time the doorbell rings, or at least to the fixed intercom, homeowners and tenants alike want to take the door call wherever they are.

The manufacturers have therefore come up with a lot and offer various options, the advantages and disadvantages of which are by no means immediately clear to every user. One provider relies on WLAN, the other on Dect radio. Cable-based systems that can be connected to the existing telephone system are also popular.

In addition, some manufacturers of conventional door intercoms offer additional modules that make the old bell and remote station products a little smarter. However, not only laypeople quickly lose track of what is on offer in view of the large number of offers.

Gateways: Smart solution for existing hardware

It is all the more important to first consider which principle the respective solutions are based on. With classic door intercoms, proprietary cable technology such as 1 + n or an In-Home bus such as Siedle is usually used. The assembly of such systems can, however, be quite complicated and time-consuming - especially with subsequent installation.

Unfortunately, there are no uniform, manufacturer-independent standards for classic door intercom systems, so that when choosing components and prices, you have to rely on a manufacturer's product portfolio - and will continue to do so in the future.

In the meantime, the major providers offer almost all functions, from cameras to answering the door call on the smart watch, provided you have the necessary change. However, if such a solution already exists, it can sometimes be linked to the telephone system or the Internet via an additional gateway, so that in this case it may make sense not to replace the system with a newer solution, but to enable it in a smart way do.

EnlargeDoorbird D21DKV IP video door station

Unfortunately, this option is not much cheaper, because a corresponding gateway costs around 600 euros. If you invest in the additional hardware, you can then react to the doorbell using your smartphone or a GAP-compatible cordless telephone. With some classic door intercoms, it is also possible to link them to the Internet router with the help of the Doorbird D301. At around 250 euros, this is a comparatively inexpensive solution.

Doorbird D21DKV IP video door station (2275 euros)

Doorbird D2101KV IP video door station (849 euros)

Doorbird D2101V video door intercom (648 euros)

WLAN: Easy to install and inexpensive, but not without quirks

Still, most WiFi-based doorbells are cheaper. For example, the Doorbell 2 from Ring, which has an integrated video camera and a motion detector, costs around 200 euros. Additional services such as the recording of movements in a cloud can be booked via various paid subscriptions.

EnlargeRing doorbell with video and motion detector

Installing wireless doorbells is extremely easy. Battery-powered models don't even need to be connected to the power supply. However, in this case it must be ensured that the batteries always have enough power, otherwise the system will fail. If someone rings the doorbell after installation, a video call is set up via the manufacturer's app and you can easily react using your own smartphone - even if you are in the garden or even out and about.

One of the disadvantages of WLAN door intercoms is that they are prone to failure. As with a call via Skype, it depends a lot on the reception, whether there are problems or not - especially if a video or picture is to be transmitted at the same time.

In extreme cases, this can mean that the call is not set up in the first place and you therefore do not notice that someone is at the door. This mainly happens when other devices in the vicinity are transmitting on the same frequency band. These can be other WLAN devices in the house or even in the neighbors, but also less obvious disruptive factors such as microwaves or garage door openers.

In addition, WLAN connections per se are not stable over long periods of time. For no apparent reason, the new doorbell is suddenly no longer connected to the WLAN. Re-integration into the WLAN is easy, but usually only possible when you are on site. In addition, the necessary smartphone app, which has to run permanently in the background, is sometimes classified as a supposed power hog and switched off by your own mobile phone so that the call from the doorbell is no longer put through.

Last but not least, useful functions such as call forwarding with WLAN-based doorbells are not easily possible for technical reasons. In short: WLAN door intercoms are relatively inexpensive and easy to install and use, but not particularly reliable and also limited in terms of functions.

Safe2Home doorbell with camera (160 euros)

Spybell SB1C WLAN doorbell with camera (120 euros)

Dect radio: more stability and functions than WLAN

Especially if you already have a router such as a Fritzbox or a Telekom Speedport with an integrated DECT base, a DECT-based door intercom is a sensible alternative. Because the DECT frequency band, which is used worldwide for cordless telephony, is protected and therefore significantly less susceptible to interference than WLAN.

Installation and setup is also easy and no problem even for laypeople. With the Fritzbox from Fritz-OS 6.50 it is even possible to set up the basic door intercom system via the user guidance of the Fritzbox.

Door intercoms that are connected to the Fritzbox or TK system have some major advantages over WLAN-based devices. For example, the system can also be reached while on the move, i.e. you can use the telephone to set up a call to the door intercom at the entrance. This is particularly useful if you reacted too late to the first ring. Without this function you have to hope that the visitor will press the bell button a second time.

In terms of price, Dect-based door intercoms such as the Doorline Slim Dect from Telegärtner are priced at around 330 euros above the WLAN models from Google, Amazon and Netatmo. However, the significantly higher reliability justifies the price difference.