Smart doorbells have been selling quite well this year thanks to strategic advertising on social platforms like Facebook, with videos depicting attempted break-ins that were foiled by the owner of the house saying something through their “Ring” video doorbell, which of course spooks the suspects and sends them running away.
Although we don’t have a Ring this round to look at, we do have Ding. Close enough right? We have been testing it out this week and have prepared our delivery of what we think about it.
First of all, what you get for the price is pretty nice. This model is a limited run by Zmodo, sold as a holiday bundle that includes the Zmodo Beam (which acts as a WiFi extender and hub for the Zmodo devices), as well as two window/door sensors. The fact that it has been going for around $59.99 this holiday season, makes it one hell of a price for the collection of items you walk away with.
The Zmodo Beam is the first thing you work with once you have downloaded the app, and it seems to join with your network and the app relatively quickly. It broadcasts the SSID of your network (2.4GHz only) and connects all of your Zmodo devices together.
Once you have that connected, you continue by installing (physically) the doorbell (Ding). It replaces your normal doorbell button, using the same two wires the normal button leaves behind. Pretty simple and if you have done this kind of stuff before, you’ll find it all goes together quite quickly. If you haven’t the experience, then simply read the instructions and they will walk you through it (and always remember to turn off the breaker for the button/bell before you start working on it). The only problem we ran into during install were the set/security screws that fasten it from the bottom to the mount. The plastic is very soft, so once we got past 50-60% of the screw being in, it immediately pulled the threads out of the hole on both sides. The threads are metal but they are just a nut shoved into the plastic that the screws drill into. It cut right through the plastic like butter and popped out during tightening. You can resolve this by simply finding and screwing in tiny screws that have threads larger than the set screws but the same length. That should keep the unit tight to the mount (if it was worth going through all of this at least–read on).
Once the bell is installed and your power is flipped back on, the instructions do ask you to wait about a half hour before connecting the Ding to the app as it has an internal battery that should charge first. Once you have waited, you can add it by choosing the “Automatically” option in the app, as the Zmodo Beam will do the rest for you now. The process of adding the sensors should be just the same (although we didn’t make it far enough to test them out before packing it all up).
The initial impression (coming out of the box) of the Ding doorbell seemed pretty positive for all of us. The unit was small enough to look good on the wall and seemed like it was sturdy enough to pull off the task it was made for. It comes with everything you need and the instructions are pretty intuitive.
We found that although the instructions claim it won’t connect to an SSID (your WiFi network “name”) that contains spaces, the Zmodo products do seem to connect to both types of networks. We can only assume this is due to an updated firmware that has released sometime since the instructions were printed. Everything kind of went downhill from there though.
It is important to point out that we have quite the connection both wired and wireless running around here, and where it was installed during the test. The average speed it was connected to at any given time ranges from 300Mbit to 1Gbit. So there are no bottlenecks network-wise.
Upon installing the Ding doorbell and getting it added to the app, we had a terrible time trying to get the video to stream properly to the app. Manually selecting the doorbell from the app to see live video or when someone presses the button outside and it tries to connect to the app, results in nothing but lag with a side of lag, and then maybe some more lag for dessert.
Half the attempts to load the camera resulted in a loading screen that never connects. Once you do connect, it might be live, or it might have been something happening 5 minutes ago (we couldn’t figure out why the app was doing that). If it did connect to the proper live moment in time, we experienced delay of up to 15-30 seconds. Yes, that means you could wave in front of the camera, and then see it happen 15-30 seconds later. Not too helpful if you want to talk to a UPS delivery man vs think you are about to talk to him when really he is already behind the wheel and pulling away.
That brings us to the audio. We couldn’t even get audio from the doorbell to the app a good 50% of the time. Although we were able to get audio from the app to the doorbell. It generally only lagged “to” the doorbell by a few seconds. However, the audio was skipping at times and a good 30-40% of the time we couldn’t get the app to allow us to talk.
When someone rings the doorbell, it connects to the app like a phone call that you can answer. However, the amount of video delay experienced reduces the overall experience to a poor one every time. We didn’t have a moment between app and the person at the door that didn’t involve frustration.
This is too bad as for the price, the camera quality isn’t too bad. It definitely isn’t something you’d expect to see out of a 720p TV, however most cameras make use of heavily compressed video to keep the file size down with, and because you typically get what you pay for when it comes to camera sensors. Instead, for $59.99 it would have made a perfect affordable solution for anyone who doesn’t need 1080p crisp video. You can still make out faces and objects just fine.
If the doorbell would have functioned as it should, this holiday bundle would have easily found itself with a 7/10 rating with us. Not a perfect score simply because they limit you to paid cloud subscriptions without an option to send to your own FTP or something. However, the doorbell seems to be quite unreliable despite having perfect WiFi for its locations tested in, as well as the Beam repeater/hub. It would have been nice to be able to connect the doorbell directly to the WiFi network without having to use the Beam expander to determine if it was the problem or was involved, but it requires you to use the hub apparently.
Due to the issues we had with it, we decided to unmount it from where it was going to live and send it back to where it once came from. There wasn’t any concert to test the window/door sensors.
If you have interests in getting a video doorbell this holiday, it might be wise to stick with the Ring doorbell. It may be a bit more expensive with a price tag of $150-$200 on average, but you would be much better with something that you know works vs saving money and spending most of your time fighting with it to get it to work.
This was an unfortunate experience since we had our hopes up for the product. With a price tag that it has, it would have dominated without a doubt this season. However, it seems to have failed to deliver what it was designed for, and did not pass our quality expectations at all. We still gave it three stars for helpful instructions and an easy installation experience (outside from the set/security screw issue). Since it simply replaces the original doorbell button, there isn’t much to it. Now if only it worked.
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*Average price is based on the time this article was published
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