Home Lifestyle Nest Doorbell 2nd Gen Review: Useful Features, Simple Design

Nest Doorbell 2nd Gen Review: Useful Features, Simple Design


Google's Nest Doorbell, being installed beside a door by an older man.

Score Breakdown

Performance 9/10Usability 9/10Features 8/10Design 8/10


  • High-quality audio and video
  • Lots of customizable settings
  • Free cloud storage up to three hours
  • Compatible with Google Assistant and Alexa
  • Excellent object recognition
  • Both battery and wired models work well


  • Recorded events automatically delete after 3 hours
  • Somewhat limited field of view

Google built on the design and features of its Nest Doorbell with Battery to create a second-generation doorbell. Now the wired and wireless versions of the doorbell are nearly the same except the battery model gives you plenty of extra placement options. We’ve tested both models and come away with plenty to like, especially when it comes to the super-smart tech Nest offers for free with purchase. 

The Nest Doorbell 2nd-gen isn’t quite perfect. The free video storage is useful, but it’s limited to a 3-hour window to take action. And not everyone may like taking the battery version of the doorbell inside every time it needs to recharge (about every three months or so). Let’s take a look at all the details. 

Even with a few imperfections, the new, hardwired Nest Doorbell is a decent value at $180. It’s not the cheapest video doorbell you’ll find — older models from Arlo and Wyze, for example, are less expensive. Even so, if you favor Google devices and you’re eager for a user-friendly, feature-stacked home security upgrade to your front porch, you’ll likely find the second-gen Nest Doorbell to be worth the cost. Plus, if you’re fine with the 3-hour cloud storage and don’t want the more advanced AI features, you can save on a subscription too. That’s why this is one of my favorite recommendations for people investing in home security for the first time.

From a design perspective, we found the wired and wireless versions of the doorbells tested almost the same except for a couple differences. The wired doorbell needs to be wired in where your old doorbell was, which limits where you can put it. The battery model doesn’t have this limitation, but it’s a bit bulkier at 6.3 inches in total. Otherwise, the two function the same.

Video and audio quality

A hand holds a phone to view a Nest Doorbell live view of a delivery person at the front door. A hand holds a phone to view a Nest Doorbell live view of a delivery person at the front door.

Google’s Home app makes managing the Nest Doorbell easy, especially if you have other Home devices.

Sporting a 1,280×960-pixel resolution with HDR and clear night vision, the second-gen Nest Doorbell’s video quality is as good as any. I could see everything from my front porch and beyond in great detail pretty much any time of day. Colors are bright and vibrant when it’s light out, and shapes and movement are discernible at night, even without any lights on.

However, like we discovered with the previous-generation Nest Doorbell, I found the 145-degree diagonal, 3:4 ratio field of view to be somewhat limited, at least horizontally. In our wired test, we had to place the doorbell more than 6 inches away from the door, which means it can struggle to capture all the porch space and the people or packages that may be there. The battery version has an advantage here as we were able to install it much closer to the door for a complete view.

Google seems to be aware of this minor problem as well. To remedy the issue, the packaging comes with a 20-degree wedge mount to better angle the doorbell and camera toward the door. After installing the wedge, I had a sufficient view of everything in front of the door. 

As for sound quality, I could clearly hear someone speaking or the thud of a package being dropped off and the sound quality wasn’t overly disrupted by background noises like the wind or a car passing by. Similarly, anyone on the porch could hear and communicate with me over the two-way audio without issue. The Google Home app also offers quick responses for an AI reply without starting a conversation.

About those smart alerts and recorded history

Screenshot of notifications settings for Nest Doorbell Screenshot of notifications settings for Nest Doorbell

Screenshot by David Anders/CNET

You can customize the second-gen Nest Doorbell to watch for people, packages, animals, vehicles or any motion at all, restricting the recordings and notifications to only the events you want to see. I started out by selecting all alert options, but after a day of numerous notifications, I switched it to just people and packages. 

In any case, the smart alerts were smarter than I expected. For example, the “People” alert setting sent notifications and recorded video when anyone walked up to the door, of course, but also when someone walked along the sidewalk in front of my house. It wouldn’t, however, bother me with a notification when my neighbors just across the street were getting into their car or playing in the yard, even though they were certainly visible in the camera feed. The “Packages” setting showed similar smarts and sent a notification not only when a package was delivered but also when someone picked it up, accurate every time.

By default, the Nest Doorbell 2nd gen is set to automatically record video of all your selected events and store them for up to 3 hours. Audio recording is not on by default, but you can activate it under the device settings if you want recorded audio along with video. If you don’t want or need either, simply turn off event recording in the device settings.

The free recording feature is nice, but as we noted before with the first-gen Nest Doorbell, it does little good past that 3-hour window. If your doorbell captured activity at 3 in the morning, but you didn’t wake up and see the notification until 7, that recording will have already been deleted.

For 24/7 recording and a longer duration of saved activity, you’ll need a Nest Aware subscription. Starting at $8 per month, Nest Aware includes 30 days of event history storage. For double the subscription cost, you can upgrade to the Nest Aware Pro plan and get 10 days of 24/7 recording (here the wired version of the doorbell shines as it won’t run a battery down) and 60 days of event history storage.

Nest subscriptions also add even more AI tech, notably the ability to add familiar face profiles for people you want the doorbell to recognize (Google is one of the only brands offering this somewhat contentious capability), and more advanced sound detection such as nearby glass breaking.

Design and installation

Google’s second-gen doorbell goes for a more muted design with soft colors and rounded edges, focusing on a large doorbell button. Even the battery model of the doorbell is very compact compared with competitor options and feels much sturdier than the latest doorbells from brands like Ring. However, that quiet appearance isn’t for everyone. The color I selected — ash — matches my home well, but I’d liken its appearance to that of the key fob pad at my neighborhood pool. Something less utilitarian might have been a better fit for a $180 device.

Nest Doorbell's four color options, white, beige, gray and dark gray Nest Doorbell's four color options, white, beige, gray and dark gray

The Nest Doorbell comes in your choice of four colors: snow, linen, ash and ivy.


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

Fortunately, installation proved quick and easy. The Google Home app walked me through a series of easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions from beginning to end. Other than spending a few minutes figuring out which switch in the electrical panel controlled the doorbell, the only hiccup I encountered was with the doorbell wiring.

The wiring setup is a good inch or two longer than I needed it to be and connects to the doorbell wiring via two somewhat bulky connectors versus just twisting the wires together. I ended up having to stuff the excess wiring and connectors into the hole for the doorbell wiring, so some extra work may be required.

The battery model doesn’t run into these problems, and with a spot picked out on door trim I found installation was over in just several minutes after some swift drill work. Since both models are the same cost, it’s worth considering the battery model if you don’t want to mess with wiring at all. Just remember that your old doorbell chime won’t work on the wireless model, although you can customize the alerts and sounds you’ll get from the Google Home app.

A child's hand reaches up to ring the hardwired Nest Doorbell at a sunlit front door. A child's hand reaches up to ring the hardwired Nest Doorbell at a sunlit front door.


Summing it up

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

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