Home security and video doorbells are a convenient but often expensive means to add a sense of security to your home. Blink, the Amazon-owned brand, has been beating that drum with cameras for years, and now the brand is making a $50 video doorbell.
That’s not a typo — it really is $50 as long as you already have a Blink Sync Module 2. Otherwise, you’ll end up spending $85 for both the doorbell and module.
Still, not a bad deal, right? Well, to figure that out, we spent a week testing the Blink Video Doorbell to see if it punches above or below its price. And, for the most part, we’ve come away impressed.
The who, what and how
Who this is for: The Blink Video Doorbell is perfect for someone who wants to add security to their home but doesn’t want to spend a lot of money. You can forgo complicated installation since AA batteries can power it up to two years.
What you need to know: The Blink Video Doorbell’s overall camera quality is just OK, but it’s good enough to give you a good overall picture of what’s happening. The companion app looks and feels very basic, but the more you dig around, the more features and capabilities you’ll find.
How it compares: At $85 total cost, you’re saving a lot of money with the Blink Video Doorbell compared to something like Ring’s $250 Video Doorbell Pro 2, which has far better video quality and 3D Motion Detection, but that’s expected. The $20 Kangaroo Doorbell doesn’t capture any video clips at all, but instead sends animated images stitched together from a series of pictures — and they’re often dark and grainy. The Blink Video Doorbell certainly bests the Kangaroo in providing an affordable option without too many sacrifices.
If it looks like a video doorbell…
It has to be a video doorbell, right? Right. There’s nothing groundbreaking about the design of the Blink Video Doorbell. It’s available in black or white — we tested the black version — and has a single button that’s encircled by a blue light near the bottom of the housing. The camera is located near the top.
Included along with the doorbell is a mounting plate, mounting hardware and two AA batteries. That’s right: This video doorbell is powered by standard AA batteries that should provide enough power for two years of use. Obviously, we haven’t had the doorbell long enough to test that claim, but this is a staple feature across all of Blink’s lineup. Kangaroo’s Doorbell Camera is powered by AA batteries as well, with stated battery life of up to 18 months. Ring’s battery-powered Video Doorbells don’t last nearly as long, topping out at a few months depending on your device settings before they need to be charged.
Initial setup took us about five minutes to install the Blink app and to set up the Sync Module 2, which needs to be plugged in, ideally, as close as possible to the Video Doorbell. After the module was added, we placed the batteries in the video and followed a few additional prompts to get it connected to our home’s Wi-Fi network and added to our Blink account.
If you are replacing your existing doorbell with the Blink Video Doorbell and using it in a wired fashion, you absolutely can. It takes a few extra taps within the app, and once you’re done it’ll test your chime to make sure it’s being triggered and that the doorbell is getting enough power to keep it powered.
About that battery life
Battery life is the reason Blink requires a Sync Module for any of its cameras. In essence, the Sync Module acts as a pathway for your camera to connect to the internet. When the camera isn’t actively recording or detecting motion, it’s effectively in a low power state. Meanwhile, the module is on and in frequent communication with Blink servers and handling any requests from the mobile app, like starting a livestream.
Once the camera wakes up and is streaming or detecting motion, it will connect directly to your Wi-Fi network. But the key piece of this is how much power it’s saving when sitting idle — which, again, is what Blink’s devices are known for, and why the Sync Module 2 is required.
But how does it perform?
Glad you asked. And the answer is — it’s mixed. To be clear, the camera’s quality is sufficient but not as sharp as what we’ve seen by the likes of Ring or Arlo. You’ll have no issues seeing who is at your door both during the day and at night. Let’s go over some of the finer details.
The Blink Video Doorbell’s camera captures 1080p HD video, with a 135-degree horizontal and 80-degree vertical viewing angle. That means the picture is wider than it is tall, and isn’t quite enough to give you the same head-to-toe view that higher-end doorbells do. It can also capture 640 x 360 pictures, which don’t look great. It’s equipped with infrared HD night vision so it can record and stream video at night as well.
Two-way audio is made possible thanks to a built-in speaker and microphone, allowing you to talk to someone standing at your door using the Blink app on your phone.
In the app, you’re able to do things like define the area you want the camera to monitor for motion, how aggressive it needs to be with motion alerts and how often that trigger is reset. You can also mark areas for the camera to ignore.
The Blink app hasn’t changed much since we last used it a couple of years ago, which is good and bad. Good because once you learn how to use it, you’re set. Bad because its design feels like a rough first draft of an app. Simply, the Blink Home Monitor app doesn’t have quite the polish as Google’s Home app or the Ring app.
For example, the first day we had the Video Doorbell set up, we were puzzled by the lack of motion alerts we’d received. Motion alerts were turned on, with the entire field of view being monitored — and yet, no alerts had been received. While troubleshooting, we remembered that Blink cameras will only send motion alerts when they’re “armed.” After setting up the camera, there wasn’t a tutorial explaining what each mode meant in terms of the camera’s features and performance.
But now that we know the camera has to be armed for motion alerts — by the way, you can’t set it to arm itself when you leave your home — we won’t encounter the same issue again. You can, however, create a schedule within the app dictating when the doorbell is armed and disarmed. That’s a minor gripe, however.
The loudest complaint we have about the Blink Video Doorbell is its motion detection. It’s not that it fails to detect a person or an animal crossing its path; it’s that it often takes too long to trigger. As we approached the doorbell, it often didn’t start recording until we were nearly at the door. Or when we were walking away from it, it often didn’t start recording and send a motion alert until we were 10 feet past it. We adjusted the motion sensitivity a few different times, and this delay never really improved.
Pay monthly or use local storage? The choice is yours
Another benefit of the Sync Module 2 is that it has a full-size USB-A port that accepts external storage devices for storing your video clips, instead of paying a monthly subscription fee to store footage. You can connect any USB-A storage device with between 1GB and 256GB of space to store your clips.
You won’t have to do anything special to set up local storage — once a storage device is connected to the Sync Module, Blink will automatically start saving clips to it as long as you don’t have an active subscription or free trial. Local storage is a novel approach that we wish more video doorbell companies would use. For instance, Ring doesn’t offer a local storage option — it’s cloud or nothing.
If you’d rather not deal with local storage, you can sign up for one of Blink’s subscription plans. For $3 per month per camera, you’ll get video recording, 60 days of unlimited video history, video sharing and the ability to have Blink capture a picture once an hour and save it to your account. For $10 a month, you can connect an unlimited number of cameras to your account and receive all of the same features, plus 10% off all Blink devices on Amazon’s website and an extended warranty.
If you opt to forget about any sort of plan or local storage, you can still use the Blink Video Doorbell for motion-activated alerts and livestreaming the camera — you’ll give up any sort of recorded clips, though.
The Blink Video Doorbell has a couple of shortcomings, but at the end of the day, it’s a respectable video doorbell for just $50. The option to store your clips locally is an added bonus for those who have subscription fatigue or are concerned about privacy.
There’s no question that the Blink Video Doorbell is a better option than the $20 Kangaroo Doorbell. And if the idea of dealing with a Sync Module is out of the question, the $99 Ring Video Doorbell is a worthy option with a better app.