I’ll be honest. I never really understood the allure of a “smart home” or so-called smart products and appliances around the house. Most of what made them “smart” seemed little more than cheap gimmicks.
However, we recently moved to a bigger house, and it made sense to drop a few strategically placed Amazon Echo Dots around the house (the drop-in feature is what clinched it for us). Having dipped our toe in the smart home world, it made sense to branch out and see what else rose above the level of gimmickry and seemed downright useful.
In that light, a video doorbell seemed to make the most sense. Lacking a fully featured video surveillance system (for now), this seemed like a no-brainer for the most basic level of security. Keeping an eye on the front door, being able to check in from anywhere in the world, and making sure no one was sneaking up to steal any packages were all very attractive features to have at our fingertips.
Enter the Wisenet SmartCam D1 Video Doorbell. The name might be a mouthful, but it was surprisingly easy to install and has been incredibly useful over the last couple months.
Out of the Box
Inside the box, you’ll find:
- the video doorbell unit
- 3 interchangeable faceplates (black, silver, golden)
- power stabilizer kit
- power extension kit
- screws, anchors, drill bit, and a small screwdriver
- installation guide for doorbell setup
- installation guide for app setup
- warranty certificate
Like I said, this was pretty easy, and the included instructions are well written and clear. In order for the video doorbell to work with your existing doorbell, you need to attach a power stabilizer so it doesn’t blow out your old chime or overheat the wiring.
Remove the cover of your existing chime to expose the wiring and terminals. (You might want to shut off the power at the breakers if you’re not comfortable working with wires.) Unscrew the wire labeled FRONT. After snapping the combined end of the new wires (from the SmartCam box) into the power stabilizer box, insert the other end of the black wire into half of the small orange terminal block. Then put the old FRONT wire from your chime into the other half. Repeat with the gray TRANS wire.
That’s it! The power stabilizer should now be connected to your existing chime, and the doorbell should work if pressed. (Remember to turn the power back on if you shut it off.) Tuck away the wires and stabilizer box, and then replace the chime cover.
Mounting the SmartCam
Unscrew and disconnect your existing doorbell. Make sure the wires don’t slip into the doorframe or wall if they’re loose.
The SmartCam is considerably bigger than old-school doorbells, so you’ll likely need to drill new holes to mount it. The two wires that were connected to your old doorbell will also connect to the new SmartCam video doorbell, so the good news is that there’s no new electrical work required. Wrap the wires around the two power terminals on the back of the doorbell and tighten the screws. That’s all there is to it; it doesn’t matter which wire goes to which terminal.
Included in the box is a power extension kit in case your existing wires aren’t long enough to reach the terminals on the doorbell in its new configuration. (For what it’s worth, I didn’t need to use it.)
Screw the doorbell to the wall or doorframe, snap on the faceplate of your choice, and voila! You’re done!
You’ll obviously need to download the Wisenet SmartCam+ app on your mobile device (available for iOS and Android). The app will walk you through creating a user account, connecting to your WiFi, recognizing your doorbell, and tweaking basic settings.
It’s all pretty easy and self-explanatory. You can set up facial recognition, adjust the sensitivity, determine the boundaries of the unit’s motion sensor, and choose which notifications you want to receive.
I recommend spending some time with the app, just clicking through all of the options to see what you can do.
Camera: It took us a little while to tweak the settings and options, but we’ve grown to love this thing. Because of where our old doorbell was located, the SmartCam is much lower than we initially wanted. Moving the unit up would’ve required rewiring and doing more major work to fix the doorframe. The camera has a 150-degree field of view, though, so unless an extraordinarily tall person rings the bell, all faces are visible. And with kids in the house, many of the people who show up at the door are short anyway.
You might need to spend some time adjusting the sensitivity settings and tweaking the motion sensor zone. If you spend any time in front of your door or live in a “high-traffic area,” your phone will be flooded with notifications.
Facial recognition: We’ve found the facial recognition to be fairly accurate. At first, the unit sends small pictures of faces and tells you that “someone” is at the door or has rung the bell. If you set people as Favorites in the app, it quickly learns to recognize them and can send you more personalized notifications. For example, when my daughter comes home from school, I get two notifications: one for a generic “human detection” within the motion sensor zone and then a second one telling me that Zoey is at the front door.
Motion sensor zone: We also had to tweak the motion sensor zone. We’ve found it to be incredibly sensitive, even with the sensitivity settings throttled. We have a flag over our front steps, and on sunny days, the shadow of the waving flag falls onto the front steps, which falls within the zone. So we get notifications for the flag all the time. The nice thing is that the zone is fully adjustable, so you can position it only where you want it. In other words, you won’t get movement notifications for everything that passes through the camera’s field of view.
Speaker and mic: The doorbell also has a built-in speaker and microphone. You can use the app to speak through the doorbell, but in reality, this leaves a bit to be desired. There’s a 2-3 second delay, so it’s not like you’re going to use this feature to hold an extended conversation. I’ve tried using it to talk to my kids on the porch, and it just ended in frustration. However, if you just want to say thanks to the FedEx person or scare away a prowler, it’s a nice feature to have.
Attitude: Opening up the app sometimes reveals how apologetic or judgey the thing can be, depending on how many notifications you’ve gotten.
The unit comes with a few months of free monitoring. You can always use the app to watch live video, but if you want to go back and see what caused a notification from a few hours (or days) before, you’ll need to buy a subscription.
I’m not gonna lie; they do kind of hook you with the free trial period. With cloud storage, we are able to see who delivers packages to our front door, we saw a fox sneak onto our porch in the middle of the night, and we can rest easy with a little peace of mind. Which is really why we installed a video doorbell, to begin with.
Plus, it’s super easy to download and save those videos to your phone. You know, in case you have a sketchy visitor or someone steals a package from your doorstep.
There are three subscription levels, but for the average person, I think the starter plan is more than sufficient.
There are a lot of smart video doorbells on the market now. Admittedly, I don’t have a wide frame of reference and can’t compare this to other models, but if you’re in the market for a video doorbell that gets the job done and is easy to install, the Wisenet SmartCam D1 is a winner. I’d totally recommend it.