Blink Video Doorbell review: Blinkin' good value - MrLiambi's blog

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Tuesday, 8 November 2022

Blink Video Doorbell review: Blinkin' good value

Amazon owns two smart home security brands in Blink and Ring, and with them, it's seeking to attract different demographics of buyer. Ring is very much the market leader in the world of video doorbells, but its devices can be quite expensive. 

With Blink, Amazon can offer a lot of the same functionality but in a more affordable product that cuts some corners, but without taking too much away from the experience. In fact, with the Blink Video Doorbell costing just under £50, it's under-cutting most of its competition, while still offering a strong feature set. 

The setup 

  • Two hole backplate
  • Kit includes paper template for drilling
  • 2x AA batteries included
  • Opening tool required - included

When you offer up a budget smart home product, it's key to make it as simple as possible to set up and - with Blink - the process is very easy. In fact, the app guides you through each stage of the process with clear instructions and images. So as long as you download that first, you're golden. 

The doorbell ships in a box with a backplate, screws, wall plugs, two AA batteries and even has a paper template to stick to the wall so you know where to drill your holes for mounting. Just tape it to the wall, drill through the marked areas, and your mounting points will be in the exact right place. Simple. No marking with pencils or measuring required. 

Once you've knocked in the included wall plugs, you can screw the plate to the wall. This - again - is simple to do. It clearly labels which way is up, and the back has foam padding to ensure that you don't screw it too tight and crack or bend the plastic. It's all very safe, and easy enough that even someone who's not all that confident with a drill can get it right. 

Similarly, setting up the actual doorbell is fairly straightforward. You pop the included AA batteries in the back - or use your own - clip on the water-sealed back cover and then open the Blink app to be guided through the set-up. If you have a Sync Module too you can add that into the setup right at the beginning. 

The only negative of the initial opening and set-up process is the protective film that's stuck on the doorbell. Unlike most, it doesn't come off cleanly. The glue seems to stick to the casing of the doorbell, leaving a residue that needs to be removed. Thankfully, it doesn't take a lot of work to do, but clearly, something's not right with the adhesive used on this particular film. 

Once the app has discovered the doorbell, it uses your phone to find the local Wi-Fi network it needs to connect to and then connects. It takes a few minutes to get itself connected and set up, but it doesn't take many steps at all. 

Once that bit's done, you simply clip it over the backplate you mounted to the wall, and that's it. Done. 

Design and durability 

  • White or black plastic casing
  • Weatherproof design - IP54 rated
  • Optional corner and wedge mounts

As products go, the Blink Video Doorbell design is fairly simple. It's quite small in comparison to a lot of its competition, and it takes up a lot less space than a Ring Video Doorbell.

Once it's clipped into place on its backplate, it's not really designed to come off really easily. In fact, it needs the opening key which ships with the product in the box. If you lose that, and your battery dies, you'll need to get hold of another. What we suggest doing is loop the opening tool onto a keychain as soon as you remove it from the paper card it's attached to. 

With all that said, when it is clipped in place, it doesn't sit completely flush. It's a little loose and can be wriggled but ultimately it won't budge without that tool. 

The main body of the camera is built from plastic and comes in either black or white. It doesn't feel particularly premium, but it's uncomplicated and inoffensive. The thing we like about it is that - for visitors still unfamiliar with video doorbells - it still looks like a doorbell. Plus, the button actually clicks in when you press it, and gives a traditional chiming sound when pressed.  

As you'd expect from a product that's designed to sit outside your house, the battery door on the back of the doorbell is weather sealed and rated to IP54 levels. That may not seem like a high rating, but it's enough to stop rain from getting in. Considering it's at the back, and mounted on the back plate, it's never going to be going head-on with the rain anyway. It's enough protection so that if any rain or moisture does get in behind the camera, it's not going to get inside the camera itself and cause damage. 

Coincidentally, we've had strong winds and rain during the time we've been using the doorbell, and it hasn't been troubled at all, so that has eased our initial anxieties somewhat. 

For those who need to angle their doorbell to the left or right, or even upwards or downwards, you can buy an additional corner or wedge mount for the doorbell, and they're relatively inexpensive at about £6.99 per mount in the UK. 

Features and video capture

  • 1080p video HD capture - infrared night video
  • 135 degree field of view (horizontal)
  • Two-way audio - view and communicate through Echo Show or mobile
  • Sync module for offline storage

With any product aiming at the more affordable end of the market, there will always be some compromises in terms of what features it will offer. For instance, where a Ring Video Doorbell might have person, animal and package detection, the Blink Video Doorbell doesn't. Instead, it features a motion sensor which you can customise to only trigger with motion from set areas in its field of view, but you can't tell it to ignore cars by only alerting you if it sees a person or a package, for instance.

What we do like though is that you can set it to a schedule so that it only 'arms' at night, when you're asleep, and so can ignore all motion at the door until the time you've set it to be armed. Then, when you wake up, you can check the activity to see what motion your video doorbell captured during the night. Of course, you can easily arm or disarm the camera system manually if you want to as well. 

While it may be an Amazon company, you do still need a dedicated Blink app downloaded to your phone in order to set it up. You also need to enable the Blink Skill for it to communicate and work with your Echo speakers. Once you have, however, you get to decide if it automatically triggers a chime from your Echo(s), and which ones you want to play the chime and 'Someone's at your front doorbell' message when the doorbell button is pressed. 

If you have an Echo Show you can also ask your Echo to show you your front doorbell feed whenever you like or communicate with the person at the door. 

As far as performance goes, it's genuinely decent though. There's not much in the way of delay between the doorbell being pressed, and the chime alert sounding on the Echo system, or the notification popping up from the smartphone app. 

However, if you want to view the live video feed, and communicate with the person at the door because you're away, there is something of a delay there. It takes a few seconds for that video feed to load in the Blink app. 

As far as video quality goes, the 1080p stream from the Blink Video Doorbell is more than good enough for its purpose. It offers a clear video with decent colour and contrast so that it's not difficult to see. It is worth noting here that if you want the full 1080p you need to enable it to record in 'best' quality within the app, and that means a little less battery life (but we're unsure how much given how long this thing can go for). 

At night time, it switches to the night mode view, which uses infrared sensors to light up and capture detail in black and white. Again, there's plenty of brightness, contrast and detail that you can easily make out faces as they approach, or cars as they drive past. 

Battery life, cloud storage and offline video

  • Up to two years battery life
  • 2.4GHz Wi-Fi 

One of the advantages of being quite a basic video doorbell - particularly one that uses AA batteries instead of a proprietary rechargeable cell - is that the battery life is very good. Blink suggests you can get up to two years from a pair of AA batteries, meaning you won't have to worry about them getting low for a good while. 

Needless to say, we haven't managed to drain them yet in our testing period. Even when they do get low, you can set up an automatic replenishment function that orders a new pair of AA batteries from Amazon, thanks to that Amazon/Blink tie-in.

 

As with most smarthome products, especially those like home security cameras and doorbells, you do need a subscription to make the most of the doorbell's features. If you only have one device from Blink, that's just £3 per month or £30 for the year. Or, if you have multiple Blink products, that's £10 per month or £100 per year. 

You'll need this plan to get features like motion detection video recording with video clips saved to the cloud. The same is true if you want features like the ability to record camera live views, or if you want a 60-day unlimited video history. Likewise, if you want instant access to recorded videos, you'll need a plan. 

However, if you don't want to pay a subscription, there is an alternative: the Blink Sync Module. This device which - coincidentally - also costs £30, will allow you to save video clips offline on local storage by plugging a USB memory stick/hard drive into the Sync Module. 



Source : https://www.pocket-lint.com/smart-home/reviews/amazon/163289-blink-video-doorbell-review

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