Tech Guide

I tested Google's new doorbell and lock — you can skip the doorbell

Key Points
  • Google's new Nest Hello doorbell competes with products from Amazon's Ring and August.
  • The Nest Hello doorbell is buggy and crashed several times during testing.
  • Google's Nest x Yale lock lets you unlock or lock your door from anywhere.
The Nest x Yale lock and Nest Hello doorbell
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Google's Nest Hello doorbell and smart lock let you see who's at the door and unlock or lock your door from anywhere.

I've been testing Nest's $229 smart doorbell and $279 door lock for the last week.

Here are some observations:

Nest Hello doorbell

A camera keeps an eye on your front door... when it works.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

The Nest Hello is Google's smart doorbell system. It competes with other solutions on the market, including products made by August and Ring (now owned by Amazon).

It's not great.

The doorbell is wired, which means you need to replace your existing doorbell system. I had to turn off my electricity and then remove my old doorbell before attaching two wires to the Nest Hello.

The setup took about a half hour (but I've done this before) and only required a few tools, including a screwdriver, a drill and a voltage non-contact detector, which let me confirm that there wasn't electricity running through wires before I began the installation. Anyone can do this setup, and the Nest app guided me through the whole process.

A green light tells you the camera is running.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

I had to attach an adapter to my existing doorbell box, which is something I didn't have to do with products from Ring or August. This allows you to ring the hardware chime in your house instead of forcing you to rely on your smartphone for an alert if someone's at the door.

I like how the Nest Hello doorbell ties into Google's ecosystem of "Home" products. When someone presses the quarter-sized button on the Nest Hello unit, I get alerts from the Nest app on my phone and Google Home units throughout my house also come to life, with a voice alerting me that someone is at the door.

The Nest app lets me peek through the video camera on the Nest Hello unit to see who's there. You can also tap into the app at any moment to see if someone is waiting.

There are some bugs

Press this button to ring the doorbell.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

There are a few bugs with the system. First, the Nest Hello consistently told me it saw someone at the door, even though it was just a flag hanging outside, waving in the wind. It happened about a dozen times per day and was quite annoying.

The Nest Hello doorbell kept freezing, showing me with this screen until I reset it.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Also, I had to reset the entire system twice after it froze and the video feed stopped coming through. That meant I had to take out my tools, turn off the electricity, press a reset button on the back of the doorbell and start the setup process all over again. It's a big problem.

When it works, you can use the Nest Hello doorbell in tandem with the Nest Lock to let someone in the house, even if you're not home. The Nest Lock is a really good product.

Nest x Yale Lock

The Nest x Yale Lock has a number pad that lights up.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

You don't need the Nest Hello to install the Nest x Yale lock, which was built by the lock-maker Yale.

Yale also makes smart locks for Amazon's in-home delivery service, called Amazon Key, and is one of the larger manufacturers of in-home smart locks right now.

It allows you to remotely unlock or lock your door, which means you can let a dog-sitter in the house if you're not home, or unlock your door with your phone if you forget your keys. There's also a number pad for entering a manual code as a backup system or for sharing a code with a babysitter who needs to enter your home.

It works really well.

The interior side of the Nest x Yale lock
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Setup took me about 20 minutes. I just had to remove my old smart lock deadlock from the door, attach the front and back panel of the new lock, and screw everything in place. After a quick walk-through where I set a code, I was up and running in the Nest app.

The number pad disappears from the lock when it's not in use.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

The Nest app lets you see your door and then press a large on-screen button to lock and unlock it. You can give access to your wife and kids or share the lock with people who need to get into your home.

The Nest app lets you lock or unlock your door from anywhere
Todd Haselton | CNBC

There's a manual dead-lock switch that you can control from the inside if you want to lock up at night (and don't want to use the app), but there aren't any keys. If you forget your key, you can just use the app or enter a code on the device's touchscreen from the outside.

Should you buy them?

Buy the lock, skip the doorbell for now.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Google has a unique ecosystem that hasn't been getting much attention.

If you've heard of Nest, you probably automatically think about the smart thermostat, but there are other products that tie in, including connected in-home and outdoor cameras. Its Nest Secure security system lets you monitor your home while you're away, complete with a subscription service that will alert the police if you're not home and someone tries to break in.

The Nest Hello and Nest Lock play well in that environment, adding new functions like the ability to let someone into your home while you're away, or keep tabs on your front door through the Hello doorbell. Everything can be controlled by the Nest app on your Android phone or iPhone.

You can see I've installed (too many) doorbells here.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

I don't recommend Nest Hello yet, because Google needs to works out kinks, like false positives that suggest someone's at your door when it's just a flag blowing in the wind. Also, my unit froze twice in a week, requiring a complete reset. A software update could fix that problem, but there isn't one yet.

The Nest x Yale Lock is a good product. Since it ties so well into the Nest app, and since it works with Androids and iPhones (unlike Apple's solutions), it's one of my favorite smart locks to date. August's locks are great too, but the app doesn't let you see other smart home security products or control a thermostat.

If Google fixes the Nest Hello doorbell bugs, it has the best smart home ecosystem for monitoring and controlling your home while you're away. Until then, buy the Nest Lock and other Nest products, and hold off on the smart doorbell.