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Review: Logitech's Circle View is the best HomeKit video doorbell money can buy

4.5
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Logitech's Circle View video doorbell is the first true HomeKit-first solution for your front door and it excels with a very Apple-esque user experience. In fact, Logitech's solid execution only serves to highlight the shortcomings of HomeKit's video support.

The state of HomeKit video doorbells

Prior to the Logitech Circle View video doorbell, HomeKit doorbells were quite limiting. There were a few that had hit the market with plain old HomeKit support but lacked HomeKit Secure Video. Others, such as the Robin Pro Line and Robin Pro Line Compact, included HomeKit Secure Video but were cost-prohibitive and primarily targeted commercial installations.

Some companies like Netatmo launched their video doorbells without HomeKit Secure Video, promising it would come in a future update. The feature is still missing.

That puts quite the weight on Logitech's shoulders as the only real solution for those who are looking at a HomeKit-first smart video doorbell.

Design

Circle View video doorbell components
Circle View video doorbell components to install

The doorbell has a clean, attractive design. A single piece of seamless glass covers the front with the top protecting the camera lens and the bottom showing a glowing circle to identify where a visitor should press when ringing. What's very cool is that while the glowing circle sits at bottom center, the entire lower area acts as a button. This makes it easier to press.

Circle View video doorbell in the studio
Circle View video doorbell in the studio

When installed, the doorbell can rely on your home's existing chime without the need to rewire or plug a speaker into an outlet. This can be disabled from the settings menu if you prefer to stick with HomeKit alerts.

Logitech chose to capture HD video from its 5MP sensor in portrait orientation with a 3:4 aspect ratio measuring 1,200-by-1,600 pixels. It supports high dynamic range for better colors when backlit by the sun or car headlights, and content is in frame from only two feet away.

Circle View video doorbell sample video frame
Circle View video doorbell sample video frame

With a 160-degree field of view, Logitech calls it "head-to-toe" capture. When someone approaches the door, you can see their face and the ground. This can be helpful for seeing packages or other objects on your porch.

In some ways, this is a good setup, but we'd prefer a square 1:1 aspect ratio to the 3:4. We want the head-to-toe coverage, but why does the horizontal view have to suffer because of it? Arlo for example gives you that large vertical field of view with equally as much horizontal coverage. If you have a wide porch or a driveway to the side, that extra latitude can be very important.

Circle View video doorbell
Circle View video doorbell mounted outdoors

Our door frame sticks out about six inches from the door, which does cause some issues with packages. If a package is left too close to the house, it sits outside the frame so we aren't able to see it. Others won't necessarily have that same issue.

Near the center of the camera is an LED light used to provide color night vision to the camera. This can be toggled off in camera settings but is helpful for better results in low light. It stays illuminated all the time rather than being motion-based, so it can help ward off intruders by clearly identifying itself. As a side benefit, it helps you see when you come home after dark.

Included with the doorbell is a flat mount that faces the camera forward, as well as an angled mount. These are standard and add some adaptability to the device. It is quite thin which helps it fit most doorframes without fuss.

HomeKit for the win

Logitech chose the same approach as it did with its Circle View smart camera in that it supports HomeKit and only HomeKit. There is no Alexa support, no Logitech Circle app — everything is managed, set up, and viewed through HomeKit and Apple's Home app.

This makes setup such a breeze. Connect the doorbell using the instructions provided (or wait for a professional if you choose that route) and scan the HomeKit pairing code. Your iPhone will then walk you through the requisite steps such as what "room" the doorbell is in, who has access to the camera's feeds and recording, privacy settings, and when you want it to record.

As privacy is a main concern for Apple, HomeKit has quite verbose privacy options for doorbell cameras. You can control exactly who in your home can watch the camera streams and gate access to recordings as well. This can only be set for cameras as a whole and can't be set on a per-camera basis.

Circle View video doorbell recording options
Circle View video doorbell recording options

For recordings, you can have different settings for when you're home as well as when you're away. You can choose to turn the camera off, have it only detect activity (for the purpose of notifications or automation), stream only, or stream and allow recording during both of those times. If you have it set to record, you can record any motion it detects, or when people, animals, or vehicles are visually detected. Audio recording can be toggled on or off.

Circle View video doorbell motion filters
Circle View video doorbell motion filters

Those recordings and alerts can be narrowed down by specific activity zones. You can create as many video zones as you'd like from the Home app, selecting what areas will trigger an alert and which won't — very useful if you have a sidewalk or road caught on your video doorbell and don't want excess notifications.

Circle View video doorbell activity zones
Circle View video doorbell activity zones

Speaking of notifications, you can filter those alerts just like any other accessory that can send notifications. You can allow them based on whether someone is or isn't home, based on the time of day, and whether any motion was detected, or whether a clip was recorded.

Circle View video doorbell notification options
Circle View video doorbell notification options

As an example, here is how we have ours configured:

It is just my wife and me in the house so we both have access to the stream as well as the recordings. Then we have it set to record whenever we are away — whenever we are home it will stream. Notifications are always on so we know when someone approaches the door before they even press the ring button.

Circle View video doorbell has two-way audio
Circle View video doorbell has two-way audio to communicate

HomeKit Secure Video will present all recorded clips to the Home app and is processed all locally via your Home Hub. Clips are saved in iCloud, which gives you ten days of recordings for a single camera with the 200GB plan and up to five cameras with the 2TB plan.

A doorbell Apple would create

Alerts from the Circle View video doorbell on the Apple TV
Alerts from the Circle View video doorbell on Apple TV

In its truest sense, this is the doorbell Apple would create if it were in the home accessories game. Aside from widening the POV, the hardware is nearly perfect, as is its integration with HomeKit and the Apple ecosystem.

HomePod chimes when someone presses the button on the Circle View video doorbell
HomePod and HomePod mini chime when someone presses the button on the Circle View video doorbell

There is something quite magical when someone presses the button on the Logitech Circle View video doorbell and your HomePod chimes, even announcing who is at your door if you have their face saved in Photos. If you're watching your Apple TV, you see the alert pop in over the screen with a live view of who is at your door in a way that is unobtrusive but still lets you know that someone is waiting.

HomeKit rich notifications
HomeKit rich notifications

The alerts that show on your phone or watch are almost perfect as well. You get a rich thumbnail of who is at the door, the ability to watch live, and the ability to talk to whoever is there through the doorbell — even on your Apple Watch.

No other doorbell has such close ties to the Apple ecosystem and is as seamless from setup to use.

Where HomeKit falls short

While its connection to Apple is top-notch, HomeKit itself has some growing up to do. Video is still in its infancy for HomeKit and it shows at random times while using the Circle View video doorbell.

The most frustrating aspect is video identification. Out of the gate, we connected the doorbell and turned on alerts and an automation that would turn on the porch lights whenever motion was detected. This quickly went awry as we were inundated with alerts. Turns out it is using video analysis for motion detection rather than maybe a PIR sensor. There's no way to adjust the sensitivity of that motion detection, outside of zones.

So any bit of wind, leaf, grass, anything would trigger an alert. We quickly adjusted this to only send an alert when a person, a vehicle, or an animal was detected. This vastly improved things but relies on your Home Hub to analyze the video to meet that criteria.

Sometimes a person would walk up to the door and we'd inexplicably not get any notification or video recording. This wasn't often by any means, but has happened at least once or twice over the past several months.

Other times, random movements would trip the notification by accident. If a leaf blows into frame, the doorbell would see the motion, send the clip to the Home Hub to see if any of the criteria was met, and it would notice our car parked in front of the door. That would then send us an alert that a vehicle was in the driveway.

AI is very hard and Apple is clearly just getting started. These issues are frustrating at times, but are a bit of the tradeoff you get in the name of privacy. Apple is eager to improve and we're sure to see this get better over time.

Those AI characterizations also can't be used for automation. When you set your light to turn on via the motion sensor of the Circle View, any motion will trigger it, regardless of whether you only get notified or record clips of people, animals, and vehicles.

Our final qualm with HomeKit is the lack of transparency regarding software updates. As the Circle View video doorbell has no accompanying app outside of HomeKit, updates are installed automatically and in the background. This is less user interaction which is always beneficial but what if that update was happening at the exact same time as someone was trying to pick the lock on your front door. The odds are slim, but it is a possibility.

Apple looks to be readying a mechanism to handle this as updates have always been a frustration. Right now, updates come through behind the scenes as with the Circle View video doorbell or they are manual through a third-party manufacturer app. In a perfect world, these would all be handled through the Home app.

In more recent iOS updates there is a new "updates" view in the Home app that shows when you have third-party updates available and implies they will soon be handled directly through the Home app automatically or on a schedule. We'll have to wait to see how third-parties like Logitech support it when made official.

Should you buy the Logitech Circle View video doorbell?

In the end, Logitech has absolutely nailed the product here and its only shortcomings lie within HomeKit itself. That is probably the best-case scenario for this product as it will certainly get better with the frequent updates we've seen come to Apple's smart home platform.

Circle View video doorbell
Circle View video doorbell

The hardware here is spectacular with a fantastic look, easy setup, and the best HomeKit experience you could ask for. It is now up to Apple to fulfill HomeKit's potential with new features and performance enhancements.

For those that have embraced Apple's smart home platform, this is the easy go-to solution to grace your front door. You won't a solution better placed to protect your home.

Pros

  • Designed excusively for Apple HomeKit
  • Facial recognition, object detection, and location/time/person-based notifications
  • Great look and build
  • Crisp HD video, head-to-toe 160-degree POV, color night vision, and HDR support
  • Integrates with the Apple ecosystem including Apple Watch, HomePod, Photos app, and Apple TV
  • Easy setup and installation
  • Pro installation option available
  • Can use your existing chime
  • Will benefit from future HomeKit updates
  • Storage in iCloud
  • Video processed locally for utmost privacy

Cons

  • No control over software updates
  • HomeKit video has room to grow
  • Could have more horizontal coverage

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Where to buy

Order the Logitech Circle View video doorbell from Logitech for $199 as a DIY kit or get one including professional installation for $299.

 

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