Aqara G4 Video Doorbell4.0 / 5
The all-new Aqara G4 Video Doorbell stands out from a crowded market not just because of its affordable price but by being the only battery-powered model to support HomeKit Secure Video.
Every company is dueling to put cameras on your front door these days. Amazon-owned Ring has almost wholly cornered the market, while HomeKit models are a bit far between.
We've been proponents of the Belkin Wemo doorbell camera, the Logitech Circle View, the Netatmo, and the Alro as our top recommendations. Now, Aqara is putting up a good fight to become the top choice for Apple users.
HomeKit versus HomeKit Secure Video
Before we get into the weeds too much, we should break down the differences between types of video doorbells, especially within the auspices of HomeKit.
When choosing a doorbell, you can opt for one that needs to be hardwired or one that can run off of an internal battery. They each have their tradeoffs.
Those in apartments or rental properties may be unable to install a wired doorbell, and new builds have started omitting pre-installed wires.
But a wireless doorbell means the batteries will need to be replaced — or charged — every so often, which can be an annoying task and add to the overall cost of the device.
Within HomeKit, some support HomeKit but not HomeKit Secure Video. The former can show in the Home app, chime HomePods, appear on your Apple TV, and trigger automations, while the latter has verbose support for recording video into iCloud.
HomeKit Secure Video is notoriously taxing on batteries; hence, why, to date, any that support HomeKit Secure Video requires a wired power connection.
Aqara gets around this by using a separate hub. HomeKit can send requests to the hub as often as it wants as it is perpetually connected to power but will only wake up the doorbell when necessary.
Unlike most others, the Aqara G4 can run wired or wireless, giving users total control based on their use case.
Aqara doesn't venture much off the beaten path for the G4. Its installation process isn't all too dissimilar from other video doorbells.
Scope out your location, mark the screw holes, pre-drill the holes, the screw the base plate to the exterior wall.
After that, you've got a couple of options when installing the G4 smart video doorbell. First, you can go battery-powered, in which case you just need six AA batteries, or you can hardwire it in.
We opted for the battery-powered installation because we planned to install it on the rear of our house, where we lacked a pre-wired doorbell.
The doorbell slips over the mounting plate before you can secure it on the right side by a star-shaped screw. The odd screw head makes it harder for thieves to depart with your doorbell but makes it more tedious when replacing the batteries.
Due to the size of the battery compartment, the Aqara G4 is slightly larger than other video doorbells. It has a large sensor at the top with an easily-identifiable button on the bottom.
A subtle light glows around the button to make it easy to find at night, though you can't see it during the day.
With the doorbell successfully mounted, we plugged in the hub inside. The hub connects over USB-C and holds the MicroSD card for local video storage.
The hub is crucial to the doorbell's operation because of the rigorous network requirements of Apple Home. Apple's constant check-ins with devices are murder on batteries and why it's near-impossible for cameras to work over battery power and support Apple Home.
To skirt this, the wall-powered hub communicates with your Home Hub while the doorbell camera only wakes up when someone presses the button, motion is detected, or you summon it from the app.
Oh, and the hub doubles as the doorbell's chime. We mounted ours under our kitchen cabinets since it's a reliable central location.
Securing your home with HomeKit Secure Video
This doorbell supports Apple HomeKit Secure Video, meaning you can securely store your video in iCloud without requiring any third-party subscription.
Apple's 50GB iCloud+ subscription allows for one camera, the 200GB plan allows for five cameras, and the 2TB plan affords users storage for unlimited cameras in their homes. If you already have iCloud+, you won't need to shell out anything extra for cloud recording.
Multiple recording options for the camera can be independently configured for when you are home or away. You can have all access off, you can stream video only, you can detect activity without camera access, or you can stream and allow recording.
Furthermore, recordings can get triggered for any motion or only specific types of movement. Apple allows you to toggle on and off recordings for people, animals, vehicles, and packages.
Frustratingly, Apple doesn't allow you to trigger scenes based on these motion categories. Any automation rule you create based on motion happens with any motion and not just the recording categories.
For example, we'd love to only turn on the porch lights when a vehicle or person is detected. But, as it stands, you can only turn on the porch light when absolutely any motion is detected.
The wind blowing, a cat walking by, a leaf falling, a bird flying, or a bug getting too close to the lens will inadvertently trigger those automations. It's a shortcoming we hope to see Apple correct in upcoming versions of iOS.
With iOS 16, Apple added support for Activity Zones. These do make it a bit easier to cut down on errant notifications. Only motion within the marked zones will trigger your video doorbell.
Activity zones are useful on front-facing doorbells because you can cut out motion alerts from cars passing by and limit it to only motion detected on your porch. Unfortunately, Activity Zones also can't be used in automations.
For privacy reasons, captured recordings from your doorbell can only be accessed within the Home app. It is another odd limitation to HomeKit as other accessories can be viewed and controlled in other apps, but camera recordings are only available through the Home app.
Recordings get marked by the type of activity captured — people, animals, et cetera, and you can quickly share or save the recordings.
A big benefit of Apple Home support for doorbell cameras is Apple's tight ecosystem integration.
When someone rings your doorbell, it can chime on any HomePods you have. The alert can also show up on your Apple TV.
Video alerts or doorbell rings will also show on your Apple Watch, where you can watch the video and talk with whoever is at your door.
Apple can tap into your photos album to identify people who visit your home based on the name you've assigned them in the Photos app, assuming you've permitted it to do so.
Aqara offers more
As is often the case with Aqara accessories, it supports a wealth of native HomeKit functionality but then brings more unsupported features to users via the Aqara app.
You can set recording options for the local SD card, adjust the power frequency, toggle on or off lens correction, and more.
Aqara is one of the few that offers a privacy occlusion mode. You can black out up to three sections of the camera's view, and when you do, they won't show on any videos captured.
Should you buy the Aqara G4?
The Aqara G4 video doorbell is an excellent option for Apple users. It's battery-powered, has tons of advanced configuration options, and supports HomeKit Secure Video.
There are a couple of downsides worth mentioning, though. First, on one of the few hot days in 2023, we did have the doorbell overheat when the sun was bearing down on it directly. If your doorbell is in direct sunlight, that may be a problem for you time-to-time.
The camera also has a very wide POV. That's not a bad thing, but because it is landscape, it doesn't capture footage at the doorstep. Packages placed on your doormat will go unseen by the G4.
Finally, there seemed to be something funny going on between the Aqara app and the Home app. If we told the Home app to only record video with people, it suddenly stopped recording any video.
There was seemingly a miscommunication on the identified activity type, so it stopped altogether. However, this seems software-related, so it's fixable by Apple or Aqara. If you don't pair with the Aqara app, it's a non-issue.
In the end, this doorbell offers features found nowhere else in the market at a reasonable price. It's easy to set up, easy to use, and works with all of your other HomeKit accessories.
What more is there to say?
- Only battery powered HomeKit Secure Video doorbell
- No subscription required
- Local MicroSD backup inside where it can't be stolen
- Hardwired option
- Easy to install and use
- Good quality video and night vision
- Can't see low
- Can overheat in direct sunlight
- Recording filters clashed with Aqara app
- Requires hub
Rating: 4 out of 5
Where to buy
Pick up the new Aqara G4 smart video doorbell on Amazon for $119.