Kudos: Beautiful looking door station, terrific camera video quality, great automation integration, not prone to WiFi hacks
Concerns: Pricey, requires Cat-rated cable, no Cloud storage
If you charted the technological evolution of the doorbell, it would essentially look like an L turned on its side. For over 100 years, the “modern” electric doorbell has been commonplace, with a simple pushbutton contact closure located beside the door that signals a transformer to sound a ding-dong chime inside the home, alerting occupants to a visitor at the front door. Simple. And up until just a few years ago the greatest doorbell advancements included, “Now with lighted button!” and “Featuring classy Westminster 8-chime tone!”
But in 2013, a product call the Ring Video Doorbell changed everything by adding some smarts and a camera to the doorbell, notifying a smartphone when someone was at the door and then – GASP! – let you actually see and talk to them. Game. Changer.
Advance to 2018 and there are multiple smart doorbell options to choose from besides Ring, including Doorbird, SkyBell, August, Nest, Zmodo, and others. For the DIY market, many of these are fine solutions, but for integration in a whole-house automation system, they all come up short in several areas. First, many don’t offer any kind of integration, or require buying a third-party license to integrate. Second, they frankly just don’t look that great. Most of these solutions are very plastic looking and, let’s be honest, kind of cheap. Not something you would be proud to have making the first statement as a guest approaches your million-plus dollar home. Third, getting tech support can by iffy, with some of these companies being headquartered in Europe. Finally, none of them offer any kind of in-app automation control.
These are the problems that the Control4 DS4 beautifully addresses, and this is why the new DS2 Mini Door Station is going to become your go-to solution in Control4 installations going forward.
I’ll be honest, prior to receiving the DS2, I never felt much need for a smart doorbell. I live in a gated community, so the only unexpected guests we get are [A] UPS and FedEx deliveries, [B] my daughter’s neighborhood friends, and [C] my daughter, who lost her Control4 code door unlock privileges after sharing the code with said neighborhood friends. We live in a 2200-square-foot house and the hallway mounted door chime had served our doorbell needs for nearly 20 years.
However, there have been times when people have pressed the doorbell and we haven’t heard it (prompting a text message of, “I’m at your front door; are you home?”) or when the doorbell rings and we have no idea who is there.
Thus, enters the new Control4 DS2 Mini into my life.
The DS2 Mini is offered in two finishes, Brushed Nickel and Black, with six available faceplates, including Black, Brushed Nickel, and Venetian Bronze, two in each finish in both surface and flush options. (A flush-mount back box is available for the DS2 for flush-mount installations.) Visually, the door station is quite rich looking and would be at home next to a five-figure front door.
The biggest hurdle you will likely encounter on retrofitting the DS2 is that it requires a Cat-rated cable. There is no connecting to WiFi, no powering off the existing door transformer, and no using batteries. On the plus side, the hardwired connection is more secure and reliable, not prone to WiFi hacking, and doesn’t come with the hassle of future battery changes. Downside: Retroing a new wire to a front door is often quite challenging and sometimes impossible.
Major props to Custom Theater and Audio installer Tom Ramirez (OK, yes, that is my company), who managed to RotoZip, vibro-saw, flex bit, glow rod, and ball-chain from his position in my attic to get a new Cat6 wire to my old doorbell location that I was able to tie into my network. If your install includes door strikes, a powered gate, or you want to use a home’s existing door chime, the DS2 offers a connection for a single passive relay, a contact closure input, and an active output.
The DS2 is powered via PoE, so I connected it to the Pakedge SX-8P managed PoE switch from my Pakedge Certified Network Administrator (PCNA) class. I then updated my Control4 system to the latest OS – 2.10.3 – and the DS2 kindly announced itself to my Control4 system via SDDP, where I dragged it into my project, updated its firmware, and did some basic configuration.
Inside Composer there are lots of cool things you can do to configure the DS2. For example, what should happen when it senses motion? I have the system send me an email with five SXGA resolution snapshots every time motion is detected. You wouldn’t believe how many 2:00–3:00 am emails I get because of a moth flying around or some creeping spider. Weird, yes. Cool, sure. You can also set up variables to say, turn on the front porch lights if someone presses the call button when it is nighttime, or create your own library of high-resolution door chimes that play different tones at different times of day. (Which, I have to say, works great with the new Triad audio matrix and multichannel amplifier!) You can also log into the DS2’s web GUI to make further tweaks, such as to define the motion-sensing area and motion sensitivity.
Video resolution is 1280 x 960 and the image quality is crisp and sharp. We had to mount it in a non-ideal location to cover the old doorbell, but the wide-angle lens easily captures everything happening on my porch and the path leading up to the door. The camera can automatically adjust between day and night modes, changing backlight and button brightness, and I found the night vision performance to be terrific. Definitely good enough to identify all those moths and spiders. And because it is a video camera, you can check in on it from the app whenever you want. I do wish that Control4 offered some kind of cloud storage of video files, but you can connect the DS2 to an NVR and configure it as another security camera, enabling full-time recording, so there is a solution.
Where the DS2 gets really special is when you add the brand-new Intercom Anywhere features. With this, you can create call groups consisting of mobile phones (iOS and Android), door stations, and Control4 touchscreen controllers such as the new T3 Series (which, side note, I must say has a lightning-fast response/wakeup speed, with a razor-sharp display). So now, when I’m not at home, I can call into the house using the Intercom Anywhere app and have a video chat with my family using any touchscreen controller. Or someone from the house can use a touchscreen controller to call me on my cell phone. That’s brilliant! Also, when someone presses the button on the DS2, it can alert as many people in my family as I choose.
But, wait, there’s more! From within the Intercom Anywhere app, there are two customizable buttons that can be programmed to do anything your Control4 system is capable of. Obvious choices would be unlocking the front door, opening the garage, turning on some lights, disarming the security system, etc., but this puts an end to app shifting, letting the user control their automation system while still talking to the person at your door. This is a unique feature to Control4 and just creates a fully cohesive automation experience. As with many of Control4’s recent additions (Amazon Alexa integration, When/Then customization), Intercom Anywhere requires a 4Sight subscription.
While I never thought I needed a smart doorbell, after living with the DS2 for a couple of months I’m prepared to say something I thought I’d never say: I frickin’ love my smart doorbell! Quite simply, if you’re a Control4 dealer and you’ve been integrating other doorbells into your systems, the DS2 demands your attention.
For More Info: 888-400-4070; Control4.com
• DS2 available in two finishes: Black and Brushed Nickel, with three faceplate colors, including Black, Brushed Nickel, and Venetian Bronze
• 1280 x 960 camera resolution, with 120 x 90 x 145-degree (W x H x diagonal) view angle
• Integrated microphone and speaker system
• Built-in motion detection allows for notification (or event triggering in Control4 programming), including emailing camera snapshots to customer account
• Infinitely configurable doorbell chime options
• Cameras ONVIF video stream can be added to NVR for recording/playback
• Intercom Anywhere access requires 4Sight subscription
- 4.21 x 5.12 x 1.10 inches (HxWxD Surface Mount)
- 5.12 x 6.02 x .20 inches (HxWxD Flush Mount)