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The Toucan Wireless Video Doorbell is a battery-powered video doorbell that offers a viewing angle that’s wider than most.
A large fish-eye lens on the front of the doorbell lets users see through almost 180 degrees in all directions, so you can monitor what’s on your porch, not just who comes to your front door. It’s powered by batteries, which means the doorbell can be mounted just about anywhere—and that also means it’s suitable for renters. But in our review, we found the motion detection settings a little lacking.
The doorbell comes with a companion chime unit that is powered by two AA batteries. The chime is quite loud and should serve most households, although there doesn’t appear to be a way to adjust the volume—apart from a do-not-disturb setting that will silence the chime on demand or on a schedule.
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best video doorbells, where you’ll findreviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.
The companion Toucan app was sufficient, although sometimes a little glitchy. Occasionally a video file wouldn’t load, or the screen zoom would jump when I tried to adjust it. I tested the Android version and it didn’t feel quite as polished as the apps from larger competitors such as Nest or Ring, but it was quite serviceable.
Installation of the doorbell was pretty straightforward. Because it’s a battery-powered device, it can be placed anywhere that makes sense. A mounting bracket is supplied that can be screwed into a wall or there’s also a sticky pad for a less permanent installation. This latter option might be useful for renters.
During the network set-up phase, the app asked me for permission to share my location “to securely scan Wi-Fi networks.” There is only one option: allow. I don’t see a good reason why Toucan needs to know my location before scanning for a local wireless network, but with no other option, I proceeded. As soon as I finished installation, I went into my phone’s settings and denied Toucan the ability to ping my location. Performance did not appear to suffer.
Confusingly, the app includes a power setting selection between battery and AC power. As the camera doesn’t have an option for AC power, I presume this was left in from a different version.
A wide viewing angle
One of the main selling points of the Toucan camera is its wide viewing angles, both up and down. Many competing video doorbells offer close to a 180-degree view, but only from side to side.
With the Toucan’s wide view, you can see what’s on your porch, and that can be useful when packages are delivered. While most competitors show you just the delivery agent approaching and dropping off a package, the Toucan lets you also watch the package remotely. The dual-camera Maximus Answer DualCam and the recently reviewed Arlo Video Doorbell come closest on this count, but both depend on low-voltage wiring to operate.
Toucan accomplishes the task thanks to a fisheye lens in front of the camera. This distorts the image around the edges, but it’s hidden in normal use because the app shows video from the center of the image. It’s only when the user scrolls to the side that it comes into view, but it doesn’t affect the performance.
The video quality isn’t good enough to see detail of the package such as the address label.
You can actually see the full view of what the camera sees when you download a video clip. It comes as a 1,504 x 1,504 pixel video image at 14.5 frames per second without correction for the lens distortion.
The Toucan doorbell did better than most in motion detection, although it was impossible to remove all false positive alerts.
The motion sensitivity settings are quite basic: low, medium, high, and max. My house faces a moderately busy suburban street and I had to keep the sensitivity set to low. Even then, it still alerted when larger vehicles such as pick-up trucks drove by. There was no way to tune it further and it doesn’t offer user-determined motion zones.
I understand why. Additional detection smarts would deplete the batte8ry too fast; but ultimately, it meant that I ignored many of the alerts because the vast majority were just vehicles.
It did do well at nighttime. In the low setting, I didn’t get a single alert of vehicles passing or people walking on the street in front of my house. It only triggered when someone walked up the front path to my door, just as it should.
The nighttime video view wasn’t the best or sharpest, but it was good enough for the immediate area in front of my door.
Answering the door
Like other video doorbells, users can remotely converse with callers through the app. But one of the fun features of the doorbell is a number of pre-programmed responses that can be offered.
They include “How can I help you?,” “Sorry, we’re pretty busy right now” and “Please put down the parcel here.” It can also play the sound of a dog barking.
If you want to get rid of a caller, there’s a handy alarm button on the app that will sound a rather loud siren. The app also has a short cut button to call 911. It asks you once if you’re certain you want to place the call, to avoid accidental calls.
The Toucan doorbell can be used without a subscription and you don’t lose any significant functionality.
Toucan does offer a $3-per-month premium service that adds a 7-day video history, downloading of video clips, and the ability to share access to the doorbell across multiple phones. I found I was able to share clips even though I didn’t have the subscription.
Martyn Williams produces technology news and product reviews in text and video for PC World, Macworld, and TechHive from his home outside Washington D.C.. He previously worked for IDG News Service as a correspondent in San Francisco and Tokyo and has reported on technology news from across Asia and Europe.