Ring Video Doorbell: Review
Disclaimer: The author backed the crowdfunding for the predecessor of this product.
When I first backed DoorBot (the first iteration of Ring's video doorbell) people often asked "what for?". In hindsight this was odd, because doorbells with video intercoms have been around for many years, and no one has ever questioned those. For me, the differentiator was that I could not only see and talk to someone at my door, but that I could do it on my phone...from anywhere.
That was the key pitch for this product, now category as others have jumped into the connected doorbell space. The current Ring offering, however, presents a very solid solution with benefits beyond that initial proposition. The placement is very flexible providing its within reasonable Wifi coverage, so they can be placed not only at the front door, but in the garage, on the side gate, or wherever else you might want.
The device itself comes in a high quality cardboard box, very similar to Apple products. Inside is not only the device and the charging cable, as you would expect, but everything you will need to install it bar the power drill. I'm almost convinced they would have included that too had they been able to fit it in the box. The mounting bracket, level, screws and wall plugs and all there, along with a dual purpose screw driver; Philips head on one end and Torx drive on the other. The latter is used tighten the security screws that hold the doorbell to the frame. If your concerned this makes it easy to steal, Ring offers a free replacement guarantee in that event considering that you'll likely have video of the culprit as a deterrent.
Physical installation is as easy as attaching the frame to the wall in the desired position using the four provided screws, then slotting the doorbell onto the frame. Two Torx screws at the bottom keep it securely in place, while allowing for easy removal to recharge for truly wireless operation. Alternatively, contacts are provided to attach conventional wired doorbell cabling, and thus negate the need for charging if you have wiring in place.
The integral lithium-ion battery is claimed to be good for up to a year. Actual life will vary with activity at your door, more movement events or rings registered will reduce that. In my experience the battery life is still excellent, and is easily viable in the provided smartphone app. A typical home can probably expect 6 months plus with all the motion detection enabled, after which charging is accomplished by simply removing the unit from the frame and plugging in the provided USB cable to the rear port.
Setup involves simply adding a new device in the Ring app. The app will step you through pressing the button on the rear, which puts the device in AP mode. This allows directly connecting your phone to the doorbell via WiFi. The app will guide you through connecting to your home network, and then the device will be active and appear in the app for use.
Once installed and connected to your Wifi network, you can also leverage the security benefits of the Ring Video Doorbell. Ring claims the device uses infrared to help discriminate different motion events to reduce false positives. Not triggering on cars passing in the street, for example. The actual implementation of this is unclear, but so far, I've had minimal such events logged for cars ( or cats) in the night.
The 720p camera records any triggered events that arise, either by the motion detection functionality, or by someone pressing the button to ring the bell. These events also send notifications through the app on your phone. What happens to the video depends on whether you have subscribed to the cloud service or not. If you have, then the video is saved for posterity, and can by viewed through the app at any time thereafter up to 6 months (specific videos can be saved for longer if required). If you don't have the service, you can view the video live from the notification, like a video call, but nothing is saved.
The camera uses a fisheye lens to capture a 180 degree field of view, although in practical terms the outer edge of that range is not easily discernible. Even so, the view is good to at least 170. The night vision mode works well, and the cloud recording (and playback) is fast and reliable.
In terms of motion events, the app allows configuring motion zones, schedules, and 'smart alerts'. This provides a very good level of control over recording and notification activity. Additionally, notifications can be turned off (separately for ring or motion events) without impacting the event logging. This means you can, for example, turn off motion alerts while still recording the video for review later.
Motion Zones allows you to switch specific segments of the cameras view arc on or off, and to specific the detection range (out to the maximum rated range of 30ft). This provides control of where and how far out you want to trigger recording. You can fine tune this with the schedule and smart alerts by limiting times of day/week to allow alerts, and to filter how often to trigger for repeat events.
These features combine to provide a capable and configurable security camera which can provide coverage of a potentially wide area in front of the door. This is the real boon of the device, as you not only get the utility of a video intercom in your doorbell, but gain full awareness of any activity in front of your property.
The ring event notifications work well, and this is an area that has significantly improved over the predecessor. On pressing the button, the unit itself will sound a pleasant chime, and the Notification will be generated to any configured phones within seconds. This has proven very reliable, and provides ample time to connect and respond using the intercom if desired. As the device and the app work via Ring's cloud service, this works from any location where your phone has internet connectivity.
Ring also offers a Chime product that can be configured on the service as well. This plugs into any power socket and provides a fixed base ringer similar to a traditional doorbell installation. The chime is useful where there are family members without smartphones, or who's phones are not connected to the doorbell, or simply to a provide louder backup to make sure you don't miss a ring.
The device itself can be ordered direct from Rings website for US$199. For those wanting to take advantage of the cloud storage offering, and to enable the Live View feature which allows you to see the live stream on demand, there are two options:
- A per device subscription for US$30/year called Ring Basic.
- A unlimited device subscription for US$100/year called Ring Protect. This one includes lifetime warranty on all devices and a 10% discount on future purchases.
Ring manages the firmware of the device themselves, which ensures that updates can be pushed out over the air as required. The good news is that Ring has demonstrated responsibility as a vendor, quickly responding to reported issues and pushing updates to protect their customers. Only one significant vulnerability has been reported so far, and was fixed very promptly according to this report from Sophos.
Additionally, the device architecture only requires an internet connection as all communication with the app is via the Ring cloud services. This provides the option to segregate the device on a guest or other network, rather than exposing your home network to any potential exploits.
I've found the quality, utility, and support from Ring to be first class, and there is literally nothing negative to call out for this one. To see more technical details, and the range of other Ring products, visit their site.
Ring website: https://ring.com/