I admire those that were brave enough to be the first to pioneer and test the first smart doorbells. I was held back by reviews screaming that smart doorbells do not live up to their promise. Doorbot was no exception.
Then everything changed when Doorbot dropped the Doorbot and became Ring. And though I’m definitely not the first to review Ring, I’m kinda thinking this is a good thing. Those before me were first in line and were met with kinks and gotchas many of which have been smoothed out by time. Though the device is not perfect, it’s one of my favs.
For those that are not as utterly obsessed with smart devices as I am, a little background on Ring. Ring is a Wi-Fi connected doorbell. If someone approaches your doorbell or rings it, you can pop-in to check things out using the free mobile app. Not only can you see who is at your door, you can talk to them – from anywhere…
Installation will vary depending upon how you install Ring. Within the included mobile app you will be walked through installation by choosing if you plan to install the device inside or outside, if you plan to use battery or hard wire, and if you are installing on wood, brick, etc. Once you select your desired method, Ring responds by providing a semi-useful installation video. In my case I selected hard wire, wood, and outside. I chose wired for several reasons including the fact that it can fall back to battery if needed, can still function as a normal doorbell if you lose power and can connect to your existing door chime.
In total installation took around 15 minutes. If you choose to use battery as your source of power, installing Ring will be easier but by no means would I call the hard wire installation process difficult. The most difficult part was drilling the pilot holes and that comes from my lack of confidence with power tools and nothing more. My biggest issue with installation was that Ring was too darn big (4.98 x 2.43 x 0.87 inches) for my decorative door frame. The slight overhang looks a little weird and the brick edge obstructs part of my viewing angle.
Using the Ring Smart Doorbell
I was hopeful that Ring would replace the Nest Cam and Camio combo I currently use to record my front porch. But what I found is that I need to merge my existing setup with Ring to create one super technology.
WHO ARE YOU?
Nest/Camio is an indoor setup that records through a window so most of the time I can’t make out faces. With Ring I can tell exactly who is at the front door, I can talk to them, and I can hear them. However, this trick has it limits. When I moved the device from inside my house to outside, I noticed that the video quality degraded slightly.
If I were a betting gal, I would bet that it lacks Wide Dynamic Range (WDR). WDR balances light and dark and shadows. As the camera is on the porch in the shade but facing the sun, it seems to have trouble seeing certain details. In the picture above you can see that anything beyond my front lawn reads as a giant blur of bright light. And while I can’t see cars on the street like I can with my Camio setup, that isn’t really what Ring is about. Ring is about seeing and interacting with your guests and that is where it excels.
Distance aside, the close range video quality is excellent. It is an HD (720p) camera and is backed by night vision. The lens creates a slight fish-eye effect but it doesn’t impact the ability to recognize if your visitor is a guest or stranger.
As good as the video quality is, the microphone is insane – insane in a good way. I can hear my neighbor’s baby crying across the street, conversations she has in her driveway (she’s a loud talker), and of course I can have a crystal clear conversation with my guests using two-way audio – without lag and without issues. Creepy? Totally. Be careful what you say outside.
When I use Camio software to record outside, it adds a layer of intelligence. It will tell me if there’s a person on my porch or a package. It can tell if there is a white car in the street or a red one and it can call my phone if need be. The level of detail the alerts provide are valuable and the alerts are more reliable than those sent by Ring. However, compared to other outdoor cameras, Ring isn’t too shabby. Through the included mobile app (iOS, Android, Windows 10) you can customize your motion alerts and even set a range allowing you to detect someone as close as 5 feet or as far away as 30 feet. For me, motion detection performed best at 5 feet. At that range, false alarms still happened but they were rare.
Lately, I’ve been using Ring with motion alerts turned off. Instead I have call alerts turned on. This way Ring will only notify me if someone rings my doorbell. You have the option of using either one or both.
I MISSED A CALL
There’s another gotcha… Ring doesn’t live stream. So if you miss the opportunity to answer a call you are out of luck unless you pay to access your video history. Cloud service is optional but without it you can kiss video history goodbye. Their cloud plan is $3 per month or $30 annually and provides 6 months of video recordings.
The video history will hold video of accepted calls, missed calls, and motion. The alerts are color coded (green means you accepted the call, red indicates a missed event) and time stamped. If you don’t want the event to remain in your history you can swipe left to reveal two options.
1. You can delete the video.
2. You can share it
You can choose to download any recorded video to your phone’s gallery or share them via text or email.
EVERYTIME I COME AROUND YOUR CITY “RING RING”
In regards to controlling the device it all happens from the app. I tested the app at home and from various remote locations and it worked most of the time. There were a couple incidences where the app would freeze but would eventually recover. When this happened it was definitely faster for me to run to the door and answer it the old fashion way though there are still plenty of scenarios where it would be safer to wait on the app to load.
For example, kids home alone, bathing a child, older adult and stairs, etc, etc. Also, there were two events at home where I had someone ring the doorbell but I didn’t receive a notification. I’m not saying this was the device, it could have been my Wi-Fi and when looking at the bigger picture these errors were rare compared to the amount of times Ring worked correctly.
Connecting Ring To Your Smart Home
Connecting Ring to my smart home is one feature I did not test. But it’s possible. Probably the most useful feature is the ability to connect Ring to smart door locks. It is compatible with LockState, Kisi, and Lockitron. Essentially this ability ties into the call feature. When someone calls you, the Ring app will open with the option to accept or deny the call. However, you will also have the option to launch a smart lock app that will allow you to unlock your door from your phone.
Ring also recently integrated with Wink. You can use this setup to connect other smart door locks like those by Schlage and Kwikset. Also, you can integrate new features like “Lock up”. If someone rings your doorbell and you’ve left the door unlocked, Wink can automatically lock your door for you. You can also connect Ring to other smart devices like automated lights.
Ring isn’t perfect. There are times when it misses a call or is slow to load but these issues are proportionally small compared to the amount of times Ring works perfectly. Without hesitation I would recommend Ring to others. From a home security perspective it brings significant value as most burglars are either going to knock or ring first and most are looking for easy targets not porches with cameras and two-way audio. If they steal your device, Ring will replace your doorbell for free. However, it would be hard as proprietary screws hold it in place and you should add a home security system to back Ring up making your home even less attractive to burglars.
Ring can be purchased for $199 on Amazon. You can purchase it in Antique Brass, Polished Brass, Satin Nickel, or Venetian Bronze. (My unit is Venetian Bronze.) The Chime is sold separately for $29.95.
This unit was given to me for testing.