“A family’s home is its castle.” While many of us associate that old axiom with the pride felt in maintaining and appointing our own abode, it actually originates from the legal ideal of Castle Doctrine, which ensures that a resident not be penalized for defending their domicile. The Ring Video Doorbell is a device that aims at marrying the two ends of this concept, allowing you to feel more secure in your environment, while simultaneously allowing you to revel in its stylish upgrades.
Along with the door itself, the doorbell is one of the first items most visitors interact with when entering your home. Its historically uncomplicated design is patently obvious: a simple switch to activate a chime to notify the residents within that guests have arrived. The $200 Ring complicates that interaction somewhat (an additional $3 monthly subscription, for example), but the overall effect is worth it.
We put the Ring through a series of real-world tests over a period several weeks. Here’s the good, the bad, and the unexpected.
Looks and Build
At roughly five inches tall by two-and-a-half inches wide, the Ring is more noticeable than the traditional buzzer still found on most homes. Add to that a depth of nearly one inch, and you’ll find that it stands out, literally, but a bit less so on modern facades. The case comes in several different finishes, including nickel, bronze, and antique and polished brass, so you should have no trouble matching the rest of the surrounding trim. On its face, the half-inch camera lens peers out innocuously from above the quarter-sized button and will go unnoticed by most who interact with the device.
It carries a weight indicating a competent construction, but the case components are largely plastic, belying the device’s quality. The girth is not much of a factor however, since the device spends nearly all of its time affixed to the wall by an included mounting plate.
The package contains the Ring doorbell itself, the aforementioned mounting plate, a two-foot USB charging cable, mounting hardware to accommodate various building materials, a drill bit and small screwdriver to aid installation, and a set of installation instructions.
Setup and Installation
Setup is simple, with the Ring app and instructions providing clear, foolproof guidance through from start to finish. After downloading and installing the app (for iOS and Android), it’s a mere matter of creating a Ring account and following the steps as presented on your phone or tablet.
The Ring is more noticeable than the traditional buzzer found on most homes.
If you’re planning to use the Ring completely wirelessly (if you’re not connecting it to a circuit or are replacing another battery-powered doorbell), we’d suggest making sure that you’ve given it an opportunity to charge fully, as it will be relying on its battery as the sole power source. If you’re replacing an existing doorbell, you’ll obviously want to shut off power to the circuit before doing so, but attaching the existing wires to the included mounting plate is fast and easy work.
The mounting plate attaches to the wall with a few standard pieces of hardware, and the main component then latches on to the mount with four small hooks. Once settled on the hooks, just tighten up two under-mounted barrel screws with the included screwdriver, and you’re good to go. All told, the entire process probably won’t take more than 30 minutes to complete.
From a guest’s perspective, the Ring is as easy to use as any other doorbell. A press of the button sets off feedback in the form of a pleasant three-toned chime from the panel, and a blue LED that rotates in a ring around the button. Some visitors who used the Ring exhibited confusion, due mainly to the device’s unusual form factor. “It doesn’t look like a doorbell!” they’d say.
The chime activates on the phone through the app within about five seconds of the button press, but unlocking the phone and connecting to the camera can cause enough latency that users may make it to the door in less time than it takes to respond via the app. Ring will soon offer the appropriately dubbed “Chime,” an optional indoor speaker accessory that connects to any standard outlet and will sound throughout the house like a more traditional doorbell — a useful and welcome addition, especially if not everyone in the household has the app installed. However, adding additional users to your Ring account is a simple matter of a few clicks.
The app itself is relatively intuitive. When responding to a push notification from the doorbell, you have the option to answer or decline the call while viewing your visitor through the Ring’s wide-angle lens. Once the call is answered, you can converse with the visitor through the doorbell’s built-in speaker and microphone, with options to mute either from your end. If you decide to decline the call, the visitor is given no indication that you’ve done so. Multiple doorbells can be managed through the app, but each will require an additional subscription.
The security applications are as tremendous as they are obvious, especially when taking advantage of Ring’s cloud recording function, which enables a user to review footage recorded by the doorbell over the previous six months. This led to one somewhat awkward and unforeseen social side effect: the revelation to curious guests that they’d indeed been recorded. Understandably, not all visitors may be comfortable with having been clandestinely recorded (especially from a somewhat unflatteringly low and wide angle), but this reaction is to be expected with any form of optical security surveillance.
The built-in motion detector can be configured to begin recording when a body comes within a certain distance of the doorbell. The detector’s active zones can be custom configured within a distance of 30 feet, so you should have no problem if your door happens to face a particularly busy street.
Audio and video fidelity is decent and does a good job of filtering ambient noise and light. The frame rate is a bit on the low side, with some visible lag, but it suits the device’s needs well enough. If it’s mounted anywhere near an average height (roughly four feet off the ground), the 180-degree field of view should be more than enough to capture whoever is standing at the door. Unfortunately, you cannot currently access the camera on demand; however, Ring has announced that they intend to make this feature available in the coming months.
After six weeks of normal use, we’ve found that the battery has dipped by about 33 percent, indicating that it will require charging between two-to-three times annually if you don’t have it hooked up to a power source.
As a doorbell, the Ring currently leaves a bit to be desired, but as an extension of a home’s existing security system, it could prove to be invaluable. A handful of other smart doorbells have been made available to date, but the Ring meshes quality, utility, and ease of use in an attractive, albeit non-traditional package. You may find it to be a valued addition to your smart home… or should we say smart castle?
- Enormous security potential
- Intuitive app
- Easy installation
- Latency in time-to-answer
- Plastic-y case components