Gadget Review: The Ring Doorbell

Reading Time: 5 minutes
Answer your door from anywhere.
Answer your door from anywhere with the Ring Doorbell.

Answer your door from anywhere – this is the promise of the Ring Doorbell. And it fulfills that promise, with some motion-sensing security thrown in for good measure.

It’s a great idea, nicely implemented. An electronic doorbell that is WiFi enabled, letting you answer it from anywhere in the world. It also boasts zone-customizable motion sensing, to catch any outside action even when no one pushes the button.

I loved the concept, and was happy to try it out when it arrived at my door.

Installation

Very organized. This makes me happy.
Very organized. This makes me happy.

The Ring comes in a neat little box, with just about everything needed for installation included. The doorbell itself, a backing plate to screw to the wall, a screwdriver with two different heads, two wood screws and two stone and concrete screws with anchors. It even includes the right size drill bit for your power drill.

You have a choice of either hooking it up to an existing doorbell or by itself. Unwired, you will need to recharge it occasionally, but it will charge itself if you hook it to your old doorbell wires.

My old doorbell is just a boring button, so I went with the first option. I’m not the most handy person, but installing this took no more than five minutes for me.

They thought of everything.
They thought of everything.

Unscrew the old doorbell, screw the back plate to the wall (it comes with its own level) and attach the wires to the two spots on the back plate.

The instructions tell you to turn off the power to the doorbell first, of course. My electrician friend tells me there’s not enough juice in there to hurt you, but better safe than sorry.

Then, sync the Ring to your WiFi and phone. There’s an app to download (Apple and Google versions are available), and the app walks you through creating an account and connecting the Ring to your WiFi. Very smooth and easy.

Tip: The app will sync the Ring to whatever WiFi signal your phone is on during setup, so should your house have multiple WiFi signals, switch your phone to the one you want the Ring on first. Also, the Ring runs on 2.4 GHz WiFi signals, so if you have one of those fancy new 5 GHz routers you will need to use the lower band instead.

Looks good even on an ugly wall.
Looks good even on an ugly wall.

The doorbell unit then clicks into the back plate, with two tiny hex screws at the bottom of it for anti-theft security. Assuming thieves don’t just tear the thing off the wall, it’s not coming off unless those two little screws are removed first.

Tip: Sync before you attach. Changing to a different WiFi signal later requires you to take the Ring off the back plate to reach the setup button on the back of it.

And that’s it. The next time the doorbell is rang, your app notifies you. Tapping the notification opens the app, connects to the camera and microphone and gives you a live broadcast of what’s going on outside. It’s all one-way until you hit either ‘accept’ or ‘deny’. Deny turns it all off without letting anyone outside know you were watching. Accept takes you off mute and lets you speak to them directly.

If connected to your wired doorbell it rings that as well. And any phone or tablet with the app installed rings too. Ring even sells additional Chimes you can sync to your doorbell and stick in wall plugs all over your house for times you are not near any of your devices.

It works at night just as well. The camera has low-light functionality built into it.

You can set certain zones and exclude others.
You can set certain zones and exclude others.

You can also activate motion sensing as an extra security feature. The Ring continually scans the area around it for motion and lets you know if it sees anything. You can set zones of areas for it to watch (extending in cones from the device), how far out it watches and how often it updates you on what is happening (say your kid is playing on the lawn, you can set it so it doesn’t tell you over and over).

All activity is beamed to your phone or tablet. If you pay extra for the cloud recording feature, all activity is stored on their servers for later review – an additional security feature.

Verdict

Sorry pushy sales dude, I'm...indisposed.
Sorry pushy sales dude, I’m…indisposed.

I love it.

I don’t get a lot of visitors at the door, generally, but since I installed the doorbell:

  • I managed to talk to and discourage a pushy salesperson while I was, ah, biologically indisposed.
  • I caught a UPS driver before he left and was able to give him instructions to leave my parcel in a particular place.
  • Best of all, when my daughter was home alone and answered the door to two strange men, I was able to butt in, to make sure they knew they were being watched.
Election campaigners? Even worse.
Election campaigners? Even worse.

Good enough for me.

The video signal is clear and I’ve had no trouble talking to any visitors. The cloud service is great – I don’t think I’d go without it. I was able to go back and review the visit from the pushy salesperson, for example, so I could look up the company and see if it was legit or a scam.

It does depend on the strength of your WiFi signal, of course. If your door is in a low-strength area you may need to rearrange things or get a signal booster to help it out.

The motion sensing is a bit more problematic. I get a lot of false signals when the sun is bright and the temperature is warm. I’ve been working with the support team at Ring (and they’ve been great) but I need to keep the sensitivity all the way down to not have my phone going off all day.

The guys at Ring say I’m not typical though, for some reason, so your mileage may vary. They continue to work on software patches so this may improve as time goes by. Even as it is, it’s a nice feature and I look forward to improvements on it.

The Ring website has a ton of support articles to help you get things running and even has setup videos to make things extra clear. You can access cloud stored videos on your browser and they are all high quality.

The price tag may be a bit much for some – you can order the Ring from their website for $199 USD. Shipping is free for people in the US, and they’ll ship international for an extra $20. You get a free 30 days of the cloud recording, and it’s either $3/month afterwards for $30 for a year.

Still, I think it’s worth it. I love the extra security, I love being able to answer my door without leaving my computer. And I loved being able to scare my wife and kid when they came home the first time after I installed it.

Disclaimer: A sample of the Ring doorbell was provided for review purposes.

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