Getting this much capable home security hardware for $199 is an absolute bargain (the system became available for purchase today). Adding door/window sensors for $20 each and motion sensors for $30 is an absolute bargain. Paying $10 a month for professional monitoring and video storage in the cloud for an unlimited number of Ring security cameras is an absolute bargain. Ring Alarm will be a huge hit with people looking for a straightforward, easy-to-use home security system.
But let’s go over what it can do today, first. The very affordable ($199) starter kit includes a wireless base station, a keypad for arming and disarming the system, one door/window sensor, one passive infrared motion sensor, and a Z-Wave range extender. You can monitor the system yourself, but at the price Ring is charging for professional monitoring—just $10 per month ($100 per year if paid annually) with no long-term contract—it would be foolish not to sign up for it. That goes double for people who already have other Ring devices, because it includes video storage in the cloud for an unlimited number of Ring cameras.
Aside from the obvious value proposition, Ring’s big pitch for the Alarm system is its simplicity. Though it has all of the features necessary for a proper home security system – professional monitoring, battery and cellular backup for the event of a power loss – installing the Ring Alarm in my home took less than 20 minutes and involved following the app’s instructions to get the base station on my Wi-Fi network and register each included piece. Cleverly, Ring presets the included motion detector, contact sensor, and range extender to pair with the hub that’s in the box, so getting them set up is just a matter of pulling the battery tab to wake them up and waiting a moment for the app to find them.
It would have been convenient to have a device like a key fob for the Ring Alarm, as running to find the keypad or navigating the app to turn off the alarm takes a few seconds too long, but one does not currently exist. However, arming and disarming the system is relatively straightforward. I just had to dig through the paper manual to figure out how to correctly enter my PIN to change modes.
Now, on paper, this doesn’t sound like a frustrating process. And in best-case scenarios, the app would load as quickly as what you see in my video at the top of this article. But oftentimes these ostensibly brief steps would take forever. Sometimes my phone would be in another room. Sometimes I couldn’t quickly get it out of my pocket, or I’d fumble with my unlock code. But worst of all, sometimes the video chat screen would take an eternity to load.
I can see why you’re confused because really any of these three options will do everything you want and more. Is it important to you that your security system and camera use the same app? If so, maybe eliminate abode from the list. You can use the outdoor Nest Camera with abode, but it isn’t a great experience. If you want an outdoor camera that can record continuously and not just based on motion, that would be Nest Cam. If you don’t mind if the camera only records events and as you said, want a system without “big monthly charges,” Ring is probably the best choice for you. They recently launched an indoor camera, you could then add a video doorbell (ideal) or one of their outdoor cameras to your porch. You will need five contact sensors in total. Ring Alarm will include a mobile app for you to review footage and you can expand the system down the road if needed. As it just launched and based on Ring’s history of product support, the chances that it will be outdated soon are very slim.
Equipment sensor: I have an expensive four-wheeler and zero-turn mower in my backyard, and would like to see some kind of sensor (other than motion, too many plants and wind won’t make it practical) to protect these expensive items as well. This would be a great selling point; maybe like a magnetic plug stuck to a metal part of the bike’s body, that if it’s removed from that metal body it alerts the brain.
Ring Alarm doesn’t support smart lighting controls, door locks, thermostats, garage-door openers, or other common smart home products today, and there’s a very short list of supported third-party products. But it lacks nothing needed to support those and similar devices down the road. And in an interview with Ring Solutions president Mike Harris earlier this week, I learned that’s exactly what Ring intends to do.
There is currently no support for controlling the system with voice commands, but it should come as no surprise that Ring is developing an Alexa skill. Once you can arm your security system using a voice command, you won’t want to do it any other way (disarming it that way is whole other question). Harris was slightly more circumspect about supporting Google Assistant. “We remain committed to being open to all of the different pieces that are important to our customers. We’ll continue to march down the path of trying to support everything we can.” I got a similar answer when I asked about support for Apple’s HomeKit technology: “We’ve given it a lot of time. Again, we remain focused on bringing HomeKit support across the product line, but it won’t be available at launch with the Alarm products specifically.”
When I contacted customer service about this, they were friendly and helpful, but ultimately only gave me one extra month free trial, which has since expired and doesn't fix the problem. This is a product flaw. Be aware that if you want this to work properly, you're going to need to sign up for an ongoing subscription. To work as advertised, this is really a $200 doorbell with a $30 yearly subscription fee.