My connectivity issues notwithstanding, I’ve come to appreciate Ring’s motion alert feature, which sends the sound of a wind chime to your phone when someone approaches your door. Once you hear the chime, you can open a video window to talk with the visitor if you’re so inclined. Alternately, you can just let Ring’s cloud-based recording feature ($3 monthly or $30 annually) pick up the video of your visitor, and watch it later.
Ring says the battery should last anywhere from six to 12 months between charges, depending on how much activity your doorbell receives. Those claims might be a bit inflated, though. In my experience, the battery drained to under 40 percent in about six weeks of use, which means I’ll be recharging it every three months. For my testing, I had all the features enabled, such as motion detection and quick live view access. Ring says disabling these features will extend the battery life.
I opened the app, tapped Set Up Device, selected Doorbells, and selected the Pro from the list of choices. I named the device, entered my address (optional), and hit Continue. At this point you can play an instructional video if you're having difficulty. Next I was asked what type of bell my existing doorbell uses (mechanical, digital, none) and was prompted to press and release the button on the side of the Pro, at which point a voice informed me that I was entering setup mode. I hit Continue and was prompted to navigate to my phone's Wi-Fi settings and connect to the Ring network. I returned to the app and selected my home Wi-Fi SSID, entered my password, and waited around 20 seconds before the doorbell was connected. I attached the faceplate and was finished.
Our favorite security system for do-it-yourself monitoring and home automation is the $280 Abode Essentials Starter Kit, because not only does it add professional monitoring to your home, but it also works as a smart hub for third-party devices and helps facilitate home automation. But if you're looking for something a little more affordable and dead-simple to set up, Ring Alarm is worth a look.
The most useful product offered by Nest that the Ring system does not have is a connected lock. This tamper‑proof, key‑free deadbolt connects to the Nest app, letting you lock and unlock your door remotely. Users can also create passcodes for family, guests and people they trust, or give them a Nest Tag programmed to let them in only at certain times of the day.
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.
This works well. The install is easy. I have one very major complaint. The blurb on Amazon does not explain that you have to pay for a cloud subscription to store and retrieve the short videos of motion events. The promotional material and install instructions are structured such that you do not catch this ¨gotcha" until the unit is installed and you use it for a day or 2. There is no provision to store these videos locally on your own computer. I am giving this just one star because they are not up front about the need for a paid subscription and the lack of a local event video storage option.
The Ring Alarm Security Kit should be every buyer’s first purchase when organizing their security system. It comes with a base station, which is like the central command hub for your Ring devices. The base station connects to your internet to keep your alarm system online; it can also activate sensors and receive notifications from your connected devices.
As far as actually using the Video Doorbell 2, my experience was largely positive. The video that’s streamed live from the doorbell is bright and has decent resolution, and the IR sensors around the camera make it possible to see visitors at night, too. Connecting to the camera through the smartphone app was quick, even if I wasn’t home and had to use LTE, and the two-way microphone and speaker made it possible to talk to visitors directly. I was even able to view the camera’s feed on Amazon’s Echo Show — though it doesn’t support two-way audio, and I had some trouble connecting to the camera at times.
For larger spaces like your garage door or back patio, it might benefit you to invest in an additional motion detector. These devices can be configured to detect movement up to 30 feet, sending alerts to your phone whenever something enters the monitored area. As long as you mount the detector on a wall or corner of a room above seven feet, it shouldn’t be triggered by movement from small pets or pests, though that has still been known to happen.
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.”
Both systems offer exceptional protection and support, so the choice really comes down to your unique needs. For someone who wants their home to be fully automated and for their devices to talk to one another, Nest is the easy choice. While more expensive, the system offers excellent connectivity and added products like the Nest Tags and connected lock.
Update 1/24/16 - I have found a fantastic use for the Ring Doorbell and Chime. My mother-in-law, now in her 90s, lives by herself. She has become hard-of-hearing and often does not hear the doorbell. By installing the Ring on her door, she now is bothered much less (solicitors tend to recognize it and don't seem to like it) and when someone rings the bell, the Chime, placed by her favorite chair, gives her a better chance of hearing someone at the door.