The Ring video doorbell is a WiFi connected doorbell that connects to your smart phone and allows you to answer your door no matter where you are, and what's more with the Ring doorbell you are able to not only speak but also see your visitors in real time. The question is though, at £159 is it worth the extra expense compared to a standard push button?
For a doorbell it certainly packs quite a few features into a small package.
Ring features a 180 degree 720P HD fisheye camera and noise cancelling microphones, plus of course a powerful loud speaker.
Ring comes with two power options; battery or low voltage wired AC. These power options allow for an easy installation as it can be simply screwed to any wall and run on battery, or if you have an existing doorbell simply wired to that and you're up and running. With the latter option it will even trigger the existing chime you have when pushed.
The Ring also includes infrared LEDs for night vision, and motion detection with user configurable sensitivity and directionality.
Ring is a fairly nice looking piece of equipment, it's surprisingly small at only 12cm tall yet has a sturdy reassuringly heavy feel to it.
The unit has an innovative mounting system that has it slide onto a plastic wall plate and then secured with the supplied security screws. The wall plate also features the contact terminals for existing wiring so you don't need to worry about cables being screwed into the unit itself. This makes removing for charging via the supplied USB charger very simple also.
In terms of overall wall presence, it is not the most subtle device in the world and certainly gets the attention of visitors, and the white LED ring when powered by a cable is even less subtle. That said judging by the number of criminals being caught by Ring doorbells and shared to social media, it is subtle enough to not be a problem.
The Ring without a doubt improves the security of your home. Combined with the cloud video recording you can record every person who comes into view of the camera. Installed on the front of your typical British home it would likely cover your entire front garden and your drive thus ensuring every ne'er-do-well who came near your house was captured in the act.
Of course the other advantage is that you're always able to answer your door. Popped out for a bit and the delivery guy turns up? No problem, when they ring the doorbell you can ask them nicely to leave the package in a safe place.
Another bonus is you can now view your Ring live on demand, useful if you hear a noise outside and want to investigate. For those with a cloud recording subscription, live sessions are also recorded for later review which is nice.
The device is slow to initialise, whilst on battery this makes sense as it must conserve battery. But even when hard wired to a power supply there is a noticeable lag between pushing the button and a notification coming through to your smart phone, or even for that matter the Ring chime device (Sold separately). And even after the notification arrives initialising the stream can take quite some time. The cause of this lag is unclear, I would presume the device is waking up and connecting to the network properly and that is what is causing the delay.
The problem with this delay is that if you have a fairly average length driveway, say about a car length and a bit, then a visitor could well have walked to your door, posted something through your door, and left, before the Ring has even started recording.
On the subject of battery, the Ring lasts nowhere near the stated time of 6-12 months, if you are lucky it might last 2-3 months but that is ambitious. For your average British home the motion sensing is likely being triggered so often by passers by that it is using battery far quicker than stated.
Passers by brings us to the next con, motion sensing. The motion sensing is functional in that it senses motion properly and without fail. The problem is that the device is far too sensitive, sometimes triggering for seemingly no reason at all. The settings allow you to configure the range and zones that are monitored for motion but as far as I can determine these settings make little to no difference. The Ring doorbell seems to be suited to very long driveways, if you have a fairly average driveway then chances are it is going to trigger for passing cars, pedestrians, cats, or fast paced leaves. Recording too much is better than nothing at all, but it does make trusting the motion alerts difficult, and at times frustrating.
In addition, the tactile response from the button is poor. The button is very solid and doesn't really move at all when pushed, it doesn't particularly feel like a button so it isn't that obvious it's been pressed. Were it not for the noise the doorbell makes then you would not know it was pressed, but with the aforementioned delay that can be a little wait so can be confusing to visitors.
Finally a couple of little complaints, the Ring does not support 5Ghz wireless and so I had to run a 2.4Ghz wireless network just for the Ring. Also, the chime noise is not customisable; that said the Chime device has gained customisable sounds so perhaps there is hope yet for that feature on the Ring doorbell itself.
There are a number of things I hope to see added to the Ring in the near future.
Support for iOS 10 call integration feature so a ring at the doorbell behaves like a phone call rather than a notification.
Improved initialisation times, especially for wired devices that don't have the concern of battery conservation.
Apple Watch support, in lieu of call integration perhaps a snapshot of a caller on the wrist would be a convenient addition for a quick glance to see if you really need to answer the door.
A better way to handle situations where the doorbell rang but you didn't answer the app and simply opened the door (This happens a lot). There is a difference between a missed call, and one that was answered but just not in the app, i.e. actively dismissing the call. At the moment both those scenarios are considered missed and recorded as such in the app so it's hard to review recordings of genuinely missed calls.
Does the Ring doorbell support Apple HomeKit? No. Despite very misleading blog posts and social media comments to the contrary, the Ring doorbell does not and will not support Apple HomeKit. They do have plans to support HomeKit but not in the current generation Ring, only the Ring Pro (Not available in the UK currently). Furthermore they have no plan to offer an upgrade programme for those who wish to upgrade to a Ring Pro to gain HomeKit support despite the rather misleading communications to the contrary that may have led some people (Including yours truly) to prematurely purchase the Ring in anticipation of future support.
Despite the numerous bug bears, the Ring doorbell is an excellent piece of equipment that undoubtedly improves the safety and security of your home. Combined with the cloud recording service the Ring doorbell makes for an excellent crime deterrent and should it be necessary an excellent piece of evidence should you unfortunately be a victim of crime.
It is low cost, easy to install, and brings an added layer of security to your home. Not only that it brings an extra layer of convenience should someone come to the home whilst you are out, or should there be someone at the door you don't wish to speak to like a doorstep sales person.
The Ring would also be an excellent purchase for the more tech savvy older generation, and definitely an excellent purchase for the more vulnerable who live alone and perhaps don't want to open the door to strangers.
I would whole heartedly recommend everyone buy a Ring doorbell.