Review: Ring Doorbell is 'caller ID for the front door'

Ring was founded in 2012 by Jamie Siminoff after pitching the idea to his wife about reinventing the doorbell for the modern world to improve both convenience and security. Rightly she loved the idea, and called it "like caller ID for the front door.” 

Others supported the vision set forth by Siminoff and the company raised $28 million of investment last year, including from Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. Now we're here with the Video Doorbell to see whether the device has achieved its ambitious goal. 

Your front door's new companion 

The doorbell is often the first thing your visitors will engage with, and therefore you want it to make a good impression. Ring clearly put a lot of thought into the design of their doorbell to ensure it matches your existing design choices – with satin nickel, polished brass, antique brass, and Venetian bronze colour options available. 

Although the Ring is larger than most traditional doorbells at 12.65cm x 6.17cm x 2.21cm you won't feel ashamed to complement your front door with this device due to its sleek design and robust build quality. The doorbell is unassuming as not to draw too much attention, but comes to life when you interact with it. 

Pressing the doorbell produces a satisfying blue light which surrounds the button. Unfortunately, the built-in speaker isn't as loud as we'd like and you'll need the "Chime" accessory which Ring sells additionally to clearly hear it around most homes. Of course, the primary alert system is a notification on your devices which is what makes Ring such an improvement over a traditional doorbell. 

If a wired doorbell is set up on your property then Ring can tap its existing mains power to keep the device running. If not, you'll need to give its built-in battery a charge every six to 12 months (dependent on usage.) This may put some people off, but for us, the benefits are worth this minor inconvenience. 

(Image: Ring Doorbell with mounting accessories) 

We're impressed with the mounting accessories which Ring included with their doorbell. Inside the box, you’ll find a mounting plate with anti-theft screws, level, screwdriver, drill bit, anchors, wood screws, and, of course, masonry screws. This comprehensive kit allows for Ring to be installed quickly on any typical surface. 

As for the device specs, the centerpiece is the 720p camera with 180-degree field of view. The camera uses infrared LEDs for its night vision and motion detection. A stable WiFi connection is required for its notification, cloud recording, and streaming features. 

A great device requiring software updates 

The software for Ring lets the experience down with an interface which could do with a fresh coat of paint, a couple of improvements to existing functionality, and the addition of a feature which many would expect to exist out-the-box. Luckily for Ring, software issues can be ironed out and none of those we’ve found would stop us from recommending the doorbell. 

(Image: Ring Doorbell home screen) 

Starting off with the positives, the setup experience is seamless and it took us five minutes to set up the doorbell and get started. A quick test press of the doorbell fired notifications to our Android smartphone, iOS tablet, and Windows 10 PC instantaneously, which is the most important core feature of this device to get right. 

A press on the notification will provide a live stream of the camera although it did have some noticeable latency which is the first performance issue we'd like to see addressed. Camera quality is good in both daylight and in the dark. In the unfortunate event footage had to be used from the Ring following a break-in or theft, we believe it could provide useful detail. You can hear noise-cancelled audio from the doorbell and respond back with impressive clarity on both sides. 

(Image: Doorbell live video feed) 

The aforementioned missing feature we expected is the ability to see a live feed off the camera on-demand without the need for someone to activate the doorbell first. We're assured the feature is in the pipeline. (Update: This feature is now available.)

Ring's motion detection uses infrared to differentiate things which give off heat from those which don't to help reduce false alerts. If you're still finding yourself receiving too many alerts, Ring has provided a few options to personalise the doorbell to your requirements such as reducing/increasing the distance in which motion is detected, setting "zones" to ignore, and choosing how many alerts you wish to be sent. 

(Image: Motion detection customisation) 

With the Ring Doorbell you'll get a month of their cloud storage free. Following your trial, it will cost £2.50 ($3) per month or £25 ($30) annually. On the company's website, you can find clips of examples where footage stored in their cloud service has been shared with law enforcement after property was stolen. It's a shame Ring doesn't offer support for alternative storage providers, such as Netatmo who allow the use of Dropbox for storage with their Welcome cam, but what Ring offers is fast and works. 

In just minutes after the Ring Doorbell has been pressed or motion has been detected, you'll find the footage available for download or sharing if your broadband has reasonable upload speeds. We're impressed with how fast video appears to be uploaded and prepared for analysis; in fact, we'd say it's the fastest we've come across yet. 

"The Ring doorbell acts as a deterrence for thefts in that a suspect doesn't want to approach a house that he will be caught on video. If a theft does still occur, the cloud storage gives officers the tools to apprehend the suspect and retrieve the victim's property," says Jayson Siller, LAPD officer. 

There's always the question of whether putting devices such as Ring outside your house will have the opposite intended effect and draw the attention of burglars. Ring claims that after giving its doorbell to one in 10 people in a Los Angeles community burglaries had reduced 55 percent over a six month period. 

Ring has partnered with some other companies to connect the doorbell with their products including heavyweights such as Kevo, Wemo, ADT, Lockstate, Wink, Kisi, and Lockitron. For connecting with other devices, Ring has launched an IFTTT channel so you can build custom recipes such as flashing or changing the colour of your Hue bulbs when the doorbell is pressed. 

Our video review of the Ring Doorbell can be found below (Please note: the review mentions the 'Ring' logo being upside down on the Chime accessory, but this was an issue with early review units and retail devices have since been corrected.)

 

Ring Doorbell has an RRP of £159/$199 and each Chime accessory has an RRP of £25/$28. Both can be purchased from Ring's website here. 

Are you impressed with Ring's video doorbell? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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