The home appliances that we use every day continue to evolve as technology is improved. We have washers and dryers that can automatically contact the vendor when there is a hardware issue, refrigerators that are connected to the internet and thermostats that we can program with our phones. But the doorbell hasn’t evolved with the rest of our home devices… at least till now. The Ring Smart Video Doorbell lets you see and speak to your visitors even if you’re not home. Let’s check it out.
What’s in the box?
Ring Video Doorbell
Diode for hardwiring
What is it?
The Ring Doorbell is a doorbell with a built-in HD 720p video camera and two-way audio. It connects via WiFi to your home’s wireless network and alerts you when you’re home or away from home when someone is at your front door. It will alert you when there’s motion and when someone rings the bell and will give you the ability to have a two-way conversation with the person.
Ring comes in the version you see here which will work with homes that already have an existing hardwired doorbell and for homes with a wireless doorbell or no doorbell at all. It is available in 4 colors including the antique bronze version that was sent to me.
Ring also sells a sleeker Pro version of the doorbell that is priced at $249 and is for hardwired installations only.
Setup and installation
Installing the Ring Doorbell is quick and easy, especially if you are installing the wireless version like I did. My home doesn’t have a wired doorbell, so the install process is basically just a matter of screwing the back plate to the wall and sliding the doorbell in place.
There is one thing to keep in mind if you’re doing a wireless install of the Ring Doorbell. If you don’t hardwire the doorbell, you will NOT have on demand live video viewing capability. The only time you’ll see a live video view is when motion is detected or someone rings the doorbell.
But first, I charged the doorbell’s internal battery by connecting it my computer with the included micro USB cable. While charging, an LED ring around the button glows blue to show the battery capacity. A full charge of the doorbell’s battery should keep it running for 6-12 months between charges. The mobile app will alert you when the battery is running low.
Then I took the doorbell outside and removed my existing cheapie stick-on wireless doorbell located to the left of my front door. Luckily my WiFi signal was strong enough to work outside. If your WiFi isn’t strong enough, you will need to install a booster.
I removed the back plate from the Ring Doorbell, snapped in the included orange plastic level and screwed the plate into the wall using the included hardware.
The doorbell slides in place over the plate and is held there securely with the screws on the bottom. If someone happens to steal your doorbell, Ring will replace it if you provide them with a police report.
Note: The Ring Doorbell will work in freezing temperatures and is weather resistant. Operating temperatures for Ring Doorbell are -5 – 120°F (-20 – 50°C).
The next step was to download the Ring Doorbell app to my Nexus 6P Android smartphone (there’s an iOS version too) and follow the steps to connect the doorbell to my phone. Once connected, I configured the user settings which allow multiple people to receive the doorbell alerts and motion settings.
For motion settings, you can decide how far out from the doorbell you want it to detect motion. Ring Doorbell can detect motion up to 30 feet away from the device. If your home is close to a busy road, cars passing by will probably set it off. If you don’t want to hear an alarm every time someone drives by, you can adjust the distance.
The way the Ring Doorbell detects motion is by heat. The image above from Ring’s site shows what the Ring Doorbell sees.
Putting the Ring Smart Video Doorbell through its paces
The video camera in the doorbell is wide angle, which gives the image a fish eye look like you see above. The first thing I noticed was an over exposure issue with the motion captured images and live view when the doorbell is pressed. As you can see in the image above, the person at the door (me) is properly exposed, but the background is way too bright.
The over exposure issue even happens when night vision is on.
The over exposure issue is also seen during live viewing when motion is detected or the doorbell is pressed.
The over exposure issue is more of an annoyance than anything else because the person at the door can be seen clearly. You just can’t see details and objects in the distance.
I contacted Ring’s live chat support on their website and asked about the exposure issue and received the following info:
Asked via AnswerDash: “I have a Ring that was sent to me for a product review on my site the-gadgeteer.com I’ve noticed that the picture has very bright areas that are over exposed both in the day and night. I don’t see this in your demo videos or screenshots. is there a way to fix it?”
Zachery joined the chat
Hello, Thank you for reaching out.
The camera exposure’s focal point is the center point in the video, which is set due to that visitors’ faces tend to be in the middle of the image.
If Ring is in a recessed area with a bright sunlit area outside of a walled walkway, you will see the porch area will tend to be dark, ensuring that up close faces can be seen.
Our development team is looking at options for automatically adjusting exposure settings and the possibility of allowing users to customize exposure themselves. We apologize for any inconvenience as we work on this feature.
ok that’s what i needed to know. i wasn’t sure if i had a defective camera. mine is setup under a covered porch and the yard outside the porch is the over exposed area. does that sound typical?
Yes, This does occur in those circumstances. I apologize for the inconvenience.
This must be a frequently asked question because as soon as I asked it, the answer showed up in a big block like he had pasted it in.
When Ring detects motion, the mobile app will vibrate and pop up a notification. If someone presses the doorbell, the phone will vibrate and play the doorbell tone on both your phone and the Ring Doorbell.
The mobile app keeps a history of motion and doorbell presses. Short videos are captured with each alert and are stored for 6 months on Ring’s cloud server. There’s a $3 per month / $30 annual charge for this service. 30 days of free cloud service is included with the Ring Doorbell purchase, but if you opt out of paying for their cloud service, the Ring Smart Doorbell becomes an expensive dumb doorbell with only the live view when someone rings the bell, but no storage of the video clips.
Something else to keep in mind is that the doorbell tone may not be heard inside your home if you’re not in the same room and or don’t have your phone with you. To remedy this issue, Ring sells an indoor unit called Chime.
The Chime is a simple wireless speaker that plugs into a wall outlet and plays the doorbell tone inside your home so you can hear it. Multiple chime units can be paired with your Ring Doorbell if you have a large home. Each one is an optional $29.95 purchase. I really think at least one chime should be included with the Ring Doorbell because it should not be expected that the user carry their phone with them 24/7 just to hear the doorbell inside their home.
Video and audio quality (other than the over exposed image) is decent however I did notice an occasional voice warble during a 2 way audio conversation.
I’ve had the Ring Doorbell installed for a couple weeks and am happy with the way the doorbell works and performs. There are a few issues though. One is the over exposure issue that I already mentioned and the other issue is that if you someone rings the doorbell and you don’t answer it in time, there is no way to see if the person is still there or initiate a 2-way conversation. I’m hoping that both of these issues can and will be resolved with a firmware update at some point in the near future.
The Ring Smart Video Doorbell brings new and useful technology to the simple push-button doorbell that we’ve all been using for decades. It can detect motion and alerts my phone even when I’m miles away (or even in another part of the house) so I can see who is at my door in time for me to talk to them in real time.