Ring Video Doorbell 2 Review: A truly smart home gadget
The Ring Video Doorbell 2 and surrounding ecosystem of gadgets are easy to install and use, as long as your broadband is up to scratch.
- Good video quality
- Intelligent zones for video pickup
- Easy to add more Ring modules
- Rechargeable battery
- Needs a solid upload speed
- Floodlight needs an electrician to install
- Chime extender may not be your best connection option.
While home automation is hardly a new field, in the past few years we've seen an explosion of smart, Internet-connected gadgets that make it feasible to keep an eye on your home from wherever your smartphone happens to be.
Ring's second-generation Video Doorbell improves on its predecessor in a number of intelligent ways, and it's also one of the easiest home security solutions to install I've ever tested.
The Ring Video Doorbell's design is essentially utilitarian, with a rather obvious camera module set above a large friendly button that acts as the doorbell switch. Just in case your visitors (unwanted or not) aren't sure what to do, the product branding is situated just below, letting them know that they need to ring the bell by pressing the button.
Ring provides two different front faceplates in silver or black to give you a choice of bell styles, and these are easy enough to snap on and off as long as the security screw at the base isn't tightened in. I can't see too many Ring users opting to change once they've picked a preferred style, but you could always do so, or simply keep the extra faceplate around as a spare if the existing one is scratched.
The one thing that the Ring Video Doorbell 2's design isn't is subtle. That has some impact if you're viewing it as more of a security measure than a simple greeting one because it'll be immediately apparent to any visitor as to its function. If you prefer a more "hidden camera" security style, this may not be the approach for you.
Smart home equipment can be a real pain to get set up, because it's often a complex matter to sort out power, Internet, accounts and positioning. Here I've got to give serious plaudits to the Ring team, because the documentation for the Ring Video Doorbell 2 is simply superb, with plenty of detail as to how to charge the battery, set up a Ring account and install the actual doorbell.
One of the major changes for the second generation of Ring doorbell is the inclusion of a rechargeable battery, which has to be powered up before installation. That's a slight downer if you're keen to play with your new video doorbell, but once it's done you can get on with installing it on a suitable surface.
Here Ring has covered just about every possibility, with two optional angular plates to affix it to wooden exteriors, as well as plug screws if you're attaching it to a brick surface. You even get a drill bit to plunge the needed holes in for more solid surfaces, as well as a screwdriver to fit the bell to the backing plate and screw in the security screw at the base.
If you're not that DIY-minded you might be a tad apprehensive. That's probably an apt description of me, frankly, but Ring's documentation and tutorial videos really do cover what you need to do easily and without making you feel stupid along the way. It's a bit of a masterclass on how to make tech products simple for the layman, and that's no bad thing.
There is one minor downside to the Ring Video Doorbell 2 installation process, and that's to do with actual placement. Because it operates off your home Wi-Fi, signal strength is a genuine concern, but the only real way to work out optimal placement is to install it and test how well it really works.
Ring recommends moving your router if feasible, and that's got to be preferable to drilling extra holes in your external walls, but for some folks, that's not always going to be possible. You can also optionally buy the Ring Chime Pro, a plug-based bell that also acts as a Wi-Fi range extender to help you.
The Ring Video Doorbell 2 features a 1080p camera with both heat and infrared sensors on board to detect motion within its 160-degree field of vision, although you can restrict that down within the app if there are areas that are likely to trigger lots of false positives. I have a shared driveway, so I quickly disabled one far zone in the Ring's viewpoint to stop my neighbour's car constantly setting the Ring Video Doorbell 2 off.
When motion is detected, by default your connected phone (or other devices you nominate via email when setting up each Ring component) will chirp into life to let you know someone's approaching, whether or not they actually ring the bell.
That's a neat step that provides extra security beyond just recording if the button happens to be pushed. Video is backed up to your Ring account as long as you subscribe at a cost of $4 per month to Ring's cloud service. The Ring Video Doorbell 2 will operate sans a subscription, but without any archival backup, which limits its security potential.
The one major caveat here is that you need a decent broadband connection in order to answer a call, even if you happen to be within your home at the time. Specifically, you'll need a good upload speed. Ring recommends at least 2Mbps upload, but more is most definitely better in this respect.
My home connection is currently Telstra HFC, which means 2Mbps is the top range of provided upload, and it's only just enough for Ring. While it always recorded, I did hit a few instances where the app couldn't connect to the Ring doorbell, and pretty clearly the low upload speed was at fault.
Switching to a 4G LTE hotspot made an immense difference in video quality and connection speed, and clearly, anyone on an NBN connection above the baseline 12/1Mbps speed would also be at a huge advantage.
The Ring Video Doorbell 2 is just part of Ring's ecosystem of devices. Ring sells two different Chime devices, with the key difference between the Chime and Chime Pro being the inclusion of Wi-Fi extension on the Pro device. Either will pair with the Ring Video Doorbell 2 for bell-based duty and without it, your phone is the only thing that will actually ring.
Wi-Fi reception is an incredibly variable creature, and my own tests with the Chime Pro didn't entirely endear it to me as an improvement on my existing mesh Wi-Fi network. That may relate to the mesh network and Chime Pro not playing well together, and your experience may vary, but I'd suggest that Chime Pro buyers keep the receipt for a quick return in case it doesn't improve their Wi-Fi. I've no complaints on the Chime side, apart from the fact that you can't load your own tunes to use as optional bells.
Ring also sells a Floodlight camera with an inbuilt siren, and this is a rather more serious product, given it requires wiring into your home's existing electrical circuitry. For the purposes of review, Ring provided me with a pre-built Floodlight mounted on a board and capable of plugging into a power socket, but this isn't the default method.
As an extension of a Ring system, it works quite well, and my neighbours weren't all that happy when I tested the Siren out. Realistically, the Floodlight Camera feels like a good extension once you've got the Ring Video Doorbell 2 up and running and you're happy with it, given the additional cost of installation and rather more permanent fixed status it occupies.
I can't stress enough the need to test your broadband speed before pursuing the Ring Video Doorbell 2 because if you're on a connection that isn't up to snuff in upload speed terms, it's going to be a frustrating experience.
If you're sitting pretty on a connection that can handle its upload requirements, however, it's one of the easiest smart home products to install I've ever tested, and one of the most accurate. During my review period, I've used it to deal with couriers, chat with my wife when she was returning home and even spot a neighbourhood dog coming to dig up my front garden, all from my smartphone.
Ring Video Doorbell 2: What the other reviewers say
|Gizmodo Australia||"If you do have good 'net, and you've got the right location in which you can install the Video Doorbell 2, it's a great piece of technology. "||N/A|
|CNET||"Ring's latest battery-powered buzzer is oh-so easy to charge. "||3.5/5|
|Trusted Reviews||"A neat way to keep an eye on your front door, boosting security when you’re at home or away."||4/5|
|TechRadar||"The Ring Video Doorbell 2 has its drawbacks - but its excellent app and great motion tracking may make it the best choice for you."||4/5|
|Ausdroid||"If you’re at all interested in a doorbell that you can use while you’re away, definitely give the Ring Video Doorbell 2 a go."||N/A|
Pricing and availability
The Ring Video Doorbell 2 retails in Australia for $329 from a variety of retailers including Amazon Australia. It's also available as the Ring Pro with a 24 VAC Adaptor and the Chime Pro included. The Ring Floodlight Cam costs $379 outright (not including installation). As a standalone item, the Chime Pro costs $79, while the regular Chime is $59. An optional solar panel costs $79, while a secondary quick charge battery costs $49.
- Product Name
- Ring Video Doorbell 2
- Video quality
- 802.11 b/g/n 2.4Ghz only
- 12.83cm x 6.35cm x 2.74cm
- Supported OS
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