To this day, I can remember how it felt to return home when I was 9 years old and discover that my family’s house had been burgled. It was the shock of the intrusion into our private space as much as it was the theft of all our belongings that upset me most as a child, and probably goes a long way in explaining why I’m now an anxious adult about home security.
So you can understand why I’m deeply interested in all the new home security devices that have hit the market in the last few years. The ones designed to make me feel safer in and out of my home. There’s now a huge range of easy-to-install lights, cameras and motion detectors from different tech brands. But one that’s quickly becoming synonymous with smart home security is Amazon's Ring.
Since Ring launched its first video doorbell in 2013, the company claims it has reduced burglaries and become the leading device to make doors smarter and safer all over the world. It’s easy to see why. Ring’s video doorbell range offers constant video monitoring of your front door to your phone, serves up notifications about motion and ‘rings’ and, crucially, is easy-to-install because none of them need to be hard-wired – renters, rejoice!
But 24/7 monitoring of your front door isn’t for everyone. For starters, it isn’t cheap (the cheapest is £89.99) – and you’ll need to buy a Ring Pro subscription to use the full features. There have also been a number of privacy concerns about who has access to Ring videos, as well as whether information is encrypted.*
We’re living in a time when we can record everything – and everyone – that passes by our homes, but just because we can does it mean we need to? We tested the Ring Video Doorbell 2 for a fortnight to find out whether it delivers on its promises.
What is the Ring Video Doorbell 2?
It’s a doorbell, but smarter. It can replace yours, sit alongside it or give you one if you never had one in the first place. Once installed, it allows you to have 24/7, real-time access to what’s going on at your front door with its 1080p camera that offers a 160-degree field of view and two-way calling.
It’s easy to see why video doorbells are appealing. The Ring Video Doorbell 2 doesn’t need much installation (we’ll get to that later), it gives your current door a tech upgrade, it provides instant peace of mind against intruders – especially if you don’t already have a smart security system – and it means you can talk to friends, family, couriers or the postman when you’re not there.
One of the biggest draws is the Ring’s quick installation, so did it deliver on its simple DIY promises?
Installation and Set-up
The Ring Doorbell comes with a battery, a different coloured cover for the front (you can choose between grey and black), tools you’ll need for installation and two different wall brackets, or wedges, one that’s straight and one that’s angled.
The first step is to charge the 6,100mAh battery, which takes about 5 hours. It’ll then – hopefully – last anywhere between 6 and 12 months depending on how often it’s used.
Next up it’s installation time and the accompanying Ring app walks you through every step of the process. Getting the Ring on the wall is the most important part here and there are a few choices: you can hard-wire it to replace your existing doorbell, or use it separately.
How you fit it will depend on the layout of your front door. You can use the normal, flat wedge so your Ring faces forward. Or, you can use an angled one, which is designed for if your door is in a porch or enclosed space and needs to point in a slightly different direction to pick up the motion of visitors.
The unique angle of my door meant I needed to use both wedges to get enough clearance off the wall and have it protruding at a slight angle. This worked, but gave fewer options for securing the Ring – it meant there were two holes to drill instead of four. Because of that it now feels a little less secure than it would have done with one, especially because these wedges are hollow, so it feels like I’ve built a small tower to put the Ring on.
When you’re deciding whether the Ring will work for you and your home, it’s also worth mentioning that it’s bigger than most standard doorbells, measuring 12.83cm x 6.35cm x 2.74cm, so it probably won’t fit on most door frames and would be best suited to a wall.
The whole process took about half an hour in total and although there were some tense moments before drilling, ensuring the holes were marked in the right place, it was mostly straightforward.
Once the Ring is physically installed it’s time to walk through the app’s set-up process to customise the settings, including types of motion, where the Ring will be situated and which notifications you’d like to receive.
App and Features
Once set-up is complete, the Ring is easy-to-use. If there’s motion, you get a notification. You can either choose to ignore it, go to a live feed or even start a two-way call so you can ask someone what they’re doing outside your door.
If someone presses the button, a chime will sound on your phone (which you can customise) and a video call will appear so you can decide to talk to the person – or ignore them if you’re busy.
This option is really helpful for all kinds of reasons, including when you’re not at home, if you want to see who’s at the door before you open it and if you often get a lot of packages throughout the day and need to be constantly on high alert.
The motion detection worked well and was very sensitive. I have the Ring positioned at the bottom of a flight of stairs – leading to a basement flat – and as soon as someone approached that top first step, the Ring spotted them. This was likely down to the thorough set-up process, which takes you step-by-step through a range of settings to find the right one for you.
But the best thing is that you can change these motion settings at any time within the app – it’s handy to have such a high level of customisation available at all times, especially if your door is facing a road, in which case you might need to tweak sensitivity settings a little to stop Ring alerting you whenever anyone is walking by.
The app design is simple and intuitive. There are a few different options to explore from the Ring’s homescreen, all of which are displayed as tiles.
Event History is where all records – and videos – of motion and rings are recorded. You can click on them to see stored videos. You can sort things here based on rings, motion and events you’ve starred.
There are lots of other settings, including motion, device health and battery life, changing app alerts and video settings. Some notable cool features are that you can add other users, snooze it if you’re going to be walking in and out a lot one day and check on the Ring’s battery settings.
The Ring Video Doorbell 2 can also be integrated with Alexa. You’ll need to activate the Ring Alexa Skill, and from there you’ll be able to tell Alexa to alert you when there are any notifications or see a live view of your front door if you have an Alexa device with a screen, like a Spot or a Show.
There’s an internet connectivity test within the app too and, if you find your WiFi signal is weak you can enhance it by adding a Ring Doorbell Chime to your set-up. This is an additional product, which you plug in somewhere between your router and your Ring.
It’s hard to know who will need this. Not only does it strengthen your WiFi signal, but it also adds a ringing doorbell sound to your whole home - like you’d get with a regular doorbell. It’s weird using the Ring without it because the notification just comes to your phone. I know what you’re thinking, isn’t that the whole point? But often it’s also handy to hear a ring like a normal doorbell, which is what the Chime is also for – it adds a chime to your Ring.
Most smart security products require you to sign up to some kind of subscription service to be able to use them fully and access older video content and ring has a number of Protect Plans to choose from.
These plans allow you to access videos every time someone rings or motion is detected. It also allows you to share videos and brings you discounts on other Ring products. The smart move here is you get a Ring Protect Plan for 30 days when you first set it up – this means if you’re anything like me you’ll have become accustomed to those added extras.
Without it, you’ll just be able to see live video, but it won’t be recorded in your Event History so you can’t watch it later or share it.
A Basic plan costs £2.50 a month or £24.99 a year, which brings you 30-day video history and video saving and sharing. A Plus plan is £8 a month or £80 a year, which also adds extended warranties for all Ring devices, as well as a discount on other products.
Although the Basic plan may not be expensive, it does add an additional cost to an already pricey device - especially if you bought a Ring Chime too.
The Ring Video Doorbell 2 has sensitive motion detection, an app that’s easy-to-use and a simple set-up that required no engineers or awkward conversations with the landlord.
But do you need one? Well, paying a subscription plan on top of the price of the Ring itself to store videos isn’t ideal, especially if you need a Ring Chime too. You may also need to take note of the dimensions and angles before you buy one – there’s a chance it won’t work for every doorway and home.
However, if you’re concerned about home security and would like the peace of mind of knowing who’s at your door whenever you like, and most importantly, wherever you are, it’s worth the money and brief DIY hole-drilling panic.
*Ring got in touch with the following comment about privacy, which we've put here to not disrupt the flow of the review. It is pretty wordy, after all - Ed.
We take the privacy and security of our customers’ personal information extremely seriously. In order to improve our service, we view and annotate certain Ring video recordings. These recordings are sourced exclusively from publicly shared Ring videos from the Neighbors app (in accordance with our terms of service), and from a small fraction of Ring users who have provided their explicit written consent to allow us to access and utilize their videos for such purposes. Ring employees do not have access to livestreams from Ring products. We have strict policies in place for all our team members. We implement systems to restrict and audit access to information. We hold our team members to a high ethical standard and anyone in violation of our policies faces discipline, including termination and potential legal and criminal penalties. In addition, we have zero tolerance for abuse of our systems and if we find bad actors who have engaged in this behavior, we will take swift action against them.