Ring Doorbell Overview

Introduction to the Ring Doorbell

When I installed the Ring Doorbell a couple of years ago, I have to admit that it felt like a bit of splurge. At the time it was. Is it really necessary to have a doorbell connected to your smart home? It’s just a doorbell, right? Well, over the last couple of years we have come to really appreciate the added functionality of a smart doorbell.

Ring Doorbell Applications

  • Notifications to your phone when the doorbell rings, even when you are not home.
  • Answer Remotely – Ability to answer the door on your phone from anywhere, including video and 2-way audio. This is great for avoiding moving from the couch for unwelcome solicitors!
  • Motion Detector that records video anytime someone approaches your front door. Great for securing packages from Amazon!
  • Live View from the doorbell if you need to see what’s going on outside.
  • Video Recording of events in the neighborhood, including things like reckless drivers and package thefts – we use it for both. The wide angle video records a width of about 8 homes in our neighborhood.
Ring doorbell app
Screenshot of the Ring app showing the basic controls. The app is very well designed.

Which Ring Doorbell Is Best?

We purchased the Ring Pro, which is a little more expensive ($250) than the original Ring or Ring 2. But the Ring Pro has a few extra features and is a little sleeker in design. Reviews also indicates that Ring worked out a few kinks with the hardware with the Ring Pro and so the reliability is expected to be a little better. You can reduce the cost a bit by getting an older mode. It looks like the original ring is just $99 now.

Ring doorbell
Ring doorbell with the door handle for size context. It is a little wider than a normal doorbell, but fits right in. The cover has a security screw to deter theft.

Installation

The ring was surprisingly easy to install. Installation took about 25 minutes from unboxing to working. It uses the existing wiring for your doorbell. It requires a certain minimum voltage to power the camera, but most modern doorbells can handle it fine. If you have an older doorbell (older than 25 years or more), you might also have to replace the doorbell transformer when installing the Ring. They are cheap and fairly easy to install. My 21-year old transformer worked just fine. Installation involved a few simple steps:

  1. At the Ringer: Taking the cover off the doorbell transformer in the house and adding a small controller to a couple of the wires. This was easy and took about 5 minutes.
  2. At the Doorbell: Removing the old doorbell and replacing it with the Ring. There are two wires to connect. Then you secure the ring to the house, including a small security screw to deter theft. This took about 10 minutes.
  3. Integration: This involves installing the Ring app, connecting the Ring to your WiFi network, and setting up the device. This took about another 10 minutes.

The ring is well packaged, with good clear installation instructions, and a well designed app. The entire installation was a piece of cake.

Ring doorbell closeup
Close-up view of the Ring doorbell showing the actual doorbell button (bottom) the video camera (top) and the motion sensor (small hole in upper right corner).

Video Subscription

Video works on the Ring out of the box for live viewing and answering the door through your phone. But if you want access to archived videos from doorbell rings or motion detection, you need to subscribe to their service. This is slightly annoying. But it is not that expensive at $3/mo (or $30/year). The service is actually pretty good, and provides unlimited cloud storage of all videos recorded by the Ring for six months. It also includes an easy option to download videos from the service to keep them.

Ring doorbell events
Screenshot of the Ring app showing event history. Each event has a link to the video that goes with it (with the Ring video subscription – $3/mo)
Ring doorbell video
Package drop off as seen in the recorded Ring video. It is nice to get a notification when there is a delivery, and to have video of the package on your porch until you get it.

Ring Doorbell Issues

During the first year that we had the Ring, it seemed like it was not quite ready for prime time. It sometimes did not work in very cold weather, and every few months it needed to be reset. After the first winter, the button got stuck inward and stopped working. Ring sent me a new one the next day under warranty, and it took all of 5 minutes to install. So no big deal. Ring support was outstanding.

But the new Ring had a few problems too. Every few months it would need to be reset, and I really don’t know why. The way it would crash would make it unresponsive to any input, so resetting it involved unscrewing it from the wall and removing a wire to cut the power. This is a pain, and not the kind of thing I was happy about doing every few months.

But for the last 6-8 months it has worked flawlessly. I am not sure if I just had bad luck, or if things got better due to a firmware update, or something else. I am just glad that it is working reliability now. Ring support was outstanding with every issue that came up, and that made the troubleshooting much easier. But the device just felt like it was not quite ready for prime time when I first got it and for the harsh temperature swings in Michigan from hot summers to frigid winters. We will see how this new one holds up in the long-run and maybe report more later.

Conclusions

After having the Ring for 2 years now, we would miss it if it were gone. It is really nice to be able to answer the door remotely, see packages on the front porch and have video recorded of motion out front. Although we have had a few problems as noted above, you should expect some troubleshooting when getting into smart home technology.

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