This is the first of what will likely be many reviews of products I'm installing in our new house. We moved from a fully integrated, state-of-the-art smart home into a "new house" that is in effect a 21-year-old McMansion that the previous owner did literally nothing to upgrade. If you've been reading my articles and reviews over the years then you know that wasn't going to last, as I've got the worst case of upgrade-itus in the specialty AV business and just enough credit card limit to be dangerous.
What is exciting in late 2019 is what is possible for the home automation customer who isn't a one-tenth-of-one-percenter and/or the owner of a $5,000,000 plus home. Lutron Caseta lights are exciting and available for like $50 per load at Home Depot. SimpliSafe alarms offer a lot of compelling features for only a few hundred dollars. Smart locks from the likes of Kwikset, Yale, August (review coming soon), and others change the way you look at gaining access to your home. But the topic of today's review is the nearly ubiquitous Ring Doorbell. This product has changed the game for so many people in such meaningful ways that almighty Amazon actually bought the company.
For my house, the best solution was the Ring Peephole Cam, which I purchased at Home Depot for $199 (sorry Amazon, I was there and I've spent plenty with you in the last few months, so don't complain). That $199 gets you a wireless doorbell peephole replacement that any competent DIYer can easily install with nothing more than perhaps a screwdriver. The unit connects to your Wi-Fi, but what doesn't these days? And the all-important Ring app leads you through a setup process that frankly couldn't be much easier. Simply select the device, name it, poke a few more buttons, and you're good to go. What they don't tell you so much is you really want to sign up for their video recording service for $30 per year to get the most out of the product. They have more expensive services, but that is more for using Ring like a full-fledged security system, and I don't need that as we have a professionally installed security system complete with 24/7/365 monitoring and a full-time armed guard down the street. Without the $30 yearly service, I learned your Ring Peephole works for video but it doesn't record it. Well, that's no good, especially if you get as many Amazon packages as I do left on the front doorstep.
Another insider tip for the Ring Peephole Cam is to give the internal rechargeable battery a solid charge before you get started. The concept of the removable battery might not be evident to everyone at first, but it makes sense pretty soon as the battery comes out of the house-side of the unit and plugs in like pretty much every other phone, tablet, or other wireless device in the world today. Give it a few hours to get a full charge and use the Ring App to check the battery's level of charge. It lasts a pretty long time - perhaps as much as a month. I haven't really drained the sucker full just yet, so I don't know the full span of the battery. Much like you likely don't drain your gas tank in your car down to "E," I recommend you change your Ring every few weeks so you never have an issue.
The Ring App is very intuitive and very much needed for setup and long-term operation. I highly suggest you play with the volume and tones for the doorbell and alerts for people at your door. You can (and should) adjust the volume, the various tones (one drove me nuts the first few days) and the overall sensitivity of the unit so that you don't get false notices. The app is pretty easy to adjust that way.
The biggest problem that my wife and I ran into with the Ring Peephole Cam was that our new house is much bigger than our old house. Simply put, when people rang the doorbell, we couldn't hear them in many places in the house. There is an affordable Ring solution call a Chime, which is a $29 Wi-Fi controlled extender for the doorbell that you plug into the wall. We bought two of these and could expand as needed. You do need to set them up on the Ring app to adjust the tones and volumes (although it's a little deeper in the menus and I had to do a support chat to find out). We haven't had an issue with missing doorbell rings since installing the Ring Chime devices.
The High Points
Competition and Comparison
There are all sorts of products that do what Ring does, but I am not sure how well. There are less-expensive Z-Wave products from companies like Aeotech that look slick, but I have not tested them. There are traditional video camera systems like the one that I had from Snap AV in my old house that have a much more robust camera system and a big, non-cloud DVR that installs in your AV rack. That was cool, as I could see what was going on via my Crestron-controlled iPads. but that is a much more expensive solution.
SimpliSafe is another player in the marker that is somewhat affordable but is more of a full security system than a one-off doorbell system like what I needed for my house. If you type "wireless doorbell" into Amazon.com, you will find countless options that are all less expensive than the relatively affordable Ring product with varying levels of fit and finish and or brand equity.
I needed to work a bit to get my Ring Peephole Cam to do all of the things that I want it to do and I look forward to seeing how I can tie it in to future home automation system, as I have only just begun with that project here. Considering the ease of installation, the ease of setup, the low cost, the expandability and more, though, I am pretty happy.
One of the early themes of this new house/system is "Look at what can be done today (and for how little money)." For example, my 85-inch Sony G-Series 4K TV is now full panel lit and includes HDR functionality. Five years ago, my 4K 85-inch Samsung was edge-lit and had no HDR and it cost $10,000 retail, not $3,000-ish. I feel the same way about my Ring products: they are better performers in many ways that the Snap AV system that I had in my last house, and yet they cost a fraction of the price. My credit card might be hammered right now, but it isn't because of the Ring. This new-school, for-the-people home automation product checks nearly every box and for a very fair price. I am a very happy customer.
• Visit the Ring website for more information.
• Read The Future of Home Entertainment is Smart, Not Big at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Read Control4 DS2 Mini Door Station and Intercom Anywhere Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.