Some of you may have seen my post last week where I showed how to install a Ring doorbell. It’s the latest addition to my smart home setup and I’ve spent the last week using it and gathering my thoughts. The Ring promised to give me an easy to use video intercom at my front door that linked directly to my phone. I wanted to use it to screen door-to-door sales people, religious zealots, and tell the damn Fedex delivery guy to just leave the package at my front door so I wouldn’t have to drive to their distribution center 30 minutes away. So what’s the verdict, does the Ring make my home smarter, or is it just an overpriced doorbell? Let’s get into it.
First off, installation was a breeze. The tools and instructions included with the ring made it a breeze to install. It took me less than 30 minutes to install it and that includes the time it took for me to film and document the whole process. I’ve got to give the Ring team kudos there, its a streamlined process most people should be able to follow.
I was lucky enough to have a hard wired power source available at my front door from my old doorbell, so I won’t have to worry about taking my Ring down and charging it every few months. Also the chime inside my house that was linked to my old doorbell continues to work when someone presses my Ring. So I still get an old school chime as well as a push notification to my phone. The best of both worlds.
After Installation I immediately started playing with the app and digging down into the functionality of the Ring. I enabled Ring alerts and Motion alerts off the bat. Ring alerts are push notifications that are sent to your phone when someone presses the button on the Ring. Motion alerts are push notification sent if the Ring detects any motion near itself. 48 hours into my testing I had to turn off motion alerts. The Ring was located 20-30 feet from the street and recessed in an entryway (see photo below) and even on it’s lowest sensitivity setting it was still giving me way too many false positives. My phone was blowing up every time a car drove by. I was getting at least 20 motion alert notifications a day. So motion alerts are basically useless for me, that’s ok though, I didn’t buy the Ring with the intention of using it as a security device. In a more rural setting (or at least a less urban setting) this feature would probably work quite well, but for me it’s more trouble than it’s worth.
Ring notifications fared slightly better, but are still far from perfect. Theoretically pressing the button on the front of the Ring should create an immediate video link to my phone so I can see who’s at my front door. In practice it’s not very “immediate”. I often found that by the time the notification got pushed to my phone, I responded, and the video link was established, the person at my front door had already walked away. The lag between pressing the button and having a live feed of my doorstep is probably between 5 and 10 seconds. Which isn’t bad, but for the impatient delivery man it might just be too long. That’s a little disappointing considering half the reason I bought the ring was so that I could tell the Amazon delivery guy to just leave my package on the doorstep if I wasn’t home. In other uses cases it fared better. I used to have a hard time hearing my doorbell when I was up on my third floor, that problem is eliminated so long as I have my phone nearby.
It’s also great for screening undesirable front door callers. I consider myself to be a pretty nice person, but even nice people have their limits. Recently I had to close my door on a salesman still in the middle of his pitch after repeatedly telling him I wasn’t interested in what he was selling. Sorry Mr. Salesman, but you only get so many hours in life and frankly I don’t want to waste them hearing about how much better your broadband service is compared to your competitors.
If you live in a rough neighborhood where theft is a real concern I wouldn’t run out and buy a Ring. After installing one, I’m confident I could uninstall one in less than a minute with the right tools. That’s something to consider when you’re strapping a $200 piece of tech to your front porch. Ring tries to use some obscure fasteners to complicate the uninstallation process, but frankly I don’t think it’s enough.
I’m also disappointed with how the Ring integrates into my Google Home ecosystem. I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but I expected more than this. I can change a few of the Ring’s setting using the Google Assistant, I can ask when it was that someone last rang my doorbell, I can ask it about my Ring’s “health” (battery level) and… well, that’s about it. Ring really missed an opportunity here, my Google Home should sound an alert when someone presses my Ring. Similarly it would’ve been great if I could stream a live video feed from my Ring to a Chromecast enabled device. Maybe those features will be added in the future software updates, but I suspect it’s more likely that they will be added in future hardware updates. You know, so that you have to pay for them.
The fisheyed video feed that comes from the Ring isn’t going to win any awards, but it’s perfectly adequate. You can easily recognize friends and foes from the 720p video feed. There are some more expensive Ring products that offer 1080p video, but I’m not sure how that would perceptibly enhance the user experience. The Ring also sports very functional night vision for those of you who don’t have a lot of outdoor lighting. There’s an option that allows you to enable a live video feed from your Ring at all times, not just when someone presses the button, however enabling it really drains the Ring’s battery. Even my hardwired setup isn’t enough to keep up with battery drain though, so I had to turn off this function as well.
The Ring’s build quality is a mixed bag. On one hand, it feels very nice in the hand, it’s heavy, has a metal body, looks good (subjective I know), and the actual doorbell button has a satisfying click to it. On the other hand, my Ring’s battery appears to be loose inside of the body, I could feel it sliding around as I installed my Ring. I know, I know, the Ring is going to spend it’s entire life mounted to my door frame so it’s not going to get jostled around, but why wouldn’t you spend the time to secure the battery properly inside of the device? It just feels cheap and gives me some slight reservations about the long term durability of the Ring.
So should you buy a Ring? If you want a bare bones video intercom at your front door that’s linked to your phone, its actually a pretty compelling product. Don’t buy it for the motion sensing. Don’t buy it because you’re looking to expand what your Google Home can do. Buy it if you want push notification on your phone when someones at your front door or if you want an easy way to screen front door callers.
I really wanted to love the Ring. As it stands, I’m just luke warm on it. Its a good product, but it misses so many layups in terms of functionality I can’t help but feel disappointing. I won’t be returning mine, but I also won’t be making any strong recommendations for it. Maybe the Ring 2 answers some of my complaints, but it cost significantly more than the Ring 1 and didn’t offer much more functionality.
Thanks for reading, let me know if you have any questions!