With a video doorbell you can see who is at your door without having to open it, or even get close to the door. These devices connect to your Wi-Fi network and will send an alert when someone approaches your doorway. They’ll even record video when the doorbell is pressed or when Ringmotion is detected, and usually offer two-way audio communication that allow you to speak with the visitor from anywhere via your phone.
Video doorbells are great pieces of kit, but, if you aren’t sure which device will best suit your needs or are restricted by budget, then you’ll need to do some careful research before you finally make your purchase. This article will hopefully give you all the information you’ll need to make a more informed decision, and then take a closer look at one of the leading video doorbells on the market at the moment – the Ring Pro and see how it measures up against competitors like the SkyBell HD and August Doorbell Cam Pro.
Video Doorbells: How they work and what features should you be looking for?
Video doorbells are smart devices which typically use Wi-Fi to stream live video to your phone and offer a variety of features, including cloud video storage, motion detection, inter-operability with smart locks, sirens, and other smart home devices.
Some video doorbells work with other smart devices such as door locks and sirens and support IFTTT and Alexa voice commands. Look for a model that offers a high resolution (1080p), a wide angle lens (140 to 180 degrees), a night vision range up to 25 feet, and affordable cloud storage for recorded video.
Wired video doorbells
Most good wired video doorbells, like Ring Pro and SkyBell HD, use the existing doorbell wiring, so they are fairly easy to install. The advantage of having a wired video doorbell is that you won’t have to worry about losing power unless your house power fails for any reason. Moreover, since most homes already have exiting doorbell wiring, installing a video doorbell is as easy as removing your old doorbell, disconnecting the two wires, connecting your new doorbell to the wires, and attaching it to the outside of your house. In most cases you can connect the doorbell to an existing chime box as well.
Wired doorbells draw power from two wires that are connected to a transformer that steps down your household power to between 16 to 24 volts. If your home is not equipped with doorbell wiring you can wire it yourself using a plug-in transformer, or have an electrician do the work for you. Either way, some drilling will be required to run wires from the inside of your home to an exterior location.
Wireless video doorbells
If electrical wiring is not your forte, there are battery-powered models like Ring Video Doorbell 2, that can be installed in minutes. The downside with battery-powered video door bells, however, is that their batteries tend to deplete batteries quickly depending on usage, lasting anywhere from two to six months. If you live in a cold climate you can expect to recharge or replace your batteries every couple of months or run the risk of your doorbell failing when you might need it most.
Doorbell design and features
With video doorbells you get what you pay for. The least expensive models are bulky and come in limited colour choices. Expensive models are slim and inconspicuous and are available in a range of finishes. Battery-powered models, by their very nature, are generally bulkier.
Any good smart doorbell worthy of the name is equipped with a video camera that sends an alert to your phone along with a live video stream when the doorbell button is pressed. Video is accessed via a mobile app that is also used to install the device, configure wireless settings, and set up alerts. Video doorbells that offer features like 1080p video, motion detection, two-way audio that lets you speak with whoever is out there, and on-demand video streaming are obviously more expensive. To avoid false alerts from passing cars, high winds, and family pets, look for a video doorbell that offers customisable motion zones.
Other features to look for, depending on your budget, are:
- face recognition technology that identifies visitors by name
- motion sensing technology that knows the difference between people, cars, and animals
- colour night vision video (most doorbell cameras use infrared LEDs to provide up to 30 feet of black-and-white video)
- a choice of chimes that will help you differentiate between a doorbell press and a motion trigger. [Some of latest doorbell cameras offer a pre-buffer feature that records several seconds of activity prior to when a motion sensor is triggered, or the doorbell button has been pressed so you can see what happened just before an event.]
Video doorbells don’t offer local storage for recorded video, so you’ll have to subscribe to a cloud service to view your motion- and doorbell-triggered video clips.
Ring Video Doorbell Pro
The Ring Video Doorbell Pro is essentially a more sophisticated incarnation of traditional internet-enabled security cameras like the Netgear Arlo. As well as providing motion-responsive video recording and alerts, the Ring Pro also replaces your doorbell. With the ability to talk back to visitors via your phone, you can also leave instructions for couriers or inform friends and family of your whereabouts if they come calling. With the Pro, you get an Alexa compatible doorbell that lets you see, hear and speak with whomever is at your door. It also has infrared night vision, so you can see who’s there, even when it’s dark outside.
The Ring Pro isn’t unique in providing this selection of features. There are a number of smart doorbells on the market, like the SkyBell HD and the August Doorbell Cam Pro, which offer similar features and are good value for money, though both have to be hardwired to work properly. What makes the Ring Pro special? Well, it’s a mixture of things: good specification, great integration and ease of use and competitive pricing. Should you invest in a Ring Video Doorbell? Well, read on and make your own mind up.
Key specification features
- Requires a 16-24 VAC transformer
- 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi connection @ 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz
- Wi-Fi – requires a minimum 1 Mbps, but 2 Mbps required for optimal performance
- 1080p HD video capture, live view and night vision
- Cloud video storage
- Custom motion zone detection
- Works with existing doorbell
- Two-way audio communication with noise cancellation
The Ring Pro captures video at 1080p and has a 160-degree field of view. It uses three infrared LEDs to provide up to 30 feet of night vision and has a built-in motion sensor, a microphone, a speaker, and an interior chime. The camera uses 802.11n circuitry (2.4GHz and 5GHz) to connect to your home Wi-Fi and requires a two-wire 16-24volt power source (the same power source used for traditional doorbells). In addition to the camera, there’s a doorbell button on the face of the device surrounded by an LED ring that glows blue when the button is pressed. There are two terminals on the back, and a setup button on the right side that you can get to by removing the faceplate.
When you press the doorbell button a chime sounds, the camera begins recording, and a push alert is sent to your phone. As with the Ring Floodlight Cam, you have to subscribe to a service plan to view, share, and download recorded video. The Protect Basic Plan is $3 per month or $30 per year and gives you 60 days of cloud storage per camera and full access to all of your videos. For $10 per month or $100 per year, the Protect Plus Plan gives you everything from the Basic Plan for an unlimited number of cameras, and you get a lifetime warranty (the warranty period is normally one year). By way of comparison, the August Doorbell Cam Pro subscription costs $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year for access to 30 days’ worth of video.
The Ring Pro delivers very sharp 1080p video in testing. Daytime video is clean with rich colours, and night vision video is well lit with good contrast and remains sharp out to around 20 feet. However, the barrel has noticeable distortion around the edges, though people and objects appear normal. Two-way audio is loud and clean.
The Ring Pro is fairly easy to install (see below), sports a slender design with interchangeable faceplates, and delivers sharp 1080p video day and night. As with the August Doorbell Cam Pro, the Ring Pro uses pre-buffering technology to show you what transpired prior to a motion trigger, and lets you view live video on an Amazon Echo Show device using Alexa voice commands. While the August doorbell offers a more symmetrical picture with no barrel distortion, it doesn’t support IFTTT integration like the Ring Pro does, and Ring’s monthly cloud fees are a bit more affordable.
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- Smart design
- Very easy setup
- Large intuitive mobile app
- Decent quality footage
- Impressive and reliable motion tracking
- Talkback works well
- Easy to remove or steal
- No ring tone options
- No free video storage
- Only 1 month of cloud storage included
Ring Video Doorbell – Design and Installation
First impressions of the Ring Video Doorbell are favourable. It’s a good-looking device, if rather large. At 4.5 by 1.8 by 0.8 inches (HWD), the Ring Pro is slimmer and looks more like a traditional doorbell than the August Doorbell Cam Pro, and the original Ring. It also comes with four interchangeable faceplates (black, bronze, nickel, and white) to match the exterior of your home. One thoughtful touch is the fitting kit supplied with the device. Ring supply a screwdriver, mounting screws and anchors, a Pro Power Kit for connecting to an existing chime box in case your existing doorbell wiring does not provide enough power, extension wires, and illustrated instructions. All the homeowner has to supply is the drill.
The installation process itself is also straightforward too. If you’ve already got an existing powered doorbell, all you need to do is remove the old bell button and replace it with the Ring, using the existing wiring – assuming, of course, that it’s connected to a standard 8-24VAC supply. If you haven’t got an existing doorbell, then you have a number of alternatives: you can run the video doorbell as a separate device – in which case you’ll have to pair it with the Ring Chime or Ring Chime Pro, have a new doorbell transformer installed, or you can run the Ring off its battery and recharge it via the micro USB when the battery runs down. Ring say that this should only be roughly around once a month, but it depends on usage of course.
Recharging the battery is simple enough. All you have to do is remove the device from its base/anchor plate. Just remove the two retaining screws, and then slide the cover plate off. The job should take no more than a couple of minutes. It might be a simple procedure, but it does highlight one of the potential flaws with the Ring Pro video doorbell, and that’s the issue of security and possible theft. If you can remove the device easily in a couple of minutes with a screwdriver, then so can a thief.
The problem is compounded by the generic positioning of the device. Most doorbells are installed at shoulder height – unlike conventional IP cameras which are usually mounted high on walls – so they’re easy pickings for thieves. There was also an issue with earlier firmware versions of the Ring doorbell. It appeared to be susceptible to hacking. However, Ring’s latest update seems to have rectified this problem. What happens if you’re unfortunate enough to have your video doorbell stolen? Well, the good news is Ring will replace it without charge as long as you report the theft to the Police.
Despite its size, the device is still fairly compact. The unit features comes with a two-tone design: a glossy plastic inner section that surrounds the camera, and a burnished steel surround. Ring claims the unit is totally weatherproof and resilient and will withstand rain, wind, heat, sleet and snow. It doesn’t, however, supply any specific IP rating for the unit, so the veracity of this claim can’t be fully tested or measured. What can be said is that it should be resilient enough to stand most weather conditions.
The Ring Video Doorbell Pro offers 1080p recording. The lens is an ultra-wide angle type with a field of view of 180 degrees horizontal and 140 degrees vertical. This coverage results in footage that has a round fish-eye effect, but that’s the price you pay for such a wide-angle shot. Above the lens is an array of IR LEDs for night vision, whilst below the only other external feature is the button itself. Surrounding the button is a ring of blue light that flashes to indicate the Ring’s status while setting it up, charging it and when it’s pressed.
When you do press the button, either the Ring Pro itself will chime or your existing doorbell will. Alternatively, you can buy a separate Chime accessory (Ring Chime or Ring Chime Pro) that plugs into any main socket in your home and connects to the Ring via Wi-Fi. With a Chime installed, that will ring instead of the Ring. Slide the Ring off its mounting plate and you can access the Micro USB charging port and orange setup button.
Once you’ve downloaded the Ring app and set the Ring up via its built-in Wi-Fi signal, it’s a simple matter to add it to your network and get up and running. A quick sign-up to the Ring service with an email address and password and you can start to experiment with its features, though there are a few more steps to follow before it is fully functional.
Ring Video Doorbell Pro – Image Quality and Ease of Use
The Ring Pro really is a simple piece of kit to use. The app is clear, straightforward and intuitive, and automation makes light work of adding devices to your network., though you’ll have to download the app on your Android and iOS device, then create an account, if you don’t already have one. The app also links to the Ring’s cloud video recording service, so you can play back clips captured via the motion detection or when the bell is rung.
Crucially, and this is the feature that will appeal most to homeowners, it provides notifications whenever the doorbell is pressed or, optionally, when motion is detected, and you can then communicate with the visitor if you so choose. You can do this from in the world, assuming you have an internet connection, so postmen will have no more excuses for non-deliveries. The camera footage is reasonably good: exposure is well-judged, light and shadow balanced, and there is sufficient detail captured for both close-up subjects and the wider field of view.
The motion detection feature also works reasonably well. You can also set up a customised multi-zone system so that the camera ignores certain parts of the image either completely or beyond a certain distance – so if passing traffic is problematic you can filter that out. However, customer reviews suggest that this particular feature can be a little bit hit and miss. The Ring Pro video doorbell’s motion tracking features initiates video recording if it detects motion. If you live in a block of flats with lots of foot traffic, or have a front door near other front doors, the recording will pick this up and that’s not ideal. Most users, therefore, settle on getting the system to record only when motion is detected directly outside the door.
In the app, you can also go through all the recent activity, and you can sort activity based on things like rings, motion, and “starred.” That last option is useful if you notice something suspicious or an unexpected caller. If you ‘star’ that footage you can easily return to it later for a closer look. You can also check the battery status of your connected devices easily, change the chime sound to a sound you like. You can also easily add another user – so if you live with someone else they can access the doorbell as well.
The biggest criticism with the Ring Pro is playback, particularly when accessing recorded material. Ring Pro is only supplied with one month of free cloud video recording, and there’s no option to record to a local device such as a PC either, although you can trigger other IFTTT services. After that you’ll have to pay additional fees – the Protect Basic Plan is $3 per month or $30 per year and gives you 60 days of cloud storage per camera and full access to all your videos. For $10 per month or $100 per year, the Protect Plus Plan gives you everything from the Basic Plan for an unlimited number of cameras, and you get a lifetime warranty (the warranty period is normally one year). By way of comparison, the August Doorbell Cam Pro subscription costs $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year for access to 30 days’ worth of video. If you don’t subscribe to the service, you won’t be able to use the Ring Pro to its full potential. So, you won’t, for example, be able to watch back video recorded when motion tracking is activated, and your previously recorded video will be deleted from your account.
Although the monthly subscription figure isn’t particularly expensive or unreasonable, it would be good to be given at least 6 months’ free recording before you have to start subscribing. Alternatively, an option like Netgear’s Arlo system would be preferable. With the Arlo system there are various paid-for tiers or you can opt for a free rolling one-week recording service – any footage older than a week is deleted. Other services allow you to watch back video within 24 hours before it’s deleted, and SkyBell offers free cloud video storage to its customers, which is very helpful.
The SkyBell HD is a feature-rich video doorbell which is easy to install, delivers sharp 1080p video, colour night vision, and captures several of seconds of footage prior to a triggered event. It also integrates with numerous third-party smart home devices, and comes with free cloud storage for recorded video, which is rare: all of these features are delivered at a price that is very competitive.
The SkyBell HD looks very similar to the original (2015) model, except the motion sensor now sits between the camera and the backlit buzzer button. The puck-shaped device measures 2.8 inches in diameter, is just under an inch thick, and comes in a brushed silver or bronze finish. SkyBell also offers a Trim Plus version designed to fit on a door frame.
The camera captures video at 1080p. Its 180-degree field of view is wider than Ring Video Doorbell Pro (160 degrees) and the August Doorbell Cam Pro (120 degrees). Moreover, the SkyBell HD uses multi-colour LEDS to provide full colour night vision video rather than the typical black-and-white video that you get with most of the competition. The SkyBell HD also comes with a speaker and microphone and an 802.11n (2.4GHz) radio for connecting the doorbell to your home Wi-Fi network.
The doorbell uses a mobile app (for Android and iOS) to display live and recorded video (a web app is not currently available). Triggered video is stored in the cloud for seven days, and unlike most smart doorbells, it’s free.
The SkyBell HD performs well in tests. Day video is sharp, and the colour quality is very good: night video is bright and well-defined up to 20 feet. However, night vision colours are not quite as rich as daylight images, but image quality, never the less, is crisp and sharp. The motion detection sensor works well, but to reduce the false alerts from passing cars, it pays to set the sensitivity sensor to medium.
August Doorbell Cam Pro
The Doorbell Cam Pro measures 2.9 by 2.9 by 0.8 inches (HWD) and cis available in dark grey or silver. Like the original Doorbell Cam, it has a large 2-inch circular button in the centre that rings the bell and activates the camera in the upper right corner. In the middle of the button is a backlit August logo that acts as a mini-floodlight when motion is detected or when the button is pressed. The camera has a 1,280-by-960 resolution and a 120-degree field of view, and uses the embedded floodlight to provide full colour video at night. In the upper left corner is a motion sensor and below the main button is a speaker and microphone array that provides two-way audio.
The Cam Pro comes with a 30-day free August Video Recording trial which is automatically enabled when you first set up the doorbell. After that you’ll need to pay $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year for a subscription that gives you access to 30 days’ worth of video.
The Cam pro doorbell uses the same mobile app (for Android and iOS) as other August smart devices, including the Smart Lock Pro + Connect. When the button is pressed a push notification is sent to your phone. Tap the notification to launch a live video feed that contains a microphone button for two-way audio, a lock button for opening or closing a connected August smart lock, and an end button for ending the stream.
The Cam Pro doesn’t work with third-party smart home devices and you can’t use August’s IFTTT channel to have it trigger other devices, but it does support Amazon Alexa commands that allow you to view live video on Echo Show and Fire TV devices.
Daytime video is sharp, with good colour quality and no evidence of barrel distortion, and night video was well-lit and colourful. The floodlight feature provides enough light to see who is at the door, yet it is not overly bright. Two-way audio communication between the doorbell and mobile phone is loud and clear and contains very little background noise from passing vehicles. Motion detection also worked perfectly once the sensitivity is adjusted, and push alerts and recorded video arrive promptly.
The Ring Video Doorbell 2 is a solid and sensible device. Setup is easy, the app is simple to use, motion tracking works well, and the battery life is pretty good. The layout of the app is intuitive, and the fact that the system can be integrated with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant only makes things even better for smart home enthusiasts.
But should you buy it? If you don’t mind the size and want a battery-powered device, then this is the one for you. The Ring Video Doorbell Pro offers almost everything you’d want in a smart doorbell. It’s easy to install, sports a slender design with interchangeable faceplates, and delivers sharp 1080p video day and night. As with the August Doorbell Cam Pro, the Ring Pro uses pre-buffering technology to show you what transpired prior to a motion trigger, and lets you view live video on an id=”354749″>Amazon Echo Show device using Alexa voice commands.
While the August doorbell offers a more symmetrical picture with no barrel distortion, it doesn’t support IFTTT integration like the Ring Pro does, and Ring’s monthly cloud fees are a bit more affordable.