In the age of the smart home, the number of home devices being connected to the internet is expanding exponentially. Whether it's a kettle, fridge, vacuum cleaner, the central heating or - in this case - a doorbell, you can control and monitor almost anything from your smartphone these days.
Ring Video Doorbell review: What is it?
The Ring Video Doorbell is an outdoor security camera and motion sensor, which is internet connected and can be used as a regular doorbell.
Its built-in camera, microphone and speaker mean you can talk to anyone who's at the door through your phone, using the app. Whether that's a delivery guy and you've just got out of the shower, or an uninvited guest door-to-door selling who you want to ignore them without opening the door.
Any time a guest rings the bell, your smartphone is alerted, and you can set it up to alert you when there's motion near your house too (within a certain range). It's especially useful if you're not at home all day, since you can chat to anyone remotely from anywhere you get an internet connection.
Spec wise, the doorbell has a 5,200mAh battery - which Ring claims can get you through 6-12 months of "regular usage" and can operate in temperatures between -21 and 49 degrees Celsius (more than capable of dealing with Britain's mild winters and summers). It has infrared LEDs for night vision, a 180-degree field-of-view and records 720p video.
Ring Video Doorbell review: Design
You've more than likely never seen a better looking doorbell than the Ring Video Doorbell. It could almost be described as the iPhone of doorbells, in the way that the silver aluminium model reminds us of the original iPhone. The bottom two-thirds is encased in a rounded metal plate, while the top part is a black glossy plastic.
Saying that, it's not exactly the sleekest product in the world. All the gadgetry inside means the device itself is a pretty chunky at nearly 6.2cm wide and 2.2cm thick.
The doorbell button has an LED light ring surrounding it which lights up and animates when the button is pressed, when network connectivity is lost, or when the battery is being charged.
Ring Video Doorbell review: What's In the box
The doorbell ships with five screws and five wall plugs (one spare of each), a small spirit bubble meter, masonry drill bit and a screwdriver handle with a reversible tool that slots in. This screwdriver has a regular Philips head on one end and a tiny pentalobe driver end on the other. The latter is used to screw the doorbell on to its backplate.
And since it's pentalobe, it's very unlikely that anyone can steal it easily.
Along with all the tools, there's the doorbell itself, the backplate for mounting it, a diode (which you may or may not need) and a micro USB cable for charging the doorbell's internal non-removable battery.
Of course, there's the manual which helps you get the doorbell setup with easy-to-read, step-by-step instructions, including how to connect it to your home network.
Ring Video Doorbell review: Setup
As setup processes go, the Ring doorbell was about as easy as they come. That's mostly thanks to the included tools and instructions in the retail packaging. It's a very well considered retail package.
The first step - regardless of how you want to fix it to your property - is to download the appropriate app for iOS or Android. This will guide you through a registration process to setup an account and enable you to add other users who can access your doorbell.
The devices don't come fully charged, so it's worth plugging the doorbell in for a couple of hours to fully charge it before mounting to a wall using four of the provided screws. If you're mounting it to wood, the backplate screws straight in. If you're fixing it to a brick wall, you'll need to drill four holes first then use the provided wall plugs. Once the backplate is fixed, the doorbell slides over the top and clips in place using the built-in fixing hooks, then tightening the screws at the bottom of the unit.
Getting the doorbell connected to a home network is pretty simple. It involves connecting directly to the doorbell's Wi-Fi signal by heading to your phone's settings menu. Once that's done, you head back in to the app, where it detects the doorbell. Then, input your home network details and tell the doorbell which network to connect to. Once it's connected and fully charged, it's ready to install.
If you already have a doorbell wired to a bell inside the house somewhere, you can install the Ring doorbell by connecting it to the pre-existing wiring. Depending on the voltage and system you have, you may need to connect the diode to those existing wires. Then, when a guest presses the button, it rings the existing bell as normal. With this method, you'll never need to charge the built-in battery since it gets its power from the mains.
If you want to set it up as a brand new system, you can do that too - but you will more than likely need to purchase one of Ring's wireless Chimes (£25). These Chimes are connected to your home network like the doorbell itself and alert you whenever the doorbell is pressed.
They're built directly onto a UK plug, and so can be placed anywhere in the house where you have a spare power socket. You can fit multiple Chimes if you live in an especially large house with multiple rooms.
Ring Video Doorbell review: Customisation
Once it's all installed and ready to go, the customisation can begin.
The most logical place to start is probably the motion sensor, which can have its sensitivity set using the Ring app. You doorbell can pick up movement from up to 30 feet away, but the app lets you choose any distance between from five feet by moving the slider on the app's Motion Zones page.
It also breaks the 180-degree field of view into six zones, and you can choose which of those the motion sensor should ignore, or pay attention to.
As for alerts, the app has a Smart Alert feature which can calculate when repeated or continuous motion takes place, and only alerts you again once that motion has finished. You can also change the sensitivity of this algorithm by choosing between light, standard and frequent alerts.
If you have a Chime you can also change the audio level to suit you.
Ring Video Doorbell review: What's it like to use?
The Ring doorbell largely depends on app-based use. Your iPhone or Android smartphone will ring every time your doorbell is pressed, or jingle when the motion sensor detects movement.
In either of these situations, you can open the app and see a live video stream of what your doorbell can see using its extremely wide-angle lens. If there's someone you need to talk to, simply press the green "talk" button, just make sure the microphone isn't muted, and then talk. This can be really useful if you're expecting a parcel, or if a friend has turned up before you managed to get home.
Like many gadgets, the Ring doorbell's greatest strength is its greatest weakness: all of its best features are enabled by its internet connectivity. That means if you're in an area with poor (or no) 3G or 4G signal then the video stream is delayed, so communicating with whoever is at your door is virtually impossible. If you're out and about often in relatively rural areas, or places you know have inconsistent or slow connectivity, then the Ring doorbell is going to be pointless.
However, if you're rarely out of strong coverage, or spend your days in an office with a strong wireless network, the Ring doorbell could be the perfect addition to your smart home.
Ring Video Doorbell review: Connect all of the things
One of the Ring's added benefits is that it can tie in with several other partner products. With Ring+ you can connect your device directly to Belkin WeMo products, or connect to various security products from the likes of ADT, Lockstate or Lockitron.
What's more, Ring is IFTTT enabled, so you can even use it to trigger several other connected accounts and create recipes for when your doorbell rings or detects motion. This could be anything from switching your WeMo or Hue lights on when there's motion at your door, to creating an Evernote or Google Drive log whenever you get visitors.
The Ring Video Doorbell provides a great service and adds an element of security to a product category which has long been just a minor peripheral.
It's well-made and attractive, but with the battery having dropped to 80 per cent after just over a week of use, we're very sceptical about Ring's claims that it can handle up to 12 months of usage. Or maybe we're just super popular.
The big draw for the Ring Video Doorbell is that it's not just aesthetically pleasing, but its entire operation and installation is so easy that anyone can use it. It's an effortless way to add security to your home and ensure you don't miss any important parcels. Although it is a chunk of cash more than a basic doorbell.
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