(Pocket-lint) - Ring is best known for the Video Doorbell - and you don't have to walk too far down any suburban street to spot one of its devices ready and waiting to greet you at the front door.
But the company also has a range of video camera devices, looking to provide security in a range of different situations. While cameras are common, pairing those cameras with a considerable level of illumination is rather more unique - and that's what the Ring Spotlight Cam offers.
Design and installation
- 126 x 69 x 76mm
- Installation kit included
- Space for two batteries, one included
There are number of different versions of the Ring Spotlight Cam. There's the Battery, which is the simplest to get to grips with because it doesn't involve any wiring; there's the Wired version, which plugs into a wall socket as well as a solar version; and in the US there's also a Mount model which connects to existing security light wiring, so you can replace standard lights with something smarter.
While the camera itself offers similar functionality across each unit, getting it installed and setup is different.
The main unit sees a central camera with a wide-angle lens flanked by powerful LED illuminators down the sides. It's a box shape with a ball-socket mount on the rear that clicks into the wall-mount and is held in place with a bracket that's tightened with a hex screw.
On the bottom of the unit is a PIR motion detector, like you'll find on many other security lights, allowing it to detect motion across a wide range of areas to trigger the lights and camera.
You get everything you need to mount it included in the box, including a drill bit for masonry, rawl plugs and screws for mounting. There's even a reversible screwdriver in the pack. With everything provided, you basically just need the drill to drill the holes in the wall you're mounting it on and you're done.
For those using the Battery version, there's a button to release the bottom of the unit and get access to the battery compartment. There's no security on this, though, so while it's easy to change the battery, it doesn't screw shut, so anyone could take the battery out. With that in mind you might want to mount it fairly high on the wall, so a passing opportunist can't just take the battery out.
There is space for two batteries inside, although only one is provided - so if you want longer life between battery changes, then buying spares is always recommended. The battery life will depend very much on how much recording and illuminating you're asking the Spotlight Cam Battery to do - but we've got about a month from a single battery.
A smartphone-based experience
- Connect via app
- Alexa compatible
Before you secure the camera to the wall, it's worth getting it connected using the app. Having the device in your hand is more convenient through this process than if it's mounted on an outside wall.
If you're a new user then you'll have to make sure you're registered and have the app installed on your phone. Then it's a simple case of connecting a new device by hitting the "set up a device" option in the menu.
You'll be prompted to scan the code inside the camera (another good reason for doing this before it's secured to the wall) before the camera goes off to try and connect to your Wi-Fi network. You might have to fiddle around and manually select the network on your phone, but it was a fairly pain-free experience when we set it up.
If you happen to have a Ring Chime Pro, which doubles as a Wi-Fi extender, you can choose to connect to that too. This can also be done retrospectively, so if you setup the Cam and then find it's out of range, you can add in a Ring Chime Pro and move devices to that network instead.
Once all connected, the app gives you various settings you can change, like the motion detection area, which is divided into thirds. This means you can, for example, leave out the edges if that happens to be your neighbour's property, or a public footpath, or whatever else. You can also change the frequency of motion alerts, set schedules (so if there are periods that you're at home, you can make sure it doesn't constantly alert you) and you can add the light to groups.
Ring also dovetails into Amazon Alexa, so you can add the Ring Spotlight Cam to Groups or setup Routines to react when certain things happen. If you have an Echo Show you can also ask to view your Ring camera - just say "show me my garden camera [or whatever you've named it]" and you'll then view the live feed on the display. So there's a great feeling of integration about Ring devices.
There's also a desktop app for Mac or PC, so you can get those alerts when you're working - which is great for those who might be wearing headphones and unable to hear the doorbell. It's more applicable to doorbells, naturally.
Alerts and motion detection
- Flexible options
- Light or no light
Unlike the Ring Video Doorbell, there's no physical trigger for the Spotlight Cam, i.e. no one walks up and presses a button. Instead, the Spotlight Cam will detect motion 24/7, day and night, and alert you to that motion via your smartphone. That means you can keep an ear on things that are going on - although if it's watching the back of the house you'll probably want to set it on a schedule when the garden is in use.
The motion detection is sensitive and it uses two systems: there's the PIR sensor for the light trigger on the bottom of the unit; and IR illuminators providing night vision for the camera, so you don't have to have the lights fire up - it can capture video in night vision if you want.
When the motion detection is triggered, the Ring camera will fire up and start recording so you have a record of what triggered that alert - although you'll need a Ring Protect plan if you want anything more than alerts and the livestream through the app.
We positioned the Ring Spotlight Cam looking down the side of the house at the rear and found it illuminated out to about 10 metres - although if you want greater illumination over a wider area then the Ring Floodlight Cam might be a better option. For most people in average home, we think this is ample range.
What's also impressive is that the Ring Spotlight Cam is quick to detect motion, even at the edges of its visible area, so someone approaching from an angle is detected too. Animals will also set it off, because it's detecting movement rather than some AI system identifying subjects.
There's also two-way audio, which will mean that you can have conversations. The speaker isn't great, though, and there is a slight delay so any conversation would be slightly jilted - but if you just want to shout at someone who's in your garden then that's easy enough. When the mic is turned on, the PIR also illuminates in blue.
Then there's the siren, a 110dB alarm that can be triggered manually and then runs for 30 seconds before shutting off, or can be turned on/off manually. At night this is going to really startle someone (yourself included, if not expecting it when the cat runs outside), so it could be a great deterrent.
Camera, quality and Ring Protect
- 140 degree wide-angle lens
- Ring Protect for storage
- 1080p video capture
The Ring Spotlight Cam has a great wide-angle lens on the front that will give you 140-degrees horizontal and 78-degrees vertical capture, so it fits a lot into view. There's some distortion and darkening towards the edges, but most of the frame is bright and clear, which is good.
The quality of the video that it captures is great: in daylight it's clear and crisp with a realistic balance of colours. In IR-illuminated the video has that slightly ghostly appearance to it, but provides a method of capturing motion in the dark. Whether you use the light or not will depend on what you're trying to do: gather evidence or deter intruders.
Video captured with the flood lighting is pretty good too, but drops in quality compared to daylight capture - just because there's less light around - but it's good enough to pick out details.
How you access the video is where Ring's subscription plans come into play. As standard, you get notifications, access to the live stream and the ability to talk, but if you want access to videos after the fact then you'll need a Ring Protect Plan.
The Basic version covers one device and will give you 60 days of video storage in the cloud (or 30 days in the UK), meaning you can go and see the video captured when motion was detected. This can be accessed on your smartphone or tablet or via a browser. With Ring Protect you also get a timeline so you can skim back and see things happening, which is great.
But if you already have a Ring Video Doorbell, you likely use Ring Protect Basic for that (which is a reasonable $3/£2.50 a month), but the next option up is coverage for unlimited devices at $10/£8 a month. That leaves you feeling that one Ring device is great, but if you're going above that, you might want to go all-in and get lots of Ring devices to get the best value from a Ring Protect Plus plan.
That leaves Ring with a slight disadvantage over some competitors, like Arlo, that give you free week-long storage in the cloud - although the cost of Arlo cameras is higher.
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The Ring Spotlight Cam Battery is easy to install and setup, delivering decent video capture with illumination. It acts as both an evidence gathering device and a deterrent device, thanks to that light and the addition of two-way communication and a siren.
We've found the performance to be good: the video captured is nice and clear, it quickly detects and alerts to motion, and the battery life has been good - although the lack of security on the battery bay is a concern.
While the Ring Spotlight Cam Battery comes in at a reasonable price, there will be ongoing costs to get the best from it. You'll want a Ring Protect Plan if you want anything other than live access, and if you've get a Ring Video Doorbell already then it will start to become more costly running this system.
As a standalone device, however, it's hard not to like the Ring Spotlight Cam Battery. It does exactly what it says on the tin with minimal setup fuss.
Alternatives to consider
Netatmo Presence also offers 1080p video and has an LED illuminator, but this is a wired camera, so needs to be connected to the mains. It also doesn't offer cloud storage, instead using an SD card system. But it does have AI, so it can detect different type of things - and there's no subscription fees.
Arlo Pro 3
The Arlo Pro 3 offers an LED illuminator and video capture at 2K HDR resolution, as well as the two-way talking functions. The advantage over the Ring device is that you get 30-days of cloud storage free so there's no subscription costs - unless you want advanced features like AR detection vehicles, people or animals. But you have to have a hub for it and getting started will cost you a bit more.