(Pocket-lint) - The Ring Doorbell 4 enters a crowded doorbell market - not just from rivals, but from Ring itself. The Amazon-owned security company has made a real effort to flood all price points with different options, which can seem highly confusing at first glance.
While Ring offers numerous wired doorbell options, the Doorbell 4 is a rechargeable battery-powered doorbell and sits at the top of that range. There are more advanced options, such as the Pro 2, but that's a mains-wired option.
In 2020 the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus arrived, debuting what's called Pre-roll - the ability to record before an event is registered - and the Doorbell 4 is, in effect, its replacement. So, is it a worth one to pop onto the front of your home?
- Power: Removable battery (can be wired if desired)
- Dimentions: 128mm x 62mm x 28mm
What you've got in the Doorbell 4 is similar to what Ring has offered before in terms of design, i.e. it's the same design as the Doorbell 3 and 3 Plus.
Although you wouldn't think it looking at the box. Taking cues from how it packages other Amazon devices such as Fire TV Sticks, Amazon has decided to shrink the packaging and there's now no plastic tray used. We expected that Amazon would put less in the box as a result, but it's all pretty much still there - including tools and plugs for attaching to a wall, a corner plate and a single silver fascia for the doorbell itself (you can order alternative colours).
You will more than likely need to drill into your wall to attach the doorbell, although as you can see ours is attached to a door frame. The mounting plate attaches to the wall, with the Doorbell connecting to the plate.
The Ring Video Doorbell 4 does look slightly different than predecessors (aside from the 3 Plus) due to that extra Pre-roll camera under the main lens.
Coincidentally, you can pick up a replacement battery for $20/£20 and, as with all Ring devices, you can also add a Ring Chime for audio alerts in your home, as well as via the Ring app on your smart device. A Chime is pretty much essential for those times when your phone is on silent (or you're not next to your phone).
The Ring Video Doorbell 4 supports both 2.4Ghz and 5GHz Wi-Fi, so generally has a reliable connection. A Chime Pro can also be used to extend its range, which also has dual-band and a nightlight built-in too.
Setup, motion and Pre-roll
- Set up using Ring app for iOS/Android
- Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n for 2.4GHz and 5GHz
- Second camera for Pre-roll
As we noted with the Doorbell 3 Plus, the basic setup of the doorbell has been significantly improved and is much easier to use. However, fine-tuning settings is more complicated these days owing to the sheer number of options and the Ring app could be accused as being a classic victim of feature creep.
Yes, so you can use the default settings, but passing traffic or a neighbour or pet repeatedly setting off the motion alert will mean that you'll need to dig further into the app before too long.
There is a Motion Wizard to help you, but there are still a lot of different options. Smart Alerts are useful though, enabling you to restrict motion alerts to human triggers only. Also good is the ability to customise Motion Zones.
For example, the doorbell was always picking up our neighbour getting in his car so we were able to restrict the doorbell from picking up the neighbouring drive by drawing a Motion Zone box around it.
The bottom line is you want your doorbell to warn you about motion, but not to the extent where it's picking up false positives. Generally, though, you don't get erroneous alerts from Ring.
Coincidentally, notifications now give you a preview of what's going on so you can see who's at the door at a glance.
Pre-roll - now in colour (it was black and white only for the Doorbell 3 Plus) - is a welcome addition. It offers you four seconds of footage before a motion alert was triggered. In other words, it's always recording this (though not keeping it) just in case. Pre-roll video is clearly labelled in the app's video timeline.
This is actually really useful because if something happens outside your home - like someone knocks over a bin or chucks something over your fence - you can see what's going on before it happens. Pre-roll is lower video quality, but that doesn't matter. It's somewhat limited at night though, because it doesn't have night vision, unlike the main camera.
Camera and battery life
- Video: 1080p (Full HD) resolution
- Field of view: 160 degrees horizontal, 84 degrees vertical
- Audio: Two-way with noise cancellation, no audio on Pre-roll
The Full HD camera footage you get from the Video Doorbell 4 is really clear and high dynamic range (HDR) is used too - useful for bright sunlight to help balance out the exposure and avoid excessive shadowing. There's also Night Vision so you can see what's going on at night.
Battery life depends on how many motion alerts you get, as well as the amount of time you spend wathcing in Live View, but generally the battery doesn't deplete that quick; we found ourselves getting several weeks of battery life out of the Video Doorbell 4 - which is better than earlier devices. It's also quicker than earlier Ring doorbells, too; Live View loads a lot quicker, for example.
Of course, because this doorbell works well with the Amazon ecosystem, you may find yourself wanting to choose something else if your house is populated with Google Assistant, such as the Nest Hello Video Doorbell or an alternative from a company like Arlo. If you have a Fire TV or Echo Show you can ask Alexa to show you what's at the door at any time using Ring, though.
- Ring Protect Plan 30 day trial included
- Ring Protect Basic covers one device for $3/£2.50 a month
- Ring Protect Plus covers multiple devices for $10/£8 a month
While real-time notifications, Live View and Two-Way Talk don't cost extra, you'll need to add a Ring Protect Plan subscription to your Ring account. This enables you to store motion alerts and view them back - which is pretty fundamental to the experience. This isn't really clear when you first buy a Ring device, yet we see it as essential to being able to use Ring devices properly.
There's 30 days of recordings stored (in the UK; it's 60 days in the US) and you can download recordings if you need to keep them for posterity.
The unfortunate thing is that if you have more than one Ring device - not necessarily a doorbell, of course, but perhaps an alarm system - then you'll need to get Ring Protect Plus - which can seem expensive if you only have the two Ring devices. However, if you do have a bunch of them it does seem better value.
It's worth noting that if you are moving from an earlier generation Ring device, you need to contact Ring support to get the Ring Protect Plan moved across.
Coincidentally, if you have Ring Protect you can get a free replacement doorbell for up to two years if it is stolen. There is a security screw at the bottom so you can deter thieves from removing the battery.
Colour Pre-roll is a welcome addition to the flagship battery-powered doorbell from Ring - and that's what makes it more worthy a buy than others in the battery-powered range.
The app may be suffering from a bit of feature creep - yes, more features is a good thing, but there seem to be heaps more - but the fact remains that the Ring Video Doorbell 4 offers more than enough to justify opting for it over the entry-level Ring Video Doorbell (2nd gen).
OK so Nest's alternative is, unfortunately, a wired doorbell so it's not a direct comparison with the Ring Video Doorbell 4. However, if you've got a Google Assistant-orientated ecosystem at home then it's probably the one for you. Again you'll need a subscription, this time from Nest Aware.
Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free
This Arlo choice is a cross between the Nest Hello above and the Ring Video Doorbell 4 - it has the flexibility of the Ring, with the slimmer design of the Nest. Again you'll need a monthly subscription to get the most out of it.