Ring has made a name for itself in the smart home world with its lineup of connected doorbells that can record video. Ring doorbells make it easy to add a security camera to the outside of your home, and its latest model makes it even easier to keep an eye on your visitors.
The company’s latest product, the $199 Ring Video Doorbell 2, was released earlier this summer, and it improves upon the original product in a number of ways. It provides higher-resolution video output — 1080p verses the 720p of the original — and makes it easier to recharge the unit’s internal battery if you don’t have it hardwired into your home’s electrical system.
Ring has a number of other video doorbells in its lineup, but while the Video Doorbell Pro and Video Doorbell Elite offer slimmer designs and more high-end features, the Video Doorbell 2 (and its predecessor) are the only models that don’t need to be hardwired and can run off of battery power.
That’s convenient for a number of reasons: it’s easier to install a Video Doorbell 2, and it has more options for its placement than one that has to be installed where the wiring is. But don’t be fooled: the Video Doorbell 2 is not the kind of product that can be installed and then easily removed and swapped to a different door or area. This is very much a permanent installation, which means it likely won’t work for renters.
My home lacks any sort of doorbell wiring, so the Video Doorbell 2’s battery-powered features appealed to me. To install it, I drilled two holes into the brick around my door, used the angled bracket provided in the box with the Video Doorbell 2 to angle it toward the doorway, and then mounted the actual doorbell to that. (A flat bracket is also provided.) The whole install process took about 10 minutes, since I didn’t have to actually wire anything up. If you have a more complicated setup, Ring provides video tutorials to walk you through it.
The biggest physical difference between the Doorbell 2 and the original is the new, slide-out battery. With the first model, recharging the battery required removing the entire doorbell from the frame and plugging it in for five to six hours. The new, removable battery (which looks like something you might find in a DSLR or camcorder) is much easier to charge: you just remove the front panel of the doorbell (a security screw underneath needs to be removed with the included screwdriver first), slide the battery out, and plug that into a Micro USB cable. Charging still takes five or six hours — it’s a hefty, 6,100mAh battery and this doesn’t have any quick charging features you might find on a smartphone — but the modularity of this design means you can buy a second battery and put that in to keep your doorbell functional while the other charges. Ring provides one battery in the box, but you can buy spares from Ring’s website for a reasonable $20.
Ring says the battery should last anywhere from six to 12 months between charges, depending on how much activity your doorbell receives. Those claims might be a bit inflated, though. In my experience, the battery drained to under 40 percent in about six weeks of use, which means I’ll be recharging it every three months. For my testing, I had all the features enabled, such as motion detection and quick live view access. Ring says disabling these features will extend the battery life.
You can use the Video Doorbell 2 on its own and it will chime when someone presses the button or it detects motion. It will also send a push notification to your phone: tap it, and you can view the live feed from the camera immediately. But it probably makes sense to use Ring’s $49 Chime Pro accessory with it. The Chime Pro provides a speaker for the doorbell inside your house, which is much easier for everyone to hear, and it works as a network extender to make sure the Video Doorbell 2 is always connected to Wi-Fi. It’s particularly useful if your Wi-Fi router isn’t anywhere near your front door.
A cool doorbell doesn’t help much if the mailperson doesn’t actually ring it.
As far as actually using the Video Doorbell 2, my experience was largely positive. The video that’s streamed live from the doorbell is bright and has decent resolution, and the IR sensors around the camera make it possible to see visitors at night, too. Connecting to the camera through the smartphone app was quick, even if I wasn’t home and had to use LTE, and the two-way microphone and speaker made it possible to talk to visitors directly. I was even able to view the camera’s feed on Amazon’s Echo Show — though it doesn’t support two-way audio, and I had some trouble connecting to the camera at times.
The motion detection provided a better experience than I saw with Nest’s Cam IQ, and it would only alert me if someone was actually in front of my doorway, not down the driveway. The Ring app lets you control the motion detection’s range and set up schedules to disable the alerts. The motion alerts were useful when a delivery person would come and not bother to ring the fancy new doorbell I installed, but I ended up turning them off during the day so that I wouldn’t get a ping each time my family went in and out of the house. The scheduling system reenabled the motion alerts for nighttime so I would be alerted to an unwanted visitor at odd hours.
Night video from the Ring Video Doorbell 2
Despite my positive experience, the Video Doorbell 2 is an expensive gadget, especially when you add in the cost of a second battery and the Chime Pro. On top of that, Ring’s cloud service, which lets you access video clips of motion detection or rings after the fact, costs $3 per month or $30 per year.
But if the price isn’t a concern for you, the Video Doorbell 2 is a painless way to turn your doorbell into an internet-connected security camera for your front door. Now if only I could get visitors to actually press the doorbell.
Correction, 10:25AM August 9th, 2017: Clarified the pricing for Ring’s cloud service, which is $3 per month or $30 per year.
Photography by Dan Seifert / The Verge