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Ring Video Doorbell 2 review: deal with doorsteppers from your sofa

Ring Video Doorbell 2 review
The Ring Video Doorbell 2 is an easy to use and set up smart doorbell that will help you keep an eye on your home without getting in the way. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The Ring Video Doorbell 2 adds the convenience of a front-door intercom to pretty much any home, and with minimal DIY skills required, meaning it’s never been easier to get rid of doorsteppers.

There have long been wifi-connected doorbells, for those envious of flat-dwelling friends with video intercoms adding that extra barrier between them and the outside world, but most of them require some sort of wiring to install.

The Ring Video Doorbell 2 has a rechargeable battery, which means there’s no need to wire it into the mains or a low voltage circuit. But is a rechargeable video doorbell actually any good?

What is it?

Ring Video Doorbell 2 review
The removable battery slots in the bottom and is secured by a safety screw. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The Ring Video Doorbell 2 is essentially a big battery-powered doorbell with a camera in the top of it, which video calls your phone or tablet when someone presses the button. It means you can answer the door from pretty much anywhere you have a phone and an internet connection.

There’s also an optional Chime or Chime Pro, the latter of which extends your wifi network to the doorbell, should you want something to make a noise in your hall, and even a solar charger to help the battery last longer.

Setup

Ring Video Doorbell 2 review
Charge the battery via a standard microUSB cable. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Setting it up is pretty straightforward: charge the removable and rechargeable battery with a microUSB cable, screw it into the wall and slot in the battery pack. In the box is a masonry drill bit, screws and wall plugs. There are also two different mounting plates, which can angle the doorbell up, down, left, right or a combination of two to give it a better view of the door. I didn’t need them, so after a quick bit of drilling it was screwed in place.

Using the Ring app you attach the doorbell to your wifi network – or the doorbell to the chime and the chime to the router – and within a few minutes you’ve got your doorbell up and working.

You get the choice of all-black or a black and silver look to the doorbell with a removable faceplate, and a security screw to keep the battery in place protecting access to the mounting screws.

If you want to you can wire in the doorbell, and you can also connect it to an existing wired chime if you have one. I didn’t have either.

Using it

Ring Video Doorbell 2 review
The wide-angle view from the camera lets you keep an eye on your car, door and the people that call. Photograph: Ring

The doorbell monitors movement within a pre-defined area alerting you when someone walks near your door but doesn’t press the doorbell. I was surprised by just how many people walk anywhere near my door, so in the end I turned the alerts off.

When someone comes calling, a ring around the button lights-up, the doorbell emits a ring tone and an alert pops up on your phone. If you have the optional chime attached it also rings at the same time.

There’s no lag between pushing the button and the chime and alert going off. Tapping on the alert takes you to a view from the camera with the option to decline or answer. Answering allows you to speak through the doorbell to the caller, which works surprisingly well. You have to speak up a bit for them to hear you, but you can hear them as clear as day, even on a noisy street.

Access to the doorbell can be shared with multiple people, with their own separate Ring accounts, which means everyone can get alerted when there’s someone at the door.

Smart without being rubbish

Ring Video Doorbell 2 review
The Chime Pro is a wifi extender and door chime in one. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The Ring Video Doorbell 2 is one of those rare Internet of Things devices that actually just works and isn’t rubbish at being the non-smart thing it replaces. It works great just as a regular wireless doorbell, particularly if you’ve got a chime installed. But being able to see through the camera and speak to callers is brilliant.

Rejecting cold callers from the comfort of your sofa is satisfying, as it removes that awkward moment where you have to shut the door in someone’s face to get them to go away.

It’s also useful for keeping tabs on your home. At any time you can see through the camera, and if you have the optional Ring cloud subscription, review the video from any motion alert or ring. I was amazed by just how many people came up to the door, and I appreciated the peace of mind that anyone who fancies breaking into my home is automatically caught on camera.

It even works really well in the dark, with IR lighting up your doorstep like black-and-white daylight.

There are downsides to being constantly contactable through your front door. When you have a particularly persistent cold caller, who apparently thinks your house contains something he wants, and won’t take no for an answer, calling several times while you are at work and uttering what sound like secret pass-phrases that clearly mean nothing to you, it’s difficult to ignore the door. At least you can turn off the ring notification, as I did.

Observations

Ring Video Doorbell 2 review
The Ring app is easy to use and gives instant access to the live feed from the camera or recorded videos and events from the Ring cloud storage account. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian
  • When you view the live feed the button lights up to show people they’re on video
  • The doorbell plays nice with other IoT devices such as Samsung’s SmartThings hub, so you can include it in routines
  • It works particularly well with the Amazon Echo Show, just say “Alexa, show me the front door” to see the live feed within a few seconds
  • Videos are stored for 60 days with a Ring Video Recording Plan, and can be downloaded
  • The battery lasts about a month with an average of 25 motion alerts a day and regular use of the live view, and takes a good four hours or so to charge from almost flat – best done overnight
  • The solar charging mount extended battery life by around five to 10 days during the British winter and should do more during the summer

Price

The Ring Video Doorbell 2 costs £179, the optional Chime costs £29 and the Chime Pro costs £49. The solar charger costs $49 (£40). The Ring Video Recording subscription costs £2.50 a month or £24.99 a year.

For comparison, Google’s Nest Hello video doorbell costs $229 in the US, but is not yet available in the UK.

Verdict

The Ring Video Doorbell 2 is one of those rare smart home devices that just works and works at least as well as the “dumb” equivalent, but with much more capability.

It acts as another barrier between you and the outside world, and works perfectly well simply as a video doorbell and impromptu live feed camera without a monthly cloud subscription. With the Ring Video Recording cloud subscription it also brings peace of mind that anyone who comes calling or burgling through the front door will be caught on camera. I found it particularly reassuring being able to keep an eye out while on holiday and at work, and that it acts as a deterrent to those casing your front door.

The battery power means that it’s also easy to fit to almost any door with very little in the way of DIY skill required – there’s no wiring necessary, just a bit of drilling for which the drill bit, wall plugs and screws are included.

Ring doesn’t do any facial recognition or similar, so those seeking more advanced features will have to look elsewhere, but as a simple-to-use video doorbell that you can fit yourself in minutes, the Video Doorbell 2 ticks all the boxes.

Pros: easy to install and set up, solid app, great as basic doorbell, great as a camera from your door, attractive, no wiring required, lots of accessories and options

Cons: battery needs charging once a month, can’t use local storage for video, quite large for some door frames, expensive for a doorbell

Ring Video Doorbell 2 review
The optional solar charger helps prolong battery life and makes for an attractive back plate for the doorbell. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

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This article titled "Ring Video Doorbell 2 review: deal with doorsteppers from your sofa" was written by Samuel Gibbs, for theguardian.com on Thursday 1 February 2018 07.00am

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