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Ring Video Doorbell review: The gadget that makes crooks think you never leave home

Jon Phillips | Aug. 4, 2015
My house has never had a doorbell. This alone makes me a good candidate for the Ring Video Doorbell ($200), which uses home Wi-Fi to transmit the sound of a doorbell chime directly to smartphones, as well as to Ring's wall-mounted Chime accessory, which is about to begin shipping for a sale price of $20.

Doorbell delays

When Ring was working without a hitch, the time delay between someone hitting the doorbell and receiving an alert on my phone was almost non-existent. Mind you, sometimes it would take a while to get from the smartphone notification to Ring's video display (more about that soon), but at least there was very little lag in actually getting the notification itself.

But those were only best-case scenarios. Throughout real-world testing with visiting strangers as well as staged testing with friends, I oftentimes experienced very long latencies between the button press and a phone notification. Sometimes the lag would last up to three or four seconds. And sometimes I wouldn't receive any smartphone notification at all. Case in point: the hapless pizza delivery guy who pressed the Ring button two times before giving up, and calling my phone.

I blame spotty home Wi-Fi for this particular performance problem. It's not necessarily Ring's fault that my Wi-Fi network is a weak link in its communication chain, but this is a product that relies on home Wi-Fi to work in the first place. The problems I suffered reveal an intrinsic, inescapable weakness in Ring's workflow, and should remind us that all Internet-connected home appliances are only as strong as the weakest link in their networks.

It's worth noting that my Wi-Fi network is based on a Linksys 802.11ac router that's connected to a Linksys Wi-Fi range extender located about 10 feet from the Ring doorbell (albeit separated by a thick exterior wall). I spent a significant amount of time with Ring's operations director to fix connectivity problems in the early stages of testing, but even this wasn't enough to solve all the performance issues. My Wi-Fi is dual-band, supporting both 2.4- and 5GHz, but Ring uses the 2.4GHz band via 802.11b/g/n support.

The Ring app: slowly she loads

Wi-Fi issues notwithstanding, Ring's app experience sometimes introduced excruciatingly long delays as well. Specifically, it often took a really long time to jump from Ring's notification alert to the video-chat screen that lets you see who's at your door.

Here's the workflow. Step one: When you hear the chime sound, get to your phone and unlock it. Step two: Launch the Ring app from your notifications shade. Step three: Wait for the app to load. When it does load, you'll see the video camera's accept/reject prompt.

Now, on paper, this doesn't sound like a frustrating process. And in best-case scenarios, the app would load as quickly as what you see in my video at the top of this article. But oftentimes these ostensibly brief steps would take forever. Sometimes my phone would be in another room. Sometimes I couldn't quickly get it out of my pocket, or I'd fumble with my unlock code. But worst of all, sometimes the video chat screen would take an eternity to load.

 

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