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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.

Installation: Easy-peasy

Ring can be hardwired to your existing doorbell's electrical leads, but lacking any doorbell at all, I opted to use the device's internal battery, which is charged with a USB cable (just like any typical mobile device), and is rated to last one year between charges. Pulling off the doorbell for recharging is a simple matter of removing two screws with a special tool that Ring provides, and then sliding the doorbell off a backing plate. It's no big deal.

The backing plate is designed to mount on wood, brick, concrete, stucco, and aluminum siding, and the kit includes installation parts, like screws and a drill bit, to provide everything you'll need. Unfortunately, using my cordless DeWalt drill, I couldn't penetrate my home's concrete, so I opted for heavy-duty double-sided tape. It works marvelously, and there's a failsafe even if someone steals the doorbell: Ring will replace stolen doorbells free of charge, as long as you provide a police report.

As for overall durability, the doorbell is rain-resistant, and is rated to operate in temperatures ranging from -5 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

My Wi-Fi problems notwithstanding, both the doorbell and chime accessory were easy to pair with my wireless network. Just a word of caution: If you're using a Wi-Fi range extender, make sure to pair the doorbell outside your house, right on your doorstep. This will ensure that Ring finds the extender, and not your router. If you pair the doorbell inside your home, you run the risk of pairing it with your main Wi-Fi router, especially if your router and range extender have different names.

Promising but not perfect

My connection problems notwithstanding, I still give Ring a cautious thumbs-up. Every user will enter the Ring experience with a different connectivity situation--different home Wi-Fi dynamics; different smartphone variables--so others might experience better reliability than I did.

In fact, some of my neighbors might testify to this. After Ring sent me the review unit, they also seeded some 20 of my neighbors with Rings of their own. The goal was to turn my neighborhood into something of a test bed for measuring how the doorbell can be deployed to reduce crime (or at least give homeowners more confidence in their own home security). Using the NextDoor social network, I asked neighbors for reviews.

"So far, so good," wrote one neighbor, adding, "I'd love to be able to just peer at the current feed, but it's more of a want than a need. [Ring] is close to the router, so there's no need for an extender. I'd almost be tempted to put one out back as well."

And this from another neighbor: "I like that it connects to my cell phone, and I can see who's at the door even when I'm not home. Based on descriptions of some of the break-ins, the perp rang the doorbell first."

 

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