(Pocket-lint) – The Ring Video Doorbell series – created by Jamie Siminoff back in 2014 – has gone through a series of iterations and is the most complete set of smart doorbells available today. Although the company was bought by Amazon back in 2018 you really wouldn’t know it – it doesn’t try and sell you stuff every time you come home.
Of the complete Ring range it’s the Video Doorbell Pro that’s among the most comprehensive. That’s because this one doesn’t depend on battery power to operate – it needs to be mains hardwired by a professional (hence the name, so we see what they did there) – and therefore can record 24/7 and never miss a thing.
However, as such a setup means fiddling with mains electrics it’s a little bit more of a faff to get it installed in the first place. But once it’s setup, pride of place next to your front door, you’ll be very pleased with what this smart doorbell can do all day and all night.
Which Ring Doorbell should I choose?
There are quite a lot of Ring options. The Video Doorbell 3 is the entry model, which is the lowest price (unless you can find a Doorbell 2 on discount), requires a battery (so you can install it yourself) and captures ring/motion events. The Video Doorbell 3 Plus incorporates an additional camera to capture events before and after they happen – in what it calls Pre-Roll – but is otherwise like the standard model, battery and all.
Then things step up a little with the Video Doorbell Pro, as reviewed here, and the Video Doorbell Elite. Both these models are mains wired, so need professional installation. With no battery option, however, it’s always on and always recording. The Pro offers dual-band Wi-Fi for better connectivity (unlike the battery models), the larger-scale and flush-mount Elite instead delivers Power over Ethernet – for the most reliable connection in smart home security.
We doubt many will buy the Elite, though, as it’s a lot pricier than the Pro and even more complex to install. For us, the Pro is where it’s at.
Ring Pro: Installation
- Box includes: Ring Doorbell, Plug-in Chime (ringer), RCD transformer, screwdriver, drill bit
- Requires professional installation, as hardwires into mains power
However, the Pro could be a little fiddly to get installed. The box comes with all the basics that are needed – including the screwdriver to reach the tiny screws in the transformer – so a qualified person could do it themselves, but really the idea is to get a professional (i.e. electrician) to install it.
Even so, there are multiple possible pathways to installation. It depends where your current doorbell is, how that’s installed, and whether it has a mechanical or digital chime. Our original doorbell was installed above the interior of the front door, so Ring’s instructions – not using the small manual that’s included in the box, but the much longer and more complex one available online only – suggests this will need to be bypassed using a loop included in the box and the RCD transformer then fitted into the house’s mains electrics box.
That will make sense for a few situations, but not that many we suspect – as, like in our home setup, the downstairs lighting loop also includes the doorbell. That makes it implausible to take the power from the existing RCD. As such, in our scenario, we instead entirely removed the existing doorbell and hardwired the transformer in place. As it’s still on the downstairs lighting’s RCD it can trip out the whole system safely if there’s ever an issue.
This also meant needing to find an appropriate hideaway enclosure for the Ring transformer – a little tricky, as it’s very deep, at around 70mm. We did manage to find an outdoor junction box that would accommodate it, though, one roughly the same size as the interior doorbell that we’d removed, and you’d not even notice unless someone said. It looks rather neat and tidy all things considered.
Ring Pro: Design
- Dimensions (doorbell): 114.3 x 46.7 x 20.3mm
- Included faceplates: Satin Nickel, Cream, Venetian, Black
As for the doorbell itself, i.e. the one outside your home, that’s got the familiar Ring look. The camera is clearly visible, a trio of red lights will let you know that it’s watching (you’ll only notice at night), while the single doorbell button is clearly visible – nobody is going to look at this and be flummoxed about how it works.
The bell itself emits a ring when the button is pressed, the volume of which can be set within the app. We’d definitely suggest setting this to give some audible feedback – otherwise whoever is at the door might think it’s not working (especially true if they happen to know that non-Pro Ring doorbells are battery powered, right?).
When it comes to the exterior install you get a choice of faceplates. There’s cream, brown, black and silver – which, but of course, come with fancier marketing names – and all four are included in the box, so the choice is yours. There’s also an adaptor rear plate if you’re upgrading from an existing different-sized Ring Video Doorbell to the Pro version.
The Pro also includes a Chime in the box – a wall-socket ‘ringer’ that you can place anywhere inside your home. You can also set the sound level for this separately, once it’s been wirelessly paired with the doorbell itself using the app, and we’d suggest going as loud as possible – as it’s not that loud.
It is possible to buy additional Chimes – as we have done since installation – and these different designed and larger units are much, much louder than what’s included in the box. So loud, in fact, that we’ve set the newer one nowhere near to its upper volume levels.
The ringer sound has a default – the one you’ll likely hear on the TV ad and then think someone’s at your door – and a whole heap of additional ones, which range from traditional to downright absurd (dogs barking, ghosts howling, and so forth).
Ring Pro: Features
- Live View at any time
- Customisable motion zones
- Rich notifications (picture alerts)
- Two-way audio with noise cancellation
- Dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz b/g/n Wi-Fi
But the real reason to have a Ring Video Doorbell installed is two-fold: one, to answer the door virtually, whether you’re away from home, or, say, in the bath and unable to get to the door; but also to capture motion events and recordings that, unrelated to your local postie or local delivery service, could be helpful in capturing illicit behaviour, for example.
The associated Ring app is available for Google Android and Apple iOS, so you can install it on your phone or tablet (or both, of course). Once you’ve set it up you’re then able to invite others – so everyone in the family could, with the correct permissions, virtually answer the door. The choice is yours.
As Ring also functions as a normal doorbell, of course, if you’ve got friends or relatives over – maybe looking after your pets when you’re away for work or vacation – then the normal sound from the plugged-in Chime means they’ll be alerted that there’s someone at the door. Just like a normal doorbell, really.
The Pro offers dual-band Wi-Fi and therefore its range ought to be decent. If you have a huge house, however, then you may wish to invest in either the Elite product instead, or have a mesh network or powerline extenders to ensure the signal will extend to your front door – or, more to the point, outer gate by the sounds of things!
From within the Ring app it’s possible to do a whole lot. You can go to a Live View to see what’s going on outside the front door at any time. You can click in History to see all captured events – you can set that as doorbell rings and/or motion alerts. Ring Pro records all the time, however, so you can scroll through a 24-hour timeline to any point if you’re looking for something very specific – which could be really useful.
We’d advise turning motion alerts off, but keeping motion captured, as this way events are recorded but you’re not sent alerts to your phone. You can set motion alert zones, too, by drawing the in and out areas over the Pro’s wide-angle field of view within the app. That’s handy to avoid people walking past your house setting off an alert, but it can still be foiled – shadows, reflections, and such like, will still trigger the motion (and rightly so – that’s exactly its purpose). If you’re close to neighbours’ properties and wish to block our a privacy zone then you can draw total black-our areas that aren’t recorded too.
Alerts are now either simple notifications or rich notifications, the latter including an image preview from the time of the alert. That’s something many have wanted from Ring for a few years now. It’s handy, although as we’re usually home we prefer the simple notification to not clog up our phone’s notifications.
There are a lot of choices though. That’s one of the things we criticised about the Ring 3 Plus: ‘feature creep’, i.e. the company adding numerous features without much explanation, without others being pruned. And navigating the app can feel a bit busy as a result – when you know you’ve seen a setting but struggle to land on the correct screen immediately – which seems over-the-top for just a doorbell. Oh, and Ring offers a bunch of other products – lighting, alarms, etc. – that aren’t available in the UK, but which still do feature in the app, adding yet more busy-ness.
Ring Pro: Camera quality and capture
- Viewing angle: 160 degrees horizontal, 84 degrees vertical
- Capture/recording resolution: 1080p / Full HD
- 24/7 full time capture/recording available
- Infrared Night Vision and Live View
Busy or not, however, once Ring is up and running you can more or less forget about it. That’s what’s so great about this product. It’s always there doing the hard work for you – such as 24/7 recording (well, if you have a Ring Protect subscription, more info below) – while you go about your day. If it rings then you can answer, any time, anywhere.
The video quality is decent, too, at Full HD, while the angle of view is really wide – so while you might think you’ll miss peoples’ faces on camera, that’s rarely the case unless they’re very close to the door. It’s possible to share clips should you need them for future reference too (again, only with a Protect subscription).
When the light fades, Ring is still decent at recording. Its got a black-and-white Night Vision mode, which it tints with colour, to give a decent representation of low-light and at night time. There’s enough detail to still discern what’s going on – whether that’s someone delivering in the dark, or someone/thing skulking about your estate when they probably shouldn’t be.
We’d like it if Ring developed intelligent features, such as recognising faces, so you know if it’s a stranger at the door or familiar family face. Not a deal-breaker by any means, but something we’d anticipate could be on the cards in the future.
Ring Protect subscription costs
- 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
- Functions as a video doorbell without subscription – but minus recordings/history
When you first setup the Ring Video Doorbell Pro you commence 30 days of Ring Protect (or 60 days for US customers). This, as with so many recent home security products, is the subscription package.
Yes, we know, we heard your inner disappointment. But, actually, Ring Protect for a single Ring device isn’t too bad: it’s £2.50/$3 per month. It’s only if you own more than one Ring product that you’ll need the Plus package, which is more than three times that price.
We let our trial subscription elapse and, having done so, the Pro continues to work really well on a real-time basis. It’s possible to see Live View whenever you choose. You can answer the door via the app in real-time too, no problems. Not having the subscription just means no recordings, no history to look back at, no ability to share. Which, if all you want is a doorbell you can answer on your phone, is totally fine.
We do miss having the full capacity though. And when we next go on holiday – if that’s ever allowed by the UK government again – then we’ll be buying into the subscription for peace of mind when away from home.
Coincidentally, if you’re swapping over to a new Ring device from an older version, you’ll also have to contact Ring to get the Ring Protect plan swapped over – but we found it was fine to do over live chat.
Once you’ve got over the hurdle of getting the Ring Video Doorbell Pro installed, it’s plain sailing from there on out. For this product doesn’t have any battery concerns, so it’s always available and always recording.
That, we think, makes it well worth the investment over the more standard Ring products. Because it means you can capture Full HD quality all of the time and then look back over any of the past 30 days (60 days in the US) – well, if you pay for the monthly Ring Protect subscription plan.
With programmable motion zones, customisable ring/motion alerts (with optional preview images), and adjustable Chime sounds and volumes, there’s little else we could ask of the Ring Video Doorbell Pro. Well, the Chime included in the box could be better (we bought another, which is far better), and specific people recognition might become of use in the future, but that’s about all that could be bettered.
Ring really is the doorbell king – and the Pro is well worth installing for always-on peace of mind and convenience.
Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus
Don’t want the complicated setup? The more entry-level model is battery operated but still lasts for months at a time. It also has Pre-Roll so you can still see motion events before they happen – as this doorbell won’t record 24/7 like the Pro.
The only standout competitor is Google’s equivalent, called Hello, which you may prefer as a died-in-the-wool Google user. However, Nest Aware, its subscription plan, is twice the cost of Ring’s/Amazon’s equivalent.
Writing by Mike Lowe.