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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.

ring beauty
As soon as a visitor hits the button, a blue light races around the circumference of the button, and the doorbell emits a loud chime sound.

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.

But there's a deeper reason why I wanted to test Ring: It's got intriguing home-security features that could discourage the crooks who've been targeting my neighborhood in a series of daytime robberies.

Burglars typically start these capers by ringing the doorbell to determine if anyone's home. The Ring Video Doorbell, thanks to its built-in video camera with two-way communication, directly addresses this nefarious use case by making the bad guys think you're always at home. There's also a motion alert feature that let's you see who's come to the door, even if they never press the doorbell button.

Ring's basic premise is fantastic, but throughout five weeks of testing, the doorbell didn't always deliver on its promises. It's a shame, because Ring is a clever, well-designed gadget. Indeed, if anything, Ring is a vivid reminder that inconsistent home Wi-Fi and capricious smartphone performance are the weak links in today's smart-home tech.

How Ring works

Ring operates on a simple concept. Someone presses your doorbell, and the signal travels through your Wi-Fi network, up into Ring's cloud servers, and then back down to your smartphone. Once you open up the phone notification and get inside the Ring app, you can see who's at the door, and even talk to the person in a two-way conversation.

You can see them, but they can't see you--and this is what makes Ring a compelling home security device. Whether you're inside your home, at work, or on vacation, the system is designed to let you always answer the door.

The upshot: When that sketchy person comes to your door asking for "charitable donations," you can compliment his appearance--nice prison tats!--and tell him you're too busy to talk right now. Who knows, maybe you're feeding your Belgian Malinois attack dogs. Or are you? The robber will never know that you're actually speaking to him from a restaurant. In another state.

When Ring worked as advertised, it delivered on all its promises. I never had any suspicious characters press the button, but I blew my neighbor's mind when I communicated with her--quite easily, through the doorbell--while I was on vacation in wine country, 80 miles away. Unfortunately, I couldn't help her get into her house (she had locked herself out), but it was a striking illustration of what Ring can do.

 

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