Ring essential guide: The Ring smart security system in depth

We help you master the company's cameras, doorbells, app and integrations

Ring essential guide
The Ambient is reader-powered. If you click through using links on the site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

What started as a way for founder Jamie Siminoff to see who was at the front door whilst in his garage, Ring has rocketed into the biggest name in smart doorbells.

And though doorbells are still the company's bread and butter, it’s been branching out into other areas of smart home security such as cameras and fully-loaded security systems. Its success has been hard to ignore, and after Amazon splashed out a whopping $1 billion back in February 2018 to buy the company, it’s hard to see how it doesn’t push on and dominate the field for the foreseeable future – even with competition from Google's Nest.

Whether you’ve already got a Ring doorbell screwed outside your front door, or you’re looking to see which Ring device is best for your home, you’re in the right place. Below, we’ve provided a rundown on all the essential details surrounding Ring, including the best Ring security cameras currently available, the app which helps run the show, the subscription plans at your disposal, and all of the various smart integrations. Plus, what's coming soon...

Jump to the information you need

Ring: Smart home devices

What began as a single Wi-Fi-enabled doorbell has now developed into a stable of video-enabled devices that double up as intercoms to help give you more security and control over your front door.

But not all of Ring’s doorbells are created equal, and its smart security cameras are also slightly different propositions to their rivals. Let’s explore the highlights from the Ring range.

The doorbells

Ring essential guide: The Ring smart security system in depth

Ring Video Doorbell 3 (and 3 Plus)

Pre-order: ring.com | From $199.99,

Available from April 2020, the Ring Video Doorbell 3, and Doorbell 3 Plus, were recently revealed alongside newly designed Chime and Chime Pro models.

The Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus features the new Pre-Roll feature, which shows you four seconds of footage from before motion is detected from your smart doorbell, so you can get more context behind exactly what triggered an alert.

This footage is just black and white, low frame rate footage that's actually captured by a different camera to the main Ring video recordings. In fact, the setup features a three-camera array.

As well as the new Pre-Roll footage (which is just for the Plus model), the Doorbell 3 also adds a better motion detection area setting and dual band Wi-Fi, with both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands supported.

Read our full Ring Video Doorbell 3 review.

Ring guide - Ring smart home

Ring Video Doorbell 2

Buy now: Amazon, ring.com | $199,

There are more heavyweight doorbells in Ring's arsenal, but in our opinion the Doorbell 2 is the best. If you’re renting, want to keep the hassle of installation down to a minimum, and hearing the word "transformer" only brings Autobots to mind, the Ring Video Doorbell 2 is probably right for you.

Like many other smart doorbells, the 5.05 x 2.5 x 1.08-inch Ring 2 is powered by a rechargeable battery, which the company says will last you roughly 6-12 months depending on usage. For example, using Live View will have you charging it up every few months, but this is made simpler by the fact that you don’t have to take the whole unit off your house in order to charge it up.

And, really, this is the main difference between the Ring 2 and its siblings. You’ll still get five selectable motion detection zones and you can still customize the sensitivity scale, plus the camera is able to capture video 160-degrees horizontally and 90-degrees vertically at 1080p HD. If you'd prefer to, you can still wire the Ring 2 into your existing doorbell circuitry.

If you go the battery route, be aware that you’ll still have to screw in and replace your standard doorbell with the Ring 2, but this doesn’t involve the same amount of work as a full wire job.

Read our full Ring Video Doorbell 2 review.

Ring doorbell review guide

Ring Peephole Cam

Buy now: Amazon, ring.com | $199

Ring's latest doorbell (previously called the Ring Door View Cam and later changed) is a little different in that it's designed to sit over the peephole viewer on your door. That makes it a great fit for many apartments and renters, and we've had a good experience using it.

Installation is super easy: just take off your existing door viewer, install the Peephole Cam on either side of the door, put in the battery, and attach the removable faceplate. But unlike the Ring Video Doorbell 2, this one takes up very little space. It's Ring's most attractive doorbell, hands down.

The Full HD sensor produces a nice clear video stream resolution and the wide-angle 155-degree lens gives you plenty of perspective. Recording at a maximum of 15fps, the footage is a touch jerky at times. Clear enough to see who's stood at your door, though. At nighttime the Peephole Cam switches on its IR lights for a black and white view.

But the View's most unique feature is knock detection. There's a button for visitors to press, but many people will miss that and just knock anyway. The knock detection does exactly what you expect, sending you a notification when someone raps on the door. It's pretty reliable too, but there's a sensitivity adjustor should you need to tweak it.

Read our full Ring Peephole Cam review.

Get started with Ring: Everything you need to know about the doorbell king

Ring Video Doorbell Elite

Buy now: Amazon, ring.com | $499

You’re serious about doorbells – love them, can't get enough of them – and you’ve got your eye on the Ring Video Doorbell Elite, the most complete package among the company’s four options. We get it.

The first thing you need to be aware of here, though, is that you’re going to need to install it manually, and that does involve plenty of steps. Thankfully, Ring does do a pretty decent job of explaining what you’ll need to do here, and all the bits – like mounting screws, Ethernet cables, etc – are included in the package.

Ethernet connection, you say? Yes. The fact that this doorbell works through the Ring Elite Power Kit, instead of just straight-up hardwiring, is the key difference between the Elite and the Pro, which we’ll detail below.

That means you’re getting a much more secure and fast connection, but it does require a professional setup. Other than that, what you get here is 1080p HD video quality, customizable motion detection zones, human detection, two-way talking, night vision and interchangeable faceplates.

Getting started with Ring: Your missing manual

Ring Video Doorbell Pro

Buy now: Amazon, ring.com| $249

The features packed inside the Elite – 1080p HD video quality, motion detection, human detection, two-way talking and night vision – also make their way to the Pro.

However, the Pro is much slimmer and offers a slightly better field of view (100 degrees, as opposed to the Elite’s 90-degree eye), but it’s what’s going on behind the doorbell that explains the lower price.

While the Video Doorbell Elite is powered by Ethernet, therefore making the setup through transformers optional, the Pro needs a compatible 16 to 24 VAC in order to work and will use Wi-Fi.

Essentially, it needs the power provided by the wiring in your current doorbell, while the Elite doesn’t. The decision between the two really comes to how much you’re willing to pay for a stronger, more reliable connection.

Ring essential guide: The Ring smart security system in depth

Ring Video Doorbell

Buy now: Amazon,ring.com | $99.99,

The second generation Ring Video Doorbell has just been announced, boasting a budget price-tag and some pretty impressive specs. It takes the original Ring Video Doorbell and adds Full HD 1080p video, improved motion detection, privacy zones, audio privacy and crisper night vision.

The bad news is that you'll still have to take the whole doorbell unit off of the wall when it needs charging.

However, there's a new option if you don't fancy that - a $49 solar base where you can mount the Doorbell on, which charges it.

The security cameras

Get started with Ring: Everything you need to know about the doorbell king

Ring Spotlight Cam

Buy now: Amazon, ring.com |$199,

A plug-and-play HD security camera with built-in spotlights, the, er, Spotlight brings two-way talk and a siren alarm to the outside of your home. You can set customizable motion zones the same way you can with the company’s video doorbells, plus you can watch the live action on your phone, tablet or PC and receive and answer alerts.

As soon as motion is detected, the camera’s inbuilt spotlights will shine and begin recording video in 1080p HD, recording sound through the in-built microphones too.

Since this will be sitting outside, it’s also weather resistant, can offer night-friendly vision and captures everything in a 140-degree field of view. The app is a breeze to use, motion detection is accurate, and the Spotlight integrates nicely with other Ring devices.

What’s good to be aware of with the Spotlight is that it comes in two variants: one wired, one battery-powered. They’re both the same price, so the choice really comes down to which way you’d prefer to install your device.

Read or full Ring Spotlight Cam review.

Get started with Ring: Everything you need to know about the doorbell king

Ring Indoor Cam

Buy now: Amazon, ring.com $59.99

Compact and cheap, the Indoor Cam is a great little security camera – perfect as an addition to an Alexa/Ring home. As a standalone device, though, it's a harder sell.

Don't let its diminutive proportions fool you; there's 1080p HD video, motion zones, night vision, two-way talk, and motion-activated recording all crammed into this camera.

However, it lacks some of the key features – person detection, continual recording – that you'll find on other cameras. You also have to pay to record footage on Ring's servers; only livestreaming through the app is available for free.

Also, because there's no battery you'll have to keep it wired to power at all times. So yeah, there are limitations here, but enough good points to make it a worthwhile indoor camera for the right use case.

Read our full Ring Indoor Cam review.

best ring smart camera

Ring Stick Up Cam

Buy now: Amazon, ring.com | From $99.99

The Ring Stick Up Cam comes in three different variants: plug-in ($99), battery ($99) and solar ($149). That makes it ideal for those who want a moveable camera that can live in the great outdoors or in the comfort of their home.

Better yet, the camera got a late-2019 refresh that brought the price down considerably. It still offers up to 1080p HD video, motion detection, night vision, two-way talk and a wide viewing angle that spans 150 degrees horizontally and 155 degrees diagonally. It's just a lot cheaper.

It does set to 720p by default, however, so make sure the change the settings in the app. Motion detection is included – and can be snoozed when needed – but it was the camera's night vision that impressed us more. The built-in siren is really loud.

Installation is a breeze, with everything for mounting the Cam included in the box. The mounting arm is flexible so you can standing it on a desk, mount it to a wall, or even hang it from a ceiling.

All models are Alexa-compatible, coming in black and white and featuring 1080p HD recording, two-way audio and a remote-activated siren. Google Assistant is supported too, but limited to basic things like switching on motion detection.

Read our full Ring Stick Up Cam review (2018 model).

Getting started with Ring: Your missing manual

Ring Floodlight Cam

Buy now: $249, Amazon | ring.com

The only outdoor camera on the market to offer motion-activated floodlights, a siren alarm and two-way audio all in one package, the Floodlight Cam is essentially a ramped up version of the Spotlight.

You’ll get a whopping 270-degree field of view, with regard to motion detection, a 110-decibel alarm which can be remotely sounded, and it can naturally survive the elements.

This is a wired operation, which means setup is different to the Spotlight, but thankfully it can replace your current floodlight unit and connect to standard junction boxes.

The security system

Get started with Ring: Everything you need to know about the doorbell king

Ring Alarm

Buy now: Amazon, ring.com| $199

What was once known as Ring Protect is now Ring Alarm – Ring's security system. The system is made of several parts: a base station, a keypad, a motion detector, a motion sensor and a range extender, all of which come to $199, with the option to buy more sensors for the home if you need them.

Best of all, it's a system you should have no problem installing yourself. Ring offers a pro membership for $10 a month, which bags you LTE backup, unlimited video storage, and professional monitoring.

Alexa integration is improving, and you can now arm and disarm the system using your voice, as well as getting updates on the status of your system ("Alexa, is my front door open?"). Ring's security system also integrates with Alexa’s Guard feature, which sets all your Echo devices to listen for the sounds of smoke/CO alarms or glass breaking.

There's no geofencing or scheduling, but the Ring Alarm has plenty going for it and it gets the basics of home security right.

Read our full Ring Alarm review.

Sensors and accessories

Getting started with Ring: Your missing manual

Chime and Chime Pro

Buy now: Amazon, ring.com |$29/49,

Working with all of Ring’s doorbells and cameras, the Chime and Chime Pro are essentially extenders to help boost your alerts. That means you and your smartphone can be on the other side of the house to your doorbell and you'll still be able to hear what's going on and get a reasonable connection.

The difference between the two? The Pro doubles up as a Wi-Fi extender, giving you better connection between your Ring devices and your network, and the volume has been greatly improved.

In April 2020, new versions of the Chime accessories will go on sale, with all new designs.

Sensors and alarms

Ring also has a bunch of additional sensors for your home, including the Alarm Smoke and CO2 Listener (US-only), which can be placed near any of your existing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and will send alerts if their alarms sound.

There's a $30 version of the Dome Siren, which works with the Ring Alarm Security Kit and can be placed around the house for increased awareness. There's also the more recent Flood and Freeze sensors, which costs $35 a piece and will keep a watch for water and low temperatures.

As well as those, Ring offers a motion sensor, a contact sensor, and a window-open sensor, all of which work with its Alarm system.

ring camera reviews the best

Smart lights

In 2019, Ring further rounded out its product line with a jump into smart lighting. The Ring Floodlight is a motion-activated wired light for the outside that lasts 2,000 lumens for $70. There's also a 600 lumens battery-powered alternative in the Ring Floodlight Battery, for $50.

There's also a stairway light, a path light, and a spotlight. They can be combined with the Ring Motion Sensor, which doesn't have a light but can be used to activate the others.

If you have a lot of landscape lighting already and don't fancy replacing it all, there's the Ring Transformer, which will make your older, dumb, lights smart.

Ring: The app and subscription plans

If you’re already knee-deep in the quest to smarten up your home, you’ll know that ecosystems' companion apps are essential to the wider control of the experience.

Available on iOS and Android for your smartphone or tablet, as well as on Mac or Windows desktops, the Ring app allows you to do much of what we’ve talked through above: customize your motion zones, use Live View, and view the history of your Rings. You’ll also get access to some of the more standard basics, such as device health, battery, settings, tones and the ability to link your Chimes.

However, to get the most out of the Ring experience, it’s also worth exploring a subscription plan. Ring Protect comes in two variations, and it really depends on how many Ring devices you have as to which is more cost-effective and useful to you.

Ring Protect Basic covers one camera at a time, giving users cloud storage for 60 days, video reviews from missed alerts and the ability to share videos with friends, family or law enforcement for $3 a month.

If you want to go big, Ring Protect Plus is there to cover you instead. With this $10 option, you’ll get these same features across an unlimited amount of cameras, lifetime warranty in case of accidental damage or burglary and a 10% discount on select purchases through Ring.

Ring: Privacy and controversy explained

2019 saw Ring come under scrutiny for its surveillance practices and relationship with police departments in the US.

Let's tackle the app first. Ring's Neighbors app is free and available both to people who own Ring products and those who don't, and works like a neighborhood watch platform, letting people post videos and posts about goings-on in the area. From missing packages to runaway pets, users can post messages and upload video from their Ring devices to get the word out around their local area.

However, there's a fair argument that it does more to stir fear than quell it. But the implications become more concerning with regards to Ring's police partnerships. Last year, it came to light that police departments around the US were working with Ring to increase neighborhood surveillance.

After Ring partnered with the Los Angeles Police Department in 2015, the LAPD claimed it saw a 55% reduction in crime across the area – despite those findings looking a bit shaky. Nonetheless, Ring used this as justification to spread these partnerships across the country, with over 700 and counting.

But what does it allow the police to do? Primarily, they can ask Ring users to provide video footage that could be helpful to an investigation. Users aren't required to do so, and Ring says it doesn't hand over footage to law enforcement agencies, but the optics of the entire situation aren't great. Doubly so considering Ring is owned by Amazon, which is already under heavy scrutiny for its monopolistic behavior.

In September last year, Cnet also reported that Ring was at one point considering building a tool that would use 911 calls as a trigger to automatically activate doorbells and cameras near the incident, providing law enforcement a live stream and video record. Ring says it's no longer pursuing the project, but that won't do much to allay suspicions about how this technology could be used for bad. Here's hoping Ring is listening to these concerns, and treads carefully.

In a statement, the company told us: "Ring is always looking to innovate on behalf of our customers to make our neighborhoods better, safer places to live. However, not all ideas make it to development. Privacy, security and user control will always be paramount when Ring considers applying any new technology to its business."

TAGGED    smart home

Related stories

smart home Xbox One 4K essential guide: How to play 4K movies and games on the console
smart home How to build your own smart home hub with a Raspberry Pi
smart home UK smart meters explained: How they work and whether you should get one
google Hey Google event set for 8 July: High hopes for hot new hardware
smart home Dyson smart home guide: Purifiers, humidifiers, fans, robot vaccum cleaners, smart lights and more
security cameras Ring 3 Plus Review: This battery-powered doorbell fills in the blanks