Ring Video Doorbell 2020 Review: Fantastic value but a few compromises

Although Ring has introduced a multitude of video doorbells for what is now the most complete range in the market, the original Ring Video Doorbell is still a winner. And it’s been updated too, taking the original and updating it to modern standards while still keeping the price point low and affordable. As it stands, the Ring Video Doorbell offers what is perhaps the best value of the sector, making it the best possible access point for the wider smart security ecosystem.

A few months ago we took a look at the higher end Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus, which packs a lot of punch into its feature-set, capped by the inclusion of Pre-Roll footage which can show you a few seconds leading up to a motion event.

The Ring Video Doorbell may not have that kind of flash, but those just looking for a simple security doorbell that lets you view a live stream from your phone, and – with a subscription – access recorded footage, it does just fine.

Design

Given its a literal refresh of the original 2015 model, Ring have kept things more or less the same in terms of general aesthetic. It’s the same “slim but not too slim” design as all the other Ring video doorbells, with a silver-ish Satin Nickel finish at the bottom and a glossy deep black at the top. The body measures in at 4.9 x 2.4 x 1.1 inches, which is only slightly thinner than the 3 Plus. And by slightly I mean you’re looking at a 4.9-inch height instead of 5.1-inches. It looks great next to my door, and I assume it’d look just fine next to yours.

You’ve got the camera at carved into the top section along with a microphone, whereas the bottom hosts the large and easy-to-press doorbell which is ringed by an LED light that flashes blue whenever the button is pressed. A speaker sits along the bottom edge for two-way communication and to sound the standard chime.

Ring is part of Amazon’s ecosystem, so you’ve got support for Alexa but none for Google Assistant or Apple HomeKit. That puts a severe dent on Ring’s access for those who haven’t already uniformed their house with Alexa-supported devices, and is especially souring when considering that Google Nest supports Alexa, and Arlo supports both. Regardless, as long as you’re an Alexa user, the Ring works like a charm.

You’ve also got support for IFTTT applets which allows you a huge level of customisation when it comes to how your smart home operates. If you’ve got some smart Hue lighting for example, you can work it so that you’re lights blink a certain colour when the doorbell is pressed, or when motion is detected.

One of the bigger differences here, and a compromise for such an attractive price point, is that the RVD doesn’t has a non-removable rechargeable battery. Though it’s rated to last 6 to 12 months (which is usually a very optimistic estimate – I’ve only had it for 2 months so wouldn’t able to judge), in order to charge it up you’d need to detach the entire device and hook it up via the supplied USB cable. That makes hardwiring a much better option, so if you an existing doorbell you can simply hook it up and not have to worry about battery life again.

Performance

The RVD captures 1080p video and has a generous 155-degree field of view. It’s not quite wide enough to compete with more expensive options, but it does the trick as long as you want a basic, vigilant doorbell. Captured video is bright and crisp with excellent contrast during the day, sporting a lot of detail, although the infrared LEDs used to capture black-and-white night video don’t seem all too accurate. Night video comes with quite a bit of noise, with terrible contrast.

Note that you’d need to a member of the very affordable Ring Protect Plan if you want to access recorded video, otherwise the main use out of the RVD is being able to access a live feed when you’re away from home, via the app.

People often sigh at ongoing costs to access a device’s full suite of features, but with the Ring Protect Plan so affordable it just wouldn’t make sense not to take advantage. Especially since it covers multiple devices. It makes the app much more comprehensive, adding playback functionality so you can watch through videos and rewind or fast-forward at all, share to (and set up) neighbourhood community portals, and flick footage to friends via social media, e-mail of text.

Although if you opt for no plan, there’s still quite a bit to navigate within the app. In addition to a history of motion alerts and live video, you can also customise broadly defined motion zones and control sensitivity, because the bigger battery drainers (and most annoying notifications) involve an overly sensitive motion sensor. The RVD is no exception here, and as with all other video doorbells I’ve tested, tweaking the motion zones, so that I’m not alerted every time a bird or car flies past, is a must. Do note that “people only” mode is possible if you have a plan, so hypervigilant motion alerts become less of a problem.

I noted in my review for the RVD3+ that fast movement during live video causes quite a bit of blur. That’s even worse here, and you’d have to tolerate quite a few blocky visuals if the front of your house is particularly busy. Thankfully, any motion blur is corrected quite quickly.

As far as two-way audio goes, it’s a bit more tinny than in the RVD3+ but voices are still clear and precise on either end. I’ve never had an issue with someone being able to hear and understand me, while I can hear them loud and clear without much external noise in the background. Granted, my street is ridiculously quiet most hours of the day.

Battery

As I said above, this has a non-removeable battery rated to last between 6 and 12 months. That’s a weird proximation that’s quite vague, and given my past experience with video doorbells – from various brands – I don’t expect it to be accurate either. I’ve only been testing the RVD for almost 2 months, and am sitting at around 25% of battery life. I’d imagine having to take the screws out and bringing the device inside would be frustrating, but those are the sacrifices we make if we’re going for the budget option.

Verdict & Value

For a budget video doorbell, the RVD brings an incredible amount of value. In fact, I’d say if you don’t want to fork out for the (vastly superior) $369 RVD3+, the A$99 Ring Video Doorbell really is the best choice out there. Ring has been exceedingly generous when it comes to features, and as long as you’re fine with less than ideal video at night (which is a hard pill to swallow, I know), and the battery issue, grabbing the RVD and then using the money you saved to get some cameras just makes all the sense in the world.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Highlights: Unbelievably affordable; crisp 1080p video capture during the day; control motion alerts; clear two-way audio; easy to install.
Lowlights: Night video is hit and miss; have to detach the entire device to charge it.
Manufacturer: Ring
Price: A$99
Available: Now

Review based on unit supplied by Ring.

Chris Singh

Chris Singh is the Deputy Editor of the AU review and a freelance travel writer. You can reach him on Instagram by following @chrisdsingh.

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