Who’d have thought that radar would become an increasingly important technology in the smart home? The second-gen Google Nest Hub taps the tech to track your sleep, and now the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 is using it for 3D motion detection. Ring’s top-of-the-line doorbell camera offers other advanced features, too, but is it enough to justify its $250 price tag—and the subscription you’ll need to access them?
If you’re not familiar with Ring’s video doorbells and other home security cameras, you’ll get motion and visitor alerts, but you’ll only be able to view a live stream of what’s happening in front of the camera unless you sign up for a Ring Protect subscription. You can talk to people in front of the camera—using your smartphone or an Echo Show smart display—but you won’t be able to see events that occurred in the past.
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best video doorbells, where you’ll find reviews of the competition’s offerings, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.
Ring’s subscriptions aren’t terribly expensive, starting at $3 per camera per month, but they’re the only way to get motion-activated recordings that are stored in the cloud, so you can watch them later (you get up to 60 days of history). You’ll need a subscription to unlock some of the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2’s more advanced features. More on that in a bit.
The Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 delivers the highest resolution of any Ring camera—1536p HD—with a 150 x 150-degree viewing angle that affords a head-to-toe view of your visitor. But you’ll find some other cameras that offer even higher resolution and wider viewing angles. The $249 Vivint Doorbell Camera Pro, for instance, delivers resolution of 1,664 pixels and viewing angles of 180 degrees vertically and horizontally. That said, Vivint’s optional subscription costs $4.99 per month (and you’ll want it just as much as Ring’s), and Ring’s doorbell offers several advanced features that Vivint doesn’t.
The Video Doorbell Pro 2’s 1536p resolution, along with HDR support, results in good video quality in a variety of lighting conditions, but I encountered a problem with the doorbell’s night-vision performance. During a troubleshooting session, a Ring representative noted a problem at the network level that was throttling the bit rate and negatively impacting image quality. Curiously, it was a problem that wasn’t happening with Ring’s entry-level wired video doorbell ($60) that I’m also in the process of reviewing.
3D motion detection
Chief among these advanced features is the radar-powered motion detection I mentioned up top. Once you’ve connected the doorbell to your home’s existing low-voltage wiring, you’ll provide your home’s address to the Ring app. The app will then present a satellite image (not in real time, of course) of your property and ask you to mark on that map where you’ve placed the doorbell and how far out you want it to detect motion. Ring’s other cameras accommodate crude estimates of distance, but radar lends a degree of precision to the Video Doorbell Pro 2.
This 3D motion-detection feature works in concert with something Ring calls Bird’s Eye View, in which a picture-in-picture window is overlaid on the app’s main screen. When you get a motion alert and start streaming live video, the app will use that satellite image to present an aerial view of the area you marked for motion detection. Overlaid on that aerial view will be a series of dots marking the path along which motion has been detected. You can see when a motion event began and the path a potential intruder followed—or is moving, if you’re looking at a live feed—while in the camera’s view.
This is a killer feature that we haven’t seen before, and it’s useful both while you’re viewing a live stream and while watching a recorded clip, but it has an Achilles’ heel: Ring depends on third-party satellite imagery, so it has no control over the quality of those images. In my case, as you can see in these screenshots, the satellite images are extremely fuzzy. You won’t know what quality your satellite images will be until you buy a Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 and install it. That said, I know precisely where my doorbell is located, and seeing the dots tracking movement was very useful to me.
We’ve seen doorbell cameras with canned voice responses before, and they’re great for those times you can’t answer the door, or you’d just prefer not to. Ring calls theirs Quick Replies and there are six, including “Please leave the package outside. If you’d like to leave a message, you can do it now.” Ring goes a step further with Alexa Greetings. You can have Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant answer the door for you, and she, too, can take messages that will appear in your event history. You can program the doorbell so that Alexa answers immediately or up to 20 seconds later. But Alexa integration is another feature that requires Ring Protect subscription plan.
A Ring Protect subscription also unlocks several other features: Advanced Pre-Roll displays a six-second video preview showing what triggered motion detection. Rich Notifications shows a real-time preview of what’s happening in in front of the camera even before you open the Ring app. And People Only mode is supposed to generate motion alerts only when humans are in front of the camera, but I found it incredibly unreliable. It couldn’t distinguish between humans, cats, and other furry animals moving across its field of view. My editor tells me he encountered the same problem with Vivint’s video doorbell.
The bottom line
The Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 boasts some unique and sophisticated features, but we’ve seen competing doorbell cameras with even higher resolution and wider viewing angles selling for the same price or less. And Ring’s People Only mode just doesn’t live up to its billing. On the other hand, if you’re already deep in the comprehensive Ring—and Amazon Alexa—smart home ecosystem, and you want the best video doorbell in that ecosystem, the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 is it.