The square wireless base station is the main component of the Ring Alarm system. It's 6.7 x 6.7 x 1.4 inches in size, and though it lay flat on a bookshelf for this review, it can be mounted on a wall. The base station has ZigBee and Z-Wave antennas, and while the latter is available to use with compatible third-party accessories, anything that isn't Ring-certified won't work with security monitoring.
Ring Alarm hits nearly all the right notes for a basic DIY home security system. I’ve already touched on a couple of its shortcomings—including an absence of support for smart speakers—but tighter integration with Ring’s own cameras would be another welcome development. When an alarm is tripped, the cameras should begin recording to perhaps capture a glimpse of what triggered it—potentially valuable forensic evidence you could provide to the police investigating a break-in. And if Ring Alarm could control your home’s smart lighting, it could turn on all the lights if the alarm is triggered after dark, which might convince an intruder to make a hasty retreat.
If you do have smart lights and want to control them with a contact sensor or motion detector, you will need to install separate ones in addition to Ring’s, which can make your front door look like it’s grown barnacles with all of the sensors installed. Another simple integration would be to set a smart thermostat to its away mode when the Alarm is set to away, and then switch it back to its home mode when the Alarm is disarmed, but that’s currently not possible either.
When Ring was working without a hitch, the time delay between someone hitting the doorbell and receiving an alert on my phone was almost non-existent. Mind you, sometimes it would take a while to get from the smartphone notification to Ring’s video display (more about that soon), but at least there was very little lag in actually getting the notification itself.
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The beauty of all Ring products is that they’re free of long-term contracts and completely integrated with the user’s everyday tech. In other words, this ain’t your grandpa’s home security system. For no additional cost, the online home base will alert any selected users and devices when there’s unwanted movement in and around the house. For an additional $10/month, Ring users are upgraded to unlimited video recording (should they add a Ring doorbell or floodlight cam) and 24/7 professional monitoring from the Ring HQ.
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When you arm or disarm the system, the keypad and the base station play a female voice that informs you of the system’s status (the keypad’s speaker is unfortunately subdued). LEDs on both devices provide visual feedback as well, although only the base station gives you a constant visual cue as to the system’s status: Blue for unarmed, red for armed.
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1) First Impressions. We have a security system installed but didn’t go with their camera system because it was CCTV and I wanted something with an internet connection or way to access it from my phone. While making small talk with the security system guy, I mentioned the Ring to him. He was super excited to get out his phone and show me that he has one. He said he couldn’t buy any camera with nearly that quality at that price even with his discounts. He spoke so highly of it I was sure that’s what I wanted to get. We want to do a whole system with cameras on the back of the house, but we purchased the Ring Pro to see how we liked it before we commit to buying everything.
Our favorite security system for do-it-yourself monitoring and home automation is the $280 Abode Essentials Starter Kit, because not only does it add professional monitoring to your home, but it also works as a smart hub for third-party devices and helps facilitate home automation. But if you're looking for something a little more affordable and dead-simple to set up, Ring Alarm is worth a look.
Arming the system Away starts a 60-second countdown, delaying the armed state to give you time to exit the home without tripping any of the sensors. Opening a protected door while the system is armed also triggers a 60-second countdown, this one is to give you time to reach the keypad to disarm the system. If a sensor installed on a window is tripped while the system is armed, the alarm will go off instantly. That’s sensible: No one should be entering or leaving the home through a window while the system is armed.
The Ring Alarm is equipped with the hardware to serve as a smart hub, though it's not quite there yet. While the base station contains both ZigBee and Z-Wave radios, only the latter is user- accessible, and any noncertified third-party devices that are paired won't trigger the alarm. You can pair Z-Wave products through the Ring app, but they'll only use the base station as a bridge.
The Ring Pro delivered very sharp 1080p video in testing. Daytime video was clean with rich colors, and night vision video was well lit with good contrast and remained sharp out to around 20 feet. There was noticeable barrel distortion around the edges, but people and objects appeared normal. Two-way audio was loud and clean, unlike the original Ring Doorbell which would become garbled on occasion.
If a monitored door or window is left open when you arm the system, Ring Alarm will warn you, but give you the opportunity to push an illuminated button on the keypad to bypass that sensor. You’ll get a similar warning and opportunity when using the app to arm the system. The sensor will remain bypassed until you disarm the system again. It’s a convenient feature: If you left the upstairs window open, for example, but are in too much of a rush to run up and close it, you can take a calculated risk and secure the rest of the home.
When you press the doorbell button a chime sounds, the camera begins recording, and a push alert is sent to your phone. As with the Ring Floodlight Cam, you have to subscribe to a service plan to view, share, and download recorded video. The Protect Basic Plan is $3 per month or $30 per year and gives you 60 days of cloud storage per camera and full access to all of your videos. For $10 per month or $100 per year, the Protect Plus Plan gives you everything from the Basic Plan for an unlimited number of cameras, and you get a lifetime warranty (the warranty period is normally one year). By way of comparison, the August Doorbell Cam Pro subscription costs $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year for access to 30 days worth of video.
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Ring’s motion sensors and contact sensors are much more traditional than Nest’s, which cleverly combine the two into a single device that also adds a nightlight. Nest’s base station also combines the keypad with it and adds even more motion detection sensors – Ring’s separate base station and keypad approach is almost clumsy in comparison. But it is possible to add multiple keypads to the Ring system, so you can have one at each entry way or in your bedroom if that’s a more convenient place for it. The keypad can be placed flat on a table or mounted to the wall, and uses a simple MicroUSB cable for power. Its internal battery lasts between six and twelve months, according to Ring, so it’s possible to install it in a location that doesn’t have an accessible power outlet and just charge it occasionally.
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Though the Ring Alarm system covers the bases for a home security setup, there’s a lot of room for integration with other smart home products that Ring has left on the table. For example, it’s not possible to use the Ring’s motion or contact sensors to trigger lights or adjust a smart thermostat when you leave or come back home. This is despite the fact that the Ring Alarm sensors are based on Z-Wave technology, which is a widely used smart home standard.
There's also a Motion Snooze button that lets you temporarily disable motion alerts for 15 or 30 minutes or for 1 or 2 hours. The App Alert Tones button lets you select one of 20 sounds to play when the doorbell is pressed, or one of 16 sounds to play when motion is detected, and the Shared Users button lets you add users who can view video and receive alerts. Use the Ring+ button to link the Ring app to one of Ring's partners such as Wink, Kevo, LockState, and Wemo. Once linked, you can access a partner app from within the Ring app.
Despite this, we now pay the $3 a month required to save our online footage - when it captures. We're out of the return window due to our many attempts to fix the device through Ring support. If I could do it over, I'd be tempted to send it back and try another brand. Everything else in our house gets a killer signal, so why this device can't get a signal from our router that's only 15 feet away is beyond me.