Peace of mind is one thing that a smart home can give you -- knowing that your precious property is monitored whether you're home or away. Ring's Video Doorbell 2 is a smart home gadget that sits at your front door and logs a video snapshot of all visitors, whether they press your doorbell or not.
What Is It?
The $329 Ring Video Doorbell 2 is a smart, Wi-Fi connected doorbell that, like its name suggests, records video. It works with a cloud storage account from Ring that'll cost you $4 per camera per month with unlimited storage, also working with Ring's own range of security cameras -- all coming together in the Ring app for iOS or Android or for the Web.
The Video Doorbell 2 has heat-sensitive infrared motion detectors that can be customised to work between five feet (about 1.5m) to 30 feet (around 9m) in different zones in a 180-degree arc in front of it, which suits the camera's 160-degree field of vision quite nicely. It's easy to choose which zones you want to cover, as well as the times of day you want them covered -- if not continuously. This is the Video Doorbell 2's big advantage over a lesser smart video doorbell, which will only activate and record when the chime button is pressed.
Setup for the Ring Video Doorbell 2 is, to be honest, a bit of a chore. First you'll have to fully charge the included battery, then set up a Ring account, then actually find the best spot around your front door to put the Video Doorbell 2. It's a chore because it makes sense to physically install it before you start setting it up, but the only way to actually see what the Video Doorbell 2 will view is to set it up beforehand. And you should set the standalone Chime Pro internal chime (if you buy one) up first, because you'll want the RVD2 to connect to it... it's all a bit of a headache. But the end result is more than worth it.
The big hook for the Ring Video Doorbell 2 is the fact that it has a removable rechargeable lithium-ion battery, although you can hard-wire it. It'll last six to twelve months according to Ring -- I've had mine set up and running for a month and it's down to 63 per cent, but I've been checking in on it a lot and switching it around on different Wi-Fi networks regularly. I'd expect to get six months out of it easily, and recharging is as simple as plugging the battery pack into microUSB for a few hours.
Silver and black faceplates are included in the box for the Video Doorbell 2, and three mounting brackets that let you angle the doorbell down or on a 90-degree corner using the bundled screws and brick wall plugs -- even a masonry drill bit is included. (Since I was testing the RVD2, I just used double-sided tape.) The kit is comprehensive and has excellent instructions telling you what you need to do to get set up for the first time, from charging the battery to checking your Wi-Fi.
Once you're up and running though, you can use your phone and the Ring app to live view and listen in on whatever the RVD2 is seeing at any time, with only about five seconds of loading and hand-shaking needed to get up and running. And, of course, whenever anyone presses that doorbell, you can have a conversation with them using the device's built-in microphone and speaker -- great for letting a courier know to just drop that package off under the chair on the front porch.
You do need decent internet upload speeds for the Ring Video Doorbell 2. Ring recommends 2Mbps upload and download speeds at a minimum, but you should take that as a very broad guide -- you'll want at least that when you're accessing the doorbell's video, and you should remember everything else in your house that uses the 'net as well. I'd suggest a 5Mbps upload speed or 10Mbps upload to be safe -- and that means you'll ideally want an NBN connection to your house.
And it's good enough that you'll actually use it too. Video and audio quality from the Video Doorbell 2 is just about what you'd expect from a battery-powered smart home camera. It's passable, and audio capture is clear enough that you can hear what's going on -- or have a conversation with whoever's at your front door through the app -- but it's not going to win any awards. The fact that it's automatically uploaded to your Ring account and you can access it anywhere is the real hook:
Here's one thing worth noting: Ring's internal plug-in Chime or Chime Pro -- which also acts as a booster for your Wi-Fi network -- is an optional extra for $59 or $79 respectively, which is a bit disappointing. You'd expect a regular doorbell to include a chime, so why doesn't the $329 Video Doorbell 2? Without a Chime, you're expected to have your phone with you all the time to see the notification that someone's at your front door.
The other big thing worth noting is that the RVD2 needs some good, strong Wi-Fi coverage to perform to its best -- it doesn't like dodgy coverage, which translates into choppy poor quality video no matter how fast your internet upload speed is. My Wi-Fi router is at literally the opposite corner of a large two-storey house, and I needed both a Wi-Fi range extender and the Chime Pro connected to that to extend fast Wi-Fi far enough for the Video Doorbell 2 to be happy.
Getting that Chime Pro is nearly mandatory, then, so you should factor it into the price of buying the Ring Video Doorbell 2. It drives the price of the RVD2 kit up to $400, which is a lot of money for a single piece of technology -- albeit a really cool and convenient one, when it works -- to replace a $20 dumb doorbell chime. Then you're paying $4 a month for cloud storage, which is definitely cheap, but it is an extra ongoing cost.
Should You Buy It?
You can't run the Ring Video Doorbell 2 on a regular ADSL or cable internet connection in Australia -- neither has the upload bandwidth available. I use 4G at home and that's more than fast enough for a high quality feed, and anyone lucky enough to be on the NBN -- ideally at least a 10Mbps upload plan rather than the base 25/5Mbps. This is a big caveat for the Video Doorbell 2, like it is for just about any smart home product you can buy in Australia -- cameras like Nest's Indoor Cam, at the very least. If you don't have good internet speeds at home, you probably shouldn't even bother trying. And then you'll need good Wi-Fi.
But if you do have good 'net, and you've got the right location in which you can install the Video Doorbell 2, it's a great piece of technology. It's easy to set up and install, and it offers you genuine reassurance to know that the entrance to your house is being protected with cloud video recording -- whether it's motion-activated or specifically when the doorbell button is pressed. Security cameras are a peace of mind thing in the first place, and Ring's latest battery-powered doorbell gives you that at a very reasonable upfront and ongoing price.