Ding dong! I see you...
Ever missed an important delivery because you weren't in? Wished you could have just told the courier to leave it with a neighbour? Now you can... from the other side of the world. The Ring Video Doorbell is a WiFi connected camera that doubles as a doorbell for your house, allowing you to use a smartphone app to interact with whomever comes a-knocking. We checked it out.
Regular readers will know that we're no strangers to WiFi home security cameras. They're useful, easy to install, and a breeze to operate. So what if you mounted one right in the middle of your front door? Handy to see who pays you a visit, we suppose, but hardly... welcoming. So how about installing a camera inside something you usually have on the door anyway; your doorbell, for example? Yes, the Ring Video Doorbell is just that – a small device with a big button for your visitors to press. Instead of a huge chime ringing aloud throughout your home, you get a notification on your smartphone, wherever you might be.
If you're at home, you can answer the door normally, possibly even checking the app to see who is calling before you open the door. The camera captures in 720p HD, so on the small screen of your phone it looks crystal clear. However, if you're not at home... you do the same, viewing the live feed to see who is there. Here's where it gets really clever.
Thanks to the two-way audio on the Ring Video Doorbell you can actually speak to the caller, which, we will be honest, freaked the crap out of most of the people we tried it on. Lets just say that the UPS guy who delivers to Test Pit Towers got the fright of his life when we first tested it, saying “heeeeelllllllooooooo!” in the creepiest voice we could muster. Fortunately we were only in the house, so could pop open the door to explain, but he revealed that he could hear us very clearly. Probably too clearly.
We also gave it a shot while away from TP Towers, using a smartphone's mobile internet. From what we could tell, the delay over the internet was no more than a second at most, which is very handy considering you need to talk to someone. In one instance we were able to direct a Royal Mail postie to leave something with our put-upon neighbours, and later to tell a cold-calling salesman to piss off. Great fun. But the video was clear, the audio crisp, and the night vision camera works well up to about fifteen feet from the door.
As well as being good looking and easy to navigate, the Ring Video Doorbell app also lets you set a few parameters. For example, as well as dealing with wanted visitors, it can also deal with unwanted ones, too. You can set a motion-activated record function so whenever anything moves in front of the camera, during the times you specify (we set ours for 00.00 to 06.00 each night), the camera starts to record, saving the footage to a cloud server. This is a paid-for feature however, but monthly plans cost just £2.50 per month, or £24.99 for the year. Which is a frikkin' steal, by the way. Oh, and the battery life on this thing is suppose to last up to a year on one charge. Also very impressive.
One thing that Ring also sent us was The Chime. This is an additional bit of kit that solves the only issue with the Ring Video Doorbell – what if you're not where your phone is when someone arrives? The Chime plugs directly into a wall socket and connects to the Ring. When someone presses the button, The Chime... well.. chimes, acting just like a traditional doorbell. We found this to be useful, even when our phones were in our hands, as it gave a far more audible notification that someone was there than the phone alone. And hey, it's only £24.99 extra.
So this well-thought-out bit of kit is very impressive. You might think you don't need something like this, and that it's all just a bit of a novelty. But for having round the clock access to our front door, no matter where in the world we are, quickly became one of those things that we feel like we now can't live without. Give it a whirl.