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Ring buyer's guide: Everything you need to know about the home security system

You'll need Alexa and some form of Ring Protect subscription to get the most out of the platform.
By
November 11, 2022
The Ring Floodlight Cam Wired Pro

Thanks to its parent company, Amazon, Ring may be almost synonymous with smart home security for some people. Here’s a comprehensive look at the company’s offerings, which range from cameras and doorbells to complete alarm systems.

What is Ring?

Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus review closeup

Ring is a smart home security company, originally founded in 2013. It was bought out by Amazon in February 2018, and has gradually expanded from its original focus — video doorbells — to security cameras, alarm systems, monitoring, and even social networking in the form of its Neighbors app, which acts as a sort of “neighborhood watch” for Ring customers.

All of the company’s devices require the Ring app for Android or iOS. This aids with setup, and is used for control, notifications, and live monitoring of video feeds. Ring devices can optionally be integrated with Amazon Alexa, which enables control and automation through compatible smart speakers, smart displays, and Fire devices. You can for instance ask an Echo Show to show you a backyard camera, or talk to someone at your doorbell through your Echo Dot. Alexa Guard Plus is included with a Ring Protect Pro plan.

Ring gear is incompatible with Apple HomeKit unless you use a third-party kludge like Homebridge. There is official Google Assistant support, although it’s still limited compared to Alexa. If you’re planning on building an Apple- or Google-based smart home, you should probably skip Ring unless you’re content just using its smartphone app.

Privacy concerns

Under Amazon, Ring has run into multiple privacy controversies. Mostly notably the company has been criticized for sometimes sharing Neighbors videos with US police departments and not obtaining consent from relevant homeowners. Neighbors is, of course, a public network, but Ring normally promises to get consent unless it’s an emergency or they receive a subpoena. In July 2022, it admitted to having released video at least 11 times that year without consent.

Police have even asked Ring owners for videos directly, for instance in relation to 2020’s Black Lives Matter protests, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. While some of the BLM requests were in relation to specific incidents, at least one request asked only for footage connected to “the recent protests.”

Ring Doorbells

Ring tends to keep older doorbells on sale for years if you’re looking for a discount, but here are the company’s primary options.

Wired

  • Video Doorbell Wired ($64.99): Ring’s cheapest doorbell, this includes only the most basic features, namely HD video, two-way talk, and 2D motion detection. While it’s powered by your home’s existing doorbell wiring, it won’t sound any analog chimes — so you’ll need to rely on your phone, smart speakers/displays, or a Ring Chime add-on.
  • Video Doorbell Pro 2 ($259.99): The Pro 2 offers a “head-to-toe” field of view, 3D motion detection, and built-in “Alexa greetings” if you don’t want to answer the door yourself. You can also swap faceplates to better match the look of your house.
  • Video Doorbell Elite ($349.99): Ring’s top-of-the-line option, this one uses a flush mount and power over Ethernet, so you’ll need a professional installer or some serious home improvement skills. It does however ship with multiple faceplates in the box.

Battery

Ring Video Doorbell 4
Ring
  • Video Doorbell 4 ($219.99): Ring’s flagship doorbell supports dual-band (2.4 and 5GHz) Wi-Fi, pre-trigger recording of motion events, and “quick replies” if you don’t want to talk to guests. Ring says its battery should last 6 months to a year on a charge, but expect lower figures in reality.

Ring Cameras

ring indoor camera
  • Indoor Cam ($59.99): Ring’s cheapest dedicated security camera. As the name implies, it’s not weather-resistant, but it is compact and something you can use on a stand or mount on a wall. It’s wired, so you’ll need to place it near a wall outlet.
  • Stick Up Cam ($99.99): Think of this as Amazon’s “universal” camera. It’s battery-powered and weather-resistant, so you can use it both indoors and outdoors.
  • Stick Up Cam Elite ($199.99): Much like its Doorbell equivalent, the Stick Up Cam Elite uses Ethernet for power and data, offering maximum reliability.
  • Stick Up Cam Plug-In with Pan-Tilt ($129.99): Really a bundle, the selling point is the Pan-Tilt Mount, which can spin the camera 360 degrees with a 90-degree tilt range. It works both outside and in, but you’ll need to use wired power.
  • Spotlight Cam Plus ($199.99): This is similar to the Stick Up Cam, the obvious upgrade being motion-triggered spotlights that can illuminate (and potentially scare off) any intruders. It’s best paired with one of Ring’s solar panels.
  • Spotlight Cam Pro ($229.99): Enhancements over the Plus include 3D motion detection, HDR video, and higher-quality audio.
  • Floodlight Cam Plus ($199.99): This is virtually identical to the Spotlight Cam Plus, but with floodlights for wider illumination, and a siren for scaring off thieves or animals.
  • Floodlight Cam Pro ($249.99): A Spotlight Cam Pro with floodlights and a siren, making it Ring’s absolute best.

Sensors, alarms, and other devices

ring alarm pro

A note: you can buy various extenders and motion/contact sensors separately, but we’re ignoring them (as well as more mundane accessories) here because you’ll probably get what you need with one of the core Security Kits, and there’s already plenty to cover.

  • Alarm Security Kit ($199.99 and up): Available in stock bundles from 5 to 14 pieces, the Alarm Security Kit is meant to offer the basics of a security system, with or without Ring Protect. The 5-piece bundle includes a base station, keypad, contact sensor, motion detector, and range extender.
  • Alarm Pro Security Kit ($299.99 and up): The main advantage of the Alarm Pro is its upgraded base station, which doubles as an Eero Wi-Fi 6 router, and can offer cellular backup if you pay for a Ring Protect Pro plan. The cheapest bundle includes a base station, keypad, motion detector, range extender, and four door/window contact sensors. All Alarm Pro bundles are US-only.
  • Panic Button ($29.99): This one is extremely straightforward — hold it for three seconds, and you’ll sound the siren on your Alarm base station, as well as push out a phone alert to shared users. If you’ve got Ring Protect Pro, this notifies Ring’s monitoring center. You can’t use it without an Alarm station.
  • Alarm Glass Break Sensor ($39.99): Since a lot of thieves want to get in and out as fast as possible, this catches the sound of breaking window glass up to 25 feet (7.62 meters) away. An Alarm station is required.
  • Alarm Flood and Freeze Sensor ($34.99): Not every threat involves crime. This sensor can be placed near a sink, toilet, fridge, or pipe, and can alert you if it senses water or cold. You need an Alarm Security Kit, not just an Alarm station.
  • Alarm Smoke and CO Listener ($34.99): This isn’t actually a smoke or carbon monoxide detector — instead you place one near an existing detector to catch its siren. You’ll need an Alarm Security Kit.
  • Power Pack ($129.99): Hook this up to an Alarm Pro or Eero 6 Extender to stretch out battery life. In fact you can connect up to three to an Alarm Pro, which will keep it running for 24 hours when power is out. Like the Alarm Pro, it’s US-only.
  • Lights: We’re not going to cover these in detail, but if you’re all-in on Ring, you can get bulbs, spotlights, floodlights, and more without a camera attached. You’ll need a Ring Bridge.
  • Outdoor Smart Plug ($29.99): This allows you to connect outdoor lights (or anything, really) to the Ring Bridge and/or Alexa.
  • Ring Bridge ($49.99): As mentioned above, this links lights and Smart Plugs to your Ring system and Alexa. You can only have one Bridge per home.
  • Transformer ($99.99): Another Bridge-based accessory, this links existing landscape lighting to your system with a 200W limit.
  • Solar panels: Ring sells various panels that can be used to power some of its cameras and doorbells. Check compatibility and bundle options before splurging. We strongly recommend these for outdoor cameras, since you’ll find yourself climbing a ladder every few months otherwise.
  • Chime ($34.99): If you’re not using something with Alexa, the Chime is basically a speaker for Ring cameras and doorbells.
  • Chime Pro ($59.99): The Chime Pro doubles as a Wi-Fi extender for Ring hardware, and there’s even a built-in nightlight.
  • Access Controller Pro 2 ($299): This lets you unlock an electric gate remotely, and can be paired with cameras and doorbells for live previews. It supports Amazon Key if you’re comfortable with delivery people opening your gate. With or without Key, it’s US-only,

Ring Protect plans

A promo image for Amazon's Alexa Guard

You can use Ring’s doorbells, cameras, and some other equipment without a Protect plan, but there can be severe limitations. Doorbells and cameras for instance wind up restricted to livestreaming, not recording, and they also lose access to person detection, which helps cut down on false alerts because of plants, vehicles, or animals.

There are three Protect tiers, though Pro is effectively US-only. Here are their features and US prices:

Basic ($3.99/month or $39.99/year)

  • Supports one doorbell or camera
  • Event recording up to 180 days
  • Video saving and sharing
  • Person detection (prevents accidental motion alerts)
  • Updating snapshots
  • “Rich” notifications with photo previews
  • 10% discount off “select” products at Amazon.com or Ring.com

Plus ($10/month or $100/year)

  • Extends Basic features to all Ring devices in your home
  • Extended warranties (at a single address)

Pro ($20/month or $200/year)

  • All Plus features
  • 24/7 monitoring for Ring Alarm systems
  • Cellular backup for Alarm and Wi-Fi devices
  • Alexa Guard Plus
  • Eero Secure digital security tools, such as ad and content blockers
  • Ring Edge (local storage of alerts and videos on a microSD card in your Alarm Pro station)
  • Home insurance discounts