What Is the Ring Doorbell and How Does It Work?

Learn everything you need to know about the smart doorbell

If you're thinking about adding a smart doorbell to your home, you might want to consider a Ring Doorbell. With smart home technology quickly expanding, chances are you've seen a product by Ring. The doorbell can be installed almost anywhere, so it's a handy smart security device.

Ring smart doorbells can be installed on a door without doorbell wiring, which is essential for many apartments and condo homes. You can also add Ring to your Google smart home universe.

View from Ring Doorbell Video Doorbell

How a Ring Video Doorbell Works

All Ring Doorbell models connect to your home Wi-Fi network once mounted and send alerts when motion is detected or when someone presses the button on the doorbell.

Some Ring devices can be wired to a power source, like a regular doorbell. Alternatively, many models have a rechargeable battery that allows you to remove the Ring and charge it using a lightning cable.

All Ring doorbell models have two-way talk functionality, support motion-activation, can record during the day and at night using infrared for night vision, and stream live footage you can check via the Ring app.

All models also provide alerts when the camera detects motion and allow videos to be captured and stored in the cloud, for a monthly fee. All Ring doorbells detect and capture video for motion within 30 feet, which instantly sends a push notification to your device.

The Ring app, available for free on iOS, Android, and Windows 10 devices, allows you to see an HD video stream of the person at your door and speak to them using two-way audio communication. With all models, via the Ring app, view shared footage from neighbors, check the history of events, check the doorbell's status, turn motion alerts on and off, and change alert settings.

In addition to motion alerts and someone ringing your doorbell, your Ring also alerts you when the battery is low.

Ring Video Doorbell Models

Ring offers various doorbell models. Aside from resolution and field of view, the functions are essentially the same. However, each model has slightly different specifications and features.

Ring Video Doorbell First Generation

The first-generation Ring Doorbell offers a 180-degree horizontal and 140-degree vertical field of view at 720p HD resolution. It allows for motion detection in up to five selectable zones with customizable sensitivity. Use rechargeable battery power or hardwire it to an existing doorbell setup.

Ring Video Doorbell 2

Ring Doorbell 2 is a slightly larger upgrade to the original device. It has a 160-degree horizontal and 90-degree vertical field of view at 1080p HD resolution.

Like its predecessor, the Ring Doorbell 2 has five zones in which to customize the sensitivity of its motion-detection feature. It allows for rechargeable quick-release battery power or you can hardwire it to an existing doorbell setup.

Ring Video Doorbell 3

The third-generation Ring Doorbell offers the same 160-degree horizontal and 90-degree vertical field of view at 1080p HD resolution as its predecessor. Like the Ring Video Doorbell 2, it connects at 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi but offers the benefit of being dual-band, so you can connect through the 5 GHz frequency.

The Ring Video Doorbell 3 improved the device's motion-detection abilities and lets you adjust motion sensitivity from the Ring app, which can be handy if you're away from home and getting false positives. This third-generation device also debuted Privacy Zones, letting you exclude areas from recording.

Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus

The Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus has the same features as the Video Doorbell 3, but it adds a "pre-roll" function. This function means the device captures video constantly, so if you get an alert, you can roll back the footage for four seconds and get some context about what's happening. This footage is in black and white and at a low resolution.

Ring Video Doorbell Pro

The Ring Video Doorbell Pro also features the pre-roll function introduced in the 3 Plus, but the Pro model's video is in color at a higher resolution. Like the 3 and 3 Plus, the Pro can connect using the 5 GHz frequency.

The Pro is a smaller and sleeker device. The only option is to hardwire it to your existing doorbell setup. This may be convenient for homeowners, but may prove problematic for renters.

The Pro is easy to use, as you never need to charge a battery. Like its predecessors, it also offers customizable motion detection and Privacy Zones. You can choose from four faceplate finishes, as opposed to only two options for the 3 and 3 Plus.

Upgraded Ring Doorbell models come with higher resolution, but that means higher demands on your Wi-Fi. The Pro model allows you to run the doorbell on the 5 GHz band of your Wi-Fi router. It's a bit slower but offers a longer range if your doorbell is farther from your router.

Ring Video Doorbell Elite

The Elite model is similar to the Pro model, allowing you to choose from four faceplate options and enjoy customizable motion-detection and Privacy Zones. The Elite is powered by Power Over Ethernet, so there's no rechargeable battery or hardwire system. Both the internet and power connection are stable. (The Elite can also be used with Wi-Fi.)

The Elite is not as sleek as the Pro. Installation can be a little trickier, so you may need to consider a professional installer for your Elite Video Doorbell.

Ring Peephole Cam

The Ring Peephole Cam is a smaller device with a 155-degree horizontal and 90-degree vertical field of view at 1080p HD resolution. You can't hardwire this device. It works only with the included removable battery pack. It's installed on your door, so you'll need to remove your current peephole.

The Ring Peephole Cam has a shorter battery life and comes in only one faceplate finish (black with satin nickel trim). The Ring Peephole Cam has a useful knock-detection feature that detects when someone knocks on your door and alerts you, so you can investigate who's there.

Ring Video Doorbell Wired

The newest Ring device, the Ring Video Doorbell Wired, is Ring's smallest offering yet. At $59, it's the most affordable device in the Ring family.

With a simple black faceplate, the device is hardwired to your existing doorbell setup, similar to the Pro model. With the Wired, however, you'll need to add the Ring Chime or Chime Pro to get that nice doorbell sound.

The Ring Video Doorbell Wired has many of the same standard features as other models, including a 155-degree horizontal and 90-degree vertical field of view, 1080p HD resolution, and customizable motion and Privacy Zones.

Ring Video Doorbell Devices at a Glance
Ring 1st Gen Ring 2 Ring 3 Ring 3 Plus Pro Elite Peephole Cam Wired
Field of View 180-degrees horizontal and 140-degrees vertical 160-degrees horizontal and 90-degrees vertical 160-degrees horizontal and 90-degrees vertical  160-degrees horizontal and 90-degrees vertical   160-degrees horizontal and 90-degrees vertical    160-degrees horizontal and 90-degrees vertical     155-degrees horizontal and 90-degrees vertical  155-degrees horizontal and 90-degrees vertical 
Video Resolution 720p HD 1080p HD 1080p HD  1080p HD 1080p HD 1080p HD 1080p HD 1080p HD
Motion Detection 5 selectable zones 5 selectable zones Customizable motion-detection zones Customizable motion-detection zones   Customizable motion-detection zones   Customizable motion-detection zones   Motion-detection zone Customizable motion-detection zones  
Privacy Zones  No  No  Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Rechargeable Battery  Yes  Yes  Yes Yes No  No Yes No
Hardwired Setup  Yes  Yes  Yes Yes Yes  No  No Yes
Dimensions 4.98 x 2.43 x 0.87 inches 2.4 x 4.98 x 1.10 inches 5.1 x 2.4 x 1.1 inches 5.1 x 2.4 x 1.1 inches 4.5 x 1.85 x 0.80 inches 4.80 x 2.75 x 2.17 inches 1.85 x 3.83 x 0.78 inches 5.1 x 2.4 x 1.1 inches
Alexa Integration Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Access to 5GHz Frequency No   No  Yes  Yes  Yes  Yes No  No
Power Over Ethernet No No No No No Yes No No
Pre-Roll Function No No No Yes Yes Yes, with Ring Protect No Yes, with Ring Protect
Faceplate Options Venetian Bronze, Polished Brass, Antique Brass, and Satin Nickel Venetian Bronze and Satin Nickel Venetian Bronze and Satin Nickel Satin Nickel and Venetian Satin Nickel, Satin Black, Dark Bronze, and Satin White Satin Nickel, Pearl White, Venetian, and Satin Black Black with Satin Nickel trim Black faceplate
Knock Detection No No No No No No Yes No
Price Third-party resellers; prices vary $99 $199 $229.99 $249.99 $349.99 $129.99 $59.99

How to Install a Ring Video Doorbell

The various Ring Video Doorbell kits come with everything you need to install the device, although you may need a drill and tools for removing your existing doorbell.

To install a Ring doorbell, you'll need a wireless router running 802.11 B, G, or N on 2.4 GHz. Use the included screws to secure it to your wall. Either attach it to the existing doorbell wiring for power or run it on battery power.

You'll also need to download the free Ring app and follow the in-app instructions for setting up your device.

You can install any Ring doorbell without an existing doorbell.

Ring App Video Doorbell App view

Worried about your Ring being stolen? If someone removes it in spite of the special security screws, file a report with Ring to have it replaced free of charge.

Ring Protection Plans

Without a Ring Protection plan, you still get motion-activated notifications, two-way talk, a replacement device if yours is stolen, and a live view from the Ring mobile app. You still receive alerts when someone presses your Doorbell or triggers the motion sensors, and you still get live streaming video.

If you're looking for additional features, Ring offers reasonable Ring Protect plans that cost a monthly or yearly subscription fee.

Basic Plan

With the Basic plan ($3 per month or $30 per year), you can access, download, store, and share recorded video history for up to 60 days. You also get a photo of what triggered an alert and can enable People Only mode, so you won't be alerted when the neighborhood cat stops by. You can also access snapshots of activity between alerts.

Plus Plan

The Ring Video Plus plan ($10 per month or $100 per year) offers all the Basic plan features and adds coverage for an unlimited amount of Ring cameras, offers a lifetime product warranty, and gives you an additional 10 percent off future purchases at Ring.com. You also get access to the Ring Alarm service (for an additional fee), which offers 24/7 monitoring and the dispatching of emergency services when needed.

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