Ring Pro Tested

By Brian Rhodes, Published May 26, 2016, 11:08am EDT (Research)

This year, Ring received $61.2 million more of VC funding.

For a video doorbell.

The video doorbell market is evidently hot but how good are Ring's doorbells?

We bought the new Ring Pro, installed and tested it against its predecessor.

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We evaluated this Ring on the same criteria in our test of the first model:

  • Video quality
  • Sound quality
  • Motion detection
  • Low-light performance
  • App performance
  • Lock control / integration
  • Install ease / issues
  • Wireless performance

Contrast - Ring Pro vs. Ring

The new model claims several upgrades compared to the first generation. Ring Pro costs $249, while the 1st gen Ring costs $199. For the ~$50 price increase, here are the major tech differences at a glance:

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The new Ring Pro has a higher resolution camera, improved night vision, and is smaller is size. However, the new unit does not offer battery power and requires hardwired power, including a more difficult retrofit kit that must be installed on the main doorbell unit.

Test Key Findings

After testing Pro installation and operation, here are our key findings:

  • Video Quality: While the camera features 1080P resolution, the video quality is still not great and bandwidth constrained. Both Live View and Recorded video has occasional graininess and choppiness. In many cases, the higher resolution image looks equal to the 720P stream in the app.
  • WiFi Strength Key: Ring Pro has many of the same sometimes choppy video performance as the original 1st generation Ring. This is due in large part to reliability of the connected WiFi network. In our test, Ring Pro was hung ~20 feet away from the router through a brick exterior wall and we frequently saw dropped frames and lags. Ring's FAQ does not state an acceptable range for WiFi, but tech support recommends installing an extender near the door as a blanket solution. For many users, this is unreasonable and represents an additional expense.
  • Sound Quality: Ring Pro continues Ring's good overall performance, with strong and reliable audio at the bell side, and good noise cancelling on both ends.
  • Motion Detection: While not a major problem in our original test, Pro features custom defined polygonal motion zones rather than general 'wedges' in the original. In our test, the custom zones worked well.
  • Hardwired Power Only: Unlike the original unit that offered an option to use internal batteries, Ring Pro must be hardwired and requires an additional 'Power Pack' at the doorbell transformer.
  • Tricky Install: Installation of the Pro unit is more difficult. Rather than simply installing a doorbell with a few handtools, users must splice in a power pack and involves turning off breakers and some ladder work.
  • Low-Light Performance: Better than the original unit's performance. Overall illumination of the area is brighter and the scene is more crisp in darkness.
  • App Performance: The app worked well on both iOS and Android platforms. Live view loads slowly in some cases, and video feeds may be poor on residential wifi networks, but in general reliability of the app and features are solid. In addition, recorded segments are viewable and downloadable from from Ring's web portal.

Improved Video Quality But Still Issues

In terms of video, Ring Pro includes a 1080P fisheye day/night camera running up to 30FPS, and the unit includes three visible IR LEDs. While Ring Pro does not claim WDR, performance in a contrast range of lighting is better than the original. The FoV is still wide angle, but is slightly narrower than the previous generation. The comparison image below was taken at the same time, and notice improved light contrast performance and FoV difference:

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However, Ring Pro had trouble with various video defects, ranging from blockiness, frozen frames, to lost pixel information in our tests:

Good, Loud Intercom

Ring Pro has with a loud, ungarbled doorbell speaker and microphone built in. Even when background noise was loud, Ring Pro's noise cancellation works well and background wind/traffic noise did not overpower two-way communication. Unlike video streaming, the WiFi connection did not cause audio conversations to fade, lag, or drop.

Integrated Locks

Like original Ring, the new Pro unit does not include relay outputs to trigger a strike or unlock a deadbolt and performs only as a video intercom. 'Buzzing' someone through the door is not possible, although the app claims integration with several lock vendors like Lockitron, Kevo, Kisi, and Lockstate and smart home or security platforms like Wink and ADT Pulse.

Motion Recordings

Aside from being triggered by a button, the onboard camera also can be configured to record on motion in the FoV. This essentially gives Ring value as a surveillance camera that can notify users of prowlers or other motion close to the main opening.

Other Findings

Retrofit Install: While smaller than the 1st gen Ring, Ring Pro is still larger bigger than traditional bell switches, it may not fit in all locations nor will all current locations be the ideal spot to mount a camera and intercom due to weather exposure, sun, or wind. For users who have previously installed a Ring upgrading to Ring Pro, an additional retrofit backplate is needed to hide old mounting holes.

Push Notification Messages Only: Ring Pro sends an alert message to notify users of an event, but does not automatically pop up the app when the doorbell button is pushed or motion is detected. This means the user must manally unlock the phone and swipe the message before video pops up. While undoubtedly included as a privacy safeguard, the process takes time, and the person ringing the bell may walk away in the meantime.

Product Overview

The video below offers a quick overview of the unit's construction, layout, and size compared to a the 1st generation Ring:

The unit measures about 4"X2"X1" which is about 1" smaller in height and width than the original model. The unit uses the same two wire connection and 16 - 24 VDC power typically already run for doorbells in most homes. The unit itself mounts to a matching bracket secured to walls by masonry bolts or wood screws. Mounting the bracket and wiring to bell wires is not difficult and within skills of even novice DIYers. Unlike the original two-piece install of the original, Ring Pro installs as just one doorbell unit.

Interchangeable Faceplates

Unlike the original unit that was ordered from the factory in different colors, Ring Pro includes four changeable faceplates to match user preferences in the field.

Hardwired Power

Ring Pro requires using a low voltage transformer for power and ties the existing chime box into the unit, so when the button is pressed the bell is heard. However, this process features a delay of 2-3 seconds between pushing the button and hearing a chime, which Ring uses to send notifications to user apps before announcing people at the door.

Ring Pro also requires installing a small circuit board and splicing it into an existing doorbell transformer. Ring claims this extra component stabilizes voltage and boosts nightvision IRs, but requires using a ladder and following detailed technical instructions that casual DIYers may find challenging.

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The complexity of Pro install has been noted by Ring, who is offering 'Free Professional Install' for a limited time where they will pay to have Pro hung by commercial installers. Despite being marketed as a DIY product, the fact Ring is absorbing professional install costs is not a good sign for install simplicity:

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We will publish a post just on the terms and details of this free professional install program in the near future.

Operation Demo

In this video, we embedded recorded clips from the unit in use. You may notice that video lags audio in general, which while not a showstopper is likely an irritating problem for users.

First, a daytime clip:

And a nighttime clip:

Lags about this duration are normal for unit operation, and impatient ringers may leave before the unit connects and can be answered, even in the normal time it takes to pull a phone out of a pocket.

Nighttime Performance

Ring includes a mechanical IR cut filter and has three red IR LEDs hidden in the front housing. Overall nighttime performance is improved compared to the 1st gen unit, which was not good even within 10 feet of the unit, but the Pro model does a much better job of lighting the scene even 20' away. Subject detail as they are using the doorbell is good enough to recognize familiar faces and can see movement ~30 feet away from the camera:

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However, as with the original Ring, if users have the option to turn on a white porch light, overall image quality will be better than using IR alone.

Live View and Cloud Storage

Since the first Ring was released, the company has added a 'Live View' option in the app for peeking in on what the camera is seeing at any time, regardless if motion is detected or the button is pressed. These events also trigger recordings that can be recalled or downloaded via the app or web portal.

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In addition to Live View, Ring has a cloud service costing $3 per month/ $30 per year for recording events from the previous 10 days or ~100 events. While Ring allows users to interact in real time with the device whenever it is activated by bell button or motion for free, recording video costs extra and is recurring. In all cases, stored video is downloadable in .mp4 format via app or web portal and is time/date stamped.

Custom Motion Detection

A new Ring Pro feature is ability to custom draw polygonal motion motion detection zones:

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Up to 6 different custom zones can be placed to be turned on/off to record motion, so ambient movement like landscaping moving in the wind are ignored by the sensor so it will not send alerts.

In our tests, motion detection worked reliably, accurately detecting all important 'door' events and recording less than 5%- 10% 'false alarm' movements due to unimportant outside events like blowing leaves, animals, or shadows.

Original Ring Still Better Choice for Many

Ring Pro will not be a good fit for many, while 1st gen Ring may still be appealing. While overall nightvision performance is greatly improved, the installation complexity and hardwiring requirement will likely turn some off. Ring tells us they plan to continue to sell and support the original model, and even with the reduced resolution and poorer low light abilities, it will remain the best choice for those users looking for a quick installing, cheaper solution.

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