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Ring's Video Doorbell 3 Plus is one of the best wireless doorbells we've tested, but there are a lot of extra costs

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Ring_Video_Doorbell_3_Plus_1

Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus (small)

Getting up from whatever you were doing to find a cold-calling salesperson at your door is frustrating. Missing a delivery because you jumped into the shower or stepped out to go to the store is even more annoying. It's no surprise then that smart doorbells have taken off in a big way. As one of the first players in this space, the Ring brand has become synonymous with them. 

Acquired by Amazon in 2018, Ring has continued to grow, and the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus is its latest flagship device. It captures high quality 1080p video and offers clear two-way audio, but Ring has also improved on its predecessor with 5GHz Wi-Fi support, a slightly wider field of view, and a pre-roll feature that captures four seconds of black and white video before any alert. 

I've been testing the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus with a Chime Pro for three weeks now, and there's a lot to recommend with this wireless smart doorbell. But it's far from flawless and there are some hidden costs to consider. The pre-roll feature, which is the main thing that separates this model from the Ring Video Doorbell 3, probably isn't worthwhile for most people unless there's a specific reason you want to see what happened in the seconds before your alert. The Ring Video Doorbell 3 offers good quality video and doesn't have to be wired in, but it lacks some of the advanced features of the Nest Hello. I also had some issues with the Ring app. 

Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus Specifications 

  • Dimensions: 128 x 62 x 28 mm (5.1 x 2.4 x 1.1 inches)
  • Video: Full HD 1080p
  • Field of View: 160 degrees horizontal, 84 degrees vertical
  • Audio: Two-way with noise cancellation
  • Power: Wired or rechargeable battery
  • Connectivity: 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi 2.4GHz or 5GHz
  • Extras: Advanced motion detection, pre-roll footage, IR night vision, Alexa support

Design

Ring_Video_Doorbell_3_Plus_6

All smart doorbells are larger than standard ones as they have to accommodate a camera, microphone, speaker, and Wi-Fi connectivity. But the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus is larger still because it packs a rechargeable battery. 

While it's chunky, the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus is a good-looking device with rounded edges. Both silver and dark brown face plates are included, so you have some choice. The top portion of the doorbell is black and houses the camera lenses, IR sensors, and a few other bits and pieces. 

The doorbell button is large and easy to spot as you approach. The ring around the button lights up blue when pressed. If you connect the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus to your existing doorbell wiring, it will also light up at night to make it easier for visitors to see the doorbell button But if you rely on the rechargeable battery, it omits this feature to save battery life.

Setup 

Ring_Video_Doorbell_3_Plus_unboxed

After charging the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus' battery, you install it by sliding it into place under the face plate, which is secured with a single screw in the underside. This makes it quick and easy to remove the battery when necessary. Before you fix the doorbell to your front door frame or porch wall, you should download the Ring app and connect to the device.

The Ring app scans the QR code or barcode on the back of your Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus and should connect quickly. I ran into some issues with the Ring app, and it failed to verify my account and connect to the doorbell. I had to completely uninstall and restart the process before I could get it working. I reached out to Ring for more information and technical support, but we were unable to identify a cause for this issue. Once connected, you can use the live view on the app to see what your doorbell sees and choose a good spot and angle for it.

Ring provides everything you need for different kinds of installations in the box. There are angled mounting plates for tilting the Video Doorbell 3 Plus left or right, or for tilting it down to get an optimal view of your front porch. There are screws, plugs, wires and even a special drill bit included.

The next decision you have to make is whether to connect the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus to your existing doorbell wiring or use the rechargeable battery. Your doorbell will need a transformer rated at 8-24 VAC, which is a standard doorbell system. It's relatively simple to connect, as this video shows.

If you have a wooden door frame that's wide enough, you can just drill the four screws directly in, which is what I did. If you opt to use the rechargeable battery, as I have, you will be warned when it's running low on power so you can remove and recharge it. If you're concerned about theft of the doorbell, Ring promises to replace it if it's stolen within the first year, and it should capture footage of the thief.

One other consideration when installing is the strength of your Wi-Fi signal. Many video doorbells only connect via the 2.4GHz frequency, but Ring has added 5GHz support in the Video Doorbell 3 Plus. While 5GHz offers higher speeds, it does have a lower range, but the app will warn you if the Wi-Fi signal is too weak.

Thankfully, there is a potential solution if you find that your router is too far away from your front door: the Chime Pro. If you want the doorbell to ring audibly in the home, not just on your phone, then you will need a Chime anyway. It's a plug-in speaker that wirelessly connects to the doorbell, but the Pro version also acts as a Wi-Fi extender. 

The Ring app 

ring app

When you open the app, there are three buttons situated along the top so that you can quickly set the mode. You can choose Disarmed, Home, or Away and configure how the camera behaves in each mode via the Mode Settings. Below that, you should see your connected cameras with a thumbnail view of the last alert. Tap on your Video Doorbell 3 Plusand you'll jump into the timeline view.

It's important to note that you need a Ring Protect Plan to enable video recording and the timeline feature. This costs $3 per month or $30 for the year and gives you 60 days of rolling cloud storage (it costs £2.50 per month or £25 per year in the UK and you only get 30 days of video history). Without the subscription, you can still access a live view of what your doorbell is seeing, and receive notifications when motion is detected or the doorbell is pressed, but it won't record video.

The timeline shows all events that the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus has recorded. Detections are in blue, while doorbell presses or live views are in orange. The pre-roll portions at the beginning of events are marked in a lighter color. It's quite easy to swipe through and review events, and you can tap to view the live feed at any time. To fill in the gaps between events, the Video Doorbell 3 Plus takes a photo every 14 minutes by default, though you can lengthen this to an hour to extend battery life if you want to. 

When you dig into settings and try to configure your Doorbell 3 Plus things get a little murkier. The Ring app has obviously developed and grown over time as the company has added new features, but that means it can be tricky to navigate. I found myself going three or four taps deep to find the options I wanted a lot of the time, and it often took me a few seconds to find what I was looking for. 

Apart from my failed setup attempt, I experienced a few other glitches with the app. Sometimes it would load swiftly, other times it would take a few seconds.The app also crashed and had to be reloaded a handful of times. Glancing at app reviews in the app stores makes it clear that I'm not the only one encountering issues. Ring's support team offered a number of possible issues and fixes, including a list of third-party apps that can interfere with Ring devices, advice on switching my Wi-Fi connection, and the suggestion that I try the streamlined Rapid Ring app (available for Android and iOS). This last suggestion was the only one that offered some improvement, shaving at least a second off the time it takes to load the live camera view. The Rapid Ring app is a stripped back version of the regular app that only has the live view portion, but it certainly loads more quickly and still allows for two-way conversation.  Hopefully, Ring will address these other problems in a future update.

Performance and features

The Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus captures Full HD video at 1080p. In daylight, it's generally clear and provides a good enough level of detail to pick out facial features and quickly recognize people you know. There is an HDR option, though it's turned off by default. I recommend using it if you get direct sunlight at your front door as it really helps to prevent bright areas from being blown out. 

The camera lens offers a wide 160-degree field of view, which is slightly wider than its predecessor and much wider than earlier models. Situate it at the recommended 1.2-meter height and it should offer a comprehensive view of your front porch. Just be aware that there is a fish eye effect, which distorts the edges of the picture and looks decidedly weird when people stand too close to the camera.

At night, the camera works in  infrared mode, which isn't nearly as detailed compared to clips captured in daylight. Night footage is also in black and white and is prone to a flare effect  if there's a light source like a streetlamp in the background.

The pre-roll feature

pre roll ring

The headline feature of the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus is its pre-roll capability, the only characteristic that sets it apart from the regular Video Doorbell 3. The feature works by using a  secondary, lower quality camera that runs all the time and captures a four-second clip preceding any motion detection event or doorbell ring. Sadly, the pre-roll video is low resolution, lacks color, and doesn't work at night. It's also going to drain the battery faster if you're not wiring the doorbell.

The fact that video doorbells take a few beats to kick in can mean you miss things, so some people might appreciate the pre-roll feature, but I didn't find it very useful. Because the pre-roll footage is low resolution and without color, it can be tricky to make out what's going on. Maybe if you have an issue you're tracking, like trouble with porch pirates or incredibly speedy delivery people, it will prove handy. 

Configurable motion detection

Motion detection is one of the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus' biggest strengths, especially since the motion alerts are highly configurable. I appreciate the fact that I can define a motion zone with more precision than simply  drawing a box, as is the case with some other security cameras. Ring instead allows you to drag points to create a shape that covers the specific area you want to detect motion in. 

You can also set the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus to only be triggered when it detects people. These options are essential if your front door looks out on a busy street where every passing person or car is liable to spark an alert. Once configured, I found false positives were virtually non-existent. My cat has managed to trigger only one alert in three weeks.

Living with alerts

My experience with the alerts has been mostly positive. But there were a couple of occasions where the lag between the doorbell press, the notification on my phone, and the time it takes to open the app was long enough that the person had left. When I was at home, it was easy enough to tell the person to leave the package or say I'd be there in a moment. But when I was out and about the time lag made it more difficult. 

It took about four seconds on average for me to connect to the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus on my Android phone. But there were times when it was faster and other instances where it took a lot longer. This will largely depend on the strength of your internet connection.. 

Chime or Chime Pro

Chime_Pro_1

While alerts trigger notifications on your phone, you will want a Chime ($29.99) or Chime Pro ($49.99) to play an audible tone in your home just like a regular doorbell would. Both plug directly into any power outlet and can play a wide choice of different tones when someone presses your doorbell. They can also be configured to emit a different tone when your doorbell detects motion.

The Chime Pro adds an optional nightlight and support for 5GHz Wi-Fi networks. As previously mentioned, it can also act as a Wi-Fi extender to establish a better connection to your video doorbell if the router isn't close enough. 

Smart home integration

As an Amazon company, it's no surprise that Ring offers Alexa support in the Video Doorbell 3 Plus. That means you can get announcements on your Echo devices, use them to speak to people at your door, and pull up a live feed on an Echo Show. 

If you use IFTTT, you can create event sequences that  trigger other smart home devices when your Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus plays an alert. For example, you could program it to automatically pause your robot vacuum, turn on your porch lights, or change the color of your Philips Hue lights.. 

Sadly, there's no support for Apple HomeKit or Google Assistant.

A word on security

Ring made headlines after hackers and police were able to view footage from cameras without users being aware, after which it added more security and privacy-oriented features. Mandatory two-factor authentication means simply having your password and login is no longer enough to gain access, anyone accessing your camera also needs codes sent by SMS or email. You can also set privacy zones that will not be monitored or recorded. If a camera overlooks a neighbor, for example, you can block out that section of the view. 

If you have concerns, it's a good idea to read Ring's full privacy policy before using one of its cameras.

Should you buy it? 

Yes, Ring has packed a lot of features into this smart doorbell and it mostly works very well.

Which model should you get?

I would go for the Ring Video Doorbell 3, (which is usually $199.99 but is currently on sale for $139.99), as it boasts all the same features apart from the pre-roll capability. I would not pay an extra $20 or $30 for pre-roll unless it's something you specifically want. 

What are your alternatives?

The Nest Hello is an obvious alternative, but it does require a wired connection. It's our current top pick of the best smart doorbells, offering great quality video, configurable motion detection, and advanced features like facial and package recognition.

If you need a wireless video doorbell with a rechargeable battery inside, and you don't want to pay extra for a subscription, then the Eufy Video Doorbell 2K could be for you. It requires a hub, but that allows for local storage, and it also boasts very high resolution video and highly configurable detection settings.

The bottom line

Ring_Video_Doorbell_3_Plus_3

The Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus is a very good smart doorbell, perhaps the best wireless option available right now. It has many useful features, captures high-quality video, and offers clear two-way audio. But, it comes at a steep price, especially once you factor in the Ring Protect Plan subscription ($3 per month or $30 per year) required to record and access video in the cloud, as well as the need for a Ring Chime ($29.99) or Chime Pro ($49.99). 

Pros: High-quality footage, pre-roll captures more, clear audio, dual-band Wi-Fi, Alexa and IFTTT support, wired or rechargeable battery

Cons: Expensive, requires subscription to record video, Ring app is glitchy.

Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus (button)
Read the original article on Business Insider




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