It wasn’t that long ago when installing security cameras and lighting around your home was an expensive, cumbersome process. You needed to wire power and connectivity to the cameras, dig trenches or run wiring for the lights, and then rig up a system to control and monitor it all.
Ring’s latest products this year address those challenges head-on: they are inexpensive, easy to install, and run on batteries or even solar so you don’t have to run wiring to them at all. Ring has had battery-operated doorbells for a few years, but now, it has a whole suite of products that require no wiring and very little work to install.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been testing Ring’s Stick Up Cam, Smart Lighting, and Peephole Cam, each of which addresses a different need depending on your situation. If you’ve been wanting to install security lighting and cameras in your home, it’s never been easier than now.
Ring Stick Up Cam
The $179 Stick Up Cam Battery is a battery-powered connected security camera, complete with motion alerts, full HD resolution, and night vision. It can be mounted almost anywhere inside or outside of your home in just minutes.
One of the more clever things about the Stick Up Cam is its flexible, built-in stand, which lets you either place it on a shelf or mantle inside or invert it and quickly install it under an awning outside with just three screws, as I’ve done. It can also be positioned to mount the camera flat against a wall.
From there, the Stick Up Cam behaves very similarly to Ring’s popular video doorbells: it connects to your home Wi-Fi network, records clips and provides push alerts to your phone when it detects motion, and has a two-way microphone and speaker so you can communicate with someone who is in front of the camera with your phone or Amazon Echo Show. You can customize the range for the motion detection as well as the time of day when you’ll get alerts so you don’t get pinged all day long if it’s near a busy entryway. Ring’s app provides a way to view clips that are captured by the camera as well as adjust its motion detection and alert settings. The Stick Up Cam allows you to get motion alerts, view the live feed, and use the two-way communication features out of the box. But to review any recordings, you’ll need to pay for Ring’s Protect cloud service, which starts at $3 per month or $30 per year.
I mounted the Stick Up Cam above a deck on the side of my house, which seems to make the most sense for this kind of product. I can have it monitor an entryway — the door to my deck — without the need to install a full doorbell that won’t ever be used. The Stick Up Cam uses the same battery as the Ring Video Doorbell and Video Doorbell 2, and in my testing, it should last about three months between charges. Ring also sells a wired version of the Stick Up Cam and one that comes with a solar panel, but both of those require more complicated installs. Changing the battery doesn’t even require taking the camera down from its mount, but if you’re putting in a spot that’s way high up and hard to reach, you might want to consider just getting the wired version and deal with the extra install process at the beginning.
The new Smart Lighting line is Ring’s first product of this kind, coming from the company’s acquisition of lighting company Mr Beams. Simplified, the Smart Lighting line is a set of exterior lights and motion detectors for your home that are connected to the internet, so you can manage them and get notifications from them in the Ring app. They function a lot like Ring’s various outdoor cameras, without the whole camera part.
The line includes floodlights, spotlights, a light to mount on steps, a motion detector, and pathlights for a walkway. All of the lights can run on battery power and wirelessly communicate with the necessary $49.99 Smart Lighting Bridge to connect them to the internet through your home Wi-Fi network. There’s also a transformer that can be installed on existing landscape lighting to connect that to Ring’s system.
I’ve been testing the Pathlights, which are available in a two-pack with the Bridge included for $79.99 or standalone for $29.99, as well as the $24.99 Smart Lighting Motion Sensor. The Pathlights actually have motion sensors built into them, so they don’t need the secondary sensor, but if you want to trigger them from farther distances or around blind corners, the motion sensor can do that wirelessly.
The Pathlights run on four D-cell batteries for up to a year, according to Ring, and they provide 360 degrees of lighting. You can adjust the brightness, timeout duration, and when they turn on and off through the Ring app.
The Smart Lighting system is easy to set up — you do it all through the Ring app, and it can be up and running in minutes — and requires no wiring or time-consuming installation process. But compared to standard motion-sensing lights you can buy, they are expensive. The real worth of the Smart Lighting system is found when it’s paired with Ring’s other products, like the video doorbells or cameras. You can use the motion detectors on the Smart Lighting products to trigger mobile alerts or the cameras to start recording clips, or you can control them with voice commands to Amazon’s Alexa assistant.
Since I didn’t really need to use the Motion Sensor to turn on the lights, I stuck it in my mailbox (about 70 feet from where I have the bridge set up in my living room) and set it to give me push alerts whenever it detected motion. This has reliably worked to let me know when the mail has arrived and has been more reliable than the Zigbee contact sensors I’ve used in the past for the same purpose. Ring says it is using a proprietary RF protocol to connect the lights to the bridge, which provides longer distances and more reliable connectivity.
Overall, the Smart Lighting system’s value is in its ease of use and expansive connectivity. You’d be hard-pressed to find another connected lighting system that’s this accessibly priced and easy to install.
Ring is perhaps best known for its video doorbells, which let you get alerts when the bell is rung, see who’s at your door, and speak to them through your phone. But even though it has an extensive line of wired and battery operated versions, none of those are particularly useful for apartment dwellers.
That’s where the $199 Peephole Cam (formerly Door View Cam) comes in. It’s basically a Ring Video Doorbell 2 that can be mounted on the peephole of a door without damaging the door itself. You can remove the Peephole Cam when you move out and replace the original peephole without leaving a mark.
Much like the Video Doorbell 2, the Peephole Cam is a 1080p camera with night vision and motion detection. It runs on a rechargeable battery (the same one as the Stick Up Cam and Ring’s other video doorbells), and it allows for two-way communication through your phone.
Cleverly, the Peephole Cam preserves the ability to look through the peephole to see who’s there, so you don’t have to pull your phone out just to see who’s on the other side of the door. There’s also a cover on the inside of the door to prevent someone from looking back through it at you.
Ring says it takes as few as five minutes to install the Peephole Cam. Based on my testing with a demo door, I agree, provided your door’s thickness is between 34mm (about 1.3 inches) and 55mm (about 2.2 inches). The Peephole Cam comes with all of the tools and hardware you need to set it up.
Like the other video doorbells Ring makes, you can adjust the zones for motion detection on the Peephole Cam, which can help prevent false triggers if there’s a lot of foot traffic in front of your door. It’s also possible to configure “privacy zones,” which will prevent the camera from recording areas you specify, such as a neighbor’s entryway.
At $200, the Peephole Cam is a little harder to justify compared to Ring’s more permanent video doorbells, as it is only really useful to apartment dwellers who have regular visitors at their door and not ones with an external buzzer or lobby in their building. But it does provide an option for those who can’t use a traditional video doorbell that requires a permanent installation.
The overarching theme with Ring’s product releases this year is ease of installation and use. You can get other video doorbells (though you’ll have a hard time finding another option that works on batteries), security cameras, and landscape / security lighting for a lot less than what Ring charges, but you’ll likely have to deal with much more complicated wiring power and connectivity, if connectivity is even an option. And then you won’t have the integration across the whole system that Ring is offering. Ring’s combination of wire-free installation and integration across its entire line of products is tough to beat, even if it does cost more at the outset.
Update, 7:45PM ET, October 8th, 2019: Since the original publication of this article, Ring has changed the name of the Door View Cam to the Peephole Cam. It is otherwise the same product, but now with a name that makes a bit more sense. We’ve updated the references to the device throughout.
Photography by Dan Seifert / The Verge
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