Our upgrade pick for best smart doorbell camera attached to a doorframe.
Photo: Rozette Rago

Upgrade pick

Ring Video Doorbell Pro

The Ring Pro stands out for its small size, excellent camera, granular motion-detection options, and a stellar response time when it comes to opening the video in the app. The big downside is that it requires a $3 a month (or $30 per year) subscription to access recordings of visits or motion-detection events. A minor irritant is that using this doorbell requires the installation, inside your house, of a relay to your doorbell chime.

This is a wired-only doorbell, so you will want to place it where your existing doorbell is. Being the slimmest currently on the market makes this doorbell ideal for people who want to install it next to their front door on the wall or door frame—overall, the bell measures 4.5 inches tall by 1.85 inch wide and 0.8 inch deep, which should fit on most door frames. My doorbells are located on a wall adjacent to the door itself, which is somewhat frustrating for seeing people coming up to the door and checking out what’s happening in my front yard. (Ring does offer wedge kits for such situations.)

To install the doorbell, you’ll need to work in two places in your home. First at your doorbell’s indoor chime, and second at the doorbell itself. Installation at the chime involves turning off the power and rewiring the doorbell chime to integrate the Ring’s Pro Power Kit. It’s not a difficult procedure. You unscrew the doorbell chime’s existing wires and then thread them through the Ring-provided wire clips. You then tuck the wires and the rectangular Pro Power Kit into the doorbell-chime cover (I used double-sided tape to hold my kit in place) and replace the cover.

Then you turn your power back on and install the doorbell itself; Ring makes that fairly simple. The Power Kit installation is unusual in the video doorbell world. A Ring spokeswoman told me that without the Power Kit, Ring Pro will not get enough power and the internal chime will ring when you don’t want it to, such as when motion is detected.

In use, Ring Pro had the fastest, most consistent performance of all of the doorbells I tried. It sent notifications to my phone in less than a second from pressing the doorbell in both Wi-Fi and over the cellular connection. When checking in over a smartphone, whether on Wi-Fi or a cellular network, it took less than two seconds to establish the video connection. This means that within three seconds of someone ringing the doorbell, I could see who was at the door and start talking to them. Compared with the SkyBell HD, which takes four to five seconds to notify you and establish a connection, and the original Ring which could take up to two seconds to send the notification and then another two to establish the connection, the Ring Pro is definitely the fastest. After being triggered it did need a slight reset time before it would send a notification again. That time varied in my tests but was mostly around five seconds.

The Ring Video Doorbell Pro missed only one or two button pushes during my testing. It missed several of the motion-detection events when I walked by the doorbell, though adjusting the sensitivity zones and range improved this. A greater challenge is the effort to connect after a motion event. If you don’t subscribe to the Ring service, neither the Ring Video Doorbell Pro nor the original Ring will show you what triggered the event.

With any video doorbell, motion detection can be awesome or awful depending on where the doorbell is placed and how sensitive the motion settings are. The Ring Pro handles the awful side of motion detection and the risk of too many false positives in two ways. First, it lets you set up granular fields of motion using the app. Some apps use zones, but the Ring Pro pulls up the camera image in the app and lets you draw the areas where you want the camera to track motion. This makes it easier to exclude things like the road or a blowing tree branch.

I found motion detection and notification to be excellent, arriving about one second after the motion event triggered the doorbell. It did send me the occasional false positive generated by a tree branch blowing in the wind, or a shift in the light, but with the granular motion settings I was able to mostly eliminate those. It also lets you set times of day when motion notifications should (or shouldn’t) happen. The camera’s night vision is credible with or without exterior lighting.

Unlike the SkyBell HD, the Ring Pro doesn’t start recording before the motion event happens, so you sometimes miss a few moments—I had a lot of motion events that caught a person’s back as opposed to his or her face.

The Ring Pro Video Doorbell, on the other hand, works from farther away if you’d like, and it tends to be more sensitive than the SkyBell, which could produce unnecessary alerts. You don’t have to pause for it to register motion; just walking by will set it off. You can dial back the Ring’s motion sensitivity by reducing the size of the area it scans.

A woman pressing the doorbell on our upgrade pick for smart doorbell camera.
A video doorbell should have an intuitive design so that even strangers walking up to your door will know what to do. Photo: Rozette Rago

Another interesting feature is the Neighborhoods program that is available on the Pro and other Ring products. This feature allows you to save an image of someone (or something) suspicious and then share it with nearby Ring doorbell owners. It’s also the only way you can share data without buying a subscription. If you’re watching a live event and see something suspicious, you can share that video (while you’re in the live view) to the Neighborhoods feature in the app. From there, the video will be available in the Neighborhoods section of the app and can be viewed by law enforcement. Other people won’t be able to download and save the video file, however; and it won’t work if you miss the call or event. The Neighborhoods feature is still in beta. If you do have a Ring subscription, you can share both live and saved video.

The Ring Pro also works with a variety of other devices, including Ring’s own outdoor cameras. You can link your Ring to IFTTT where you can, for example, to set up rules to turn on your lights when the doorbell rings or motion is detected. Other examples of applets include using a doorbell press to turn on a light or to turn off your music. Using the IFTTT recipes can be a bit delayed, and it would be nice if Ring added some actions to its IFTTT channel so other devices in the home or IFTTT system could turn on the Ring camera based on triggers.

Ring also integrates with the SmartThings and Wink hubs, which is handy if you want to unlock a door after seeing who is outside, although the back and forth between different apps makes this less practical. And it doesn’t offer video inside the SmartThings or Wink app—if you want to see video from your Ring doorbell outside the Ring app, the only way to do it today is with the Amazon Echo Show. Using the Alexa skill, a person can view the Ring Pro’s camera feed and hear what’s going on outside, but it can’t talk to the person at the door through the Echo Show.

So far, the Ring Pro does not work with Google Home. Earlier this summer Ring said it would support HomeKit in some of its other products, but it didn’t offer any more details, so it’s unclear if the Ring Pro will support Apple’s HomeKit or when that might happen.

Ring also could improve its integrations with other players in the smart home ecosystem. Right now, the emphasis seems to be on pushing people to use the Ring app and thinking of the doorbell as the generator of events. But being able to access the live view from other apps and use other triggers elsewhere in the home to control the doorbell camera would be welcome.

Overall, Ring has created a compelling and consistent video doorbell that might be our top pick if not for its higher price tag and subscription fee.

The Ring Pro is part of a suite of Ring products that include the Ring Floodlight Cam, the Ring Stick Up Cam, and an optional solar cell that can power the cameras. The idea is that a homeowner can install cameras all around a home and see what’s happening.

To go along with all of these products, the Ring folks offer two pricing plans. Those with multiple cameras will find the monthly $10 fee (or $100 a year) for unlimited cameras to be a better deal than the standard price of $3 per month (or $30 per year) per device. Over the past few years, Ring has gone from telling customers that it will “never miss a visitor” to telling them it can “build a ring of security around their home.” It’s a subtle distinction, but one that matters as Ring plans more products and integrations with new services going forward.