Ring Video Doorbell 2 review: Better features, new frustrations

The Ring Video Doorbell 2 ($199 on Amazon) is a relatively modest, incremental update to the original Ring Video Doorbell. And, wow, some of its set-up procedure was seriously frustrating. But as a more-or-less satisfied owner of Ring’s first doorbell, I have to give Ring credit: Motion detection is better than ever, and once I got through some initial set-up hassles, Ring Video Doorbell 2 was actually easier to install than the first-generation product.

Smart home gadgets are rarely as smart as we need them to be, and I’ve spent a lot of time on Ring tech support over the last two years, struggling to get the original doorbell working as advertised. But Ring has been tenacious, and through constant iteration the company has improved its core technology. Bottom line: The Ring Video Doorbell 2 is a useful home security device, and I heartily recommend it.

The Ring doorbell concept

Just like earlier Ring doorbells, the Video Doorbell 2 is a Wi-Fi-connected security camera with two-way audio. Let’s say someone approaches your door and rings the doorbell. The signal hops from the doorbell to your Wi-Fi network, and then to Ring’s cloud servers, and eventually to the Ring mobile app on your phone. If you accept the “call,” you can see a live video stream of your visitor, and initiate a two-way conversation.

You can see them, but they can’t see you. So, whether you’re sitting in your living room 10 feet away, or staring at your phone from a coffee shop in a different city, you can screen the visitor and reply appropriately.

ring video doorbell 1080p image Jon Phillips/IDG

Ring upgraded its video camera to 1080p for Ring Video Doorbell 2—so now you can see crooks (or your awesome mailman) in higher definition. (Note that the playback controls can be toggled off to see more of the video picture.)

I’ve used the Ring Video Doorbell to tell couriers to toss packages inside my security gate. I’ve also told a few shady types that I’m not interested in their charity scam du jour. Crooks ring doorbells to help determine if a home is occupied, and with a Ring Video Doorbell, you can see who may be casing your joint, and tell them to bounce.

With a $30 annual cloud subscription, you can save and share all your Ring videos, letting you keep video evidence of whatever the doorbell has captured. And perhaps best of all, Ring’s doorbells also include basic motion detection, and this triggers video recording as well. The upshot is you can capture video of people who merely approach your doorbell (but don’t actually press its button).

Ring Video Doorbell 2: Upgraded features

Nothing about the Video Doorbell 2 screams, “This is an entirely new experience!” As such, current Video Doorbell owners probably shouldn’t ditch their original models for the upgrade. Nonetheless, Ring’s incremental changes are mostly welcome. Here’s what you get:

Improved video quality. Video resolution has been upgraded from 720p to 1080p. Sure, the video quality does look better, but the extra clarity will probably only be necessary when trying to positively I.D. a bad guy—say, a package thief who’s making the rounds in your neighborhood. Ring also upgraded the camera’s night-vision mode, using an RGBIR sensor for the first time. Night-time video now looks better, as the camera can capture higher-quality images from greater distances.