Ring's Neighborhood is a cool feature that lets you share recorded events with neighbors who have joined the Neighborhood. You'll receive alerts when a neighbor posts a video and when there's fire and police activity in your neighborhood. The Events tab takes you to a screen where you can view a list of all camera and alarm events including sensor activity, arming and disarming times, and motion detection. Below the Neighbors and Events tabs are windows with live views of each installed Ring video doorbell and camera.
Outdoor security cameras provide a line of defense for your home, and smart capabilities elevate that by adding control and peace-of-mind to your home security system. Today, one of the best on the market, Ring’s floodlight camera, is $314 for a two-pack from Home Depot, a big drop from a list price of $448. And you’ll also get a free $50 Chime Pro Wi-Fi extender and speaker with your purchase.
I’ve never tried to live stream continuously. I assume that’s possible, and if you hard wire, that shouldn’t be a problem, but what about bandwidth usage? If I wanted to stream continuously, I would probably look into a CCTV system. I’ve never tested one, but I’ve seen some in action. Of course, this would mean using a TV or monitor as your “monitor.” I know you want to keep the Echo Show, but I haven’t tried to do something like you are trying to do so I’m not sure what to suggest. I’m intrigued though.
I'll be the first to admit, the thought of installing the alarm system on my own was a bit scary, and I didn't know that I would be able to get it done. I'm not exactly the handiest person, and my wife doesn't like things to be messy in our brand new house. Ring does an incredible job at making the unboxing experience extremely easy by labeling everything so you exactly what goes with what. In just under 90 minutes I was able to get everything out of the box and set up, including mounting the hardware.
If you're set to Home and Armed and you trigger an entry sensor that's fitted anywhere but your front door, the base station will sound a piercingly loud 104-decibel alarm until you can get to the keypad, or to your phone to deactivate it. If you're Away, both the motion and the entry sensors will trigger the alarm — unless, again, the entry sensor is affixed to the front door, in which case it will start a 60-second countdown until you enter your PIN (you can adjust the timer as you need).
After the battery is charged, you can move the camera to a new location, so long as it’s within your WiFi’s range. The camera will work using battery power alone, or you can continue to use it plugged into a power outlet. Since the launch of Canary Flex, Canary has also promised a 4G LTE mount, but they haven’t, and probably won’t deliver. If cellular connectivity is something you’re interested in, I suggest you look into Reolink Go or Arlo Go.
With Password Protected Sharing, you can share access to your video stream with up to ten people who have both the link and the password. Public Sharing is self-explanatory; it’s access to your live stream without a password. Both Public and Password Sharing allow others to view a live stream of your video, but they cannot view your video history, receive alerts, control cameras, or your other connected devices.
The latest addition to Ring's home security platform, the Ring Alarm Security Kit ($199), contains everything you need to protect and keep tabs on your home. As with other DIY smart home security systems, installation is quick and easy, and you can either self-monitor or pay a modest fee for a professional monitoring service. The system worked well in our tests, but we were surprised to find that it offers limited support for third-party devices, and although it uses the same app, it doesn't interact with other Ring cameras or doorbells, at least not yet. For the time being, we continue to recommend SimpliSafe as our Editors' Choice.
After I finished installing this device I found myself having issues with it for the first 3 days where sensors will go offline for no reason almost every day; suddenly after day 4 maybe, all of the issues disappeared and the system was now working like a well-oiled machine. I reached out to Ring support team and they informed me that there was an automatic update that the brain device was going to perform on its own and that would solve all of the issues I was experiencing. They were indeed 100% correct, after just a few days the system was doing exactly what it was supposed to be doing all along. No issues, no dropped devices, a happy customer here now. If you end up choosing this system and experience issues during the first 3-4 days, please wait a few days for your system to automatically update itself to the latest software and you’ll see the issues magically go away.
Next, they have plans to sell a Ring Smoke & CO Listener that listens for the sound of your smoke detector then sounds your siren and sends an alert if anything is detected. Keep in mind that this is not a smoke detector, but rather a device that will supplement your current smoke alarm system. As already mentioned, you can also buy the First Alert Z-Wave Smoke/CO Alarm, which will connect to your Ring Alarm system.
Ring cameras will work without a monthly fee, but Ring doesn’t offer any form of free storage beyond a free 30-day trial. Their first plan is Basic which is $3 per month per camera. This plan includes 60 days of cloud storage, video review, and video sharing. Their second plan, Protect Plus, is $10 per month. It covers unlimited cameras including both doorbell and security cameras. This plan also includes coverage for your Base Station. The same $10 per month that provides unlimited cloud storage also provides Ring Response (24/7 professional monitoring) and Cellular Backup.
As for the base station, you can hardwire it to your router or connect to it via Wi-Fi. I opted to hardwire it, in hopes that it would provide a more stable connection, considering the importance of it. There is an AT&T SIM card inside of it as well, which is what the system uses as a backup for when your internet connection goes down. The cost of this SIM card and its service is covered in the monitoring plan. Once the base station is powered on and hooked up to your router, you can add it your account.
The camera uses the same Android and iOS mobile app as the Ring Floodlight Cam and all of the Ring doorbells, and you can access it from a PC using the web console. The Spotlight Cam appears in the list of installed Ring devices in the app: tap it to access its dashboard screen where you can turn motion alerts on and off and check the battery level. Tapping the Live View button launches a live video stream in landscape mode with buttons for turning the spotlight on and off, sounding the siren, recording and sharing a clip with neighbors, push-to-talk (two-way audio), muting the sound, and ending the stream.
Sightline is accessed from the mobile app. From the app, you can see your video history marked with color-coded activities. The colors represent different zones set by you. For example, a green dot might be driveway activity whereas an orange dot is an activity from your porch. If you own a Nest Secure security system, events triggered by the system will also show up in the Sightline as red dots or bars. You will also be able to see a “snapshot” of the event. Finally, using Sightline, you can swipe to fast forward through several days’ worth of footage.
Using a Family Account, you can share access with nine other people. However, Nest’s sharing feature is problematically one-size-fits-all. All members will have full control over your account, including all cameras and connected devices such as thermostats and smoke alarms. As an example, I gave my family access to a camera placed at my grandmother’s. They can now view the camera at my grandmother’s and also the camera at my house. There is no way to limit their access. Also, they can’t set their own notification preferences, so they either have to put up with all the notifications from my house, or I have to turn off my notifications.
Even if you experience a power outage, both security systems will continue to work thanks to cellular connectivity. This feature is available from Nest for an additional $5 per month or $50 for the year. Ring includes this feature as part of their Protect Plus plan. Nest’s backup battery will last for 12 hours, while Ring’s will last for 24. With a longer battery life and an included cost, Ring is the clear winner here.
Hats off to Ring for the smooth-as-silk installation process. This system was easier to set up than anything in my experience. Although there are no installation videos integrated into the app, as Ring provides with its other products, I didn’t miss them at all. The app takes you through each step with pictures and a brief explanation, just enough information so you don’t feel like you’re learning the system by rote. A printed instruction manual is also provided.
Ring’s smart home security system does not include carbon monoxide monitoring. If you want to add this feature to your home, you can purchase either Ring’s Alarm Smoke and CO listener or First Alert’s Z-Wave Smoke/CO alarm. These are installed next to your current smoke alarms and will hear when either go off which triggers your security system and lets you know there is an emergency at home.
With Canary, you can also adjust motion sensitivity, and the camera includes a PIR motion sensor, which works when the camera is plugged in or when running on battery. But even with these added features, Flex has trouble sorting true events from false ones. On windy days, false alerts are common, and sometimes Flex misses events. Worse, if you use Flex as a battery-powered camera, you must wait for it to wake up. I had problems with the camera sleeping through events. In general, the camera performs at a much higher level when plugged in.
Nest Secure’s monitoring service is provided by Brinks Security. Originally, service was offered by MONI before MONI, LiveWatch, and Brinks merged to form the Brinks brand. Monitoring of Nest equipment through Brinks is $29.00 per month plus the cost of equipment. If purchased through Brinks, equipment is only $299 for Nest Guard, two Nest Tags, and two Nest Detect Sensors. If you want a discount on Nest Secure services, your only option is to sign a contract. With a three-year contract, you’ll pay $19.00 per month; equipment remains at $299.
Arming the system Away starts a 60-second countdown, delaying the armed state to give you time to exit the home without tripping any of the sensors. Opening a protected door while the system is armed also triggers a 60-second countdown, this one is to give you time to reach the keypad to disarm the system. If a sensor installed on a window is tripped while the system is armed, the alarm will go off instantly. That’s sensible: No one should be entering or leaving the home through a window while the system is armed.
I’m not certain about Nest, but I asked abode about this before. They said, “We have what is called abode Signal Guard. Unlike other smash and grab solutions, the Signal Guard works whether your system is self-monitored or professionally monitored. The abode Signal Guard alarm acts just like a normal alarm where notifications are sent and the siren(s) go off until the alarm is disabled. If you are a professionally monitored customer, the monitoring center is notified of the abode Signal Guard event.”
You can set your system to “Away,” which means that all the sensors connected to the system are monitored for activity. “Home” mode means that all exterior and perimeter sensors are monitored, but not inside your home. “Disarmed” mode means that all monitoring is off, and is useful if you’re having a barbecue and people are coming in and out of the house frequently. You can change modes by hitting the corresponding button on the keypad and the access code you’ve created for the system.
If you can live without the spotlight feature, consider our Editors' Choice for outdoor security cameras, the Netgear Arlo Pro 2. It costs more, but it delivers pre-buffered recording so you can see what happened just before a triggered event. It also comes with free and subscription-based cloud storage and offers continuous recording capabilities.
A couple of important things to note during setup. First, for the contact sensor, be sure to have the magnets aligned, otherwise it won’t work. We learned this the hard way after spending an hour troubleshooting. Second — and this is really important – depending on where you live, you may need to get a permit for the system from a local government agency. Ring helps you navigate through this process by looking up your address and telling you whether a permit is required.
A Canary Membership provides 30 days of video history, full-length video clips, social sharing, custom Home mode, two-way audio, desktop streaming, and unlimited downloads for $9.99/month for up to five cameras. It also provides access to a Safety Buton feature backed by Noonlight, formally SafeTrek. If you have more than five cameras, Canary charges an additional $4.99 per camera per month. You can use an unlimited number of cameras in a single location with a Canary Membership.
Nest, Canary, Ring, and Arlo all have advantages and disadvantages. Nest has an advantage in that it can capture footage 24/7. Canary has an advantage in that it offers person detection for free. Arlo Pro and Ring Spotlight have an advantage in that the cameras can run on battery power and they wake up for both motion and live streaming faster than Canary Flex. If I were to rank them, I would rank Nest and Arlo Pro the highest and also add that a video doorbell is a must. You can read my video doorbell compare here.
On the downside there is no way to enable/disable video motion detection clips in sync with the armed status. I only want certain cameras to record when armed stay or away. They really need the option to tell the cameras when to record and when not to record. Other than that the 2-way camera communication is spotty at best, but not really a feature that’s important to me. Adding live video to the online access would be a BIG plus too (currently you can only access the cameras through the app).
We gave the Ring Floodlight Cam 3.5 stars out of 5, noting that it’s a great addition to the Ring system and that its strong video quality and personalized motion zones make it a solid pick for outdoor security. Speaking of the Ring ecosystem, Home Depot has also slashed prices on its Ring Doorbell bundles. You can get a Ring Video Doorbell Pro with a Chime Pro Wi-Fi extender and speaker for $199 or the standard Ring Video Doorbell 2 with a Chime Pro for $169.
Do it yourself can be a really good option, but you need to make sure this is right for you before you jump in. There won’t be any technicians or professional installers to make sure everything is installed and working correctly. Ring does claim that the system is effortless to install but that obviously doesn’t guarantee that you won’t run into issues, especially if you don’t have experience with security systems. In this case, you just need to know yourself to know if this type of installation and maintenance is right for you. If you tend to hire out for most of your home projects, this extremely important project probably isn’t the one you want to start with trying on your own.
I tested the Spotlight Cam Wired and the Spotlight Cam Solar separately. The Wired is a great option if you have easily accessible outdoor power outlets. The 4.96-inch-by-2.72-inch-by-2.99-inch camera has a 20-foot power cable attached at the back as well as a built-in wall mount, and unlike with the battery powered models, you won’t have to worry about dead batteries or too many overcast days interrupting your surveillance. I’m guessing, however, most folks will need one of the battery-powered cameras.