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.

Updated September 10, 2019 to add reporting on a couple of new features that Ring has released for customers with more than one Ring device. Linked Devices enables you to see the views from all of your Ring cameras in a single dashboard. You can also create links between devices, so that when one Ring device detects motion, it can trigger action on another Ring device (record video, for example, or turn on its light). 

A new Audio Off Toggle feature enables you to disable and enable audio streaming on any or all of your Ring devices. This appeal of this feature wasn’t immediately clear to me, but a Ring spokesperson explained that it will be valuable “for customers that want to be extra careful to avoid recording miscellaneous conversations or audio that does not pertain to their home security.” And that makes a lot of sense. If you’re entertaining guests on your patio, they would probably be more comfortable knowing that their every word isn’t being recorded. 

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.

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).