The Ring Alarm system comes in an attractively packaged box that includes a square base station, a keypad, contact sensor, motion detector, and range extender. Unlike the Nest Secure home monitoring system, Ring created the hub and keypad as separate devices to give homeowners more control over where to place them. The products are both lightweight and durable, although the keypad digits do feel a bit antiquated when you press them.
In the end, the best camera depends on what you want to accomplish. There is no one-size-fits-all solution regarding home security. I want to use my camera to help my neighbors. I’ve found that continuous recording is crucial. After all the testing, I went back to Nest Cam indoor supplemented by my Ring Video Doorbell before finally swapping to Nest Hello. Currently, I use Nest Hello with the $5 per month plan backed by a WyzeCam 2 (on my porch). WyzeCam 2 is an indoor camera, but it’s $25 so I’m not overly concerned about it giving out. It offers free cloud storage and CVR to an SD card. However, for my backyard, I feel Arlo Pro is ideal. I don’t need continuous recording, I don’t want more wires, and it wakes up faster than Canary.
Speaking of monitoring, there are different modes that you can set when arming the alarm. When you're at home, there are two choices, including Disarmed and Home. With disarmed, there is no 3rd-party monitoring happening, so you can open and close the doors, windows, and more as you please. Home mode is used for times like when you're home alone or going to bed, and there is external monitoring involved. With Home mode, you can opt to change which sensors are active and which aren't, which is great for if you don't want a motion sensor to go off because of your pets or something.
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.
Second, Ring sells a contact sensor. The two-piece sensor can be placed on doors or windows and will notify you of open/close movements. Third, they sell a pet-friendly motion detector. Fourth, they sell a range extender. The range extender is the only sensor that requires AC power, but it also includes 24-hour battery backup. The Range Extender is used to boost the signal emitted by your Base Station to help eliminate dead zones.
Setting the Ring to away will trigger a customizable countdown timer (from 30 seconds to 3 minutes), to give you time to cancel the alarm or exit the home. It will then push a notification to your phone when the system is armed, as well as announce audibly through the base station and keypad in the home that it has been armed. The system will also push notifications when the alarm is triggered via motion or through an entryway, as well as when it’s disarmed. In my experience, the push notifications were near instant to my device, but I would not want to rely on them in lieu of the professional monitoring, as they would not reach me if my phone had no service or was otherwise inaccessible. The only thing Ring is missing compared to a system from ADT is the ability to detect when a glass windowpane is broken, though it’s worth noting that Nest’s Secure system doesn’t offer this feature either.
You can also pay $10 per month for professional monitoring, but that’s it. There are no integrated carbon monoxide or fire alarms, and it’s not capable of syncing up with other smart home devices. This means you can’t control your lights, thermostat, locks, etc. The company says these are coming as the system grows and improves, but for now they’ll be missing if you buy the Ring Security System.
The system was quite easy to install. Having six sensors to place seems like a lot, until you realize you can’t cover everything though you can certainly cover enough. I found the system to be very responsive whenever it was armed or a sensor was set off (both the app and e-mail notifications were received mere seconds after an event). This is in marked contrast to a non-Ring security camera I use to monitor the entrance that can take several minutes or longer to send me notifications. The siren too was fairly loud, as I found out one early weekend during testing.
For all the things that the Ring Alarm system does well, there are still some areas in which it can be improved. One of my biggest annoyances with the system is that there is an audible alert for when a contact sensor is opened, but there is no alert for when it's closed. I have a sensor on each of the three doors that lead into my house and while it's great to hear a noise that they've been opened, it would be awesome to hear a confirmation that they've been closed as well.
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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).
At two months, Arlo’s battery lasted longer than Canary’s. Arlo also sent both an email and push notification encouraging me to charge the camera. I tried to time how long it took to recharge the battery, but it took five hours to reach 87% and then stopped. Even the next day, the camera’s battery did not charge beyond 87%. Also, like Canary, Arlo’s battery life was impacted by activity more than weather. The camera I placed in a lower traffic zone had 37% battery life remaining after two months and several sub-zero days.
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.
All these new DIY systems pretty much rely on cellular and/or Wi-Fi. It seems that although it makes things more accessible, cheaper and easier to install, that’s where most of the glitches, or inconsistent alarm notifications come from, right? But in general it’s good that these systems have been made available for us all to choose from. Thank you for helping us navigate all the choices.
Spotlight Cam’s star feature is its light. The camera is equipped with two lights that automatically trigger when motion is detected. The lights aren’t very bright. At 700 lumens, they’re about as bright as a 60-watt light bulb. It’s not enough to scare someone away, but does improve the camera’s ability to see at night. And nighttime is the only time when the lights will automatically turn on, though you can turn the lights on manually at any time. When triggered, the light stays on for about 30 seconds. When turned on manually, it stays on until you end the live stream (required to access light feature).
The spotlight is provided by LED light strips on either side of a 140-degree wide-angle lens, which activate when motion is detected. The motion sensor, encased in a dome on the bottom of the camera, has a 270-degree detection range. The camera streams and records video in up to 1080p resolution and supports two-way talk with noise cancellation and night vision up to 30 feet.
Ring Alarm supports a sensor bypass mode, which allows you to arm the system even if one of the sensors is currently tripped. For example, if you want to arm the alarm but leave a monitored window open, the system will notify you upon arming that one of the sensors is currently faulted. You can choose to close the window to clear the sensor or bypass it, which will arm the system but not monitor that sensor until the next disarm/arm cycle.
Both the Ring Alarm and Nest Secure are easy to install by yourself. You don’t need to purchase professional installation, but both offer that option for an additional charge. Neither platform requires a contract, so you won’t be forced to pay monthly ongoing subscription fees. Both Ring and Nest also offer the ability to control your home security devices via a user-friendly app on your smartphone or tablet, making it simple to check in on things at home when you’re out and about. You’ll also get a notification on your device if the system detects anything out of the ordinary, so you’re always in the know about what’s going on at home.
First, people have complained about the larger size of the door sensors and magnets. I didn't really think this was a problem until I tried to install them on my windows. The size of the sensor itself isn't really the issue. Its the size of the magnet. IF YOU HAVE DOUBLE HUNG WINDOWS, LISTEN UP!!! If you aren't sure what a double hung window is, it is a window in which both the top and bottom panes can be opened. You can slide the top pane down or the bottom pane up independently of each other. Why is this a problem? If you do not modify the magnets for the sensors, you will need to buy two sensors for each window that you have. With my last security system, the sensor was mounted to the bottom pane and the magnet was mounted to glass on the top pane. This was done so that if either pane was moved, the sensor would trip. With the Ring window sensors, the magnet is too big to place on the glass so that the bottom panel can be moved. If you try to open the bottom panel, the window will hit the magnet and knock it off, causing it to sit on the panel in front of the sensor and not trip it. Not all windows are made the same, so this may not be the case for you, but it is worth considering. The only way I have found to get around this is to order two sensors per window or to remove the magnet from the casing and attach it to the glass. The second option doesn't look aesthetically pleasing at all. If I figure out another way, I will update this review.
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.
As with all Ring products, the Spotlight Cam is easy to install. Start by charging the battery, downloading the Ring app, and creating an account. Make sure you're close to your router, select Set Up Device in the app, and choose Spotlight Cam Battery from the list of Security Cams. You'll be asked to name the camera, confirm your address, and insert the fully charged battery in the compartment. The LED will flash blue and white for a few seconds and then go dark.
Stick Up Cams will also integrate with Ring Alarm and Alexa in the coming months. When Ring Alarm is disarmed, Stick Up Cams inside the home will stop recording and detecting motion. When Ring Alarm is triggered and the siren sounds, it can be programmed to also prompt the Stick Up Cams to start recording. Neighbors with Alexa devices will be able to access their Stick Up Cam feed (i.e. “Alexa, show the living room camera”) and view the most recent motion event (i.e. “Alexa, show me the latest event from my backyard”). Additional Alexa functions and Ring integrations will be added to Stick Up Cams later this year.
Contact sensors come in two pieces, a large sensor part and a smaller magnet part, and both pieces must be aligned within 1/4 inch of each other when the door or window is closed. One piece goes on the door or window while the second part goes on the frame, but it doesn't matter which part goes on which side. When the door or window is opened, the two parts are separated, and the sensor triggers.
The kit comes with a base station, keypad, contact sensor, motion detector, and range extender. Since Ring is pre-packaging all of this, all of the pieces are designed to automatically talk to each other, which makes setting them up easier, but could lead to some confusion when things go wrong. You won't be able to take any of these parts and integrate them with another Ring Alarm system, just the one they come with.
The device’s design causes another issue. In theory, each clip cable needs to be screwed in. I’ve heard others claim this is for security reasons, making the device harder to steal. But I don’t see how this could be true. It’s not hard to walk up and unscrew the camera from the cord and walk away with it. The camera attaches to the base using a magnet, and it connects to the power adapter using a cord that you simply push and twist to disconnect.
This is something we remind our four-year-old son of often, as he’s prone to leaving doors open because, well, he’s four. That means that the Disarmed mode comes in handy when he’s awake and running in and out of the house. It’s nice to have three options instead of just the typical “armed” or “disarmed” features that don’t take into account movement that is occurring just by living in the house.
Arlo Go is yet another Arlo camera. It’s an Arlo Pro plus 4G. The big catch is that a cellular plan via Verizon is needed as it doesn’t work with WiFi. It does come with 15 data minutes to send 15 minutes worth of video to the cloud for free. Once you’ve used those minutes, you’ll need to buy more time. Data plans start at $4.99/month for 15 data minutes and go up to $32.99/month for 225 data minutes. Arlo Go sells for $429.99 on Amazon or 399.99 from Verizon ($349.99 if you sign a 2-year contract).