The Ring Alarm starter kit is one of the most affordable security systems available. For $200, you get a wireless base station, a keypad for arming and disarming the system, one entry sensor, one motion sensor and a Z-wave range extender. I would have liked the kit to include at least two entry sensors since there's typically more than one point of entry to every dwelling, but you can purchase additional entry sensors for $20 a piece.
An update on the outdoor charger for the Arlo Pro/Pro 2: Amazon has been informing buyers that “NETGEAR has informed us that the product Arlo Outdoor Power Adapters (Model No. VMA4700) may have an issue with the connection between the adapter and Arlo Pro cameras may allow water to enter the camera.” This can result in the camera short-circuiting, overheating, and burning. (It’s hard to find out about this, and Netgear has failed to issue a recall.)

The rest of the kit remains relatively standard. The Ring Alarm entry sensors are about a quarter-of-an-inch bigger than SimpliSafe's sensors and don't perform double duty like Nest's large sensors, which also sense motion. They're easy to install with the included mounting hardware and 3M-branded sticky tape, but they seem unnecessarily large and were hard to place so that the magnets would meet each other on both my front door and the back sliding door.
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).
Before we get ahead of ourselves, how did Ring become a giant in home security now worth over $1 Billion?  They started out as 'Doorbot' and failed getting an investor on Shark Tank.  While this could have been a low blow to the company, they pursued the smart doorbell camera and became the leader of it (Vivint to follow in 2nd).  Richard Branson chimed in with a large investment and that really got the company going.  Fast forward some years and now they are in thousands of stores and in neighborhoods across the nation.
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Press Continue and follow the video instructions to press the button at the top of the device, at which point the LED will begin flashing white. Press Continue again and go to your phones Wi-Fi settings to connect to the camera. Return to the app, select your home Wi-Fi from the list, and enter your password. Within seconds the camera will connect and you'll have the option to view a video tutorial that will walk you through the physical installation, or you can skip this step and use the written instructions. In the final step you'll be prompted to define Motion Zones, but you can come back to this later if you prefer.
The picture isn’t quite as rosy if you’re also looking for a full-fledged smart home system. Ring Alarm is positively capable of being a great smart home controller. But it’s not that today. And to be fair, Ring isn’t promising that it ever will be—at least not officially. But they wouldn’t have built in Z-Wave, ZigBee, and whatever that third mystery radio is if they didn’t intend to go down that path.
The Spotlight Cam comes with 30-day free trial of Ring’s cloud storage for recorded video. At the end of the period, you have the option of upgrading to one of a pair of Ring Protect plans: Protect Basic allows you to store, review, and share video for up to 60 days for $3 per month or $30 a year per camera. Protect Plus provides the same for unlimited Ring cameras—including the Ring Video Doorbell—and adds a lifetime warranty and discounts on Ring products for $10 per month or $100 a year.
Download the Ring app (available for both iOS and Android) and connect the Alarm with your existing Ring devices, or, if this is your first Ring product, follow the instructions and advice on how to get started. Both the app and written materials in the box provides helpful suggestions on how and where to set up your motion sensors and contact sensors.
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 biggest disadvantage to many IoT/smart systems is the lack of an API. They are closed source and in reality are designed to lock you in to their products and offerings. If you’re happy with only buying say Ring products for everything and areas that they don’t have an offering you can’t integrate other products in, then you stuck with only what they offer.
Hi and thank you for the exhaustive review. I like the option of Ring Doorbell Pro. However, my existing doorbell is on the side of the house, facing parallel to the door across the front steps. If I mounted the Ring there, the camera would capture a profile of the visitor as they approach the door. It would not capture their face head on, would not (likely) capture them them as they approach the steps, which is where delivery people often leave packages (my interest in Ring, Arlo, etc., came out of the neighborhood social app conversation about a rash of package thefts), and would not capture the car they drive as it would face parallel to the street, not into the street. My question is: what would the installation of Ring look like on or near the front door, where there is no existing wiring? Is my existing setup enough to steer me away from Ring and toward a battery powered option?
Hey Scott, sorry about your car. Under shortcuts, you will find the video reviews. For Nest, night vision is shared at minute 1:43 and keep playing for just a moment to see night vision from Ring. During the Arlo vs. Canary video (the third video shown), skip to minute :54 to see night vision from Canary and keep playing to see a side by side comparing it to Arlo. To me, they are all about the same. I’ve found that the best night vision comes when you leave the lights on. I actually have automated lights on my porch, and they turn on at sunset and back off at sunrise. Integrating the cameras with a smart home system: I’ve tested Arlo Pro with SmartThings, I wasn’t a fan of that. It actually changes the mode to a new mode called SmartThings. I prefer geofencing mode. Ring I’ve tested using IFTTT, but I haven’t tested it with SmartThings.
Nest Cam Outdoor’s temperature range is limited to -4° to 104°F. In the same breath, the Nest team warns of placing the camera in direct sunlight to avoid overheating the device. So if the device can only handle 104° and it might heat up in the sun, is it really ready to live outside? Perhaps it’s not that the device isn’t ready to live outside, but that it’s more suited for temperate zones.
The original Ring has a battery option. I don’t know how I would feel about that because you do have to remove the doorbell to charge it. Ring claims it will last 6-12 months on a charge. If that’s true, that wouldn’t be so bad; however, I would expect it to last like 3-6 months. In my experience, when a company gives a top end battery life range, that’s how long it will last if you never use the device. All that said, I don’t know how hard it would be to move a wired doorbell to the front of your door.

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.
I’ve enjoyed reading your summaries for over a year. I initially had my mind set on Abode after removing iSmartAlarm and SimpliSafe (previous generation) from consideration. I had an Abode package all set and nearly pulled the trigger on a purchase. However, after coming across Ring and reading your review multiple times, I ultimately went with Ring. What won me over was the package being offered by Costco that has six door/window sensors. When I priced out what Abode would cost to have comparable coverage, Ring clearly won out. I don’t need any integrations or automation, thus I don’t feel I’m losing out on those aspects by selecting Ring over Abode.

On another note, I really like this article. It has a lot of good information that I’ve added to my personal research. One thing I like about Abode is that the Chris Carney (a founder) has many years of experience in the security industry. It is open source and seems like it protects user data better. After Google purchased Nest, one can only imagine how they are combining all of that personal data with all of the other personal data they have on us. The on-demand monitoring seems really valuable–I only really need 3rd party monitoring when I’m out of town.
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.
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How far away would the two doors be from an available Ethernet outlet? My thought is that you could use a system where the cameras actually talk to the base station, not the internet. Arlo, for example, uses cameras that talk to the base station directly. When the base station is plugged into Ethernet, it creates its own WiFi network which the cameras connect to directly versus connecting to your home network. The hard part would be that the base station needs to be in a central location between the two doors and, as I stated, connected using Ethernet. In a perfect world, you can place the Arlo cameras up to 300 feet away from the base station, but lots of things can obstruct their ability to talk to the base like walls and doors.

I know the doorbell works because I have a rule that runs on the doorbell. I know the alarm does not work with IFTTT. Now I’m questioning my assessment of the Spotlight. I can’t remember if I actually used an IFTTT recipe with it or just assumed there was one. I gave the camera to my dad so I’ll have him check and then update the article if needed. Thanks for the tip!
Person Detection was the first feature launched under the Canary Vision project, a project that aims to add AI-powered intelligence to Canary devices. The second Canary Vision feature is Package Detection, which lets users set up notifications for when packages are delivered to their homes. This feature is exclusive to Canary Flex, and it can only be accessed if you have a Canary Membership.
Finally, you can add third-party Z-Wave and Zigbee devices. abode has a list of compatible devices on their site. The list includes products by Aeon, Aeotec, Enerwave, Fibraro, First Alert, FortrezZ, GE, Linear, Kwikset, Leviton, Schlage, Iris, Sensative, ZooZ, and Netvox. abode also sells their own Home Automation Power Outlet & ZigBee Extender. The device will turn any outlet into a smart outlet, allowing you to control plugged-in devices and include them as part of your automation recipes. The switch also acts as a ZigBee range extender.

Like the hardware, Ring’s Protect Plus service is significantly less expensive than other options. It costs $10 per month and has no long term contract commitments. Nest offers a similar service, but it starts at $19.99 per month with a three-year contract and jumps to $29.99 per month if you opt for no commitment. ADT, one of the largest traditional home security services, has plans that start at $28.99 per month and requires a three-year commitment.
If it's an entry sensor you're installing, Ring will ask what kind of door it is to apply the right sort of security to it — if it's your front door, for instance, it will use an entry countdown when you open the door while the base station is in Home and armed mode.  If it’s the back door that's opened in this mode, the alarm will sound immediately.
Arlo Pro can be used outdoors only if running on battery or solar power. (While they once sold an outdoor power adapter, it is no longer available due to quality issues.) If you’re using battery power, you will have to charge your camera indoors as the included power adapter is not rated for outdoor use. Furthermore, if your battery is too cold from being outside, you might have to wait for it to warm up before you can begin to charge it. If you don’t like the sound of that, you can invest in the $59.99 Pro Charging Station and an additional rechargeable battery ($49.99). You can use the charging station to charge two batteries simultaneously so that you always have one ready to go when needed. You can also purchase the Arlo Pro UV-resistant silicone skins, which provide added protection against condensation and sun glare.
Is the Nest Outdoor can really secure? If you have to run the cable to a power outlet, outside and clearly visible, it seems to me that more than an eye sore it’s simply insecure. Anyone could walk up and unplug it. Sure it may catch a snap of the person prior to that, or it may not if they person makes the right approach. Either way, it seems insecure to have an outdoor camera that anyone could easily take offline. Thus I wonder if the extra $ for the IQ are worth it, just for that reason vs any of the other enhancements that they market, as I agree with you those feature do not seem to be worth the large price increases (which is more than doubled).
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.
Ring also sells several cameras including the Ring Video Doorbell, the Video Doorbell 2, Ring Elite, and Video Doorbell Pro. They also sell a Floodlight Cam, Spotlight Cam, and two versions of their Stick Up Cam. Most of the cameras are geared toward outdoor use with the exception of Stick Up Cam Wired and Stick Up Cam Battery. The two cameras can be used indoors or outdoors.
abode uses the abode app. If an event occurs, you will receive a notification on your phone. From the app, you can decide how to respond to events. You can review video footage, notify the police, the monitoring center, or even your family. You can also view sensor history and manage your rules. For example, you can create a “coming home” rule that turns on the lights and unlocks the door. And of course, you can use the app to arm and disarm the system.
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I’ve only tested one cloud-less camera this year (Reolink Argus) and it’s battery-powered. And if you’re asking about systems like Amcrest and Swann, I don’t have anything similar. I mainly focus on cloud cameras for now, but who knows what the future holds! Currently, I’m working on an updated indoor camera version of this article, but all the cameras I’m testing use cloud storage.
I haven’t had any issues with Arlo Pro, but I called their support team to get a feel for support quality. As Netgear owns Arlo, phone tech support is managed by Netgear, and they offer offshore support. It was the stereotypical experience you think of when you think of tech support. I called into a phone queue, waited a little bit (not long), got transferred to someone who struggled to understand my question, she put me on hold, she came back to clarify my question, she put me on hold, and then she came back with an answer. While it wasn’t a bad experience, it was sub-par compared to the tech support experiences provided by Nest, Canary, and Ring.
Was Ring too quick to announce the launch of this new product?  They have launched their security cameras without any bumps but they are being sued by ADT and halted by a judge from selling their security system until the court has reached a verdict (story here).  ADT is claiming intellectual property violation.  Since they are the largest company in the industry surely they want to slow down Ring anyway they can, and this is sure doing a number on them at the peak of their launch.
The Ring mobile app recently got a facelift that gives it a more polished Dashboard featuring live preview windows. The Alarm controls are at the top of the Dashboard screen and include Disarmed, Home, and Away buttons. Below the buttons is the status of all installed sensors (cleared, open), and below that are tabs for viewing Neighbors posts and Event History.

The Ring Video Doorbell 2 and Ring Stick Up Cam provide easy and effective ways to set up a pretty strong security perimeter around the outside of your home, but it could be made considerably stronger with the addition of the now-Amazon-owned company’s Spotlight Cam. This outdoor camera/porch-light hybrid, illuminates the area and records video when its motion sensor is tripped.
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