Ring's Video Doorbell 2 is a simple way to gain an extra set of eyes

Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored
Mon February 18, 2019

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Turning a home into a smart home can be a daunting proposition, and that was especially true in the early years of the connected house, with many platforms battling to be No. 1. But several years into this revolution, upgrading from traditional hardware to a smart, connected device is simpler than ever.

Let's start with the entry point to your home, house or apartment. Chances are you have a metal knocker, a classic wired doorbell or maybe a wireless chime hooked up to an alarm system. The Ring Video Doorbell 2 ($169, originally $199; amazon.com) wants to change this. It's a wired or fully wireless solution to seeing what's outside your door.

It comes complete with a 1080p high-definition video camera, a doorbell button, microphone, speaker, rechargeable batteries and a weather-resistant design. All of these features at a $169 price point make it an attractive smart doorbell option on paper. And the Ring Video Doorbell 2 plays nicely with Alexa and SmartThings.

You might be wondering what all these features do. A video doorbell allows you to see who is at the door and even talk with them without going to the door. Via motion alerts, you can be shown if someone is there who shouldn't be, and it's another set of eyes at the front of your house. I've been testing the Ring Video Doorbell 2 for a few weeks, and it's been a blast. Let's walk through why it's a top pick.

Wired or wireless, the choice is yours

With many smart doorbells, you'll need to hardwire the device with power to a transformer and a chime. This can quickly become a complicated install, because you first need to have the wiring and proper connections with the correct amount of voltage. The Video Doorbell 2 from Ring supports a wired install as well, but you'll need hardwired chimes and an 8- to 24-volt AC doorbell transformer.

I chose the wireless route, and via a 2.4 GHz connection, the Video Doorbell 2 will easily get connected to your wireless network. Plus, it will ring on the devices with the Ring app installed, on Amazon Echos or with a wireless chime. It gets power via a rechargeable battery pack that can easily be slid in or out of the doorbell at the bottom. If you're worried about it being removed, you can lock it in with a safety screw.

The choice is yours, but the wireless route makes for a quick and simple install. Just be sure to precharge the battery pack, or you'll be sitting around for a bit until it hits 100%.

A simple install and you're all hooked up

With the wireless route, once you pick a spot to place the Ring Video Doorbell 2, you'll use the included screws and mounting base to attach it to the wall. No wiring is required, since it pulls power from the battery pack and connects wirelessly to let you know when someone is there. All in all, it took me around 10 minutes to do the full install after giving the battery pack a full charge.

The wired setup is a bit more complicated and does require a longer install. You'll still need to choose a spot for the Video Doorbell 2; in this case, it'll likely be over the original hardwired doorbell. This way you can swap the wiring into the back of the new doorbell. With this setup, pushing the Ring Doorbell will have it ring to the smart devices and the wired chime.

An intuitive companion app

The Ring app for iOS and Android will guide you through setup and be your main companion for using the smart doorbell. It will let you monitor the system stats like connection and battery level of the device itself, plus be notified when someone is at the door or if it detects motion. There is a considerable level of control over the doorbell as well.

For starters, you can customize its motion sensors. So if you tell the Ring your house faces a street, it can weed out alerting you of cars that are just minding their own business and driving past. On the other hand, if you want a notification every time it sees something, it can do that as well.

Via the Ring app, you can sync it with Amazon Echos so they can say "Someone is at the door" when someone rings it. If you don't have a wired chime and are using the Video Doorbell 2 in a wireless setup, this is a great feature. It also eliminates the need to purchase a Ring Chime, although that is an option as well.

It's an intuitive and simple application to use. My favorite notification is when it alerts you the battery is running low. This gives you the chance to pull it out when you're home, allowing you to minimize downtime when you want the Ring to be keeping a watchful eye.

You'll need a subscription to watch older clips

As with other smart home products, you'll need to enroll in a plan, which is an added cost on top of the product purchase. In this case, you'll need to pay a monthly price to access older clips and be able to rewatch them. It comes in handy, and you'll likely want it.

Ring will give you a 30-day free trial out of the box, but after that, you need to sign up for a Ring Protect Plan. With just one doorbell, the Protect Basic Plan ($3 a month or $30 a year) will do just fine. With several Ring devices, you'll want the Protect Plus Plan ($10 a month or $100 a year).

An easy-to-use and reliable smart doorbell

I wasn't too sure about the Ring Video Doorbell 2 going in, but after several weeks of testing, I am confident that it's a reliable option. For starters, the $169 price point is pretty good for a smart home product.

The easy install and always-connected nature of the doorbell are crucial for a smart home product, and Ring checks off these boxes. While another monthly bill is never fun, the $3-per-month Protect Basic Plan isn't too bad if you have just one Ring doorbell.

If you've been waiting to upgrade to a smart doorbell, the Ring Video Doorbell 2 is a great option.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer's listed price at the time of publication.