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Ring Alarm review: An affordable home security system

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Written by Jason Cipriani on
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9.0/10

Ring Alarm

Outstanding
$888 at eBay
Pros
  • Affordable hardware and monthly service
  • Easy installation
Cons
  • Remembering to arm the system is a problem Ring needs to help solve
  • Editors' Review
  • Specs

Here's why the Ring Video Doorbell Pro is a worthy upgrade Ring started out selling video doorbells. The small, always connected camera was triggered by motion or the push of its button, and the user could talk and see to whoever was standing on at the door.

Latest review

Since then, the company has expanded to cameras that overlook the perimeter of your home, using dedicated power or solar panels to ensure the cameras are always connected.

More recently, Ring released what amounts to its first in-home security product, Ring Alarm.

Ring Alarm is a complete home alarm system for $199. Included with the starter kit is all hardware you need to get started, which includes a keypad, a base station, a contact sensor for doors or windows, a motion detector, and a range extender.

Ring charges $10 per month for what it calls professional monitoring. The Protect Plus plan provides cellular backup, unlimited Ring cameras, video recording, and should your alarm be triggered, someone will call and verify whether or not emergency services are needed.

In other words, if you're already a Ring user and pay the $10 a month (or $100 per year) for video access, your bill doesn't go up by adding Ring Alarm and its monitoring service.

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Setup

Ring Alarm is designed so you can install it yourself with little effort. From start to finish the process took me roughly 30 minutes.

The process involves plugging in the base station, adding it to your Ring account, connecting it to your Wi-Fi network, then adding the additional components (keypad and sensors) in the app.

Adding a sensor requires pulling a tab to activate the battery, then scanning a QR Code that's located on the device or on a sheet of paper in its box. The connection process is then automated.

The contact and motion sensors use adhesive to attach to a wall or frame, which also makes them removable without doing any damage.

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Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Most of my setup time was spent testing the position of the three contact sensors I received. The magnetic sensors consist of two parts. One part goes on a door or window frame, the other part goes opposite it so that when the door or window is opened, the magnetic connection is broken. If the two pieces aren't close enough, roughly half an inch, the sensor doesn't work.

The problem with these, or any other similarly designed sensors, is that door frames make the positioning awkward. Each door is different, so I suggest taking the activated sensor, and holding it in place on the door -- without the adhesive exposed -- and then opening and closing the door (or window) to test the connection.

The Ring Base station uses a combination of Z-Wave, Zigbee, and Wi-Fi to connect various devices, allowing you to expand Ring Alarm. For example, Ring's site lists a First Alert Smoke/CO alarm that integrates with the system and will alert you, as well as the monitoring service, if it's triggered.

Currently, the Ring sells the First Alert Smoke/CO alarm, a Smoke and CO listener, a Flood & Freeze sensor, and a dome siren. You can still connect third-party devices to your system, but only Ring certified devices will trigger the Alarm.

The Ring app

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Ring's Motion Detector next to an old, hardwired motion detector.

Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Ring's app, where users have always had the ability to view and interact with cameras, is also home to the Alarm system. In the app users can create codes, add new users, adjust the time between a sensor being triggered and the Alarm's siren going off, along with a myriad of other settings and features.

There's also a relatively new section of the app called New Features. In this section, users can enable optional features. Right now, there's a new layout that shows live views of cameras with dedicated power, and current snapshots for any Ring cameras that are battery or solar powered.

Over time, Ring will add more options to the New Features section for users to toggle on or off. Right now, I have the new camera preview enabled and don't plan on going back to the older view.

Also within the app is Ring's Neighbors network, where users can upload videos or photos of suspicious activity or people caught on camera committing a crime.

Forming new habits

It's me, not Ring.

My loudest complaint about the Ring Alarm system has nothing to do with the system itself.

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Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

I've struggled over the past two months to get into the habit of consistently arming the system whenever I leave. Once in a while, I remember to arm the system on my way out the door. Other times I remember later and arm the system from my phone.

But most of the time I forget. It's as if the system sits idle, serving only as an elaborate door chime.

It's not that I don't see the value of the system, especially with the slow and steady increase in home break-ins where I live.

In fact, just this week I had the power go out at my home, which is also where my office is. I had deadlines to meet, so I decided to go to a coffee shop where I could work and fill up on caffeine. It wasn't until I walked into my garage that I remembered I had to manually open the garage door, disconnecting the door from the chain drive. My particular garage door opener wouldn't let me reconnect the door and the chain drive, locking it in place, so I was stuck with a garage door that anyone could lift open with ease.

In other words, until power was restored and I could trigger the garage door opener, my house was wide open to anyone who walked up and tried to lift the door. But I had to leave. I had work to get done.

Then I remembered, the Ring Alarm has a battery backup and a cellular backup. Meaning I could still enable away mode, if someone did enter my house while I was gone I would know the moment they did.

Thankfully nothing happened during the two hours I was away from home.

That peace of mind is really what any alarm system is selling you. Ring is selling the reassurance that if something happens, you will know the moment it happens.

When talking with Ring shortly after I installed the system, I mentioned my struggles with creating a habit of arming the system each and every time I left. The company admitted that it's something users have to learn to do, but also hinted that the company was looking at ways to use the Ring app to remind users.

For example, the app could potentially use the location of a phone (or phones) linked to the account, and when it's determined the phone(s) aren't home, an alert will ask if you want to arm the system.

Nearly two months into my testing of the Ring Alarm, I still need a feature like this built into the Ring app.

Conclusion

When you take into consideration the hardware cost and the monthly fee, it's clear Ring Alarm is an affordable and effective way to monitor your home from afar.

My experience with the system has been free of any issues with the product itself.

For anyone who is already a Ring customer, the Ring Alarm is an easy option to recommend as a way to secure the inside of your home. For everyone else, the Ring Alarm is still worth your consideration. It's easy to set up, inexpensive, and reliable.

Previous and related content

Ring Floodlight Cam review: A logical addition to any Ring household

If you want to keep a better eye on your home and add peace of mind, the Ring Floodlight Cam gets the job done.

Here's why the Ring Video Doorbell Pro is a worthy upgrade

After using the standard Ring Video Doorbell camera, I recently upgraded to the newer, more expensive Pro model and it made a huge difference.

Ring Video Doorbell 2 review: A fun IoT device to boost your security

With live video and two-way audio, the Ring Video Doorbell 2 is one of the most immediately useful IoT devices we've examined to date. It's fun too.

Ring Alarm system can keep small businesses safe for only $10 a month TechRepublic

Ring uses smart security to create a DIY alarm system, keeping communities and businesses safe.

Ring Alarm Security Kit review: Ring's crazy-affordable DIY system nails simple home security CNET

Ring didn't do anything particularly innovative with its Alarm Security Kit, but this inexpensive DIY system stands out because of its simplicity.

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