Tech Guide

This $200 'smart' doorbell will show you who (or what) is in front of your house at all times

Key Points
  • The Ring Doorbell 2 lets you check in on your front door whether you're home or not, using a smartphone or tablet
  • It costs $200 and doesn't require any sort of hard wiring, installation is a breeze and it works really well
  • The microphone could be improved and motion detection is overly sensitive, but it's otherwise a great product.
This is the doorbell of the future
This is the doorbell of the future

The Ring Doorbell 2 is a $200 smart doorbell with a camera that lets you check in on your front door whenever you want.

I've been testing it for the past two weeks and, while there are a few things I don't like about it, it's great for anybody who wants to keep a watch over their front door without having to walk to it all the time -- people who work from home or get a lot of deliveries, for instance.

Let me tell you why.

This is the third Ring Doorbell

Devin Hance | CNBC

The Ring Doorbell 2 the third doorbell developed by Ring. This one offers 1080p video streams that are much sharper than the previous model, and costs only $20 more As with earlier models, it's water-resistant so you don't need to worry about it getting rained or snowed on.

It also has a rechargeable battery so you don't have to worry about hard-wiring it to your house, and support for detecting when people are outside of your house.

Devin Hance | CNBC

There's a button on the front that acts as your doorbell. When it's pressed, you'll receive a notification on any smartphone with the Ring application installed, allowing you to pull up a video feed of who's at your door.

It's not a particularly attractive product. It's clunky-looking, and was a bit of an eyesore on the front of my house. Admittedly, I have an older 1920s house that doesn't exactly match the look of modern technology.

Installation is a breeze

Devin Hance | CNBC

It took me about five minutes to get up and running with the Ring Doorbell 2. I installed the Ring app and connected the camera to my Wi-Fi network. The battery slides right into the bottom and the front shell — a white and a brown one are included in the box — snaps right to the front. It took just two screws to secure it to the outside of my house.

Speaking of the battery, it lasts long enough that I haven't had to charge it yet, and I've had it for about two weeks now. I suspect you'll need to take it off the door (it pops right out) and charge it every couple of months or so.

Always watching

Devin Hance | CNBC

The Ring Doorbell 2 will satisfy your curiosity (or calm your paranoia) about who's coming around. It allows you to check in on your front door — or anywhere, really — on demand from the Ring smartphone application. When I ordered pizza, for example, I was able to check in on the front door and see that it was the delivery person instead of, say, somebody trying to sell me something.

Sometimes the video had artifacts -- those glitchy bits that distort video from time to time -- but I could always easily make out who was standing outside. In one test with a colleague during filming, we found that the microphone wasn't always clear, so speaking anything other than a brief "come in" or "be right there" was kind of fruitless.

The motion detector works, but beware

Devin Hance | CNBC

The Ring Doorbell 2 lets you set motion detection zones ranging from detecting movement from 5 feet outside your door all the way to 30 feet. Since there's a road about 20 feet from my door, I knew I needed to keep the zone pretty tight unless I wanted an alert every time a car drove by. I left it only to detect movement at my doorstep.

One night, at 3 a.m., my wife and awoke to multiple alerts. Then I opened the app to see a recording showing nothing but the flag outside my front door waving in the wind.

I changed the setting to be a little less aware of movement and I haven't run into that issue since.

Final thoughts

Devin Hance | CNBC

If you get a lot of packages delivered and want to keep an eye on them, buy the Ring Doorbell 2. If you're frequently upstairs and don't hear your current doorbell or prefer to know who's at the door before answering it, buy the Ring Doorbell 2. If you want to just check in on your front door from the office just to see what's up, or to see if leaves are collecting on your yard, then buy the Ring Doorbell 2.

It works well and I found it to be super convenient; it's a gadget I didn't really think I needed until I installed one.

On the other hand, it's kind of strange having a camera on the front of my house. I've visited folks with older versions of the Ring and didn't really like the idea that they could see me -- harmless as I am -- when I rang the doorbell. I felt bad when I had sushi dropped off, knowing that the delivery person knew he was being watched and recorded.

That's the new age we live in. As we build smart homes that can give us an extra set of eyes when we aren't there, we'll need to get used to cameras being everywhere, even on our doorbells.