Ring combines a security light with a connected camera and it works well – but subscription costs add up
- Powerful spotlight
- Integrates seamlessly with other Ring cameras
- Dual-rechargeable battery bay
- Mount could be more flexible
- Video clip quality isn’t great
- Once you add multiple cameras, subscription prices mount
Ring, as you might guess from the name, is a company famous principally for its range of doorbells. Not just any old doorbells, though – it’s famous for pioneering the internet-connected video doorbell, a sector that’s rocketed in popularity in recent times.
However, that’s not the only type of camera the Amazon-owned company sells; it also has a selection of connected security cameras on its books. Cameras such as the Ring Spotlight Camera Battery.
Even here, though, this is a security camera with a difference. It’s a product that’s not only designed to capture and record suspicious activity, but to ward off would-be burglars by casting a light on them as they approach your property as well.
Ring Spotlight Camera Battery review: What you need to know
That’s the Ring Spotlight in a nutshell. It’s essentially a Ring doorbell, but with a security light taking the place of the chime and button. It uses motion and audio-detection to record 1080p video clips, and it works on the same app as the Ring Video doorbell so you can manage all your Ring products from the same place.
And, just like the Ring Video Doorbell, the Spotlight cam is battery powered, meaning you can mount it anywhere you like without having to worry about running power cables or drilling holes in your walls. It’s the ultimate in security camera convenience.
Ring Spotlight Camera Battery review: Price and competition
There aren’t too many direct rivals offering the same set of features as the Ring Spotlight. Instead, the competition comes from systems such as the Arlo family of security cameras, D-Link’s new DCS-2802KT and from the Nest Outdoor Camera.
None can quite match the Ring’s range of features, though, at the price of £199. The Nest, for instance, must be mains-powered and doesn’t have a built-in light. The Arlo Pro 2 system is battery powered and has a security light camera in its range, but it’s considerably more expensive, starting at around £290 for a single camera and hub. The D-Link DCS-2802KT, also battery powered, is cheaper but is currently available as a twin pack at £360.
Ring Spotlight Camera Battery review: Features and subscriptions
So let me explain what you’re getting for your £149. The Spotlight is a wireless outdoor security camera with an integrated motion-detection security light. It records 1080p clips via a wide angle lens, triggered by either motion or audio. It then uploads those clips to the internet and alerts you via the app or email or both.
As with most connected security cameras, you can either view the clip or download it, or tap directly into the live feed whenever this happens and the camera has two-way audio so you can also converse with whoever is on the other end of the camera. And it’s possible to tweak the motion sensitivity, so it’s not set off all the time by swaying bushes or people walking past your house on the pavement.
As with the rivals mentioned above, the Ring Spotlight is designed to run on battery power, which is a boon to DIY smart-homers. It means you can position the camera anywhere you want without having to concern yourself with finding a nearby power source. Flip open the panel at the bottom of the camera and you’ll find two battery bays. The camera only comes with one battery in the box, but if you purchase a second battery to supplement the single battery supplied in the box you can charge one while the other keeps recording.
Those batteries are very easy to charge and change, too. Just like the battery that powers the Ring Video Doorbell 2, each battery can be connected directly via micro-USB to any 5V USB charger.
The next big tick for the Ring Spotlight Camera is that it connects directly to your wireless network. There’s no need to connect an extra hub to your router, as with the Arlo or D-Link systems – simply pair it with your wireless network and you’re off and running. I was able to connect the camera to my wireless network and associate it with my existing Ring account in a matter of minutes.
I found the range to be reasonably good, too. I mounted the camera on the outside of my garden office, some 30m and a brick wall away from my nearest mesh Wi-Fi node, and it was still able to maintain a strong enough signal.
I did have a couple of issues while installing the camera, though, and the mount provided in the box caused me the most trouble. This screws to the wall via a circular plate and holds the camera via a stubby arm, angled slightly down, with a ball joint at the end to allow for fine-tuning the position.
The problem is that the range of movement isn’t wide enough. Ideally, I’d want the camera to be out of reach of a casual thief, but if you mount it too high, you can’t angle the camera down steeply enough to capture movement close to the wall you’ve screwed it into. In the end, I settled on the compromise of positioning it just above door height on my garden office but even here the camera would lose sight of anyone getting too close.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that, while the camera is “weather resistant”, there is no officially sanctioned IP rating for the camera so if you can site it somewhere where it’s sheltered from the elements, it might be wise to do so.
Subscription-wise, the Ring is a bit of a mixed bag, too. Initially, you get a month of free cloud storage for video clips, all of which are kept for 60 days (although that’s being cut to 30 days from 2019). After that first month, though, you’ve got to pay to store clips in the cloud or you lose all access to stored video, both for viewing and downloading purposes. You don’t even get free 24-hour storage as you do with D-Link.
The prices aren’t bad, amounting to £2.50 per month or £25 for the whole year. What I take exception to with Ring’s model is that you have to pay more for every extra camera added to your account, or upgrade to the £8 per month or £80 per year Protect Plus plan, which covers unlimited cameras and stores clips for 60 days.
This means, if you have a Spotlight Camera and a Ring doorbell, it’s going to cost you £50 per year, which is a lot for a two-camera system.
The rival D-Link system is more generous, with the free tier offering 24 hours of clip storage and support for up to three cameras, and a year of premium cloud storage. It costs £22.99 per year afterwards for week-long clip storage. Plus there’s the option to record to USB storage, cutting out the cloud entirely if you want.
Either way, after three years of paying the subscription on two Ring cameras, you’ll be looking at a much higher price overall than going with D-Link, somewhat negating the appeal of the camera’s lower initial price.
Ring Spotlight Camera review: Performance
In fairness, there’s no spotlight or doorbell option yet with the D-Link system and, until then, the Ring system stands alone. And it does work pretty well, too.
The battery lasts more than a month per charge – and don’t forget you can add a second battery. The two strips of LED security lights flanking the camera lens are bright and illuminate the area around the camera for around ten metres.
I wasn’t hugely impressed with the quality of the video from the Spotlight Camera. Although it captures at 1080p the footage is somewhat blotchy and muddy. The benchmark in this sector is the Nest IQ and Hello doorbell cameras, which capture far cleaner, clearer and sharper footage. The Ring’s is poor by comparison.
I’d also like more control over where the camera looks for motion. The app allows you to restrict both the range of this detection and the direction, but you can’t always fine-tune it in the way you would want. Traditional IP cameras allow users to draw boxes around areas to detect motion in, which would be a more effective system here.
Having said all that, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the camera or the footage it produces. It does the job of recording motion as well as could be expected and hasn’t missed anything obvious while I’ve been testing it. I was able to recognise the faces of people approaching it, day and night, and both email and app-based alerts were issued in a timely fashion. The live feed pops up reliably and quickly, too, which is something I’ve experienced problems with on other camera systems.
Ring Spotlight Camera review: Verdict
Overall, it’s a cautious thumbs up for the Ring Spotlight Camera. It’s easy to install and setup, doesn’t require an extra hub to be attached to your router and is powered by an easy-to-charge lithium-ion battery.
If you already have a Ring doorbell, it integrates nicely with the rest of the system, plus, the camera itself is very reasonably priced, especially as it also doubles as a security light and offers twin battery bays.
The caveat is that Ring’s subscription prices will hit you in the pocket harder than rivals, and especially if you want to run more than one camera.