The perfect smart doorbell for anyone who wants a minimal and movable installation

Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored
Mon July 22, 2019

Story highlights

  • The Ring Door View Cam smart doorbell is available now for $199
  • It's perfect for renters, because you can take it with you when you move

Ring's fifth smart doorbell is designed to take advantage of a feature you probably already have: a peephole in the door.

The Door View Cam ($199; amazon.com) offers all the intelligence and connectivity of other smart doorbells, but it will replace your peephole -- or rather add a camera and ringer module to the front, which connect to the battery and other hardware on the back.

In traditional Ring fashion, it's about a 10-minute hardware install. The $199 price point fits somewhere in the middle of the affordability range and splurges in the smart home realm.

A smart design that makes use of existing space

The Door View Cam is an ingenious way to use the existing space of the peephole. And you still have a physical peephole with this model. While you get the added technology and the ability to check in from afar, you keep the physical method as well.

Let's talk about the setup. The front piece of the Door View Cam features the HD lens, a physical ringer with LED lights around it, many sensors, a microphone, speakers and the original peephole. The front is a durable mix of plastic and aluminum. In my testing, it withstood rain and wind with ease.

The Door View Cam is compact, smaller than the normal Video Doorbell 2 and much smaller than the Video Doorbell Pro. This model comes in at 3.83 inches high and just 1.85 inches wide.

On the indoor side, you'll find some internal hardware, the other end of the peephole, and of course the battery pack. This is a fully plastic build and has a cover that snaps on and off. The viewing end of the peephole even has a little slide window so you can close it off. Putting the battery pack on the inside allows for easy recharging without having to go outside.

At the $199 price point, I wish the back side was a bit higher end, but the plastic design gets the job done. It also speaks to the idea that this might not be a permanent installation. While you could use the Door View Cam in one spot forever if you want, it seems that the main appeal is for apartment dwellers or renters. Unlike the Video Doorbell, Video Doorbell 2 and Video Doorbell Pro from Ring, you won't need to do any mounting with a drill or screwdriver. Simply remove the old peephole (you'll probably just have to unscrew it from the inside of the door), slide the front piece and camera connector through, clip the back side on, and you're basically set. For a piece of smart home tech that can give you a view from wherever of what's outside your home, it's certainly a minimal installation.

A wide-eyed view of the hallway or street in front

In terms of the connectivity and tech hardware inside, the Door View Cam is pretty much on par with other smart devices. The 1080p HD lens on the front offers a generous 155-degree field of view. In real use, this lets you see what's in front of your home or apartment along with the street or hallway.

It's not the sharpest view out there, especially in comparison to 4K dedicated security cams, but you'll be able to make out a visitor who's right in front of the door, and it provides enough detail to see others a bit farther away. You'll also find a bit of a fish-eye effect, given this wide-angle lens, but it doesn't ruin the whole image.

Ring also builds in night vision and it performs well. It's great if this is used in an outside environment, especially for picking up on details. You can even pair the camera with Ring Smart Lighting for a fully connected experience.

Easy setup in the app with a spotlight on knock detection and motion settings

If you've used the Ring app for iOS or Android before, you'll find this is nearly the same simple experience. Once you have the physical installation done, you'll move onto the app setup. Simply hold in the orange button to put it in pairing mode and fire up the Ring app. It will find the Door View Cam and cast a wireless network between the two devices.

It will help you connect it to Wi-Fi without fumbling for a Mac Address, and this fits in with the overall Ring experience, in contrast to some other smart home devices, which can be a pain to add to a network.

The setup of the Door View Cam continues with you naming it, pairing it with a location and then customizing the settings. Ring goes overboard with motion control, and that's a good thing. You can block out certain areas where it shouldn't detect motion and even choose how far out for the sensors to detect. This is an added bonus if you live on a busy street with cars flying past, as you don't want to be bothered with constant notifications. The same goes for a busy hallway with lots of foot traffic.

Ring's new trick with the Door View Cam is knock detection, and it performs really well. Typically, for a smart doorbell to turn on, it needs to detect someone or for someone to physically ring the doorbell. Since this smart doorbell is likely to be used in a condo or apartment, it also adds knock detection. This way it can start recording when a visitor knocks on the door. As with most features, you can turn this on or off, and even adjust the sensitivity for what knocks to detect.

Knock detection and the other settings are presented in a visual format within the Ring app. You can customize what type of motion to pick up, adjust the recording lengths, and set zones for the Ring not to monitor.

Chat with your visitors without answering the door

A big advantage of a smart doorbell is the ability to see who's there, whether you're 2 feet away or 200 feet away. The Ring Door View Cam is no different and allows this. You can answer a knock or ring from anywhere with the app for iOS or Android. The requirement here is a network connection over Wi-Fi or LTE.

You can preview who's at the door first, and if you want to you can answer the door. You can see a live video feed from the camera and with two-way talk, you can speak with whoever is there. Your visitors can hear you, thanks to the speaker on the doorbell. Call quality can be hit or miss, especially depending on the weather conditions and the strength of the Wi-Fi signal. Wind, even a light breeze, can make the incoming audio a bit faint or garbled.

Normally the audio quality from the microphone on the doorbell itself works fine, but it's nothing to write home about. I hope Ring can further improve this with software updates, but at the end of the day, you'll be able to communicate.

And if you have Amazon Echo devices or Alexa-enabled smart speakers in your home, these can connect with Ring. Via an Alexa skill, you can have these smart speakers announce when someone is at the door, and you can even communicate with them through these. If you have an Echo Show 5, Echo Spot or an Echo Show, you'll also be able to call up the live view. Ring supports SmartThings, so if you have a Samsung smart TV you can even view the doorbell on the TV.

However, if you use Apple HomeKit or the Google Assistant to power your smart home, you won't be able to integrate with Ring on those.

Bottom line

The Ring Door View Cam expands the connected doorbell revolution to places that can't do a heavy installation. It also makes brilliant use of that old peephole, and you get to keep it. I'm really surprised that no other company has figured out this solution, but for now, Ring is certainly making it easier to turn a rental home into a smart home quite easily.

While $199 isn't the lowest price out there, you're getting a durable doorbell that can withstand the elements and has an incredibly easy installation. Simply unscrew the peephole and slide Door View Cam in through the front and connect it to the back. You really can't get much easier than that.

You won't be disappointed with the Door View Cam and the design can even be a talking point. You'll be the new kid on the block or in the hallway who has a compact smart doorbell with both knock detection and privacy zones.

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