Ring's Video Doorbell 3 Plus shows you more than earlier models

Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored
Tue May 12, 2020

Ring's Video Doorbell 3 Plus is the brand's new flagship smart doorbell. While it looks just like the Video Doorbell 2 and doesn't really bring that many new features, there is a bit of news it's bringing to your doorstep: Pre-Roll, a three- to four-second preview video that starts before you even get an alert.

Pre-Roll is exclusive to the Video Doorbell 3 Plus, but brings with it a $30 premium over the Doorbell 3. The 3 Plus still has a wide-angle fisheye lens on the front that will provide 1080p HD streaming, and it can be a wired or battery-powered experience.

So if you have a Video Doorbell 2, do you need to run out and buy the 3 Plus? Let's dive in to see.

It's a very similar design and an easy installation

Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus

While the Nest Hello and Vivint's Doorbell feature a thinner and less rectangular design, Ring is sticking with its design language.

As with earlier models, the top half features the sensors and cameras in a shiny black housing. The bottom portion comes preinstalled with a silver housing, which can be swapped for the satin nickel covering that's also included in the box. We appreciate that Ring includes two options in the box. Either way, this covers the physical ringer button and packs a Ring logo front and center on the bottom. It also locks the battery pack into the doorbell.

Want some good news? It uses the same battery pack that's found in the Video Doorbell 2 and even the Peephole cam. This makes it very easy to swap the unit with a previous generation, plus it saves you the cost of buying extra batteries.

On the installation front, Ring continues to give you everything you need in the box. You'll find the doorbell, a few mounting plates, screws, a drill bit and ample instructions. For our testing, we were replacing a Doorbell 2, so we swapped out the doorbell itself and replaced the mount it sits on. It's a simple installation, and Ring walks you through the steps quite well. You'll need the Ring app and an account to begin, but once signed in, you'll scan the code on the back of the 3 Plus to start setup.

It'll join your Wi-Fi network, and we really like how it can recognize the network you've previously used. This also saves quite a bit of time. It's the classic Ring setup experience and took us, at most, 15 minutes for the physical installation.

Let's talk Pre-Roll

Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus

The biggest feature with the 3 Plus is Pre-Roll — essentially a three- to four-second black and white preview video that will appear before the physical motion alert. So if you're used to the camera picking up the package being dropped on your steps and the driver walking away, now you'll also see the driver approaching. Those added seconds of video could also help with potential break-ins or any time you need to see a bit more of the situation.

This preview video is black and white to save battery life. We didn't mind the black and white all that much, but it can be a little harder to pick up specific things in the shot. The separate camera used for Pre-Roll also appears to be a little less than 1080p HD quality and doesn't have a fish-eye lens. It has bezels all around.

When you play back a preview video into a normal motion alert, the differences in quality are noticeable, and the transition also isn't the smoothest. It takes about half a second to switch over. What is really nice about Pre-Roll is that the feature is on by default and doesn't require much, if any, setup on your end.

Pre-Roll as a whole works quite well. It has a bit of magical feeling in that it's picking up content that you'd otherwise be missing. For its implementation on the 3 Plus, it does what it sets out to do. In the future, we'd love to see the playback improved with overall better video quality.

Video quality is strong and you'll get ample motion control

Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus

The Doorbell 3 Plus is still using a 1080p HD wide-angle lens, and the video experience is pretty much the same as on the Doorbell 2. We didn't see much of an improvement, but it still lets you easily make out people, packages and cars in any given shot.

It does a good job of recreating realistic colors and is designed to give you as many details as it possibly can. You'll still have some issues in direct sunlight and trying to make out the text on packages, though. The fish-eye lens is still pretty evident in live view or playback as the corners have some rounded spots. We recommend turning on HDR (high dynamic range) within the Video Settings for an improved view.

You can also easily have the footage play back on Echo smart displays, thanks to the deep integration with Alexa. (Remember, Ring is owned by Amazon.) You can also have these smart displays, and even smart speakers, announce when someone is at the door.

Since many users will end up powering the Video Doorbell 3 Plus with the battery pack, we'd highly recommend getting the Chime or Chime Pro. This way you can still hear the ring within your house or apartment, as you would a physical doorbell. You also won't need to rely on seeing a notification on your phone. You can see our review of the Chime Pro here, but rest assured, it's well worth it.

As we've said with previous iterations of Ring Doorbells, there's ample control within the app. In fact, during setup, you'll be asked to identify motion zones, using a simple net. Under Motion Zones, you can cast a net in an arc format for where the Ring will detect motion. This is pretty accurate, and we'd recommend not dragging it out into the street if you don't want cars setting it off.

You can even break this out within different regions, so if there's a tree that sways in the wind on the left side, you can turn that corner off but keep center and right zones online. This way it can catch a person walking into the core zone and give you a proper alert. You can even set schedules to snooze alerts at night, so you don't wake up with a plethora of alerts in the morning after a bustling night.

Bottom line

At $229.99, the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus is a good choice for those new to the Ring ecosystem and/or those looking for a smart doorbell.

It's not a full redesign with crazy new features. Rather, Ring is sticking with what works. Pre-Roll is a neat trick that can really let you see important moments, but most importantly, it doesn't remove any of the great features we loved about Doorbell 2.

Ring's Video Doorbell 3 Plus is available now for $229.99 on Amazon.com.

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