Ring Indoor Cam review: There are less-expensive cameras, but none that belong to such a broad ecosystem

The smart home market is awash in cheap cameras, but few can be integrated into a security system as comprehensive as the one Ring offers.

nest indoor cam front
Michael Brown / IDG

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At a Glance
  • Ring Indoor Cam

Yes, there are even cheaper home security cameras on the market, and there are security cameras with more features. It’s all we can do here at TechHive to keep up with the flood of product inundating the market. But the $60 Ring Indoor Cam is by no means expensive, and we haven’t evaluated any camera in its price range that fits into as comprehensive a smart home ecosystem as what Ring has to offer.

And yes, Ring has been roundly and rightly criticized for its poor privacy protections and its overly cozy relationships with law-enforcement agencies. But the company has taken the right steps to address those missteps—albeit only after first blaming its customers for reusing passwords. The new Control Center portion of the Ring app discloses more information about Ring’s privacy policies, discloses which local law enforcement agencies are participating in the Neighbors by Ring program, and allows you to opt out of receiving video requests from them.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best home security cameras, where you’ll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.

Two-step verification is now mandatory, and the app will display all the devices that are currently authorized to access your Ring account, so you can easily revoke permissions that are longer appropriate. The app still lets you create too-simple passwords (the only limitation is that they must be at least eight characters long, but they can consist of letters or numbers only, and you can re-use a password you created for your account any time before. I was even able to use the first eight letters of my email address as a password, but people need to do exercise some common sense about such things.

ring indoor cam mounted 2 Michael Brown / IDG

The Ring Indoor Cam can rest on any horizontal surface or be mounted to a wall or ceiling.

The Ring Indoor Cam isn’t the best indoor security camera we’ve reviewed—that distinction still goes to the Arlo Pro 3. It’s also not a high-resolution camera like the Arlo Ultra or the Nest Cam IQ, but you can put a Ring Indoor Cam in five or more rooms of your home for the price of one of those more sophisticated cameras. The biggest drawback to the low purchase price is that you’ll need to sign up for a subscription plan if you want motion-triggered recordings that are stored in the cloud for remote viewing.

You can watch video from the camera in real time, but you can’t download or share it, and there is no onboard storage, e.g., via microSD card. You can log into Ring’s web portal at Ring.com to view all of your Ring camera’s recording (and arm and disarm your Ring Alarm system, if you have one), but you can’t view a live stream from your cameras.

Ring service plans

On the bright side, Ring’s service plans are relatively inexpensive: $3 per month or $30 per year for one Ring camera, or $10 per month/$100 per year for an unlimited number of Ring cameras. This provides up to 60 days of video storage in the cloud, and 7 days of photo history (you can grab a frame of any live or recorded video event). If you pay for the more expensive plan and have a Ring Alarm system, that subscription includes professional monitoring for the security system.

ring indoor cam live view Michael Brown / IDG

The small vertical rules between the recording events events on the video timeline are periodic snapshots the camera takes to simulate continuous recording.

The professional monitoring service will notify you and law enforcement in the event of a break-in, the local fire department in a fire emergency, and with the recently announced revamped keypad, provide one-button help for police, fire, and medical emergencies. It’s a fantastic value, if you have a Ring Alarm. Being forced to pay a subscription just to see what events triggered your camera, on the other hand, is annoying. But I suppose forcing everyone to pay is what allows Ring to offer so much to its Ring Alarm customers.

Ring Indoor Cam feature set

Like many cameras in this price range, the Ring Indoor Cam delivers 1080p video resolution, infrared night vision, two-way talk, and customizable, multi-segmented motion-detection zones. Its lens has a modest 115-degree horizontal field of view (140 degrees diagonally and 60 degrees vertically). There’s no pan/tilt motor onboard (nor would we expect there to be at this price), so what you see is what you get.

nest indoor cam back2 Michael Brown / IDG

The Ring Indoor Cam draws power from a microUSB cable.The plug on the back covers a threaded hole you’ll use to mount the camera on a wall or the ceiling.

It’s a smallish device, measuring 2.95 inches tall and 1.81 inches in diameter without its stand. It can rest on any horizontal surface, or you can mount its stand to a wall or ceiling and use it that way (screws and hollow-wall anchors are included in the box). The camera is powered by an AC adapter with a 6.5-foot cable, but there is no battery-power option. The only means of joining it to your home network is via Wi-Fi; there’s no ethernet port, so power-over-ethernet is not an option.

ring linked devices Michael Brown / IDG

The Ring Indoor Cam can be linked to any other Ring device—and vice versa—for the purpose of triggering as well as recording.

It’s worth noting that the camera is single-band (2.4GHz) Wi-Fi only. If that band is super crowded in your home’s environment, you might encounter issues with streaming and connectivity. Ring does offer a Wi-Fi range extender (the Ring Chime, which will also sound off when someone pushes the button on your Ring video doorbell), but that’s an added $30 expense. In any event, I did not test the camera with the Chime.

The Ring Indoor Cam is very easy to install and set up, especially if you already have a Ring account. Once you’ve downloaded and installed the Ring app, you simply tap on Set Up a Device in the drop-down menu, select the type of device from the list, and scan the QR code label on the camera. A video in the app lets you know what to expect, and the camera will play a recorded voice confirming that the camera has been set up.

Using the Ring Indoor Cam

As I mentioned earlier, you’ll get only a live view from the camera unless you subscribe to one of Ring’s service plans. You can configure it to send you push notifications when it detects motion, but you won’t be able to see what prompted them. In that respect, I consider the subscription essential, even though it’s optional.

You can establish multiple irregularly shaped motion-detection zones by dragging anchor points in boxes overlaid on the camera’s live view, which enables you to mask out areas you don’t want to monitor. I set up the camera in my garage and masked the garage’s one window and its two roll-up doors, so that it wouldn’t pick up people, animals, or shrubbery moving outside the garage. You can also toggle a setting so that the camera detects only people, you can adjust the camera’s sensitivity to motion, and you can even create schedules (times and days of the week) when the motion sensor is activated.

ring indoor cam motion detection zones Michael Brown / IDG

The Ring app lets you define multiple motion-detection zones, so you can mask out areas you don’t want to monitor (all the areas outside of the colored shapes in this screenshot).

You can see motion events in two ways: The Live View tab displays a window showing what’s happening in front of the camera now (or on a given date if you tap the Today button). Subscribe to a Ring Protect plan and you’ll see a horizontal timeline marked with motion event and live view markers: The former indicate when video was recorded in response to motion, and the latter mark times when you summoned a live view from the camera. You can tap on any of these to play the video clip; more importantly, you can hold your finger down anywhere on the timeline and slide it left or right to scrub through the recordings looking for anything important. There are also skip back, pause, and skip-forward buttons in the user interface that let you jump forward and back to recorded events.

The other way to view your recordings is to call up a Recent Activity tab. This shows a text-based list of events and how you responded to them, if at all. Select any of these events and you’ll get a full-screen video of the recording. Buttons in both views let you share a selected video—via a link—to Facebook, Nextdoor, or the Ring Neighbors program. You can also send links via text message or email, and you can download videos to your device. As with Live View, there are buttons for rewind, pause, and fast-forward—and a slider for volume control—arranged at the bottom of this screen.

ring dashboard Michael Brown / IDG

Among other things, the Ring app dashboard will display a snapshot from the live feeds of each Ring camera (including video doorbells) on your Wi-Fi network.

The quality of live and recorded videos was crisp and clear in my experience, with no noticeable fish-eye distortion. I can say the same of its night vision recordings. Audio recordings are also clean, although the speed of your broadband uplink connection can impact this. Ring recommends having minimum upload speed of at least 1Mbps and recommends 2Mbps for optimal performance. That shouldn’t be a problem for those with cable or fiber internet, but it can be challenging for lower-performing DSL connections.

Linked Ring devices

The value of the broader Ring ecosystem comes into play when you consider the camera’s ability to interact with other Ring devices. You can, for example, configure any other Ring device with a motion sensor to trigger the Ring Indoor Cam to record video. You could have a Ring Motion Sensor mounted in an adjacent room, trigger the camera to record sooner than the camera’s own motion sensor would, ensuring that an intruder who’s broken into the house will be caught on video because the camera will already be recording when the burglar comes into its field of view.

By the same token, the Indoor Cam’s motion sensor can be set up to trigger any Ring Lighting device to turn on, or it can trigger any other Ring camera to start recording. You can also group Ring devices together and have one action trigger all the devices in the group, so you don’t need to link each one individually.

ring indoor cam clip sharing Michael Brown / IDG

Ring provides a number of ways to share your Ring video clips, ranging from posting to social accounts like Facebook to sharing with Ring Neighborhood users to email and direct downloads.

If you also have the Ring Alarm home security system, you can create default settings for how the camera (and any other Ring device) will behave when the system is armed home, armed away, or disarmed. If you don’t want the camera to ever record while you’re at home, for example, you can configure the mode settings so that motion detection will not trigger the camera to record while the alarm system is disarmed or armed home.

Bottom line

The Ring Indoor Cam packs a lot of value into its $60 price tag, but you’ll need to subscribe to one of Ring’s subscription plans to unlock much of it. That requirement, and the absence of any onboard storage option, prevents us from naming it our favorite budget home security camera.

If, on the other hand, you’ve gone all in with Ring and have deployed any of the company’s other security, camera, or lighting products around your home—and you’re already paying for a Ring subscription—this camera is inexpensive enough to deploy all over your home. That and the manner in which all Ring products work together to form an interconnected security system make the Ring Indoor Cam a no-brainer.

Corrected April 18, 2020 to report that you can view recordings from all of your Ring cameras at Ring.com, but you can’t see a live view from your cameras through this portal.

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At a Glance
  • This is the camera to buy if you're at all invested in the Ring ecosystem, but its lack of onboard storage and its really-not-optional subscription plans are significant deficits if you're not.

    Pros

    • Small, inexpensive, and easy to deploy and use
    • Highly customizable motion-detection zones
    • Tightly integrated into Ring’s broad home ecosystem

    Cons

    • The “optional” subscription plan is more realistically a must have
    • Single-band Wi-Fi (2.4GHz only)
    • Ring still allows users to set up easily cracked passwords
  
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