Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus review: It's good, but it's not new or improved enough to be the best

You'll get dual-band Wi-Fi and better motion detection, but the same resolution and field of view as the previous generation.

ring video doorbell 3 plus primary
Ring

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At a Glance
  • Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus

The third generation of Ring’s doorbell camera comes in two distinct flavors: The $200 Ring Video Doorbell 3 and the $230 Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus, reviewed here. The most notable features the extra $30 buys you a four-second “pre-roll” that starts recording motion events before the doorbell sends you an alert. If you’re replacing an existing wired doorbell, this one can take advantage of that low-voltage power source, so you don’t need to worry about recharging a battery.

But the competition in this space is getting fierce, and unlike some other video doorbells we’ve reviewed lately, Ring hasn’t increased video resolution beyond 1080p, and its new camera still has the 160-degree field of view of its predecessor. The battery-powered Eufy Security Wireless Video Doorbell, for example, is also limited to a 160-degree field of view, but it captures video at 2560x1920 resolution. Meanwhile, our overall favorite in this category—the svelte Arlo Video Doorbell—offers video resolution of 1536x1536 pixels and it has a 180-degree field of view. Arlo’s doorbell, however, doesn’t have the option of running on batteries.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best video doorbells, where you’ll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.
Ring app from Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus Jason D’Aprile / IDG

Motion detection zones are easy enough to define, but they’re not as customizable as some competing doorbells.

Ring offers one of the best home-security ecosystems, with a broad range of indoor and outdoor cameras, smart lighting, and its excellent DIY Ring Alarm system with very inexpensive professional monitoring. If you’re already in deep with Ring, and need a video doorbell, it would be completely sensible to buy one of Ring’s doorbells. That said, this new generation doesn’t offer enough that’s new or better to warrant an upgrade recommendation.

Motion detection improvements

The way the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus handles motion detection is improved, but the change amplifies the fragmentation that’s been happening with Ring’s security camera range: Each one has a different way of handling motion detection. This isn’t a big deal if have just one Ring camera or if you’re the set-it-and-forget-it type, but it can be frustrating for folks who like to tinker and fine-tune things and who have a mixture of Ring products.

As with Ring’s second-generation doorbell, an in-app wizard helps you extend or shrink an arc-shaped motion detection zone within the camera’s field of view. As with the second-generation model, you can slice this arc into three segments where you can turn motion detection on or off. This is useful for masking areas where trees or bushes blowing in the wind might produce false alerts.

The new model adds a fourth “near” zone that focuses on motion within 5 to 15 feet of the doorbell. In addition to that, you can draw four-cornered “privacy zones” in the live view that are not only not monitored for motion, video is not even recorded in these zones. This is great for blocking out a close neighbor’s house or any area of your own house or yard that you want to ensure is never surveilled.

An optional People Only setting will send alerts only when people are detected, and the doorbell was pretty good about discerning between humans and animals, but the less-expensive (but wired) Arlo Video Doorbell was much better on this score.

Ring app from Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus Jason D’Aprile / IDG

Ring’s new privacy zone feature will be a welcome improvement for folks in more densely populated neighborhoods.

I mentioned the new pre-roll feature up top; allow me to elaborate on that a bit now. When you play any recorded event, you’ll see four seconds of black-and-white video preceding to it. These four seconds capture whatever happened in front of the camera before it sent you a motion alert, which could be very useful forensic evidence if the doorbell captured an intruder or anything else of importance. You can also see the pre-roll video live in the camera’s app: It appears in a window in the top left corner of the live view, picture-in-picture style. Tap on the window and it will move to full screen, trading places with the live view.

User experience and the Ring Chime Pro

Ring app from Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus Jason D’Aprile / IDG

The new pre-roll feature shows what was going on in front of the camera for four seconds before it sent you a motion alert.

The Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus delivered excellent video quality, albeit with a minor fish-eye effect. And it of course has two-way audio with noise cancellation, so you speak to a visitor, let a delivery person know where to leave a package, or warn a solicitor to buzz off. But I did encounter connectivity issues during my time with the device. The Ring app would hang while connecting to the doorbell to stream a live view, and it sometimes wouldn’t load the feed at all. Oddly enough, I didn’t encounter this problem nearly as often when responding to a push notification.

The experience got significantly better when I installed the optional Ring Chime Pro ($50) that Ring sent along with the doorbell—it acts as a Wi-Fi range extender for Ring devices, among other things—but that process was its own tale of woe.

Getting the dual-band Chime Pro to work with my Eero mesh Wi-Fi router using Ring’s app on a Google Pixel 4 smartphone turned into an hours-long ordeal. As a last-ditch effort, I switched to an iPhone 8 and lo and behold, installation took just a few minutes. Your mileage, as they say, may vary.

If you have a wired doorbell and attach the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus to that power supply, it will ring your existing chime. If you don’t have existing wiring or just want the simplicity of mounting your new doorbell to the wall, you’ll need to rely on either your phone to hear when someone presses the doorbell button. The Ring Chime Pro offers a second notification option, and having an Amazon Echo smart speaker or smart display in your home provides more.

Enable the Ring skill in the Alexa app, and when a visitor presses the doorbell button, a doorbell chime will sound on your Echo (you can choose from an array of sounds in the app). You’ll be able to talk to your visitor through the Echo, and if it’s a model with a display, you’ll also be able to see them, just as you would when using your smartphone. The video-streaming feature also works with Amazon Fire TV devices.

ring chime pro Jason D’Aprile / IDG

The range-extending Ring Chime Pro ($50) might be a must-have option if the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus can’t reach your router.

Google Home, Nest Hub, and Chromecast users won’t have nearly as good of an experience. Link your Ring account to your Google Home and you can tell Google Assistant to have your Ring cameras record video, you can ask about the latest motion or doorbell events, and about the health of your Ring devices (such as the current battery level). But that’s about it. Video streaming and other more useful features are not supported.

Bottom line

The industrial design of the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus hasn’t changed much. You get your choice of satin nickel or Venetian bronze faceplates for the lower half of the doorbell, but It’s still a chunky thing, measuring 5.1 x 2.4 x 1.1 inches (HxWxD), compared to 5.05 x 2.5 x 1.08 devices for the second-gen device. On the upside, anyone upgrading from the older model can salvage the battery from it and use it as a spare (Ring was also running a limited-time promotion at the time of this review that entitled buyers to a free spare battery, worth $29).

The Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus doesn’t improve on the resolution of its second-gen doorbell, and I was disappointed with its network performance, despite its dual-band Wi-Fi adapter. Adding the Ring Chime Pro to remedy that raises the price tag to $280. All that said, if you’ve gone all in on Amazon’s Ring and Echo ecosystems and you need a video doorbell, this is the one you’ll want. If you already own the Ring Video Doorbell 2, there just isn’t enough “new and improved” about the third-gen device to justify an upgrade.

Corrected shortly after publication to report that both the Ring Video Doorbell 3 also has dual-band Wi-Fi and more sophisticated motion detection. The primary difference between the two models is the “pre-roll” feature in the Plus. The errors were introduced during editing.

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At a Glance
  • If you're all in with the Ring ecosystem, this is the doorbell to buy. But it's not worth upgrading from the Ring Video Doorbell 2, and there are better choices if haven't already tied your wagon to Ring.

    Pros

    • Very good motion detection features
    • Sharp video (even if it is only 1080p resolution)
    • Excellent integration with Ring Alarm and the Amazon Echo family
    • Dual-band Wi-Fi

    Cons

    • Network connectivity hiccups without the $50 Ring Chime Pro
    • Uninspired industrial design
    • Behind the times in terms of video resolution and field of view
    • Not the right choice for Google Home/Nest Hub users
  
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