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Ring’s outdoor security cam boasts super-strong LED lights and top-shelf HD video quality
Spotlight’s on you, intruders! For this review, our team of home security experts got our hands on the Spotlight Cam, the versatile, wire-free home security camera from Ring’s Amazon-backed suite of cameras. With this camera, we’re getting the same superior features Ring includes in most of its security cameras: 1080p HD resolution, advanced motion detection, 140-degree field of view, two-way audio with noise cancellation, and inexpensive protection plans. But with the Spotlight model, we also got a bonus: ultra-bright LEDs.1
We spent several days researching, unboxing, installing, living with and fully experiencing our new Spotlight Cam to see how it stacked up against other outdoor cameras, as well as how effective it could be in deterring or stopping property crime. Here’s what it was like.
Ring Spotlight is a powerful lighting component as well as a reliable camera. Those LEDs, though very customizable, are made to be bright and noticeable. It might seem a bit excessive initially, but keep in mind that the brightness of the lights is crucial to the performance of the camera, especially if you’re trying to track activity at night or at a distance. Spotlights are a great feature we’ve seen in other cams, like the Swann Wi-Fi camera, but with Ring, the picture looked exceptionally bright from our app – and now, we had motion-activated lighting, which is a huge boost in peace of mind, especially at night.
Since this is a battery-powered camera, we made sure to charge the battery using the provided USB cable before we installed the camera.But we also know that Ring Spotlight is available in four configurations: Wired, Battery, Mount, and Solar. For us, in particular, the battery option worked best with our home’s exterior. But we like that Ring gives us alternatives in case we’re not keen on climbing up and changing batteries, or if we’re looking to use our camera with a solar panel. (For another brand that does solar-powered cameras pretty well, check out our hands-on Reolink camera review.)
After our Spotlight Cam was fully charged, we lowered the battery into the camera’s compartment until we heard a click.
FYI: You’ll notice there are two compartments in the camera for a battery. That’s there in case you want to insert a second battery, for longer life. For more ideas on battery cams, we rounded up the best battery-powered cameras available right now.
Our firmware updated within five minutes, and we were in business. Then, we turned to the app. Since we already had a Ring Doorbell camera, we were familiar with Ring’s app and didn’t have to download it again. We did discover, though, that only one user can be the “owner” and has access to Ring’s full line of features on the app, like motion zones, People Only Mode, snapshot capture and scheduling. Shared users don’t have access to all of Ring’s features, but they can still add or remove devices, arm or disarm cameras, view video history, and more.
The Ring app, as you’re surely aware, is the best way to keep tabs on your home from anywhere. But it’s not just limited to smartphones and tablets; if you have a Mac or PC, you can download the Ring app there, too. We really liked this. While testing the camera, we appreciated having a larger screen to navigate the app and all its functions. This is especially helpful for analyzing nighttime scenes; we had a much easier time deciphering details of a specific “bump in the night” when we viewed it on our desktop app than on our smartphones.
Pro Tip: When deciding where to place your Spotlight Cam, keep in mind that higher-traffic areas will generate more motion alerts, which will drain your battery faster.
Location is as vital to home security as it is to real estate, so we wanted to be smart and strategic when choosing where to place our camera. We decided it would work best above our garage, for a wide, clear view of our driveway, sidewalk, and street. This, in addition to our doorbell and additional Stick Up and Floodlight Cams from Ring, rounded out a stellar camera setup for our modest single-family home.
From there, we continued fine-tuning the camera’s settings to our liking.
FYI: Remember the 9-30 rule. To optimize your camera’s motion sensor, mount your camera 9 feet off the ground to detect human-sized objects at up to 30 feet.
After just a couple of minutes with our Spotlight Cam, we got our first motion alert.
A couple of minutes later, we got another one. And another, and another.
This continued until – oops! – we realized the camera was picking up motion every time a car passed by.
Time to consult the app. Under settings, we found something called People Only Mode, which is exactly what it sounds like: the only motion alerts you’ll get are from people. So we selected it, and it was the best fix for us.
We did feel a bit shortchanged, though. What if People Only Mode causes us to miss important activity, like animals or sounds?
That’s when we discovered motion zones. In addition to customizing the type of motion you want to see, you can also pick certain locations within the camera’s view to focus on. And, if that’s not enough fine-tuning for you, we also like that you can change the frequency of your alerts, from light to standard to frequent. If you want to get motion alerts only at night, you can adjust for that, too.
We’re aware that some of those features are standard in many other camera brands. Google Nest’s cams, for example, go even farther with face-recognition detection – but Ring pulls all those nifty features together in a way we simply can’t resist.
Pro Tip: If you place your Ring Spotlight Cam near a street, but you don’t want to keep getting motion alerts every time a car passes by, we found that turning on People Only Mode was the best fix. Keep in mind, though, that only the primary account holder can access this mode.
Testing our Ring Spotlight Cam meant we had to interact with some functions that are available in almost every camera we review. One of those is two-way talk. These days, we wouldn’t even consider purchasing a security camera without two-way talk.
This camera gave us good quality audio, allowing us to communicate with visitors with ease. We think it’s worth mentioning that there was a roughly two-second hiccup on the audio, which is a common issue in some other cameras we’ve tested.
And since we mounted it above our driveway, we got to use it a couple of times as an unorthodox way of greeting guests: “Hi, come on in, door’s open!”
If you’re like us, you knew about Neighbors2 already. The Ring mobile app is tied into Neighbors, a helpful neighborhood watch community where you can stay in the loop on suspicious activity or crime near your home. Heard about a break-in a couple of blocks away? You might get some really crucial details about it by checking Neighbors.
Ring’s outdoor cameras include a loud 110-decibel siren that is sure to scare off anyone – human, animal, or maybe even vegetable – who might be a threat. We know this purely by accident; we’re here to tell you that hitting the big red siren button on the app does, in fact, trigger the siren.
We love a good ear-piercing scream now and then. We’re not sure if our neighbors heard it, but our dog definitely did.
Last time we checked, Google and Amazon were still frenemies. They’ll talk to each other now and then, but they’re not going to, you know, hang out on the weekends.
All this is to say, if you have a Google Assistant, it still won’t work with Ring. This might seem obvious and reflective of the uber-competitive nature of the two companies; but for us, we’re kind of over it, frankly.
We’d love to see Ring’s next release include Google Assistant compatibility as part of its smart home integration options, in addition to Amazon Alexa. For folks like us, who want to build our smart home with convenience in mind, this would be a really useful upgrade.
FYI: To fully unleash the Ring Spotlight’s smart home capabilities, we recommend using an Amazon Echo Show, which is basically Alexa with a screen.
The best evidence of the excellence of these cameras, in our opinion, is its video quality. Ring offers 1080p HD quality, which produces clear, sharp images and is a standard feature in most major-market cams. But what all those other devices don’t have is ultra-bright LEDs. Those two features combined make for a pretty sharp picture, and most importantly, we were able to see it all in real time, from wherever we were.
That same combination of 1080p HD resolution and ultra-bright LEDs also makes Ring’s night vision work like a charm. After receiving an alert, we clicked through to watch the camera’s infrared night vision2 come to life, working in tandem with those nifty LEDs to produce some pretty impressive night vision footage.
Pro Tip: We recommend cameras with infrared night vision because they don’t rely on ambient light. Seeing in the dark is never easy, but with infrared, you’ll see lots more detail at night.
As home security experts, we’re firm believers that the more control you have over your devices, the more you’ll like them. Perhaps that’s why Ring, made by Amazon, is consistently a top seller in home security and why so many customers sing its praises – they make it so easy to customize, even for the DIY-averse.
With Ring, you get a full suite of security products that communicate almost seamlessly with one another, making it easy to add multiple devices to the same account. To be honest, we love having this level of control and convenience. No guesswork, no fuss.
Not everything worked like the well-oiled machine it was supposed to be, though. Like all the products we’ve reviewed, we did find some aspects of the Ring Spotlight Camera that could use improvement.
In our extensive tests of Ring’s Spotlight Cam, we were sometimes troubled by the glitchiness of the app, which we were able to view on both our desktop computer and our smartphones. Sure, we’re glad Ring has a desktop app – Arlo and Wyze don’t – but at times the live view failed to load properly once motion was detected. Instead of a real-time view of our driveway, we got this:
This happened, we estimate, six times total out of the three days we spent reviewing this camera. After five or six seconds, the feed usually restored itself. But what about those precious seconds we lose every time the connection slows down?
Indeed, those are crucial moments you don’t want to miss. But do remember that wireless cameras do this basically across the board. When this happens, it’s rarely a sign of weakness with the brand or their network; more likely, it could just be a slowdown in your local network.
Note: If you’re really concerned about lags, perhaps a fully monitored home security system like the ones offered by Vivint or SimpliSafe is the way to go, as this issue generally does not happen with those systems.
Going further, we’re pleased to see Ring level up over past models in motion zones, giving us lots more control over our footage. By fine-tuning our zones, rather than being alerted every time a car revved past our house, we received alerts we could use: like this friendly DoorDash driver delivering dinner, in the video below.
For what it’s worth, customizing motion zones with Ring isn’t going to be quite as detailed as what you’d get with another leading outdoor camera, Google Nest. We ended up with a fun, first-rate experience in our full Nest Cam brand analysis, but the prices are definitely on the high side, and we found many of their features are more of a luxury than a necessity.
Those cams cost about $200 more than our Ring cam. So we’d be very interested to see what Ring can do with artificial intelligence in future generations of their cameras. Maybe it’ll happen someday!
That said, we’d be very interested to see what Ring can do with artificial intelligence in future generations of their cameras. Maybe it’ll happen someday, but until then, we like that Ring is just as trustworthy with their indoor and outdoor security cams as they are with their video doorbells.
For more tips on choosing security equipment, visit our home security comparison guide.
Part of what’s made Ring such a commercially successful security brand is that it’s so affordable. Our battery-powered Spotlight cam cost $199, and we also had the option of buying a solar panel-Spotlight Cam package for $229, or a wired version for the same price as the battery-powered cam.
We also liked being able to choose the color; we chose white, but if your decor demands it, black is an option, too. Color isn’t our biggest priority, but this is another nod to versatility with Ring that some other brands lack.
As for prices, we put Ring on the mid- to high side cost-wise, but again, cameras and packages vary here. You’re not going to get rock-bottom Wyze Cam prices, though they still tested well (and looked cute in our home, too).
Feel free to read more about Wyze in our hands-on Wyze Cam review. But it’s important to note that Ring cameras do offer more – you won’t find any batteries or fancy hardware in Wyze’s kit, after all – we think the prices correspond nicely.
Here’s a more detailed pricing breakdown of Ring’s cameras. And, learn much more about the brand in our complete Ring pricing roundup:
|Ring Camera||Power source||Cost|
|Spotlight Cam Battery||Battery||$199.00|
|Spotlight Cam Wired||Wired||$199.00|
|Spotlight Cam Solar||Solar||$229.00|
|Spotlight Cam Mount||Wired||$249.00|
|Stick Up Cam Battery||Battery||$99.99|
|Stick Up Cam Wired||Wired||$99.99|
|Stick Up Cam Solar||Solar||$148.99|
|Stick Up Cam Elite||Wired||$199.99|
As far as Ring’s subscription plan options, we chose the basic Ring Protect plan for $3 per month. With that, our Spotlight Cam can now record video, take snapshots and save up to 60 days of video history. There’s also a $10 per month Plus plan that throws in 24/7 professional monitoring, as well as a mobile-based backup storage option for those with unreliable Wi-Fi. Again, it all depends on personal preference. But for us, the basic plan was A-OK.
|Ring Subscriptions||Included Free||Ring Protect Basic||Ring Protect Plus|
|Instant Mobile Alerts||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Live Video Streaming||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|60 Day Video History||No||Yes||Yes|
|24/7 Professional Monitoring||No||No||Yes|
|Monthly Price||Free||$3 per month||$10 per month|
|Yearly Price||Free||$30 per year||$100 per year|
We know, from our experience with other Ring products, that customer service is a mixed bag with Ring. Some folks say their experiences were pleasant and helpful; others are still waiting for their questions to be answered. Getting help by phone isn’t always easy when you’re dealing with large corporations, either. So we initially checked out Ring’s support page to find answers and information about some of the video glitches and slowdowns we’d encountered in the app while using our Ring Spotlight Cam.
For most issues, we found solid feedback on Ring’s community page.3 And if we couldn’t find answers there, we always had the option of calling Ring’s customer service line, which has super-flexible hours: 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week. You can also get help via live chat, though we tend to avoid that option in our tests for one reason: Chatbots just aren’t as smart as they’re supposed to be. And with Ring, those bots are everywhere.
If a human is available, we’d rather talk to them.
But make no mistake: The Spotlight Cam isn’t flawless, as with most technology these days. We would like to see a better user experience and a faster data transfer between the camera and the app. And we’d love to see Ring incorporate a few more advanced features, like AI facial recognition. Imagine what a fast, glitchless app and a blast of AI4 could do to enhance Ring’s already impressive lineup of security cameras. The possibilities are endless!
The camera’s built-in spotlight gives you crisp, brilliant video during the day, and excellent night vision. The ultra-bright LED is meant to spook bad guys, and the built-in siren releases 110 decibels to send them fleeing.
The camera’s infrared night vision produces a quality picture in the dark, which is no small feat. But it’s still black and white until the spotlight is triggered. Then, like that scene in “The Wizard of Oz” when Dorothy walks out of her swept-up house and onto the Yellow Brick Road, everything suddenly appears in color.
Yes, Ring works with Alexa. If you have a display screen with your Amazon Echo or similar setup, you can use it for hands-free control of your Ring camera.
Ring is known for easy DIY installation, and the Ring Spotlight is no different. Installation is easy and fast, and help is easy to find if you have trouble.
When you open your Ring Spotlight Cam, you’ll see the camera, a mounting bracket, an interchangeable screwdriver bit, a drill bit, a screwdriver, screws, anchors, and cable clips.
Ring’s policy for its Spotlight Cam is that they will replace your device if it is stolen. You do have to contact Ring and present a police report to get your replacement.
Business Wire. (2017, July 31) Security in A Whole New Light: Ring Expands Floodlight Cam Line With Launch of New Ring Spotlight Cam.
Ring. (2020). Welcome to Neighbors.
Ring. (2020). Ring Community.
Cassel, D. (2019, June 23). Are We Ready for AI-Powered Security Cameras? The New Stack.