Spotlight’s on you, intruders! For this review, we got our hands on the Spotlight Cam, the versatile, wire-free home security camera from Amazon’s flagship security brand, Ring.
With the Spotlight Cam, 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 Ring Spotlight Cam to see how it stacks up against other outdoor cameras, as well as how effective it can be in deterring or stopping crime. Come along and see what we found.
Before we continue, we just want to be very clear about something.
You know how your mom always told you not to look directly at the sun?
Yeah, these LEDs really are that bright! It seems a bit excessive, 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 security camera brands, like Swann, and we know they’re great for covering large areas, but we haven’t seen lights as bright as Ring’s!
Once the blinding blob in our line of sight had faded, we continued with the installation. Since this is a battery-powered camera, we made sure to charge the battery using the provided USB cable before we installed the camera. After it was fully charged, we popped the battery into the camera’s compartment with a simple 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. The camera comes with only one, but you can buy individual rechargeable batteries through Amazon, which owns Ring.
As our camera fired up for the first time, it asked us to update its firmware (which seems to be the norm these days), and within 5 minutes 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. Something to keep in mind!
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 play it smart 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.
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 AI 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 the video quality. Even the youngsters in our home were blown away by how clear the picture was. “I can see bugs!” the 11-year-old declared.
That, we explained, is due to the 1080p HD quality, which produces 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, 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?
We couldn’t precisely pinpoint why those delays occurred; perhaps our WiFi was running slow at that particular time of day (weekday evening), so blaming Ring would be unfair. But we also didn’t see this same issue crop up in the mobile app. We might have encountered a delay or two there, but the video never just failed to play.
If it is a problem with the desktop app or the software in general, we’d sure love to see that fixed in later versions.
Note: We encounter delays like this in most cameras we reviewed, so Ring is not unique in this way. When there’s a lot of data being transferred from the cameras to your devices, don’t be surprised if things start to bottleneck. Our advice? 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.
And while we’re on the subject, we’d also really like to see Ring level up on its motion zones and motion settings.
In other cameras we’ve reviewed, we’ve seen custom activity zones, where you can really tailor the data to what you need, and facial recognition, where you can literally teach the camera to recognize people in your home. Our team was fascinated by those features when we encountered them in another leading outdoor camera, Google Nest IQ. We enjoyed the first-class upgrade, we won’t lie!
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!
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.
Here’s a more detailed pricing breakdown of Ring’s cameras:
|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|
We appreciate Ring’s ample selection and pricing options, but one of these days we’d really like to see Ring release a truly low-budget outdoor model for those who can’t afford the company’s so-called “Ring of Security” but who still have legitimate security needs.
Wyze, for instance, is about to release a wire-free, battery-powered outdoor cam for $39.99 (it’s supposed to be widely available by early August 2020). It’s basically a small, weatherproof cube you can put anywhere, and since we’ve reviewed other Wyze cameras, we think their newest release would make the perfect purchase for apartment dwellers, renters, and budget-minded folks in general.
Hear that, Ring? Maybe it’s time to think small, too.
|Ring Subscriptions||Included Free||Ring Protect Basic||Ring Protect Plus|
|Instant Mobile Alerts||✓||✓||✓|
|Live Video Streaming||✓||✓||✓|
|60 Day Video History||✖||✓||✓|
|24/7 Professional Monitoring||✖||✖||✓|
|Monthly Price||Free||$3 per month||$10 per month|
|Yearly Price||Free||$30 per year||$100 per year|
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 WiFi. Again, it all depends on personal preference. But for us, the basic plan was A-OK.
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.
From skimming through Ring’s support page, we learned about a support upgrade called Ring Assist Plus.4 It’s a benefit Ring offers for those who want premium support and a lifetime (limited) warranty and claims to hook customers up with the best agents and resources, and it costs $39.95 per month.
But … shouldn’t ALL the agents be “the best”? We already bought the cameras, and we know they’re great. Setting a premium on the level of customer service you get with these cameras, in our opinion, sets an uncomfortable precedent.In other words, just help your customers when they need it. Not just your higher-paying customers.
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 artificial intelligence5 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.
Ring. (2020) Ring Assist Plus.
Cassel, D. (2019, June 23). Are We Ready for AI-Powered Security Cameras? The New Stack.