We recently got our hands on the second generation Ring Alarm system. We wanted to see how it compared to the original Ring Alarm, and whether or not this uber-popular wireless security system is worth the money. So we installed it and tested it for nearly 100 hours, and we think you’ll be surprised at what we found (like how we nearly had a heart attack testing it the first night!).
Ring makes easy-to-use DIY home security products. There’s no confusing technology or fancy features to worry about. We were just looking for basic entryway protection. However, Ring Alarm even says, right on the box, “Complete protection for any home.”
Now, we don’t live in a bad neighborhood, but crime happens. Just the other day a package was stolen off our neighbor’s porch. So we wanted a security system that would sound the alarm if a bad guy tried to break in. That’s it. Thankfully, the new Ring Alarm showed a lot of promise right out of the box.
We went with the 8-piece kit for $249.99. You can also buy a 5-piece kit ($199.99) or a 14-piece kit ($329.99). The bigger the kit, the more sensors you’ll get. In hindsight, we should have ordered the 14-piece kit to cover all of our entryways. Unboxing the product, right away we were pleasantly surprised by the new streamlined design (but more on that later).
Our Ring Alarm 8-Piece Kit Included:
To start, Ring asked us to download the Ring app. We already had it installed on our iPhone, so we went right into “Set Up a Device.” You’ll want to choose the 4th option down: “Security Devices.”
We found Ring’s step-by-step instructions to be dialed in. We particularly enjoyed viewing the 2-minute videos in the app that walked us through each part of the set-up process.
Pro Tip: If you have little ones in the house, don’t set up your new alarm system while they’re napping. False alarms happen, chimes go off, etc. Trust us… it never ends well.
Now, they say setup only takes 10 minutes — but that’s not true. It took almost 5 minutes just for our base station to connect to our Wi-Fi and do a software update. So we recommend setting aside 30 minutes for installation (c’mon, that next episode of Stranger Things can wait). It’s easy, but take your time.
One of the first things we noticed about the second generation Ring Alarm system was the sensor redesign. It’s a major improvement, and you can tell Ring put some thought into it — they’re smaller and way more streamlined than the original sensors. They also go up easily using double-sided tape, which we loved because we already have enough screw holes to fill in from our last security system install. Check out the side-by-side photo of the new and old Ring Alarm sensors we snapped below.
Note that the old sensors (right) have tiny notches that must line up — the new ones… not so! This gave us more flexibility when it came to mounting them.
But we must admit, it was a little sad taking down our 1st Gen sensors. It was like replacing an old pair of well-worn shoes with new ones. So we actually kept a few of our old sensors up, you know, for nostalgia’s sake (and because we needed them to protect our windows upstairs!). Thankfully, all of the 1st Gen and 2nd Gen Ring products work together on the Z-Wave network.1
FYI: If you have an old Ring Alarm, you can use a combination of your old sensors and new sensors. All devices that run on the Z-Wave network are compatible and integrate seamlessly into the Ring Z-Wave base station. Easy peasy.
While we were getting used to the system, we placed a pillow over the base station to muffle the siren. We recommend doing this, especially if you want to keep your sanity while learning the ropes.
Overall, we found the new Ring Alarm to be pretty easy to install. We think the installation compares well to other DIY brands like SimpliSafe and Frontpoint. But if you’re looking for professional installation, we recommend checking out Vivint or ADT — two of our top-rated security systems.
Every Ring system comes with a 30-day free trial of Ring Protect Plus. This is their monitoring plan that costs $10 per month, or $100 per year. We think it’s worth it, as most companies charge between $20-$40 per month for similar 24/7 monitoring. With that said, it’s not the most reliable or fastest service, as you’ll soon see.
If you’d rather self-monitor your system for free, just skip the trial and you’ll have self-monitoring by default (using your smartphone). Just keep in mind that if you self monitor, police won’t be dispatched if there’s a break-in — you’ll have to call 911 yourself. And that’s a heavy load to carry.
We spent a total of 96 hours testing the system and really getting into the nitty-gritty. Expect to spend a couple of hours using the Ring app to get your bearings, then a couple of days to master it. There’s hardly a learning curve, but there are a handful of important things you should know about (like how not to have a siren-induced heart attack at 11:58 PM).
First off, when we signed up for 24/7 monitoring, we went into “practice mode” for 7 days. Ring does this so they don’t have to deal with false alarms while we’re learning our new system. However, we think 7 days is way too long without monitoring. Sure, it might take a few days (and a few false alarms!) before you understand how it all works, but by day three you’ll wish you had the pros backing you up.
As for the siren, it’s pretty darn loud at 104 dB. But we live in a bigger home (around 3,000 sq. feet), so we were less-than-impressed with the volume of the alarm. With the base station in our office downstairs, we climbed through a window upstairs and heard the siren going off, but it wasn’t very threatening. Our toddler actually slept through the alarm on day 2 of testing! Not a peep! To really scare off intruders, it would be nice to have 110 dB or more.
Pro Tip: Plug in your Ring base station somewhere central in your home. This will help the siren to penetrate all rooms of your home. Although Ring’s siren is louder than some of the competition, like Vivint’s 100 dB siren, we still think it could be louder.
Ready to laugh at our expense? Don’t worry, there’s an important lesson here. On day 3 of using our new Ring Alarm, we went to sleep thinking our home was safe and secure. Then it happened. We woke to the siren blaring at 11:58 PM (it’s plenty loud when you think your life is in danger). Jumping out of bed to investigate, with our hearts in our throats, we found the culprit: the front door sensor had simply fallen off and was lying at our feet.
You see, when we mounted this particular sensor the day before, we had forgotten to clean the door trim first! Ring really drills this home in their setup instructions (and we should know better), lest a sensor falls in the middle of the night and triggers a false alarm. The two-sided tape is sticky, but we urge you to clean your trim before sticking the sensors up. Lesson learned.
One thing we like about the Ring Alarm is the entry and exit delays. The delay gives you time to disarm your system without the alarm sounding. But there’s a quirky little thing you should know; that is, we were only able to get an entry/exit delay on a sensor that is set to “main door.” We didn’t know this at first, so we were left scratching our chins wondering why only our back door had a delay on it. This is something to keep in mind.
Note, however, that the factory delay is set to 60 seconds — which is way too much delay in our opinion. That’s enough time to enter your home and make a ham sandwich in the kitchen before disarming the alarm (yes, we tried it). So imagine what a burglar can steal in 60 seconds! If you’re not physically disabled, 20 seconds is more than enough delay.
FYI: We did the research and found that the average time a burglar takes in a home is 8-12 minutes, but many thieves are in and out in under 2 minutes flat! So we recommend adjusting the Ring Alarm delay down to 10-20 seconds. We had to call Ring to find where in the app to make this adjustment, which was a pain. It was hidden in “setting” → “modes” → “delays” in case you’re wondering.
We also connected our Ring Alarm to our Amazon Echo devices for hands-free voice control. It only took a minute to set this up in the app, then we walked around our home like we owned the place, ordering Alexa to arm and disarm our system. Talk about living a modern lifestyle. So far, we were really enjoying using our new Ring Alarm system.
The app that controls the popular Ring Doorbell and Ring Cams is the same app that controls your Ring Alarm. So if you have multiple Ring devices, we think you’ll like how it’s all integrated into one user-friendly app.
Let’s start with one of our favorite features: a little red symbol in the upper-right corner of your dashboard that looks like this ((!)). That’s our handy panic button (we snapped a pic of it below). One night while laying in bed we heard something — or someone? — stirring downstairs. It was probably our dog, but you never know. I looked over to see my wife with her finger hovering over that panic button, ready to let the siren blare like a banshee. Needless to say, we think you’ll find it helpful for certain situations.
Another thing we appreciated was the ability to customize modes for individual sensors. For example, we’re constantly going onto our back deck when the weather is nice (gotta catch those rays!), so we changed our back door sensor to “Unarmed” in the app. This allowed us to come in and out without setting off the alarm, while the rest of our house remained perfectly secure. Note that most home security apps offer this functionality, but it’s still nice to see.
Ring also does a good job with their instant alerts. You can really fine-tune the push alerts that are sent to your smartphone. It’s worth mentioning that even with push alerts disabled, you’ll still get a notification from Ring when your alarm is tripped. We asked Carla at Ring and she said there’s no way to turn this off (and why would you?). So even if you’re in the Maldives on vacation and someone breaks into your home, you’ll get an alert almost immediately. Thankfully, this is standard in the industry and something we see a lot of.
Did You Know: Ring ‘Neighbors’ is built right into the Ring app. You’ll find it on the dashboard, under ‘Nearby Incidents’. This section of the app lets you keep tabs on crime in your area, and other less threatening things like lost kittens.2 Were those gunshots or fireworks?
Of course, it’s nothing compared to the touchscreen panels offered by ADT and Vivint, but Ring’s new keypad isn’t half-bad for a push-button panel. It’s smaller than Ring’s original keypad, it lasts up to 6-months on the battery, and it has three new buttons: Police, Fire, and Medical. Similar to the ((!)) feature in the app, these three buttons on the keypad will only contact the monitoring center if you have a Ring Protect Plus plan. Otherwise, they’re just loud buttons.
One thing to note is that when you go to disarm your system using the keypad, just remember to enter your pin-code AND press the shield with an ‘X’ on it to disarm. When we first started using Ring years ago, my wife thought all you had to do was enter your pin and the system would disarm from there. Trust us, that’s a very “alarming” mistake to make (Oops!).
We spoke with another Ring rep who was helpful (but not as nice as Carla), and he told us that Ring’s monitoring center won’t even attempt to make a call until 30 seconds after the alarm goes off. So they purposely wait precious seconds before jumping into action. This was disappointing to hear, as mere seconds can make the difference between a thief getting your stuff or getting snuffed. Still, for only $10 per month, it’s worth it. Other top brands like Alder and Nest respond faster, but they charge $30+ per month for monitoring.
Pro Tip: If you have Ring monitoring, you’ll come up with a verbal pass code to give to the Ring agent when your alarm goes off. It’s easy to forget your code when they put you on the spot, so make it memorable! To make matters worse, your emergency contacts will have to remember this passcode, too. It reminds us of grade school all over again, when the teacher calls on you in front of the class and you suddenly forget everything you’ve ever learned. It’s kind of like that. So drill, drill, drill!
We appreciate that Ring is always rolling out new features. One of their latest features really caught our eye. And very few people even know about it, so be sure to take note! It’s called a “Duress Code.” The Duress Code is a covert distress signal, like an SOS.
If you’re ever forced to disarm your system during a home invasion, simply put in the special duress code. The alarm will stop sounding, but sure enough, the monitoring center will send police to your home immediately. All the while, the bad guys think they’re home free. We think it’s a great feature, and more folks should know about it. Keep in mind this only works if you have Ring Protect Plus!
After trying out the newest Ring Alarm system, we have a few gripes that you should know about. None of these are deal-breakers, but we do think Ring has some room for improvement in a few areas.
We think the range and responsiveness of Ring’s motion sensor is pretty poor. During testing, we found blind spots to either side of the sensor. Thankfully, you can jump into “Test Mode” and check for blind spots, trees swaying in the window, etc. This is important, because when your motion sensor triggers, you’re going to think someone’s in your home — but maybe it’s just a passing shadow. Also, even in “High Detection” mode, the sensor ignored our yellow lab, which was a cause for concern. Is a responsive sensor too much to ask?
We have a little one at home, and when we disarm the system to leave in the morning, the base station practically yells “DISARMED,” sometimes prematurely waking our toddler (a fate worse than death). And at night when we arm the system with our window open for a nice breeze, Ring says “SENSORS REQUIRE BYPASS… HOME AND ARMED.” So if you’re looking for stealth, this isn’t it. We’d love to see silent arming/disarming.
We have a love/hate relationship with the keypad panic buttons we discussed earlier. They’re nice to have, but keep in mind you have to hold them down for 3 full seconds. Sure, 3 seconds doesn’t sound very long; but imagine your house is on fire, or a bad guy is breaking in. Now count to 3-Mississippi. Is it getting hot in here or what?
Ring also offers a lineup of Doorbell Cameras and Security Cameras, which work great to put a “ring of protection” around your home. We’ve found that everything works together nicely and you’ll be able to control all of your devices in the same Ring app. We often recommend the Ring Alarm to current Ring Doorbell users.3 It just makes sense to keep everything on one platform. If you’re curious about other Ring products, we especially like the Ring Video Doorbell Pro and the Ring Floodlight Cam.
Ring is incredibly affordable, we’ll give them that. To put things in perspective, Ring’s most expensive kit costs half the price of Vivint’s cheapest system. So we believe that Ring is one of the best values on the market specifically for their low-cost home security systems. Check out their latest prices below, and for a closer look at Ring Alarm costs, head over to our pricing overview page.
|Ring Alarm Kit||Home Size||Price|
|5-piece Kit||~1,000 sq. ft.||$199.99|
|8-piece Kit||~1,000 – 2,000 sq. ft.||$249.99|
|14-piece Kit||~2,000+ sq. ft.||$329.99|
Ring offers several ways to customize your system. For instance, you can get environmental sensors to alert you to smoke/fire, carbon monoxide, frozen pipes, and flooding in your home. They also offer plenty of extra components like contact sensors, motion sensors, extra keypads, etc. We’ve outlined Ring’s latest add-ons and accessories below.
|Ring Alarm Add-Ons & Accessories||Type of Device||Price|
|Contact Sensor||Door/Window Sensor||$19.99|
|Motion Detector||Indoor Sensor||$29.99|
|Flood & Freeze Sensor||Environmental||$34.99|
|Smoke & CO Listener||Environmental||$34.99|
After getting plenty of hands-on experience with the new Ring Alarm, we can say that it does a good job at basic home protection. For the price — $200-$350 for equipment and $10 per month for monitoring — it’s a solid value. And the 2nd Gen equipment is more streamlined and far more attractive than Ring’s original digs.
Just don’t expect to get high-tech features, as we found Ring Alarm to be lean when it comes to home automation, or really anything beyond basic intruder protection.
With that said, Ring’s doorbell cameras and their lineup of Ring Cams are some of the best devices in the industry. So we definitely recommend looking into those for outdoor security. But as far as alarm systems go, we think there are better options on the market. If you’re willing to spend a little more money, you should definitely check out Frontpoint. Or for a similar price as Ring, you can pick up SimpliSafe’s Starter Kit. Either way, you have options!
Yes, Ring has a 30-day money-back guarantee. They also offer a 1-year limited warranty. This is nice, but note that it’s fairly standard for the industry.
Yes, all of Ring’s products are wireless, so you don’t have to deal with unsightly wires or criminals cutting your cords.
No, like most DIY home security systems, Ring is fairly easy to install. Just be sure you follow the step-by-step instructions. Plan to spend about 20-30 minutes on installation and setup.
Yes, Ring is compatible with Alexa. Both Ring and Alexa are owned by Amazon, so it only makes sense that they play well together.4 We enjoyed the voice control feature using Echo devices.
Ring Alarm is affordable, starting at $199 for a 5-piece kit and ranging up to $329 for a 14-piece kit. Monitoring costs $10 per month, which is much cheaper than most other brands on the market.
Z-Wave. Wikipedia. (Retrieved July 11, 2020).
Haselton, T. (2019, August 3). Everyone's talking about this Amazon app that lets police see camera footage — here's what it's like. CNBC.
Read, M. (2020, February 13). What It's Like to Own an Amazon Ring Doorbell Camera. New York Magazine.
Bishop, T. (2019, April 5). Shark Tank’s billion-dollar blunder: How startup Ring went from TV rejection to Amazon acquisition. GeekWire.