Ring Spotlight Cam review: Intruders can’t hide in darkness with these cameras on watch

The
Ring Video Doorbell 2
and
Ring Stick Up Cam
provide easy and effective ways to set up
a pretty strong security perimeter around the outside of your
home, but it could be made considerably stronger with the
addition of the now-Amazon-owned company’s Spotlight Cam. This
outdoor camera/porch-light hybrid, illuminates the area and
records video when its motion sensor is tripped.

Ideally suited for the darker nooks on your property that are
susceptible to breach after sundown, it comes in three models:
Spotlight Cam Wired ($199), Spotlight Cam Battery ($199), and
Spotlight Cam Solar ($229). The Battery and Solar versions are
the same camera; the latter just comes with an included solar
panel that can also be purchased independently for $49.

Update: This review was updated on
March 26, 2018 to include our take on the Ring Spotlight Cam
Solar and the Ring Chime Pro Wi-Fi range extender.

I tested the Spotlight Cam Wired and the Spotlight Cam Solar
separately. The Wired is a great option if you have easily
accessible outdoor power outlets. The
4.96-inch-by-2.72-inch-by-2.99-inch camera has a 20-foot power
cable attached at the back as well as a built-in wall mount,
and unlike with the battery powered models, you won’t have to
worry about dead batteries or too many overcast days
interrupting your surveillance. I’m guessing, however, most
folks will need one of the battery-powered cameras.

scw silo wt 2d Ring

The Spotlight Cam Wired has a 20-foot power cord for use
with an outdoor outlet.

The spotlight is provided by LED light strips on either side of
a 140-degree wide-angle lens, which activate when motion is
detected. The motion sensor, encased in a dome on the bottom of
the camera, has a 270-degree detection range. The camera
streams and records video in up to 1080p resolution and
supports two-way talk with noise cancellation and night vision
up to 30 feet.

img 0131 Michael Ansaldo/IDG

The Ring app provides a running feed of activity on all
your connected cameras.

The Spotlight Cam comes with 30-day free trial of Ring’s cloud
storage for recorded video. At the end of the period, you have
the option of upgrading to one of a pair of Ring Protect plans:
Protect Basic allows you to store, review, and share video for
up to 60 days for $3 per month or $30 a year per camera.
Protect Plus provides the same for unlimited Ring
cameras—including the Ring Video Doorbell—and adds a lifetime
warranty and discounts on Ring products for $10 per month or
$100 a year.

If you purchase a Ring
Protect Base Station
smart home hub when it becomes
available, the Plus package will also provide Ring Response
24/7 professional monitoring. The hub comes with a backup
battery of its own, along with cellular connectivity so you can
see your camera feed even if your internet connection goes
down.

Connecting the cameras

Regardless of which model you choose, it’s recommended you
connect your Spotlight Cam to your Wi-Fi network before
mounting it outside. (In the case of the non-wired Spotlight
Cams, you’ll first need to charge the battery using the
supplied micro-USB cable.) Once you add the camera to the Ring
companion app, the camera’s voice prompts guide you through the
connection process.

I installed the Spotlight Cam Wired at the front of my home,
where there’s an outdoor outlet within the power cord’s 20-foot
range. I put the Spotlight Cam Solar in the backyard, where
there’s more unobstructed sunlight. Each camera comes with its
own mounting tools, including a screwdriver, drill bit,
mounting bracket and screw set with wall anchors.

Ring Spotlight Cam Solar Ring

If you’re buying the battery-powered model anyway, you
might as well spring for the kit that includes the solar
panel to trickle-charge the battery.

For the backyard camera I also installed the solar panel which
is packaged separately with its own mounting kit. Once it’s
mounted, you plug the connector wire into the back of the
Spotlight Cam and secure it with two screws. It fits flush to
keep water out of the port. Ring recommends one to two hours of
direct sunlight per day to keep your battery charged, and you
can angle the solar panel’s mounting arm to ensure it soaks up
as much sun as possible. The days I tested the Spotlight Cam
Solar were mostly overcast, but I still saw a 3-4 percent
charge increase each day, and I’d expect much more on sunny
days.

I had a sufficiently strong signal from my router to each
camera, but results will vary depending on the layout of your
home. If you do see streaming issues, such as resolution
deterioration or loss of signal, you might need to install the
camera closer to your router or use a Wi-Fi range extender,
such as the Ring Chime Pro Wi-Fi range extender ($49 at
Amazon). Like its cameras, Ring’s range extender is an 802.11n
device that operates on the 2.4GHz frequency band only.

You set up the Chime Pro, which also adds a chime sound to your
motion detection alerts, in a process that’s similar to the
camera installation: You plug it in to an AC outlet somewhere
between your router and the camera to repeat the wireless
signal. I used a spare outlet in my kitchen as that was roughly
the halfway point between my living room router and the camera
on the front of my house. Once the Chime Pro is plugged in, a
voice prompt will tell you it’s ready to set up. You then add
the device in the Ring app then follow the voice and app
prompts to connect it to your wireless network.

Ring Chime Pro Ring

The Ring Chime Pro Wi-Fi range extender can come in handy
if your Ring doorbell or security cameras are too far from
your router.

The next step is to connect the Chime Pro to the Spotlight Cam.
The Ring app displays all the Ring devices connected to your
network, with a button beneath each that says “connect to Chime
Pro.” Just press it and the Chime Pro’s voice prompt lets you
know it’s looking for the camera and when the connection has
been completed.

You can access the Chime Pro, and any other active Ring
cameras, from the Ring app’s My Devices screen. Here you’ll
also see a running feed of all detected activity, which you can
filter to view only those triggered by motion, by button
presses (in the case of the video doorbell), and those you’ve
starred as noteworthy.

An intuitive app

Tapping the Spotlight Cam icon in the Ring app opens a
dedicated screen with all the camera’s controls laid out. The
Ring app is one of the best in this regard, as it doesn’t
require you to go hunting through nested settings menus to find
what you need. At the top are on/off toggles for the camera’s
lights and motion alerts. Using a selection of buttons below
these, you can open the camera’s streaming feed, event history
light settings, and more.

Ring camera app Michael Ansaldo/IDG

The lights’ motions sensor range can be adjusted up to 270
feet.

The image quality was sharp, with even lighting and none of the
color tinting I encountered with the Ring Stick Up Cam. When
you’re viewing the live stream, you can communicate with a
visitor—or interloper—using a pair of phone icons overlaid on
the image. You can also manually turn on the spotlight from
this screen.

Motion detection was responsive and accurate with the default
settings, which placed the sensitivity midway on a scale
between “people only” and “all motion.” You can adjust this to
your liking with the slider, or use it in combination with
customizable motion zones.  With each alert, Chime Pro
simultaneously emitted a digital Ring. This ensured I was kept
aware of detected activity even when I was home, as I don’t
usually carry my phone around the house. You can change the
chime’s sound and volume and “snooze” it for periods of time in
the Ring app.

The Spotlight Cam employs the common method of using bounding
boxes over the camera image to define detection zones, but you
can use the box handles to twist it into any kind of geometric
shape, not just squares. That allows you to work around outdoor
areas where you don’t have as much control over the environment
as you do inside your home. There’s also a scheduling option to
disable motion alerts during certain times of day.

You can set motion zones for the lights, too. In this case, the
app shows a graphic representation off the motion sensor’s
270-degree range, and you can define where you want movement to
turn on the lights by tapping up to three preset zones and then
expanding or reducing coverage in those zones using a slider.
Depending on your settings, the light will stay on for one to
15 minutes.

At max power, the camera’s lights were more than enough to
light up my modest-sized side yard. Depending on the size of
yours, you might want to dial down the intensity in the app.

Bottom line

Whether you opt for one of the wired or battery-powered Ring
Spotlight Cams, you’ll get an impressive camera that
effectively fills a necessary niche: providing security for
yards, carports, and other spots around the perimeter of homes
that become particularly vulnerable after dark. While it will
work great as a standalone camera, it will shine as part of
more comprehensive security set up with other Ring devices—I
used it in conjunction with the Ring Doorbell and a Stick Up
Cam—for seamless 360-degree surveillance of your property.

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