Trey Paul is a CNET senior editor covering broadband. His 20+ years of experience as a writer and editor include time at CNET's sister site, Allconnect, and working with clients like Yahoo!, Google, The New York Times and Choice Hotels. An avid movie fan, Trey's career also includes being a film and TV critic while pursuing a degree in New York.
ExpertiseHome internet and broadband, including plans, providers, internet speeds and connection types. Movies and film studies.Credentials
Master's degree in Cinema Studies from NYU and interviews with Conan O'Brien, Stan Lee and some of his biggest Star Trek childhood idols
When CNET first evaluated The Ring Alarm Pro in late 2021, former editor David Priest proclaimed it "one of the most compelling DIY home security systems I've tested, period." But does that still (pardon the pun) ring true for 2023?
The answer is a resounding yes. Ring Alarm Pro's merging of an Eero Wi-Fi mesh router with a DIY security system gives you a lot of flexibility in arranging your setup. You can either pay for the base station itself (which also serves as a router) or spend just a little more for a basic package that includes the base station, several door and window sensors, motion detectors, a keypad and a siren. You also get a choice of professional monitoring subscriptions. Even better, you get backup Wi-Fi and local processing and storage.
In short, the Ring Alarm Pro isn't just a game-changing device for Amazon; it's a ground-shaking product for the entire DIY home security market.
Ring Alarm Pro overview
If you buy the Ring Alarm Pro system, you'll probably pay $300 to get a router/base device, four door/window sensors, a motion detector, a Z-Wave range extender and a keypad. You can opt for just the base station for $250 -- but then you won't get all the security sensors that make the system work. You can also buy a bigger package for $380 (it adds four more door/window sensors, an extra motion detector and another keypad), or you can buy the individual sensors a la carte, expanding the system beyond these basics to include a wide range of Ring cameras, video doorbells, backup power packs, Eero Wi-Fi range extenders and so on.
In general, the pricing for these devices is middling compared to the competition -- not quite as affordable as Wyze's super-cheap gadgets, but not as pricey as Abode's more expensive ones. Door/window sensors, for instance, cost $20 each and motion detectors cost $30. Ring's prices are close to those of SimpliSafe, one of the best DIY home security systems on the market, which clocks in at $15 and $30, respectively.
As with other systems, the Ring Alarm Pro will have better pricing if you buy one of the packages, then add whatever standalone devices you want on top rather than buying everything a la carte.
To give an example of one possible setup: I got the $300 Ring Alarm Pro package, along with a $100 Ring Stick Up Cam, a $130 Alarm Pro backup power pack, an $89 Eero 6 Wi-Fi range extender (on sale for $62 when I got it) and a $15 microSD card (though you can get one for free by redeeming a code after purchasing the system) for local storage. That brought me to a total bill of about $600.
A similarly scaled build from SimpliSafe might cost $400, but it's important to understand the broader value Ring offers compared to its competitors. Remember, Ring's $250 base station is also a router, meaning you'll get a lot of extra functionality that you won't get with SimpliSafe's $115 base station. Likewise, you probably wouldn't spend $130 on a backup power pack for other home security systems, and you wouldn't for the Ring Alarm Pro if it didn't enable backup Wi-Fi. Ditto for that Wi-Fi range extender and the microSD card, which don't make sense for other systems because those systems don't offer the same features.
Ringing the alarm, pro-style
Before I talk about Ring's unique features, the first big question to answer is, "Is it a decent home security system?" The answer is a solid yes.
Ring's devices did exactly what they were supposed to do in my testing. They were responsive and reliable, even in slightly odd conditions. For instance, my basement's back door is far from the base station, but I experienced no connection issues with the Z-Wave-powered door/window sensor. In addition, some of my house's doors have unique molding around the door jambs, which has given some door/window sensors problems in the past (e.g., registering doors as open when they're not).
Ring's entry sensors give a little more latitude than others, so the two pieces can be about an inch apart before registering a door "open." I appreciated that calibration because it meant no false alarms, but it wouldn't allow any doors to be cracked open without sending an alert.
The motion detector, power pack and keypad were similarly reliable, and the Ring Stick Up Cam, which we've reviewed separately, performed as expected.
Installation was mostly a breeze, but I had to check some online guides to activate some more advanced features, and performance was consistently great.
The Edge of tomorrow?
Besides the basics, the Ring Alarm Pro introduces a few great new features that many DIY home security systems don't offer: built-in Wi-Fi 6, backup Wi-Fi in case of power outages, Alexa Guard Plus integration and the option for local storage and processing, a feature Ring calls Edge.
A bit of context: Eero was a pioneer of mesh networking and the first company to deliver mesh routers to the masses, popularizing the approach. Amazon scooped up the company in 2019 and quickly put out newer, more affordable Eero systems -- followed by the Eero 6 and Eero Pro 6, which added support for Wi-Fi 6 in 2020.
According to Ring, "The built-in Eero Wi-Fi 6 router functions like a standalone Eero 6 router … The only difference is that Ring Alarm Pro does not support Zigbee or Thread at this time."
I couldn't run the Ring Alarm Pro through our usual battery of Wi-Fi tests, but I did perform some basic speed tests and monitor for consistency around my house. As you'd expect, the Eero router performed significantly better than the basic gateway installed by my provider, helping deliver high speeds as far as the back office in my basement (which, without a mesh system, chugs along like dial-up internet from the early aughts).
In our review of the Eero 6 router, we were disappointed by faulty band-steering throughout our speed tests. Too often, the router would leave us on the slower 2.4GHz band when it should have connected us through the faster 5GHz band. I noticed a similar pattern when testing the connection speeds, though it never affected them enough to significantly affect performance with any of my usual internet-dependent activities.
Another cool feature the Ring Alarm Pro brings to the table is backup Wi-Fi. The idea is if there's an interruption to your power or internet connection, Ring provides an internet connection to your Wi-Fi-enabled devices using cellular data. The monthly data limit for backup Wi-Fi is 3GB, so you won't be able to use it constantly -- though Ring does offer extra data at a rate of $3 per gigabyte.
The backup Wi-Fi worked quickly in my testing, with almost no latency. When I unplugged the Alarm Pro's broadband and power cables to simulate an outage, backup Wi-Fi was up and running in under a minute, and speeds were solid, if a little slower. For instance, in the farthest back room in my basement, the download and upload speeds were 20.7 and 8.03 megabits per second, respectively, versus their typical 35 and 8.5Mbps in that same room. Translation: A brief outage probably won't interrupt your work even in the remotest part of the house, using cellular data.
Yet another interesting addition to Ring's new home security system is free integration with Alexa Guard Plus, a feature on Echo speakers and displays that monitors your home while you're away for unusual sounds (like glass breaking, human footsteps and smoke and carbon monoxide alarms sounding). Alexa Guard Plus, which usually costs $5 per month, can also use deterrence measures, like playing the sound of a dog barking if connected devices detect motion outside.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, given Ring's history with police partnerships, its Neighbors app and troubling privacy policies, the Alarm Pro offers local processing and video storage. This doesn't solve all of Ring's problems. After all, the company still enables the worst tendencies in both its customers and the police in their communities -- encouraging a culture of posting footage of public spaces on the Neighbors app (often leading to toxic comments sections) and suspicion among neighbors. Now, with its optional end-to-end video encryption and Edge's new local processing and storage, it also enables some of the best security and privacy practices possible with any major brand in the home security market, rivaling Apple's HomeKit Secure Video service.
Setting up Edge took a bit of searching in device settings -- and a small hiccup that required resetting my Ring Stick Up Cam. But all in all, it was simple enough to do, and within a few short minutes, I had a smart camera with local storage and processing, which was previously impossible with Ring devices.
I still have problems with Ring's company policies, but those policies don't impact the Ring Alarm Pro too much because the core system doesn't depend on a camera. Moreover, if the Ring Alarm Pro indicates the direction Ring is moving regarding security and privacy, that's worthy of encouragement.
Monitoring comes at a cost
A few hundred dollars for the Ring Alarm Pro is reasonable, but many of its smartest features require a higher-end subscription. Here's how they break down:
Ring Protect Basic ($3 per month or $30 per year): Offers video recording for one camera.
Ring Protect Plus ($10 per month or $100 per year): Offers video recording for all video devices in the home.
Ring Protect Pro ($20 per month or $200 per year): Offers professional monitoring, Alexa Guard Plus (usually $5 per month), video recording for all video devices, backup internet and Eero Secure (which monitors your network for threats, and usually costs $30 annually).
If you plan to use the Ring Alarm Pro's best features, it requires a Protect Pro subscription, which isn't cheap. That said, $200 per year isn't outrageous, while pricier than the most affordable DIY systems' services (Wyze is only $100 per year). SimpliSafe's professional monitoring costs $10 per month, and using its smart home integrations puts that fee up to $28 per month. Abode's professional monitoring starts at $20 per month.
In short, Ring offers much more than the competition for a price in the same range.
Bottom line: Is this a new era?
In 2017, I wrote a column calling for smart home hubs -- then popular devices in the smart home market -- to be killed so that they could be reincarnated as something more: a device that folds together multiple vital components of a modern household. And what's more vital than the internet?
By marrying the internet, home security and the smart home (particularly through Alexa and its Guard Plus feature), the Ring Alarm Pro offers one of the most compelling visions for the future of smart home integration I've seen yet.
It's not a perfect system. Some of the best features aren't clearly explained, meaning I had to dig through settings to get them working correctly. Likewise, a full setup required three different apps: Ring, Eero and Alexa apps. Since Amazon owns all three, you'd think a more unified experience might be possible.
That said, the setup across the three apps was one of the most painless examples of multi-app installations I've seen. What's more, once the system is set up, you'll rarely need to use the Alexa or Eero apps -- and when you do, they're simple enough to navigate.
In the grand scheme of the smart home, these criticisms are little more than quibbles. Ring has delivered a fantastic home security system with genuinely useful features to help with everything from internet and power outages to break-ins and intruder deterrence. You can even store and process video footage locally -- a first for Ring.