Pfizer says COVID vaccine is safe for kids ages 5 to 11 iOS 15's best features BTS at the United Nations Emmys 2021 memes PS5 restock updates
CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Ring Alarm Security Kit review: A cheap, reliable DIY system

The new Ring Alarm Security Kit is virtually identically to the original. That's not a bad thing.

Editors' note: You can find all of our coverage about Ring on this aggregation page, including our up-to-date reporting and analysis of Ring's privacy and security policies, and an exploration of how these policies impact our product recommendations.

The new Alarm Security Kit is Ring's second-gen DIY home security system. It looks very similar to the original, despite some minor hardware design tweaks, and it maintains the same $200 starting price as before. Its similarity to the previous model would annoy me if I hadn't liked the first iteration, but it was the best affordable security system I had tested at the time. 

The second-gen Ring Alarm Security Kit is just as good. No, it still isn't flashy, and Ring remains mired in privacy controversies that will give many potential customers pause. But this system benefits from its simplicity. It's a good bet if you want a straightforward, affordable DIY security kit with optional professional monitoring -- even if it's not the most affordable home security option anymore.

7.5

Ring Alarm

Like

  • Affordable
  • Performs well
  • Easy to use

Don't Like

  • Accessory options are limited
  • Ring's complicated privacy history

An intro to Ring's new system

The Ring Alarm Security Kits range from a $200 (£179) five-piece kit on up to a $330 14-piece kit. I tested the $250 eight-piece kit, which includes a base station (with a built-in siren), a keypad, a range extender, a motion detector and four door/window sensors. (Different kits are offered in the UK. None are available in Australia.)

Ring offers an optional professional monitoring service called Ring Protect Plus for $10 per month or $100 per year. In general, if your system is armed and a potential security incident takes place, Ring's call center team will reach out to you and ask if everything's OK. If it isn't, they'll contact law enforcement for you.

You can add additional range extenders ($25), motion detectors ($30) and door/window sensors ($20) to your system, as needed. Ring also sells a few standalone devices that aren't available in this kit -- a flood/freeze sensor, a panic button and a device that "listens" for the audio frequencies of standard smoke/carbon monoxide detectors and sends you an alert if they sound. (Each of those devices costs $35 apiece.)

Now playing: Watch this: Ring's solid DIY security system is a lot like the original
7:02

The Alarm Security Kit works with other Ring devices, too, like the Ring Indoor Cam and Ring Video Doorbells. That way, if you have a Ring camera or doorbell and pay for the optional cloud storage plan, your camera-enabled device will record video if your Ring security system is armed and a sensor detects unexpected activity. 

You can also use an Alexa speaker or display to arm and disarm your system -- or to ask for the status of the system. Note: If you ask Alexa to disarm the Alarm Security Kit, you'll be asked to say the same secret four-digit PIN you enter on the keypad to arm and disarm the system. 

Ring offers select partnerships between this system and third-party devices, including GE dimmer switches, a First Alert smoke and carbon monoxide detector, a Dome siren and Yale and Schlage smart locks. That's a decent start for optional accessories, but it's disappointing that a year on, Ring Alarm still doesn't have even third-party glass-break sensors or key fobs for arming and disarming. That really stops it from competing with more full-fledged systems like SimpliSafe.

Speaking of SimpliSafe, when Ring Alarm originally launched, it represented a more budget-friendly alternative to many DIY competitors. But other budget options have entered the race in recent months -- most notably Wyze Home Monitoring, which costs about half as much, both for its hardware and its monthly subscriptions. Wyze unseated Ring as our favorite budget DIY option -- but that doesn't mean Ring isn't worth considering. The biggest benefit it has over competitors like Wyze, or the equally cheap Kangaroo security, is cellular backup (essentially, if your power or internet goes out, they'll still be able to notify you and emergency service providers of problems).

The Ring system is thankfully simple to install. Download the app and create an account if you don't already have one and follow the prompts to get everything working. In this article I explain the setup for Ring's second-generation Alarm Security Kit . Check it out if you have further questions. 

My colleague, Julie Snyder, also put together this great video explainer of the entire installation process.

Testing out the Alarm Security Kit

Unfortunately I don't have an Alexa speaker or any of the additional accessories that work with Ring here at my home, which made testing those features difficult. I didn't sign up for Ring Protect Plus, either, since I didn't want to create false alarms that involved an actual call center or law enforcement, so I kept things simple here, sticking with the basics: the eight-piece system itself, as it comes out of the box.

It installed quickly, thanks to the straightforward steps in the app and the sticky tape on the back of the sensor devices. It probably took me 15 minutes to set up everything from start to finish. Some of the devices, like the keypad, come with hardware if you want to mount it to the wall for a more permanent install, which could make the overall installation time longer. 

To test out the system, I walked in front of the motion sensor and opened the doors and windows with door/window sensors attached. I tested arming and disarming the system, both from the app and from the keypad. I also tested out the siren built into the base station that comes with this system. You can program the siren to sound when the system is armed and unexpected activity is detected -- and also manually from a button on the app, whenever you want. 

I can attest to the siren being very loud and scaring my two dogs, as well as my husband (sorry, y'all). 

The sensors, keypad and app worked as expected, too, responsively sending alerts to my phone and arming and disarming the system. The updated keypad offers "one-touch buttons" to contact emergency services, but, again, I didn't test their capabilities. 

ring-security-thumbnail-2

The eight-piece kit includes a base station, a keypad, a range extender, a motion detector and four door/window sensors.

Julie Snyder/CNET

Ring privacy and security 

As far as Ring's privacy and security goes, I've felt conflicted. I go into that at length in this commentary about Ring, but the gist is that privacy and security necessarily factor into how -- and, sometimes, even whether -- we review a product. After learning more about Ring's partnerships with law enforcement through its Neighbors program on the Ring app, as well as some security concerns, we temporarily removed Ring products from consideration. 

However, Ring has introduced measures that make it easier for customers to access and adjust their privacy and security settings, including requiring two-factor authentication for its camera-equipped devices. Because of those changes, we're now reviewing Ring products again, but, as always, it's ultimately up to you to decide if you're comfortable with a company's policies. Read Ring's privacy statement for more information -- and check out my former colleague Alfred Ng's extensive reporting on Ring and law enforcement -- along with David Priest's in-depth analysis on the most recent policy changes.

The verdict

I like the Ring Alarm Security Kit. It's cheap, it's simple and it works well. Ring needs to add more accessories into the mix to compete with highly customizable systems from brands like SimpliSafe, but Ring's Alexa integration and small but growing assortment of hardware options make it a solid entry-level DIY home security system. Consider it if you want a basic DIY home security at a great price.