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Ring Spotlight Cam review: One of the simplest ways to watch over your yard

Forget about a complicated hardwired setup -- Ring's plug-in Spotlight Cam connects to wall outlets.

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Megan Wollerton
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Megan Wollerton

Senior Writer/Editor

Megan Wollerton has covered technology for CNET since 2013. Before that, she wrote for NBC's Dvice.com (now SyFy). Megan has a master's degree from the University of Louisville and a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College, both in international relations. She is a board member of the Louisville chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. When Megan isn't writing, she's planning far-flung adventures.

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4 min read

Editors' note, Dec 14: You can find all of our coverage about Ring on this aggregation page, including our reporting about Ring's privacy and security policies. This commentary covers how we factor those issues into our product recommendations.  

The Good

Ring's $199 Spotlight Cam (£199/AU$329) installs in minutes and its integrated LEDs provide reliable security lighting for your yard.

The Bad

You have to pay for Ring's Protect cloud storage service to access saved video clips.

The Bottom Line

The Ring Spotlight Cam's easy setup and solid performance make it a favorite among today's outdoor cameras with built-in lights.

Ring's $199 Spotlight Cam (£199/AU$329) beats out Netatmo's Presence, the Kuna Light Fixture (now called Maximus) -- and even Ring's own Floodlight Cam -- for my favorite outdoor camera with integrated lights. 

That's partially due to its comparatively easy installation. Screw in the baseplate, attach the camera and plug it into a nearby outlet -- no hardwiring required. Its 1080p HD resolution and integrated motion sensor, LEDs and siren make it competitive in terms of specs. And, bonus: It works with Alexa and Google Assistant.

The Spotlight Cam is a strong option if you want a motion-activated outdoor light with a built-in high-definition camera. Just be prepared to pay $3 per month for cloud storage; you can't view saved video clips otherwise. 

Ring's Spotlight Cam turns on LEDs when it detects activity

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A better Ring? 

The Spotlight Cam performed well throughout testing. I received swift motion alerts when I walked in view of the camera, and the built-in LEDs turned on as well. Its motion zones feature allowed me to customize exactly where I wanted it to detect activity -- and it successfully ignored everything else.  

I like that you can adjust the brightness of the LEDs and even how long the lights should remain on after a motion event. You can "snooze" the motion sensor from 15 minutes to up to 2 hours if you want to it to stop tracking activity for a short time. But you can also adjust the motion sensitivity if you're receiving too many alerts -- or create a specific motion schedule to specify exactly when throughout the week you want the camera to monitor activity and send you alerts. 

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You can set up to three motion zones in the Ring app to monitor activity.

Screenshot by Megan Wollerton/CNET

Ring's Spotlight Cam comes in a black and a white finish, as well as in wired and battery-powered models (both cost $199). I tested the wired option in black, which comes with mounting hardware and a 20-foot weatherproof cord. The Spotlight Cam is a streamlined version of the pricier Floodlight Cam. It basically takes the main camera body from the Floodlight Cam and adds LED panels on either side -- and leaves out the two awkward-looking floodlights. 

Download the Ring app for Android, iOS or Windows and follow the step-by-step tutorial to set up your Spotlight Cam. It prompts you to plug in your camera, press the button on the top (if the bottom of the camera isn't already flashing). Search for and select the Ring Wi-Fi network on your phone, navigate back to the app and enter your home's Wi-Fi info. The app will ask you to confirm your camera's location and then you're done. 

Installing it is easy, too. It isn't a hardwired model, so you only have to mount it with the included hardware and slide the camera over the baseplate to attach it. If you don't like the look of the power cord, Ring provides clamps so you can try to hide it out of view. 

The Spotlight Cam versus...

Curious how the Spotlight Cam's specs compare to the Floodlight Cam, the Netatmo Presence and the Kuna/Maximus? Here's a nifty chart to help:

Comparing outdoor security cameras


Ring Spotlight CamRing Floodlight CamNetatmo PresenceKuna
Price $199/£199/AU$$329$249/£195/AU$330$300/£235/AU$400$199/£155/AU265
Color finish Black or whiteBlack or whiteBlackBlack or bronze
Power source Plug-in or battery-poweredHardwiredHardwiredHardwired
Resolution 1080p HD1080p HD1080p HD720p HD
Live streaming YesYesYesYes
Continuous recording NoNoNoNo
Cloud storage YesYesNoYes
Local storage NoNoInternal microSD cardNo
Mobile app Android, iPhone and WindowsAndroid, iPhone and WindowsAndroid and iPhoneAndroid and iPhone
Web app NoYesYesNo
Night vision YesYesYesNo
Alerts MotionMotionMotion (person, car or animal)Motion
Activity zones YesYesYesNo
Third-party integrations Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTTAmazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTTApple HomeKit, IFTTTAmazon Alexa

The Spotlight Cam is priced the same as the Kuna/Maximus, but Ring's camera has a better resolution, night vision, activity zones and more smart home integrations. Enable the Ring skill and you can ask Alexa to show you your camera's feed on your screen-equipped Amazon speaker or on a Fire TV

Netatmo's Presence camera has local storage, person alerts (the Spotlight Cam doesn't offer person alerts) and works with Apple's Siri-powered HomeKit smart home platform, but it also costs 100 bucks more than the Spotlight Cam. The Spotlight Cam and the Floodlight Cam are essentially identical when it comes to features, with the exception of their lumen outputs. 

The Spotlight Cam puts out 700 lumens of lighting (roughly comparable to a 60W replacement LED bulb). It is designed to cover a smaller space and only turn on the LEDs when it detects motion. The Floodlight Cam, in contrast, puts out 1,800 lumens (roughly comparable to a 100W LED replacement, but a little brighter) and can cover more ground than the Spotlight Cam. The Floodlight Cam's LEDs can also be used continuously -- not just when it picks up motion. It's the difference between a motion light and a true floodlight, as the names suggest.

Ring, annoyingly, doesn't offer a free cloud storage option. Instead, you have to sign up for one of Ring's "optional" Protect plans to view saved motion-related video clips. Otherwise you're stuck watching the live feed 24-7 or being ready to click on motion alerts ASAP to make sure you catch whatever activity is taking place. 

Ring charges either $3 or $10 per month for 60 days of saved footage. The pricier plan includes additional features, like a lifetime warranty and 10 percent off future Ring product purchases. Read more about Ring's Protect subscription plans.

ring-day-night

Ring's Spotlight Cam by day -- and night.

Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

Conclusion

The Spotlight Cam's simple installation, solid performance and easy-to-use app make it a favorite among the outdoor security camera-light fixture hybrid devices I've tested. I don't like that you need to pay for the monthly service to access any saved video clips, but $30 per year isn't bad. 

Keep in mind that a spotty Wi-Fi connection can cause interruptions in your live feed or cause it not to work at all; test out the quality of your network where you plan to install your camera beforehand. The Ring app has a "Device Health" section, too, where you can check in on the status of your Spotlight Cam's connection at-a-glance. 

Overall, Ring's $199 Spotlight Cam is a great option if you're looking for a reliable outdoor camera with integrated motion-activated LEDs. 

ring-spotlight-cam-4
8.3

Ring Spotlight Cam

Score Breakdown

Features 8Usability 8Design 9Performance 8
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