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Ring Stick Up Cam review: Ring's solar-powered security camera fails to outshine rivals

Despite its neat solar panel accessory, Ring's Stick Up Cam has fewer features than our favorite DIY security cameras.

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Megan Wollerton
meganwollertonportraits0719-23a

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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5 min read

Editor's note (9/20/2018): Amazon, which acquired Ring in February 2018, announced a second generation Ring Stick Up Cam that ships to customers on October 14th, 2018.

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6.5

Ring Stick Up Cam

The Good

It's weatherproofed for outside use and you can power it via its built-in rechargeable battery, the included USB adapter or a neat solar panel accessory.

The Bad

Audio quality was spotty during testing. You have to pay for event-based cloud storage. Its 80-degree field of view doesn't cover very much ground and the live video stream often looked grainy in testing.

The Bottom Line

The Ring Stick Up Cam's flexible power sources give it real appeal, but other standalone DIY cameras offer more for less.

Complete with 720p live video streaming, motion-sensing capabilities and an optional cloud storage service, Ring's $199 (£159) Stick Up Cam is strikingly similar to the smart home startup's Ring Video Doorbell, which comes at the same price. The only things that's missing is, you know, the whole doorbell part.

The main benefit to the Wi-Fi-enabled Stick Up Cam lies in its portable weatherproofed design. You can install this camera pretty much anywhere outside, and power it with a rechargeable battery, a power adapter or an add-on $49 (£40) solar panel accessory.

But there's a downside. Stick Up Cams were designed to complement Ring Video Doorbells. The idea is that you'll have Ring's buzzer watching over your front door and some Stick Up Cams covering any additional ground. And perhaps to ensure that you'll need or want both products, Ring skimped on some key DIY camera features that would allow it to act as a solid standalone security purchase.

The Stick Up Cam is fine, but the Nest Cam Outdoor and Netgear Arlo are stronger DIY security cameras.

Meet the security camera you can power with the sun

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Getting to know your Stick Up Cam

The Ring Stick Up Cam is a discreet outdoor-rated security camera with a black finish. It comes with a couple of different base attachments and related hardware. A screwdriver and a drill bit are included with your purchase, too, to help you with the install.

For simplicity and to avoid making permanent holes in the CNET Smart Home, I placed a Stick Up Cam on a flat surface during testing instead of attaching it to a wall or ceiling. You'll want to go with something more long-term if you buy one, since wind and other weather changes can easily knock an outdoor camera out of position. They're easier for someone to steal that way, too.

I wouldn't say the Stick Up Cam has an especially attractive design, but it did easily blend in with the surroundings. Its hardware felt durable as well, and it survived wind and snow flurries without complaint.

Take a look at the chart below to see how Ring's Stick Up Cam compares to other outdoor cameras:

Comparing outdoor security cameras


Ring Stick Up CamNest Cam OutdoorNetgear Arlo (Pro)Canary Flex
Price $199$200 or £150$180, £135 or AU$240 ($240)$199 or £159
Color finish BlackWhiteWhiteBlack, white
Power source Adapter, rechargeable batteries or solar panel accessoryAdapterFour CR123 lithium 3-volt photo batteries (rechargeable batteries)Adapter or rechargeable batteries
Resolution 720-pixel HD1080p HD720-pixel HD720-pixel HD
Live streaming YesYesYesYes
Continuous recording NoYes, with Nest AwareNoNo
Cloud storage $3 per month for six months of event-based cloud storageFree 3-hour event-based snapshots (Optional 10-day or 30-day continuous recording and storage with Nest Aware subscription for $10 or $30 per month)Free seven-day event-based video clip storage (Optional 30- or 60-day event-based video clip storage with Arlo subscription for $10 or $15 per month)Free 24-hour event-based cloud storage
Local storage NoNoNoNo
Mobile app Yes, Android and iPhoneYes, Android and iPhoneYes, Android and iPhoneYes, Android and iPhone
Web app YesYesYesNo
Night vision YesYesYesYes
Field of view 80 degrees130 degrees110 degrees (130 degrees)116 degrees
Alerts Motion onlyMotion and sound (Person Alerts added with Nest Aware)Motion onlyMotion only
Activity zones YesYes, with Nest AwareNoNo
Operating temperature range -5 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (-21 to 49 degrees Celsius)-4 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 to 40 degrees Celsius).14 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit (-9 to 50 degree Celsius)-4 to 113 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 to 45 degrees Celsius)
Third-party integrations IFTTT, Belkin WeMo, Wink, Kevo, ADTIFTTT, Works with NestIFTTT, Samsung SmartThingsWink

While the Stick Up Cam's specs may look roughly comparable to other outdoor security cameras, it falls short in a couple of key ways. First, you have to pay for cloud storage. While select DIY security companies do charge a monthly or yearly fee for cloud storage, more and more brands are offering some sort of free option.

Netgear's Arlo and Arlo Pro cameras, Canary's Flex and Nest Cam Outdoor all offer free cloud video clips or photos of activity, with the option of upgrading to a paid subscription as needed. Ring charges customers $3 per month or $30 per year for its event-based cloud service. $30 isn't a ton of money to spend, but I wish Ring could somehow include customers who either don't need or don't want to pay for six months of storage.

Second, the Stick Up Cam's 80-degree field of view is pretty narrow. The competition ranges from 110 to 130 degrees, which can make a significant difference in how much of your front yard, driveway or back yard the camera is able to see.

Using Ring's outdoor cam

Configuring the Stick Up Cam was roughly the same as setting up any other security camera.

Download the related Ring app on your Android or iPhone, create an account, log in and select "Set Up Device" on the home screen. From there, Ring will ask you what product you'd like to install, where you'd like to install it and then it will walk you through a short series of on-screen tutorials showing you how to connect the camera to your Wi-Fi network. It should take 10 minutes tops from start to finish.

Keep in mind that your camera depends on a decent Wi-Fi connection. You might find a great place to install your camera, but if your network doesn't work well in that spot, you might want to look for a new location or consider investing in a Wi-Fi range extender. You can always click on "Device Health" in the Ring app to view the strength of your Wi-Fi network when in doubt.

Once you've connected your Stick Up Cam, you can immediately view the live feed. You'll automatically get 30 days of free access to the cloud service so you can see if it's something you want to invest in later on.

The app layout is mostly intuitive, with your camera and any related motion activity displayed on the main screen. If you click on your camera -- I labeled mine "Backyard" -- you get access to a lot more features. This is where you can pull up the live feed, opt-in or -out of motion alerts and set custom motion zones and schedules.

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Taking a peek inside Ring's iPhone app.

Screenshot by CNET

While I received the motion alerts promptly, I found the live stream to be surprisingly grainy even when the Device Health section of the app told me my Wi-Fi signal was "Very Good." While that isn't a total dealbreaker, it did make 720-pixel HD look more like a 640x480 VGA SD feed. Not ideal.

I also had issues with two-way talk, an intercom feature that is supposed to let you communicate with someone standing near the Stick Up Cam through the Ring app on your phone. I tried this out various times and rarely was able to understand the person on the other end.

In addition to the Stick Up Cam's basic functionality, it also works with a few third-party smart home partners, including IFTTT. I created an IFTTT recipe so that I would receive a text every time the camera detected motion. This was as reliable Ring's own motion alerts, arriving quickly and consistently every time.

Ring also sent me a solar panel accessory to use alongside the Stick Up Cam and that also worked well. You simply plug the solar panel's microUSB adapter into a port on the back of the Stick Up Cam and it will start powering your camera with the sun's energy. Ring says the Stick Up Cam's rechargeable battery can last anywhere from 6 to 12 months, too, if you'd rather go that route.

32 outdoor security cameras that take home security seriously

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The verdict

Ring's Stick Up Cam frustrated me because it has a lot of potential. The different power options give it a ton of versatility, but its core performance and specs don't quite stack up to outdoor cameras from Netgear and Nest. I also wish Ring offered a free cloud storage option, even if it just allowed for 24 hours of event-based clips. While this is a decent option, its relative limitations ultimately make it difficult to recommend over the competition.

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6.5

Ring Stick Up Cam

Score Breakdown

Features 6.5Usability 7Design 6Performance 6.5