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

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.

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.

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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