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.
Ring's Video Doorbell 3 Plus, first announced on March 11 -- which feels like a very long time ago amid the coronavirus pandemic and resulting quarantine -- is available now at Best Buy and other online retailers, including Ring's store. Like Google's Nest Hello doorbell, Ring's 3 Plus costs $230 (£199, AU$369). That's on the high end of video doorbells now, but the 3 Plus has one key trick that separates it from every other battery-powered Ring buzzer: Pre-Roll.
I'll talk more about the Pre-Roll feature in a bit, but the gist is that it captures and saves four seconds of video footage leading up to motion detection. That means it can pick up crucial footage that the camera might otherwise miss.
The combination of Pre-Roll and this model's versatile hardwired or rechargeable battery design, customizable settings and general ease of use in the app make it a definite high-end doorbell contender. But if you already have a Video Doorbell 2 or another Ring doorbell, the 3 Plus isn't a necessary upgrade. At $230, I prefer and recommend the Nest Hello, for its optional 24/7 continuous recording, Alexa and Google Assistant support (the 3 Plus only works with Alexa) -- and advanced features like facial recognition and automatic face tracking. But the $150 Arlo Video Doorbell is my current favorite doorbell overall.
Still, the 3 Plus is worth considering, particularly if you want a battery-powered video doorbell.
Ring, which Amazon purchased in 2018, makes a variety of smart home devices, from lighting products to security cameras and, most notably, doorbells. Like the original $100 Ring Video Doorbell, the Video Doorbell 2 (now discontinued) and the $199 Video Doorbell 3, also announced back in March, the 3 Plus can be hardwired or powered via an included rechargeable battery. The 3 Plus, and the new Video Doorbell 3, also tack on support for both 2.4 and 5GHz Wi-Fi bands and a shorter five- to 15-foot motion detection range.
For customers using the battery to power their 3 Plus -- or who otherwise don't have a functional doorbell chime, Ring sells two new chime accessories: the $30 Chime and the $50 Chime Pro. These devices plug into an outlet in your home and are supposed to help extend the Wi-Fi range of your Ring doorbell. They also act as a customizable doorbell chime, with over 30 tones to choose from. The $50 Chime Pro makes the most sense as an accompaniment to the 3 Plus, since it also supports 2.4 and 5GHz Wi-Fi. And, bonus: It adds a built-in nightlight.
Ring has been in the news for its partnership with local police departments in the US, leading privacy advocates to express concern about what data Ring shares with law enforcement and how they use that information. In December, thousands of Ring users' personal information was exposed, leading us to stop recommending Ring products.
Ring has since updated its policies, from offering customers a Control Center dashboard to more easily access privacy and security settings to requiring two-factor authentication. As of this review, we're reopening Ring products for recommendation with this caveat: If you have concerns about Ring products, make sure to familiarize yourself with its privacy statement and make your own decision from there. If you want to know more, I delve into Ring's recent history more fully here.
Testing out the 3 Plus
Like Ring's other doorbells, the 3 Plus has all the basics -- HD live streaming, night vision, motion detection, alerts, motion zones and two-way audio. All of those features continue to work well on this model. I used a Chime Pro in an intermediary spot between my router and the doorbell, and had no major lag times or other streaming issues that hurt performance.
The main things I tested out included the new, closer five- to 15-foot motion detection range, Pre-Roll and People Only Mode, which is Ring's version of person alerts.
Since the 3 Plus is designed to go outside, street traffic from cars and pedestrians -- and even a tree branch swaying in the wind -- are all much more likely to send you unneeded alerts. The closer detection range gives you more control over that, so you only get alerts when activity happens very near your door. This worked well for me during testing. When I was doing yard work, I didn't receive an alert, but as I walked on the back deck and approached the door, I started to get alerts.
The 3 Plus battery is designed to last for up to six months with regular use (additional batteries are sold for $29 each). In an effort to conserve battery life, Pre-Roll footage -- that four additional seconds captured before motion is actually detected -- is shown in lower resolution and in black and white.
Pre-Roll worked exactly as advertised, showing me approach the deck where the 3 Plus is installed before the motion sensor was technically supposed to be recording me. If you enable Pre-Roll, your doorbell records continuously, but it only saves the four seconds preceding a motion event, since it "constantly deletes and overwrites into the camera's local memory," according to Ring.
Pre-Roll footage is only saved as part of a motion-activated video clip and stored in the cloud for Ring Protect cloud service subscribers. If you don't have Ring Protect, you can still view Pre-Roll as a "picture within a picture" in the live feed. (You can always turn Pre-Roll off if it's a privacy concern. Learn more about it here.)
Read more: The best video doorbells of 2020
In the case of a potential theft or other security issue, these four seconds give you extra time to see what's happening. And since Ring doesn't offer continuous 24/7 live streaming, Pre-Roll is a solid addition.
People Only Mode delivered as well. Along with the closer motion range, this optional person alert setting gives you fewer recordings of your neighbor's dog or a car going by. It didn't nail it 100% of the time, but it still did a good job weeding out alerts I didn't want or need. The 3 Plus will still record all of the motion activity, but you only get alerts when it thinks it sees a person. The alert said, "There is a Person at your Backyard," which definitely creeped me out, but helped limit the alerts by a lot. Again, this feature is available to Ring Protect subscribers, as well as some legacy customers.
You can also adjust the frequency of your alerts in the Ring app, if you want to further customize when and how you get them. The app also offers the option to set your doorbell to Away, Home or Disarmed mode to ensure you only get alerts in specific scenarios.
The 3 Plus is easy to set up, especially if you stick with the battery installation like I did. I won't go through all the details here, but as you can see in the screenshots above, Ring makes it pretty simple to follow the step-by-step tutorial to get your doorbell online. If you have any questions, be sure to consult a professional installer. It comes with silver and bronze removable faceplates to give you a couple options to coordinate with your decor (Ring calls them satin nickel and venetian bronze).
This doorbell works with Alexa, but I don't have a smart display, so I couldn't test that out. In theory, you should be able to view the live feed and saved clips directly on your Alexa-enabled display.
Ring's Video Doorbell 3 Plus is worth considering. It performs well, it's easy to use and I like the Pre-Roll feature enough to recommend it over the $200 Video Doorbell 3 (which is identical to the Plus, except that it doesn't have Pre-Roll). If you already have a Ring doorbell, you don't need to upgrade to the 3 Plus, but if you're in the market for a new doorbell, particularly a battery-powered model, the 3 Plus is a good option.
That said, if you're looking for a great overall doorbell, take a look at the Nest Hello or my current favorite, the $150 Arlo Video Doorbell. Just keep in mind that both the Nest Hello and the Arlo Video Doorbell are hardwire-only products.