The Video Doorbell 4 is the latest addition to Ring's flagship line. Not only does it have to find its place against tenfold competition since the first Video Doorbell in 2015, but also against Ring's catalog (Wired, Pro and Elite).
Ring doesn't really bring anything new with its Video Doorbell 4, but takes advantage of it to improve the Pre-roll function that appeared with the Video Doorbell 3 Plus by proposing a preview not in black & white, but in color of the 4 seconds that precede the events. This new doorbell is thus closer to the latest Video Doorbell Pro and Elite and their Advanced Pre-roll function, also in color - but paying and offering 6 seconds of preview with high definition images and sound - while keeping the advantage of running on battery.
The Video Doorbell 4 brings with it a Wi-Fi ac connection, but otherwise seems to take over what made the previous model, starting with a 1080p sensor. It also has a lens offering a 160° diagonal field of view, a night vision and a two-way audio system. Similarities that probably explain the small price difference between the two generations.
The 4th generation of Video Doorbell retains the design of the previous model, including its exact dimensions (128 x 62 x 28 mm). The doorbell has a classic rectangular shape, even austere, despite the usual metallic front that covers the doorbell button, with LEDs on the lower part. Nevertheless, it is still a rather basic plastic, as for the black part that wraps the camera on the upper part. We would have liked to find better quality materials.
As on the old model, this metallic front can be changed, but Ring has removed the black front from the box. It is therefore mandatory to order one in its store. However, the manufacturer has the good taste to send a promo code by e-mail after the configuration of the camera: it is thus possible to choose the color of your choice.
Removing the front panel also allows access to the battery. The battery is removable and must be removed for charging, which avoids having to dismantle the whole doorbell each time. Ring does not risk announcing autonomy, but the battery level seemed to drop quite quickly during our tests. This is obviously not representative of actual usage, but it's certainly far from the 6 months promised by other models like the Arlo Video Doorbell.
Users replacing an existing doorbell, or having the electrical installation provided, will also be able to connect the Video Doorbell 4 in order not to have to worry about the battery level. Such an installation also has the advantage of allowing the use of an existing doorbell, but Ring also sells wireless doorbells to accompany its doorbell when running on battery power. Amazon Echo devices can also fill this role.
Note that all the hardware is provided to install the doorbell: screws, dowels, screwdrivers and U-shaped cable ends for the wired connection. Ring also includes a plate that allows the camera to be tilted to one side or the other, but the one that allowed the Video Doorbell 3 to be tilted vertically has been removed from the box. We appreciate the very precise guidance offered by the application for the installation of the doorbell, whose connection to the Wi-Fi network was also done without hindrance in our case.
As is often the case with Ring, our biggest regret is the lack of a memory card slot. You have to subscribe to Ring Protect in order to enjoy recordings, which can then be stored on the manufacturer's cloud. The subscription is even mandatory to keep them locally on the Ring Alarm Pro, which has a microSD port. However, storage of any kind is not necessary to access the live feed and see who has just rung, which we think is the most important thing. On the other hand, without a subscription, it will be impossible to find someone whose arrival you have missed.
The Video Doorbell 4 works with the same application as the other Ring devices. In addition to being very rich, it has the merit of accompanying the neophyte in the discovery of the various settings. Most of them are presented when the doorbell is installed. This initiative is all the more appreciable since these settings are numerous and divided into sub-menus that are also numerous. If it is also possible to ignore all or part of this "tutorial" and even take advantage of explanations and advice for some settings later, following it allows you to not miss any.
Ring obviously highlights its Pre-roll function. This function allows you to watch the 4 seconds preceding the recording of an event. It is thus possible to observe the visitors before they activate the doorbell, which will allow for example to catch a little joker in the act or simply to see a deliveryman a little too eager to get rid of a package. Pre-roll also works with motion detection and can then give a more global or complete vision of the action that triggered it, as detection can sometimes be delayed. This is sometimes interesting, but most of the time it is useless. Especially since the image quality is poor in this case, but we'll come back to this in the dedicated section.
Like most video doorbells, the Video Doorbell 4 can indeed be used as a surveillance camera. All the settings usually offered by Ring are available: sensitivity, detection zones, person recognition, programming, frequency... It is also possible to ask the doorbell to record a photo every hour or every 14 minutes to get an overview of the day's activity, even in the absence of an event, and "Off", "At home" and "Outside" modes can be configured and added to the home screen to quickly activate/deactivate the doorbell.
In addition to recording a video for Ring Protect subscribers - a duration of 15 to 120 seconds can be selected, but it is also possible to let the doorbell interrupt the recording when it no longer detects activity - each event of course also triggers a notification on the user's smartphone. These alerts arrive almost instantly and an option to add an image from the recording. This makes it possible to preview the event before opening the app, although it's not as good as the animated preview available with Google's latest doorbell. The Nest Doorbell (battery) also has the advantage of being able to recognize packages, vehicles and even the faces of visitors already registered.
All the events can be consulted from the history accessible on the home page or from the doorbell's menu, and a timeline also allows you to easily go back over the day under the live feed. We would have liked to find this timeline in the event player: it can be more practical to find a past event, when you do not remember the exact time and others were recorded afterwards, for example. In addition to facilitating the discovery of the available settings, the Ring application also has the merit of pointing out all the features that can reduce the autonomy of the Video Doorbell 4 and groups together the most important ones in a dedicated sub-menu. It is thus easy to extend the autonomy when the battery level is low; let us underline moreover that notifications are sent when this level passes under 30 %.
Ring has equipped its Video Doorbell 4 with a main sensor of 2 Mpx allowing to obtain recordings of 1920 x 1080 pixels. The wide-angle lens that accompanies it allows a field of view of 180° diagonally, but only 84° vertically because of the 16/9 ratio. As a result, a visitor must be at least 1.50 m from the doorbell to see it from head to toe, and it will be difficult to monitor a package dropped off by a deliveryman on the doorstep. Other models do better on this point, such as Google's Nest Doorbell (battery) with its ¾ ratio or Arlo's Video Doorbell with its 1/1 ratio. Ring also offers an infrared vision for the night and an HDR mode to compensate for backlighting. Nevertheless, it did not seem to us very effective.
We decided to compare Ring's doorbell to Google's Nest Doorbell (battery), since it's the highest rated model in our comparison. However, it is more to its advanced features than to its image quality that the latest Nest Doorbell owes its very good score. Its 720p definition is clearly no match for the 1080p images of the Video Doorbell 4, which also offers excellent exposure. It captures a very good level of detail and our test scene appears without any blocked or burned areas.
The infrared vision of the Video Doorbell 4 looks very good on our test scene. The level of details remains rather good and the exposure allows once again to avoid the blocked zones, at the price however of an overexposure disturbing the legibility of the elements in the center of our test scene. In comparison, the image of the Nest Doorbell (battery) is less well defined and much darker, but more balanced.
Unfortunately, our real-world tests confirmed the Video Doorbell 4's tendency to overexpose in the dark. Faces can appear burnt, so we couldn't recognize anyone more than 1.50 m away on its images. This is still enough for a doorbell, but the Google one does better despite its lower definition. We have evaluated this distance to a little over 2 meters.
The Nest Doorbell (battery) is also a little more effective in detecting movement since we measured a distance of about 5.50 meters, against 4 meters for the Video Doorbell 4, which is still very good for a doorbell. Finally, the activation of the infrared vision is also a little slower with Ring: 2 seconds, against 1 second only with Google.
The Pre-roll function consists of recording 4 second sequences in a loop on a small buffer memory. To avoid reducing the autonomy of the doorbell too much, it relies on a so-called "low power" sensor rather than on the main sensor. The definition is therefore lower, and if Ring has improved the function by adding the color that did not offer the Video Doorbell 3 Plus, the quality remains insufficient to hope to identify a face. It will therefore be able to see the gestures and movements of a visitor... provided that it is daytime: infrared vision is not available in Pre-roll.
The Video Doorbell 4 works like an intercom, except that a smartphone is enough to answer when someone rings. It is therefore equipped with a microphone and a speaker to communicate. We did not really encounter any problem with the first one, except perhaps its low sensitivity which can push to raise the voice to be heard on the other side. On the other hand, background noises are hardly audible. It may be more difficult to understand the person you are talking to. As with most doorbells, the speaker lacks power, but we also had to deal with choppy speech despite a good connection. It's a pity because, without these problems, the sound is rather clear.
Finally, it should be noted that Ring's new doorbell makes the most of its speaker when it is activated by emitting a ringing tone. With a level of 66 dB(A) recorded at about 1 meter, this one remains nevertheless difficult to hear from inside and the purchase of a chime can therefore be interesting to ensure not to miss any visit in the absence of Amazon Echo devices to fill this role. Still, it can happen that you don't have your smartphone with you, especially when you stay at home.
The Video Doorbell 4 does not revolutionize the series, despite an interesting color pre-roll function, but more limited than its wired cousins in order to preserve autonomy. Without particularly shining by its image quality, its motion detection or its audio performance, the Video Doorbell 4 struggles to really distinguish itself on a market that is now fertile: it is therefore especially interesting for those who already have Ring equipment and do not want to burden themselves with an additional application to answer the door.