Ring's $199 Z-Wave-enabled Alarm Security Kit is so simple you might overlook it at first. The system includes a base station, a keypad, a door/window sensor, a motion sensor and a Z-Wave range extender. It's all basic hardware with basic functionality -- you won't find any fancy features here -- but the Security Kit is super simple to set up and monitor in the Ring mobile app. 

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The motion and door/window sensors can be mounted with screws or with Velcro strips (provided). I’m happy the sensors didn’t come from the factory with the strips already attached. I’ve never seen an adhesive strip that didn’t eventually fail, so I prefer to use screws—and peeling those strips off so you can use screws is a major pain. The sensor batteries come preinstalled, so you just pull out a plastic tab when the app tells you to. This enables the battery to touch the electrical contact inside the sensor, powering it up.
Though the Ring Alarm system covers the bases for a home security setup, there’s a lot of room for integration with other smart home products that Ring has left on the table. For example, it’s not possible to use the Ring’s motion or contact sensors to trigger lights or adjust a smart thermostat when you leave or come back home. This is despite the fact that the Ring Alarm sensors are based on Z-Wave technology, which is a widely used smart home standard.
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Through Works with Nest, abode works with Nest Protect, Nest Thermostat, and Nest Cam. Using this integration, you have the option to sync your abode modes with Nest modes or keep them separate. The abode system also offers deep integration with the Nest Thermostats. From the abode app, you can access and control your home’s temperature and create temperature thresholds. The same is true for ecobee users.
The Nest Guard motion sensor can detect motion within a 90° field of view up to 10 feet away. It also includes tamper detection as well as a proximity sensor (wakes on approach) and will let you know if it’s moved or if someone tries to jam your signal. However, in testing, I found that none of the promised tamper sensors worked. I did not test jamming detection.

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Ring offers a wide variety of doorbell and exterior security lighting features that range in price from $99.99 to $499.00, as well as plenty of accessories for them that range in price from $10.00 to $49.00. These accessories include options such as a solar panel, ring chime, quick release battery pack and more. And, they have two monthly video recording packages that range from $3.00 per month ($30 annually) to $10.00 per month ($100 annually).
You can use the Video Doorbell 2 on its own and it will chime when someone presses the button or it detects motion. It will also send a push notification to your phone: tap it, and you can view the live feed from the camera immediately. But it probably makes sense to use Ring’s $49 Chime Pro accessory with it. The Chime Pro provides a speaker for the doorbell inside your house, which is much easier for everyone to hear, and it works as a network extender to make sure the Video Doorbell 2 is always connected to Wi-Fi. It’s particularly useful if your Wi-Fi router isn’t anywhere near your front door.
The bottom half of the screen contains a historical list of all events (rings, motion triggers, and live view requests). Tap any event to view the associated video clip, share it, delete it, or save it. Tapping the Ring Pro button takes you to a screen where you can enable and disable ring alerts and motion alerts, view live video, and access the doorbell settings. When you tap the Live View button it launches a live stream presented in full-screen landscape mode and has buttons for two-way audio, speaker mute, and neighborhood sharing.

All of these limitations make the Ring Alarm feel less like a cohesive part of an integrated smart home and more like a bolt-on appendage that requires its own app and accessories. For its part, Ring says that smart home integrations are coming, but it wanted to make sure that it had nailed down the security aspect of the system before adding to it. The company says it plans to add integrations with lighting, door locks, and other smart home gadgets down the road, but it wouldn’t provide a timeline for these options when I asked.
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As far as actually using the Video Doorbell 2, my experience was largely positive. The video that’s streamed live from the doorbell is bright and has decent resolution, and the IR sensors around the camera make it possible to see visitors at night, too. Connecting to the camera through the smartphone app was quick, even if I wasn’t home and had to use LTE, and the two-way microphone and speaker made it possible to talk to visitors directly. I was even able to view the camera’s feed on Amazon’s Echo Show — though it doesn’t support two-way audio, and I had some trouble connecting to the camera at times.
Ring Alarm hits nearly all the right notes for a basic DIY home security system. I’ve already touched on a couple of its shortcomings—including an absence of support for smart speakers—but tighter integration with Ring’s own cameras would be another welcome development. When an alarm is tripped, the cameras should begin recording to perhaps capture a glimpse of what triggered it—potentially valuable forensic evidence you could provide to the police investigating a break-in. And if Ring Alarm could control your home’s smart lighting, it could turn on all the lights if the alarm is triggered after dark, which might convince an intruder to make a hasty retreat.
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The Ring Alarm system does not include fire or carbon monoxide monitoring – for those features, you’ll need to add a First Alert Z-Wave Smoke/CO alarm ($40) or Ring’s Alarm Smoke and CO listener ($35) that gets installed next to your existing smoke alarms and “hears” when they go off to trigger the system. I was not able to test these products for this review.
Ring, an Amazon company, also sells several security sensors. First is the keypad. The keypad runs on battery power, and you can wall mount it or place it on a flat surface. In addition to arming and disarming your system, the Keypad Control Panel allows you to choose between Armed Away and Armed Home. When using the keypad to arm your system, it provides a grace period to reduce false alarms. You can customize the grace period using the mobile app. Finally, you can simultaneously press and hold the check and x buttons for three seconds to trigger the panic alarm.
Ring can be hardwired to your existing doorbell’s electrical leads, but lacking any doorbell at all, I opted to use the device’s internal battery, which is charged with a USB cable (just like any typical mobile device), and is rated to last one year between charges. Pulling off the doorbell for recharging is a simple matter of removing two screws with a special tool that Ring provides, and then sliding the doorbell off a backing plate. It’s no big deal.

That said, using abode with a Nest Cam is my recommended solution, and integrating the two provides one major advantage: more free storage for your Nest Cams. The major disadvantage is that even if you are a Nest Aware subscriber, abode can only store snapshots. If you want video clips or continuous cloud access, you will need to pay for Nest Aware to access your footage via the Nest app.


Most of my setup time was spent testing the position of the three contact sensors I received. The magnetic sensors consist of two parts. One part goes on a door or window frame, the other part goes opposite it so that when the door or window is opened, the magnetic connection is broken. If the two pieces aren't close enough, roughly half an inch, the sensor doesn't work.
Ring says the battery should last anywhere from six to 12 months between charges, depending on how much activity your doorbell receives. Those claims might be a bit inflated, though. In my experience, the battery drained to under 40 percent in about six weeks of use, which means I’ll be recharging it every three months. For my testing, I had all the features enabled, such as motion detection and quick live view access. Ring says disabling these features will extend the battery life.
In terms of larger home integration, Nest is the very definition of a smart device. Its Works with Nest program automatically instructs connected products (such as smart lighting and thermostats) to perform their tasks without you having to tell them what to do. It’s an exceptionally hands-off solution, though you can still tweak it with custom preferences.
Our favorite security system for do-it-yourself monitoring and home automation is the $280 Abode Essentials Starter Kit, because not only does it add professional monitoring to your home, but it also works as a smart hub for third-party devices and helps facilitate home automation. But if you're looking for something a little more affordable and dead-simple to set up, Ring Alarm is worth  a look.
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While the August doorbell offers a more symmetrical picture with no barrel distortion, it doesn't support IFTTT integration like the Ring Pro does, and Ring's monthly cloud fees are a bit more affordable. As such, the Ring Video Doorbell Pro is an Editors' Choice for smart doorbells. The SkyBell HD is another top pick, and offers features that Ring doesn't, such as color night video, free cloud recording, and compatibility with Nest smart home devices.
What sets Nest Guard apart from the abode and Ring’s base station is its intuitive nature. First of all, the integrated keypad is a smart choice because let’s face it; phones get lost. In addition to a keypad which accepts a numeric passcode, Guard has several buttons. You can press a button to quickly swap between modes (alarm off, home and guarding, and away and guarding) or you can press for immediate help using the panic button which is found on the back of the device.
All three systems require that you purchase the hardware upfront, and they all offer some services for free including free app access as well as third-party integrations (though many of Nest’s and Ring’s integrations have yet to launch). However, they all offer paid plans too. Nest and abode have three options: self-monitoring, self-monitoring with cellular backup, and police dispatch with cellular backup. Ring has two options: self-monitoring and police dispatch with cellular backup.

I bought this system to replace the ADT system I had for years. This system along with four Contact Sensors replaced what I had from ADT. The cost of the Ring system and year of monitoring was less than six months of monitoring from ADT. The system comes packaged nice a secure, which I am thankful for since the deliver person wasn't gentle dropping the box on my porch. I had downloaded the app and registered before the system arrived, so that part was taken care of. The included instructions and phone app walk you through the setup. It was painless and completed in about 10 minutes. I set up everything on my dining room table to go through the registration process. Once done, I installed the components where the old hardware was. Ring includes everything you need to mount (double sided tape and/or screws) all the components. Registering for monitoring was very simple too. One thing I learned that I want to pass on. do not remove the little battery tabs until the app tells you to. If you do, just open the cover, pull the battery and reinstall the tab. Just pulling the battery and reinstalling it doesn't reset the device.
Great article with lots of useful information. Very comprehensive comparison that really helps people make a wise decision based on their particular needs. FYI, I chose abode for my home security needs because it’s a proven shipping product and it integrates well with other systems. Although the camera quality might not be as good as others, it will suffice for my needs.
The Ring Alarm starter kit is one of the most affordable security systems available. For $200, you get a wireless base station, a keypad for arming and disarming the system, one entry sensor, one motion sensor and a Z-wave range extender. I would have liked the kit to include at least two entry sensors since there's typically more than one point of entry to every dwelling, but you can purchase additional entry sensors for $20 a piece.
I don’t think I mentioned the answer in this article, but I know I’ve talked about this elsewhere. Unfortunately, all I can remember is abode and Ring. I can’t remember anything about Nest. All abode devices and sensors use the abode RF encrypted protocol to talk to the gateway. They also encrypt all communication between the gateway and the cloud. Ring uses Z-Wave Security 2 and Z-Wave SmartStart technology which encrypts the signal between the base and cloud as well as the base and sensors.
Unfortunately, Ring doesn’t currently, nor does it appear to be adding any type of home automation features, but it is compatible with many third-party smart home services. Although Ring doesn’t offer professional monitoring services, they do offer live streaming when hardwired to your existing doorbells power supply. Ring Live View does not work when using the internal battery. Since most users prefer to use the Ring internal battery, paying for one of the Ring video recording packages is the ideal option.
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