Tom's Guide Verdict
Get the Ring Video Doorbell 4 if the view from your front door is partially obscured, and you need a wireless model. But Arlo offers more features for the price.
Pre-roll much improved
Works as wired or wireless model
Large ecosystem of compatible devices
No end-to-end encryption
Small vertical field of view
No package detection
Why you can trust Tom's Guide
Size: 5.1 x 2.4 x 1.1 inches
Camera resolution: 1080p
Field of view: 160° horizontal, 84° vertical
Wireless: 802.11a/b/g/n (2.4 & 5GHz)
While its name suggests otherwise, the Ring Video Doorbell 4 is probably the tenth such device to come from Ring and reflects the continual refinement of the form. The new feature for this mode is color Pre-Roll, which gives you a better glimpse at who’s coming to the door.
This Ring Video Doorbell 4 review will look at just how good color Pre-roll is and if Ring’s newest midrange video doorbell should become a part of your smart home.
Ring Video Doorbell 4 review: Price and availability
The Ring Video Doorbell 4 went on sale in April 2021 for $199. It’s currently one of seven video doorbells offered by Ring and sits roughly in the middle of the price range. Above it is the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 ($249), while below it is the $99 Ring Video Doorbell (2nd gen) and Ring Video Doorbell Wired ($59).
Ring Video Doorbell 4 review: Design
Ring’s video-doorbell design is standardized to the point of being boring. The Ring Video Doorbell 4 looks exactly the same as the Ring Video Doorbell 3, Ring Video Doorbell 2, Ring Video Doorbell, and Ring Video Doorbell (2nd gen). But hey, if it works, right?
The top third of the doorbell is glossy black, while the bottom section is silver (Ring calls it Satin Nickel). You can change this section to a bronze-colored faceplate if you choose.
At about 2.4 inches wide, the Ring Doorbell 4 will fit on your standard door frame, but it’s not as svelte as the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2. Then again, the Ring Video Doorbell 4 needs to be big enough to house a battery.
Like the Ring Video Doorbell 3, the Ring Video Doorbell 4 can be hardwired into your home's electrical system, or can run on battery power.
Like the Ring 3, the Ring 4’s battery is removable, so you don’t have to take the entire unit off to recharge it, as you do with the Ring Video Doorbell (2nd gen).
Ring Video Doorbell 4 review: Video and audio performance
Unlike the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2, which has a 1536 x 1536 image with a 150-degree field of view both vertically and horizontally that lets you see a lot of your front porch, the Ring Video Doorbell 4 has the more traditional horizontal aspect ratio. I couldn’t see things as close to my door as I’d have liked — the bottom of the video was a good three feet from the door.
Otherwise, the quality of the 1080p video was very good. I could make out details in visitors’ faces, though details in objects farther away, such as cars on the street, were less clear. Audio was also crisp, as I was able to hear visitors clearly.
The biggest new feature of the Ring Video Doorbell 4 is that it has color Pre-Roll. Introduced with the now-discontinued Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus, Pre-roll is a system whereby the camera is continuously recording a 4-second video loop. As soon as there’s an event recording — such as someone coming to your front door — this four-second clip is added to the front of the event video, which in theory gives you a better view of who’s coming to your door.
The Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus was the first battery-powered Ring doorbell to have this feature. However, in order to conserve energy, it was in low-resolution black-and-white. This limited its usefulness as it was hard to make out just who was on camera. With the Ring Video Doorbell 4, Pre-Roll is now in color and at a somewhat higher resolution, so the transition between it and the rest of the video is smoother.
At my house, part of the path to my front door is blocked by a large evergreen tree. By the time some video doorbells pick up the fact that someone is approaching and start recording, the person is usually at the front door.
The Ring Video Doorbell 4’s Pre-Roll feature, though, was able to show people the moment they appeared from behind the tree and followed them all the way to the front door. However, the Pre-roll video is a bit fuzzier than the rest, so you can’t make out the details of a person’s face. (Ring’s wired video doorbells with this feature, such as the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2, have a full-color, full-resolution Pre-Roll.)
Ring Video Doorbell 4 review: App and features
Within the Ring app, you can view recorded events either via a scrolling timeline or on a vertical list. Both features could use work. The timeline can be tedious to scroll through, and the list view doesn’t show thumbnail images — as you get with other video doorbells — so you have to select numerous clips to find the one you want.
As with most video doorbells, Ring lets you adjust motion sensitivity and set up customizable motion zones, so you don’t get false alerts if you happen to live on a busy street.
A Smart Alerts feature will let you filter out motion events so that you get alerts only when the camera detects people. However, Arlo’s and Nest’s video doorbells — and in the fall of 2021, HomeKit-enabled doorbells — can go a step further and tell you when packages arrive. Ring is a bit tardy in rolling out this feature.
Lastly, a Quick Replies feature will play one of four preset responses and take a message from visitors if you can’t respond in time. Automated message responses include “We’ll be right there,” “Sorry, we’re not interested,” and “Please leave the package outside.” The last one would be much more useful if the Ring doorbell could identify that someone was actually holding a package.
Ring Video Doorbell 4 review: Security and privacy
After a number of negative headlines, both deserved and not, Ring has taken a number of steps with regard to security and privacy issues. The Ring app now has two-factor authentication and Ring recently introduced end-to-end video encryption for many of its video doorbells and home security cameras. Unfortunately, battery-powered video doorbells, such as the Ring Video Doorbell 4, aren’t compatible with this latest feature.
To combat concerns about its partnership with law enforcement agencies, Ring changed its policy regarding how video clips are shared with police. Now, agencies must make a public request for video in Ring’s Neighbors app; it’s up to individual owners whether or not they choose to respond. However, the company’s continuing partnerships with law enforcement agencies — is something that has made many uncomfortable.
Within the Ring app, you can also manage how long you want videos to be stored in the cloud; by default, it’s set at 60 days if you’re subscribed to Ring Protect, but you can reduce that storage time to as little as one day. Regardless of how long videos are stored, they’re always encrypted in the cloud.
Ring Video Doorbell 4 review: Subscription costs
Unless you subscribe to Ring Protect, you can view only live footage from the video doorbell. If you want to record videos, you can subscribe to one of two plans. Ring Protect Basic ($3/month, $30/year) provides coverage for one camera, while Ring Protect Plus ($10/month, $100/year) covers all the Ring devices at one location.
Each plan offers 60 days of rolling cloud storage, while the Plus plan also provides 10% off Ring devices, extended warranties, and professional monitoring if you have a Ring Alarm system.
To see how Ring’s storage plans compare to Arlo and others, check out the best security camera storage plans.
Ring Video Doorbell 4 review: Smart home connectivity
Because it’s owned by Amazon, there’s a pretty deep integration between Ring and Alexa devices. You can view both live and recorded video on an Amazon Echo Show or other Alexa-enabled smart display. However, you can’t use Ring’s video doorbells with Google Assistant, the Nest Hub or Nest Hub Max, or Apple HomeKit.
Ring’s suite of products, such as its smart lights, motion sensors and home security systems, also can be linked to its video doorbells. So, for instance, if you have Ring Solar Pathlights, you can set the Ring Video Doorbell to automatically start recording if the Pathlights detect motion.
Ring Video Doorbell 4 review: Verdict
The $199 Ring Video Doorbell 4 sits between the Ring Video Doorbell 3 and the Ring Video Doorbell Pro. If your front door looks out on a partially obscured view, then it’s worth spending the extra $20 over the Ring Video Doorbell 3 for the much-improved Pre-Roll feature. For $50 more, the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 has a sleeker design and more importantly, an aspect ratio that shows more of your front stoop — but it requires a wired connection.
Among the best video doorbells, the Ring Video Doorbell 4 is yet another solid entry. However, its limited field of view means that you can’t see as much of your front door as you can with the Nest Hello or the Arlo Video Doorbell. Moreover, the lack of package detection — something also found on those two competitors — also makes the Video Doorbell 4 a less useful device.
Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.
BEWARE!!!My doorbell worked great for 4 months and then stopped working. The customer service support is nearly nonexistent . ( I have made over 15 attempts at getting help) I have tried online chat with AI……pointless. Online support- they ignore the problem and continuously repeat the same irrelevant questions designed to not resolve anything. (Or perhaps they’re also AI pretending to be real.) One day I did manage to speak with a very helpful CS person over the phone. However, I had to recharge the battery overnight as part of the testing procedure. When I tried calling back the next day, the automatic message said that they were now only offering online help. (Really?!)Reply
it’s now been over a month and I still don’t have a working doorbell, despite arlo’s claim of a warranty.