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Ring Floodlight Cam Review -- June 5, 2017 -- Version 1.2a -- (updated June 16, 2017)

UPDATE December 5, 2017: I can now 'recommend' Ring cams for most people. Yes, the cams still do have some very annoying issues, but I have seen steady improvements over the last six months as the firmware continues to get updated. Please DO give Ring products a try (I now have nine Ring products installed in various places) -- BUT purchase Ring from a retailer that has a no hassle return policy (like Home Depot, etc) -- just in case you run into a show stopper problem. TIP: Make sure you purchase an unopened box (security seal not broken) -- as I once made the mistake of not noticing I had purchased an 'open box' (returned) item!

UPDATE July 1, 2017: Ring has pushed a custom firmware to my three Ring Floodlight Cams and forced a minimum video bitrate of 5 Mbps on one cam and 3 Mbps on the other two cams. This fix has dramatically (and instantly) improved the quality of videos from my Cams -- showing that Ring indeed does have a firmware problem to fix regarding the 'auto detect video bitrate to use' and that the problem was never with my wireless nor with my internet. Hopefully Ring will fix the low video bitrate issue for the general public as soon as possible.
UPDATE 2017/09/26: Ring now has a new 'beta' firmware that addresses some of the problems (adaptive bitrate and should not hang as much). I am now testing. If you want to test, ask Ring to place your device(s) on the beta test program. UPDATE 2017/10/21: The hangs persist, so this beta firmware has not fixed that!

UPDATE 2017/08/16: The most serious remaining problem with the Floodlight cams is that they go offline ('hang') and refuse to come back online until electrical power is reset.

UPDATE 2017/11/01: Given the 'success' of the beta firmware for the Floodlight, I decided to install a Ring Doorbell Pro and immediately ran into problems (motion alerts did not work at all). I contacted support who (after some convincing) pushed beta firmware to the Doorbell and immediately the problems went away!

UPDATE 2017/11/06: Ring has blocked me from accessing my videos in the cloud (now a SECOND time). The GUI states that I am 'unsubscribed' (even though I have had a subscription for five months). Ring acknowledges they have problems to fix. This lack of QA really sucks.
But see far below (bottom of this review) -- Ring also has a LOT of other very annoying bugs they need to fix.

Ring Floodlight Cam
Ring Floodlight Cam press photo
The Ring product The Ring Floodlight Cam is a cloud based security camera -- with floodlight, siren, and two-way talk.

My testing: I installed and tested three Ring Floodlight Cams at three different homes. The first was installed on May 6, a second was installed on May 21, and a third was installed on May 22.

This review documents my first hand experience that I had with the Ring Floodlight Cams for over a month of extensive testing...

The bottom line: The Ring Floodlight Cam is a great product idea and has a TON of potential, but the Cam is NOT ready for prime time due to poor video quality and significant reliability problems, and the numerous other bugs encountered.

The Floodlight Cam 'mostly' works, but it is sure frustrating that the Cam does NOT produce "1080p HD video" out of the box, as is claimed. If Ring fixes all of the bugs disclosed in this review, the Floodlight Cam will in fact be a great product that I could then highly recommend to everyone.
On May 25, I noticed that I could no longer view recorded/cloud videos from all Cams. The 30-day trial for cloud video recording stopped working. The response from Ring was: "we have just been informed there is an issue with the recordings where some are recording and some aren't registering. However our engineers are working on the situation as we speak". As I was doing extensive testing, I could not wait -- I got off the trial and signed up (paying) for cloud recording (which fixed the problem). Not a good impression.
Ring Floodlight Cam promises 1080p HD Video
Ring Product Box promises "1080p HD Video"
Hey, this is NOT "1080p HD video" quality! What sold me on the idea of this product was that the Cam was advertised (see product box right) as a security camera that takes "1080p HD video".
I've installed true high end 1080p security systems before. I know what video quality to expect from a "1080p" system.
However, the reality is that the video quality of the Cam 'out of the box' is nowhere near "1080p HD video", and Ring tech support actually acknowledged that in writing! See further below.

The Ring videos ARE 'sized' to 1080p HD size (1920×1080), but the quality of the resulting videos are NOT HD (the bitrate is too low / compression is too high). Here is an example of the very poor quality I see -- notice the significant 'blocking' and ghosting (blue jeans leaves a blue trail):

Poor Ring Floodlight Cam video quality
650×440 crop from Ring video - notice bad blocking/ghosting - NOT 1080p HD quality

A great comparison: Watch this YouTube video fullscreen on a large 1080p HDTV (not your phone) -- but set the YouTube video quality to 144p, and that is around the video quality I got from my Ring Floodlight Cam! And the YouTube video at 480p is WAY better quality than what I see from Ring Floodlight Cam.
The gritty details: One 63 second MP4 from the Cam was 6.3 MB (or 868 kbps). The 480p YouTube video above uses 770 kbps. Now set the YouTube video to 1080p HD quality. The video now looks fantastic, but it also dramatically increases bandwidth to 2358 kbps (3 times more bandwidth)!

Just think about it. If what Ring claimed were actually true -- "1080p HD Video" in under 1 Mbps -- that blows away what Netflix or YouTube can do by a LOT. But we know that Ring videos use H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, which is a well known industry standard -- So, no, not true.

How YOU can calculate Ring MP4 bitrates: Download a Ring video, multiply the file size (in bytes) by 8 and divide that by the number of seconds in the video to obtain 'bps'. Divide the answer by 1000 to get 'kbps'. Or divide the answer by 1000000 by get 'mbps'. Note that this is a combined audio+video bitrate.
Ring's problem: Ring states in product documentation 'in the box' that they only need 1 Mbps upload bandwidth for the Ring Floodlight Cam. 1 Mbps is 1000 kbps. But that 1 Mbps limit dramatically limits the quality of videos that the Cam will produce!

The result: 'blocking' and significant 'ghosting' on moving objects: Notice the significant 'blocking' in the first video frame (click on image to zoom in and see the blocking -- especially the palm trees in the background against the blue sky):

Click to zoom in -- Ring Floodlight Cam 868 kbps quality -- notice significant 'blocking'

RSSI (dBm)Signal
Source: Netgear app
Ring tech support blames wifi (RSSI): Ring technical support is both amazing -- for being available 24x7 via phone and chat (which I prefer so I have a written record) -- and sometimes amazingly wrong. When I contacted Ring support about the poor video quality, they blamed wifi RSSI for the poor video quality and asked for the RSSI (wifi Received Signal Strength Indicator) value in the "device health" screen, and stated "RSSI needs to be at a level of -44 for the device to function" (RSSI has a scale from 0/best to -100/worst; see table right).
However, a RSSI of -44 dBm means a signal strength of 100% (5 out of 5 bars) -- it is not realistic for Ring support to ask for this. To get -44 dBm, I needed to be within 10 feet line-of-sight to my Netgear R6250 access point.

[Source: "Netgear WiFi Analytics" app; a great tool in this regard; see table right generated from this tool; also this resource]

Ring sent me a "Chime Pro" (a wifi extender) for free, but when I tried to set it up, all I got was a cryptic "Setup didn't complete" error message. Even Ring tech support could not get the Chime Pro set up and working!
UPDATE: Ring admits that their own internal (daily!) 'iperf' performance tests from my Cams to their servers shows a 6 Mbps upload path to the Internet and that the Cam should be using a bitrate nearer to 2 Mbps, not the 1 Mbps that is seen. Ring is investigating.

Install wireless APs to fix RSSI: My quick fix to get past Ring support blaming my wifi was to install a wireless access point right next to the Floodlight Cams. Finally, with a great RSSI (-32 to -40), tech support would now listen to me (and the quality of videos did not change).
My prior RSSI was -66 and the Ring Floodlight cam was communicating with the wireless network just fine. It was just that the video quality was really poor. After I installed an access point 2 feet from the CAM, RSSI is now great, but the video quality from the Cam remains unchanged.
Ring HIDES the video quality setting! Long story short, with good wifi, I complained to Ring tech support that their video bitrate (less than 1Mbps) "is not high enough to support 1080p". The Ring tech's answer was "You're right, it's not"! This same tech admitted that the Floodlight Cam has an internal "auto/720p/1080p" video quality setting that was hidden from customers, but that it was a setting he could change (not me). So he changed it from 'auto' to '1080p' and the bitrate of videos increased immediately, but only slightly.

A slight jump in bitrate: Now 63 second MP4's from the Ring Floodlight Cam were around 8.4 MB (or 1118 kbps). This proves that (1) the poor video quality problem was NOT my wifi, and that (2) 'out of the box', the default 'auto' video quality is not 1080p! There was a slight increase in the quality of videos (click on image to zoom in):

Click to zoom in -- Ring Floodlight Cam 1,118 kbps quality

Once in a while, Ring videos are much better: Once in a great while, Ring Floodlight Cam MP4's are around 13.5 MB (or 1798 kbps). These videos look MUCH better (click on image to zoom in):

Click to zoom in -- Ring Floodlight Cam 1,798 kbps quality
THIS is the video quality that I should be getting ALL of the time. My internet upload speed at the time was 3000 kbps. I upgraded it to 6000 kbps, but that made NO difference.
UPDATE: I just discovered a 63 second Ring video from my Floodlight Cam that was 18.8 MB (or 2506 kbps)! Clearly the Ring Floodlight Cam is capable of higher bitrates, so why the Cam almost always uses a bitrate less than 1 Mbps on a 6 Mbps (up) internet connection is a serious problem for Ring to immediately fix!

My internet connection: And for the record, the internet connection at all three locations is fantastic. The speeds at each house (down/up) are: 120Mbps/6Mbps, 75Mbps/6Mbps, 75Mbps/6Mbps. I have been testing Internet speeds at each location a lot lately, and I never obtained a bad result. I always see full download/upload speeds from reliable speed test websites.
My Test Procedure: (1) Make sure no one else is using the Internet. (2) Run a speed test. (3) Cause the Ring Cam to capture a video. (4) Run another speed test. In all cases, both speed tests results are great (show 6 Mbps upload speeds), but the Ring Cam video is poor quality. I have even gone so far as to monitor the bytes transferred statistics in my router -- which verifies nothing else (besides the Ring Cam) is using the Internet.
Problem verified with a third party: I contacted a friend with a Ring Floodlight Cam, and a 63 second Ring MP4 was 5.8 MB (or 771 kbps). They are having the same problem!

ISSUE: Ring's reliance on 2.4 GHz wifi ONLY was a mistake: The Ring product should have been dual band -- also supporting 5 GHz. The Ring website states that the reason the Cam does NOT support 5 GHz and only supports 2.4 GHz is because 2.4 GHz has more range. While that may be 'technically' true, in reality, that ignores MIMO benefits, and Ring tech support requires such a ridiculously good RSSI (100% signal quality), that you actually can't get any 'increased' range -- And how close you need to be to the router (less than 10 feet for a Netgear R6250) anyway means that 5 GHz actually works MUCH better at 10 to 30 feet.

5 GHz has much better speeds
MIMO: And range is only half the story. The other half of the story is actual usable bandwidth. Because MIMO is very common in the 5 GHz band, actual usable bandwidth in 5 GHz with MIMO (and low signal strength) can be MUCH better than 2.4 without MIMO (and high signal strength). My laptop at 30 feet connects to my Netgear R6250 at over 500 Mbps with a RSSI of -60 (88% signal strength) and works great -- at over 500 Mbps!

5 GHz capacity: 2.4 GHz has only 3 non-overlapping channels, whereas 5 GHz has 24 non-overlapping channels (8 times as many channels). The 2.4 GHz band is quite simply way too crowded.

2.4 GHz range is a HUGE disadvantage if you live close to neighbors: There are just too many devices using 2.4 GHz, and with close neighbors, increased range is actually a huge disadvantage, because you see all of your neighbors wifi devices -- and you all must SHARE the same 2.4 GHz band! At one summer vacation townhouse, I see 30 wifi radios/BSSID in the 2.4 GHz band. It does not matter if 2.4 GHz has increased range, because in the middle of summer, the 2.4 band is so crazy busy, you can't get bandwidth to actually transmit a MP4 wirelessly to your router (and then to the cloud) fast enough.

2.4 GHz is plagued by non-wifi interference: And worse of all, 2.4 GHz is is plagued by non-wifi interference. Just using a microwave can kill the 2.4 wireless band.
ISSUE: The Cam fails as a security camera: Ring itself states "The world's only motion-activated HD security camera with built-in floodlights, a siren alarm and two-way talk." So, the Ring Floodlight Cam is firstly, a security camera. However, if your Internet connection is down for any reason, you will have NO record and NO video of the security incident -- because the Cam is NOT capable of buffering and uploading the video when the Internet comes back on. Failing to record a security incident is an outright FAIL for any security camera!
How I tested this: I disconnected the wireless AP from the Internet (so Floodlight cam was still connected to wireless AP, but not to the Internet), walked in front of the Ring Floodlight Cam, reconnected the AP to the Internet, and there was NO video recorded in the cloud. This is simply not acceptable for any true 'security' device. It is so easy to implement simple buffering of the video (store with no Internet and transmit once Internet comes back up), that this decision (to drop videos) shows that this Cam is NOT (currently) a true security camera.

The Ring Floodlight Cam IS a great 'tool', but it is NOT a 'security' camera -- because it can easily miss and not record security incidents.
ISSUE: One Cam went offline and STAYED offline: One cam went 'offline' (as reported by the Ring app) and refused to provide live view or record motion events (from May 26 6:35pm until May 31 9:45pm). But the Cam was still connected to the wireless AP -- the Cam continued to obtain an IP address from my router every single day, and the Cam provided 'device health' updates to the Ring cloud. I gave the Cam five days to see if it would recover on its own and it did not. Rebooting the AP did not resolve the issue. I had to eventually reboot (power off/on) the Cam, which instantly was reported by the Ring app as back online.
This 'manual power reset' is totally unacceptable for a security camera, and I think this demonstrates that Ring rushed the Floodlight Cam out the door -- with critical bugs. When I contacted Ring support, they replied: "Our latest firmware update 1.6.71 was actually a hotfix to improve the algorithm for reconnecting Floodlight Cameras that are offline." -- so Ring KNEW that there is an 'offline' problem with the Floodlight Cam!
UPDATE 2017/08/16: The same thing happened to another one of my Ring Floodlight cams. The cam 'locked up' for days and would not recover on its own until it was hard power reset.

Other Ring Floodlight Cam 'not ready for prime time' bugs Ring must fix ASAP:
    Ring Floodlight Cam motion failure
    Ring Floodlight Cam fails to capture car leaving driveway
  • The Ring Floodlight Cam OFTEN fails to record motion! At one house, the Cam overlooks a driveway (with motion triggering on virtually the entire visible frame). I see the Cam record two people walking and getting into the car (right). The 63 second video ends, and there are NO other recorded videos -- even though the car then leaves, the Cam fails to capture the car leaving! I then go into a 'live view' and the car is gone!
    UPDATE: This bug now actually happens very frequently, after Ring changed the default recording time from 60 seconds to 30 seconds. I often see a video of people approaching a car in the driveway (to leave), but then there is often NO video of the car actually leaving the driveway.
  • Some 'security' incidents are simply NOT recorded at all: As a test, I turned on motion alerts and ordered Pizza. The Ring app on my phone never alerted me when the pizza was delivered to my front door and there was NO VIDEO RECORDING OF THE PIZZA DELIVERY IN THE RING CLOUD!

  • Two way talk did not work: This feature not working is not something that I care about that much, but when I did test it out over several days, it did not work. Voice from app to Cam worked, but there was no voice from Cam to app (same result at all locations and tested on multiple phones).

  • Sound in videos is VERY problematic: Sometimes there is NO sound at all for an entire 63 second video. Other times, the first few (4-5) seconds of the video has no sound. I can find no video with sound in the first couple of seconds of the video.

  • Inability to set house address: During install, the app auto-detects your house address. It is impossible to change this auto-detected address. The app provides a way to set/change the address, but it does not work AT ALL (not during install, nor after the fact).

    Ring Floodlight Cam Cloud Recording Failure
    Ring Floodlight Cam fails to record videos to the cloud
  • Cloud Recording Failure: All of a sudden, 47 days after signing up for cloud video recording (and 7 days after charging my credit card for service for 30 days), on July 11, 2017, cloud video recording for all three cams FAILED (see right). And worst of all is that Ring's did NOT show any problems -- which indicates that Ring's 'status' website is not accurate. This problem went away one day later.

  • Blank videos V1: There are Floodlight Cam videos recorded in the cloud that are 100% black (strangely, for exactly 40 seconds). Why? What failed? Ring technical support told me to just be patient and that the videos would eventually appear. I checked a week later and the videos are still black. I then checked back 38 days later and the videos are still black!

  • Blank videos V2: There are videos recorded in the cloud that are 100% white. There is sound, but NO video.

  • Blank videos V3: There are Floodlight Cam videos recorded in the cloud that have 25 seconds of no motion. I can see a person walking, and then that person freezes in mid stride for 25 seconds (the MP4 progress bar continues to advance), and then after 25 seconds, the person instantly vanishes. Why?

  • Live view has issues: Multiple times "live view" failed (app complained that it could not connect to the Cam), only to later find that the 'live' video was recorded and exists in the cloud.

    Ring Floodlight Cam Cloud Favorites Failure
    Ring Floodlight Cam Favorites Failure
  • 'Favorite's via web browser does not work: The Ring interface has the ability to mark videos as a 'favorite'. One day I selected favorites and saw them all. The next day, I clicked on favorites and not a single video showed up! Ring instead displayed a "You don't have any favorites. To add a favorite click the star icon next to an event." This bug was with the web interface, not the phone app.

  • Power outage problem: After a power outage, the lights turn on and STAY on. You must MANUALLY turn off the lights via the Ring app. Very annoying! Apparently this is a 'feature' for people who want to hook up the cam to a real light switch (turning the lights and recording on/off at will) -- but this ignores the most common use of the cam (a 'security' product that is always on).

  • Motion Zones are not accurate: Configure motion zones on a phone with a 2220×1080 screen and then review the zones on a phone with a 2560×1440 screen -- and the motion zones have MOVED. Because the zones 'move' depending upon the aspect ratio of the phone screen being used, who knows what motion zones the cam actually uses!

  • The cams require a GREAT Wifi signal: The cams don't work at a distance that my notebook computer still works great. The Ring cams apparently require a GREAT Wifi signal (70% signal strength or better) in order to work properly.

  • Zoom: You can 'zoom' into 'live view' video on the phone app, but if you playback any previously captured video, you can NOT zoom in. Annoying.

Other bugs and problems Ring needs to fix:
  • The missing ethernet jack: Quite simply, the Ring Floodlight Cam is missing an ethernet jack. Tech support would not listen to my 'video quality' concerns until the RSSI on my Cam was -44. The only way I could obtain this RSSI was to install a wireless access point right next to the Cam. Which meant I had to run ethernet cable to the Cam. So I now have the Cam outside, and a wireless AP inside, less than two foot away from the Cam. That is crazy. Just provide an ethernet jack on the Floodlight Cam at that point.

  • Speed Test Problems: The Ring phone app sends people to to test Internet connection speeds. But something is very wrong with that site -- as the site reported I had a download speed of 3 Mbps, whereas two other speed test sites reported a correct 120 Mbps.

  • Pulsing in Videos: When Floodlight Cam videos are played back on a large (non-phone) screen, there is a very noticeable 'pulsing/stutter' in the video every second. This may be a real issue, or just related to the incredibly low MP4 video stream bitrate?

  • Firmware upgrade: The steps Ring publishes to upgrade the firmware in the Cam don't work. Why not simply add a button into the app to do this? Also, there should be a button in the app to 'reboot' the Cam.

  • Time gaps: There is some strange maximum video length of 63 seconds, and motion immediately after that may not trigger a recording to the cloud. With motion events longer than 63 seconds, I see a 63 second video recorded, then nothing (no other video). OR, I see a 63 second video, and then another video that starts many seconds later (a time gap).
    2017/07/07 UPDATE: The Ring Floodlight Cam appears to have switched to a maximum video length of around 31 seconds, which now makes this issue even more pronounced. I now see a lot more missing time gaps between videos.
  • Ignoring 5Ghz: Ring (tech support, their app, etc) does not understand the 5 GHz wifi exists and is very common. Support will ask you to run tests against your wireless router, but then they don't check (verify) to see if you are actually connected at 2.4 Ghz (most devices, when faced with a dual band router, prefer to connect at 5 GHz instead of 2.4 GHz). So when Ring asks you to test speeds, you may be testing 5 GHz speeds, not 2.4 GHz speeds, and not even know it!

  • MIMO: When I asked tech support if the Floodlight Cam supported MIMO (and if so, should I buy a MIMO wireless AP), the answer was 'that is proprietary and internal information we can not disclose'. That attitude hurts Ring customers. Because if the Ring cams do actually support MIMO, that helps in deciding which MIMO (or not) access point to purchase.

  • Mbps: Floodlight Cam product documentation inside the product box states "For an optimal experience, we recommend Internet speeds of at least 1Mbps", but the Ring website in the 'Floodlight Cam FAQ' states "For best streaming performance, we recommend 2 Mbps upload and download speeds". And yet with a verified 6Mbps up internet connection, the Ring Floodlight Cam refuses to use more than 1Mbps, resulting in horrible video quality. Something is going on here that Ring must fix ASAP...

  • WiFi Roaming: I just found out that Ring devices are dumb (Ring support told me this) when it comes to multiple wireless access points with the same SSID (wifi roaming). Ring devices just blindly connect to any random AP with a matching SSID and do not pay attention to the signal strength (or effective bandwidth; or if the AP has a working internet connection) of the AP. Most client devices (phone, tablets, notebook computers, etc), DO automatically (smartly) switch.
    Why this matters: Because Ring devices can connect to a far away weak/slow AP when there is a strong/fast AP right next to (installed just feet away from) the Ring device!

    Also, it sure would be nice if the Ring devices were smart enough to 'hunt' for an access point with the best internet connection speed. Consider the case of many access points, all with the same SSID, and maybe one AP of many has no internet.
  • Video Size: Why does this MP4 analyzer report that the video stream in Ring Floodlight Cam MP4's is 1909.89×1080 stretched to 1920×1080?

Off Topic -- Long Reach Ethernet: I had a unique Ring Elite installation requirement -- run the Ring Elite PoE device, but over 1000 feet away (and NO power at the destination end). I found a 'long reach ethernet' device that actually works great: Planet LRP-101C-KIT PoE Over Coax Extender Kit. I then powered everything (the extender and the Ring Elite cam at the far end) with a 802.3at (note, not 802.3af) switch (AMPS5E4P-AT-65) at the source end. It works well.
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