Nest's slick IoT burglar alarm catches crooks... while it eyes your wallet

Wireless guard dog Secure has many plus points – but they come at a cost

And the downsides

Then there are the downsides. For one, you have to install Nest yourself. The company has done a really good job of making it very simple to do – you scan a sensor using the Nest app, follow a few simple instructions, and it does the rest. But it is still a hassle.

The one baffling thing – at least to us – is that the Nest Secure base station has to be placed on a horizontal surface. Considering that the vast majority of security devices are attached to a wall, this seems like an odd choice.

Since it also needs a power source, unless you have a waist-height table near your front door with a power socket nearby, this starts becoming a problem. It also limits the ability to tear out an old system and install the Nest (as you could do with its thermostat). We can only guess that Nest felt it wanted to keep the same diameter size as its thermostat but that made the system too fat – it would come too far away from the wall – and so it decided that it had to be placed flat on a surface. An odd design choice and not one we really agree with.

And then there's power source. Professionally installed security systems will often hide away and protect the power supply cabling. You don't see the wires. The keypad is typically kept separate from the alarm unit. This all adds to the general security of the system itself: someone can break in and tear the keypad off the wall, but the equipment will still function overall and the alarm will sound as well as alert the monitoring service.

The Nest Guard base station is a keypad-and-siren all-in-one, and plugs into a wall socket. And while the company provides a screw-in cover for the power outlet that would stop it from being simply unplugged, we can't get past the fact that a burglar can simply grab the siren – before it goes off – and tear it out the wall, smashing it on the floor. We didn't test the Nest Guard to destruction but we doubt it could withstand much abuse.

The other thing is that the alarm is loud but not that loud. It is bearable. Burglar alarms are designed to be extremely uncomfortable to be near when they go off – as anyone who has accidentally triggered one will know. They also, in theory, attract neighbors when they are in full effect.


The Nest's siren was much quieter to the extent we tested whether we'd be able to hear it from the farthest part of our house (downstairs and in a far corner). We could hear it. But it was still quieter than we expected.

And while in that farthest corner – we placed a sensor there to test the reach of the system. It worked and connected wirelessly, but since then has lost contact several times with the base station. That means to make sure everything stays online, we'd have to buy a Nest extension box – another $70.

When it comes to cost, one thing worth considering is whether you would want the monitoring service. The fact is the Nest ecosystem works very well together – especially if you include its cameras in the mix.

If someone breaks into your house, the connected cameras will turn on and start recording. You would get an immediate alert to your phone. You could check on your cameras in seconds. Assuming you have cameras in positions that would pick up any forced entry, you have to wonder whether it's worth paying someone $25 to $35 a month to respond in the (hopefully) rare occasion that the alarm goes off.

You would be able to assess the situation and call the police yourself. And if you are on holiday, you could sign up to the monitoring service for the time you are away. So if you are comfortable with that approach, using technology in your favor, the Nest approach could work out to be an equivalent cost over a few years.

Taken overall, Nest has – yet again – done a really nice job on this security system. It is better than the other products on the market. But it is also more expensive. It doesn't improve on the current market offerings sufficiently to make it something people will get excited about – like its thermostat did. But it does round-out a Nest smart-home ecosystem.

As ever, the really big test is: can it replace an installed system? In other words, will this reviewer tear out his ADT equipment, and pay more than a thousand dollars to have an equivalent Nest kit?

No. But it is tempting. ®

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