Home security is stuck in the past. Many systems take forever to install and are complicated to use - worse, you may not be able to install them in your home. Nest’s new smart alarm system, the Nest Secure, is one of the first attempts at making home security truly easy to use. At $500, it's also much cheaper than traditional alarm systems, though connected rivals like iSmartAlarm, Abode and Ring's upcoming Protect system are more affordable still.
Does Nest actually accomplish its goals? Can its trademark simplicity and easy of use transfer over to the home security game? Or does it completely fail and leave your home vulnerable? We found out.
Nest Secure: Installation and setup
Nest can point you in the direction of a Nest-certified professional to install the Secure for you, but you won't need it. Installing the Nest is so absurdly simple that if you've plugged any electronic into the wall you can do it.
The first thing you need to do is actually plug in your white, plastic Guard base station - which has a keypad for the six digit PIN and an 85-decibel siren - and download the Nest app. Once you do that, it'll guide you through how to set up the base station. Then, it'll walk you through how to set up the window and door sensors, known as the Nest Detect. These are actually a little more difficult to set up, but only comparatively.
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There are little QR codes on each device, and the app will make you scan them to get them registered with the app. Once you do that, it'll give you a little test to make sure the product works, and then you'll get to customize a couple settings. For example, do you want your Tag fob (which you tap to arm/disarm) to have full access to your security system or Guest access for a limited time period?
Once you find your Tags are working, the app will show you how to install the Detect sensors to your windows or doors. They have an adhesive on the back, and you just have to peel off the protective layer and place them. Hold them in place for about 30 seconds and you're good. The app will make you open and close your window and door for a little just to make sure everything is good.
That's really it. Once you have all those set up, your home can now be secured in three ways: Home and Guarding, Guarding, and Off. They act as you think they do.
Nest Secure: At home
Home and Guarding is best for when you're off to sleep. The motion detection on the Detects will be off, so if you walk by nothing will happen. Well, except at night. If you walk by them at night, they'll light up to make sure you can see in the dark. This Pathlight feature lets you set them to three light levels - low, medium and high - and they're actually pretty effective. They're not too bright, where your eyes, used to the dark, will start squinting, but they're also good enough so that you don't stub your toe. I tend to do that at night when I get water, cause I leave my Amazon packages right next to the kitchen. No more stubbed toes now though!
The Detects will also kick in when anyone opens a window or a door. I had them set up on my front door and balcony door, the two main entrances into my home. The best bit? If you need to head out to either do something outside or, in my case, want some air on the balcony, you just have to press the button on the Detect. The alarm will temporarily turn off so that you can go outside and do your thing. No need to deactivate the entire alarm system - this Quiet Open feature is a really neat idea that actually works in real life.
Oh, those sensors are also extremely quick to work. They work so quickly that I legitimately got confused at one point. I was walking to the kitchen to get some water and I noticed the Detect's light was on. I had thought they were on all night, even when I wasn't near, but that wasn't the case. They were so sensitive to my presence that they lit up before I even noticed that they were off.
The Nest Secure base station also comes with a battery, by the way. My power went out for a couple of hours, and of course when that happens and the entire block is shrouded in darkness it's easy to get worried that robbers will feel a little more empowered. That backup battery automatically kicked in though and powered my entire security system - the Detects have their own built-in batteries too, so no worries there.
Nest Secure: Away from home
While Home and Guarding is the mode you'll interact with the most, Guarding is the one that's the most important. That's the one you'll activate when you've headed out for the day. Setting the alarm is absurdly easy. There's no need to fumble with a passcode or anything like that. Just press the Guard button, or use your Tag, or even just activate it in the Nest app. You will then have from 30 seconds to five minutes to leave. The default time is a minute, but you can change it to whatever suits you best.
Those Tags are essential parts of the overall package, they allow versatility. There's no putting in a passcode when you have the Tag around. You just tap. Even better, you can give them to close friends or family so that they can disarm and arm the system when they need to. I gave a Tag to my dad, so that when he walked in he could just handle it. No need for him to remember my passcode or even download the Nest app.
Guest access is largely tied to these tags, and they work really well. It's simple to customize your tag to give guests access - and when they can get that access. My dad was the primary user of our guest Tag, and it seemed to work so fluently for him that he didn't even realize he had a guest account. Though I will say that customizing your Tag after it's been set up is a bit of a pain - it's so much of a pain that when I wanted to convert my guest Tag into a full-access Tag I procrastinated so much that I ended up not doing it.
That's not to say that the Nest companion app is bad or convoluted. The opposite is true, it's really easy to use. Your three protection modes are front and center, and the app makes it incredibly easy to understand what happens when you do something - which is important when you're dealing with something as serious as security.
That convenience is apparent in the rest of the Nest Secure system. If you've ever forgotten to arm your alarm system then Nest's reminders are going to be a blessing. Not only will it remind you if forget, it'll let you automatically arm it. No need to curse yourself, pivot around, and run back home or re-park the car in the drive way and do that annoying dance. Simple and clean. The same works the other way. If you get back home and pull in the driveway, the app will ask you if you want to disarm the system. It's all way too convenient.
Nest Secure: Integrations
The Nest Secure also works with the entire suite of other Nest products, interconnecting to give you a fuller picture of your home. You can link it up to the Nest Cam to start recording thieves whenever Secure detects motion at a window or door, or the Nest x Yale lock which can automatically disable the whole security system when you arrive. You'll be able to link it up to the Nest Hello doorbell once that arrives, too.
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If you go the Secure + Nest Cam route, Nest's subscription service for cloud back-up of video recordings is called Nest Aware and costs $10 a month or $100 a year for one camera. Cellular back-up is also available for $5 a month.
Alternatively, the system also comes with optional 24/7 monitoring from MONI starting at $19.99 a month. If your Nest Secure alarm is triggered, MONI will instantly alert you and your emergency contacts. If no one answers, MONI will request a police dispatch. So if you're worried about switching to a smart system and don't want to give up the monitoring that places like ADT promise, don't be.
There are a couple of bad things about these integrations. While it's nice to get a fuller security picture of your home, it feels like you're being nickeled and dimed. You have to buy all these other Nest products or subscriptions to get ultimate security. Why not offer a subscription package where you get everything in a more affordable manner?
Still, the most fully featured smart security systems from Honeywell and the Samsung SmartThings and ADT collaboration are around the same price - $500 to $550 and the ADT monthly sub is slightly pricier at $24.99.
There's no Google Assistant integration yet, so you can't ask your Google Home Mini to arm and disarm your system for you - something you'd expect as Nest is owned by Alphabet. According to Google this is on the agenda, though, so we'll test out how well this works when the update arrives.
Nest Secure has no love for IFTTT or Alexa either - or at least right now - and a few of its rivals such as Abode and Scout are Zigbee and/or Z-Wave compatible too. Essentially, Secure makes sense in a Nest home, maybe not so much if you're already well into your smart home project with other brands and ecosystems.
- Easy installation
- Simple to use
- Extra devices for fuller security
- No Google Assistant integration