The last few years at Nest Labs have been memorable, but for all the wrong reasons. From independent life as the poster child of the emerging smart home market, then acquisition by Google, then being spun off as separate company within Alphabet, and most recently being absorbed back into Google’s hardware division, the organization has found itself perpetually pulled around in a whirlwind of strategic confusion.
Internal struggles and spats with the company’s founders has led to the Nest brand being featured more regularly as a potential business page basket case than for its product innovation. But even in turbulent times, Nest has continued to crank out new products. From the graceful simplicity of the Nest Learning Thermostat, to the reinvention of the smoke alarm with Nest Protect, and the rapid acquisition and enhancement of Dropcam (reworked and relaunched under the Nest Cam brand) Nest has continued to weave its magic in making the stodgy sexy.
The Nest Secure alarm system is positioned as the “brains” of the company’s smart security operation. The $499 starter pack, comprising the multi-function Nest Guard hub (which integrates an 85dB siren, motion sensor and keypad), two Nest Detect motion sensors, and two Nest Tag key fobs for toggling system activation, is designed to offer comprehensive protection of your home.
Fully modular, Nest Secure can be expanded with additional Nest Detect sensors and Nest Tags, while there’s also the promise of intelligent integration with other devices in the Nest smart home portfolio down the line.
As the organization enters its next chapter, will Nest Secure prove to be the last hurrah from an “independent” smart home trailblazer, or an exciting glimpse of the future from a soon-to-be revitalized innovator? Let’s get hands on with Nest Secure and find out.
Beautiful hardware with brains to match
True to tradition, the Nest Secure Starter Kit arrives beautifully packaged in a compact carton that stylishly presents the Nest Guard hub, branded power adapter, documentation, and accessories. While you may initially balk at the price tag, Nest Secure delivers an unboxing experience to relish. Even the carton’s interior offers thoughtful guidance on breaking down the box for recycling.
You’ll be delighted to unpack a security system boasting this kind of quality.
As you’d anticipate, the premium feel extends to the hardware itself. The circular, cute and compact Nest Guard hub is solidly built, with soft-touch plastics preventing the continued stress of finger smudges. Recessive branding and hundreds of speaker holes deliberately punched around the lower section of the Nest Guard base allow the device to blend beautifully into the background, with only a top-facing light ring hinting at the intelligence within.
While you may expect some manufacturers to cut corners on the accessories, it’s pleasing to see the same love has been lavished on the Nest Detect sensors and tags. Built from similar materials with more than a nod to Nest Guard’s aesthetic, the tags look fabulous and feel great in the hand, but we do wonder how they’ll fare after a year or two of being knocked against a set of keys.
Meanwhile, the elegant Nest Detect sensors look a little different from off-the-shelf components you may have encountered. But these are no ordinary sensors. Nest Detect combines in-room motion sensing with proximity sensing and traditional, magnetic open/close switching. You can install the sensor on a wall for motion detection, or on a door or window to take advantage of the full range of features.
A button at the base allows you to temporarily disable the sensor for “quiet opening” of doors and windows. At night, an integrated light ring helps you see your way in the dark. The Nest Detect sensors are intelligent enough to differentiate between the heat profile of humans and smaller animals, so shouldn’t expect your dog to trigger the alarm when scuttling about the home. These are simple usability touches, maybe, but packing them into such compact devices is an admirable feat of engineering. Brains as well as beauty.
You may not want – or need – your smart home kit to look and feel as good as Nest Secure. But having spent $499, you’ll be reassured and excited to unpack a security system boasting this kind of quality.
Guided installation builds understanding and confidence
Nest Secure, like all devices from the smart home specialist, is configured and managed using the Nest mobile app, which is available for both iOS and Android devices. We experienced no issues getting up and running with the security system.
We loved the detailed guidance offered by the Nest app while installing the Nest Secure.
Once the Nest Guard hub was connected to our wireless network, we were invited to walk around the device to test motion sensitivity, and sure enough, the light ring illuminated when we approached. Nest tells us the hub can sense motion at a distance up to 10 feet, with a 90-degree horizontal field of view of about 14 feet. A reduced sensitivity mode is available to reduce false alarms if you have a pet, but we were a little put off by Nest’s precise requirement that this should be one small dog under 40 pounds. We guess that cats are classed as intruders, then.
Alongside the included Nest Tag keyfobs, you can also toggle Nest Secure using numeric, 4-to-8-digit passcodes, which can be handed out to family members and guests if needed. Numbers light up on Nest Guard‘s key pad when you approach the device, ensuring easy input day or night.
Once you have Nest Guard set up, you can move on to adding your Nest Tags and Detect sensors. As with the hub, you simply scan a QR-code on the rear of the Tags to add them to your system. Two Tags are supplied with the Starter Kit, and you can purchase additional key fobs for $25 for the kids, dog walkers, or the babysitter. Each Tag is unique with a custom label you supply, so you can easily track when each is used via the Nest app. Should a Tag be lost, it can be quickly disabled from the app.
Once connected and assigned to a family member, you’ll be prompted to test tagging. Rest the key fob lightly on top of Nest Guard to arm or disarm the system. You’ll be greeted by a voice prompt warning you the system is active, or a chime when it’s disabled. Slick and simple.
Installing the two Nest Detect sensors in your home is a little less straightforward. Connecting the devices to the system is simple, thanks to a QR-code on the pull-out battery tab, but you’ll need to pay close attention to the manual when installing the hardware on doors, windows or walls. Different mounting positions have varying installation requirements, but the Nest app walks you carefully through the alternatives with step-by-step instructions.
You can choose to stick the sensors in place courtesy of super-sticky mounting strips on the rear, or take advantage of screw mounts supplied as accessories. If you opt for the adhesive strips, note that they’re sticky enough to strip paint when removed. Nest includes additional strips should you decide to relocate the sensors.
As before, we loved the detailed guidance offered by the Nest app throughout installation. Simple ideas, like practice runs pairing the Nest Detect sensors for activation or walking around to test the integrated night light, help new users quickly understand and gain confidence in Nest Secure’s features without feeling lost.
Simple and Secure, But Could be Smarter
If you’ve installed other Nest devices at home, you’ll be pleased to know that Nest Secure neatly integrates with those devices in the Nest app. As the company continues to build out its product portfolio, there will be a challenge keeping navigation in the app simple and clear. While the current design isn’t the best-looking multi-device controller we’ve seen (compared to Hive, for example), it does a decent job of organizing your smart home kit by room.
While device management is integrated in the app, the activation of Nest Secure must be performed manually.
While device management is integrated in the app, the activation of Nest Secure must be performed manually – using a Tag, passcode or via a large slider in the app. If you were anticipating your Nest Thermostat or Nest Cam arming the system when it detects you’re away, then you’ll be disappointed to hear that it isn’t quite that smart. Sure, if you leave the house without arming the system and Nest switches into Away mode, you’ll receive a reminder to enable the alarm – which you can do so remotely. But you, or one of the family, must arm the system.
There is some degree of integration available, though. If you own a Nest Cam, detected motion will trigger video streaming. Camera notifications and image snapshots will also be sent to your phone. Nest Aware subscribers will also have video footage saved to the cloud. At this point, however, there’s no news of integration with Google Assistant or even IFTTT, which seems like a gap on a premium smart home security system.
While integration doesn’t reach as far as we’d like, we find the whole system to be highly responsive. When armed, we’re given a minute to leave the house, with a voice prompt reminding us at 30 seconds that it really is time to go.
When motion is detected, you’ll receive an immediate notification on your phone but, again, you have a grace period of a minute to disable the siren in case of a false alarm. From a usability point of view, these safeguards take much of the stress out of using a smart home security system. But make no mistake, when the 85 dB siren sounds (following a couple of polite, audible reminders to enter the passcode), it certainly causes a racket. It doesn’t have quite the piercing impact of the 100+ dB Netgear Arlo Pro (and is no substitute for an alarm on the outside of your home) but is certainly loud enough to get an intruder’s attention and ensure they know their presence has been detected.
Nest Secure has a battery backup, which promises to keep the system active for at least 12 hours in case of a power outage. An optional cellular backup plan ($50 annually or $5 per month) is also available in some network regions to ensure remote connectivity during outages. The latter is included in a third-party Professional Monitoring subscription (priced from $19 per month) which promises to alert you and your emergency contacts, plus the police if a verified alarm is triggered.
Nest Secure is sold with a 2-year limited warranty.
Nest ramps up its smart home portfolio with a beautifully-designed security system that’s simple enough for the whole family to use. While top-quality hardware is packed with features, there’s certainly room for enhanced integration with Nest’s own product range as well as smart assistants and third-party devices. But make no mistake, Nest Secure is a fantastic – if high-priced – addition to the company’s portfolio.
Is there a better alternative?
At $499, Nest Secure is one of the more expensive Smart Home Security systems available on the market today. At this point, it goes a long way to justify its premium price with top-quality hardware and a beautifully-designed user experience that ensure Nest Secure is simple to install and very easy to get along with.
It’s not quite a slam dunk though. Limited integration with other Nest devices and those from third parties leaves Nest Secure exposed to premium competitors like the $479 Netgear Arlo Pro 2 as well as far cheaper, if lower quality options like Abode Home ($299).
But given its recent history, it’s great to see Nest innovating once again and, if you have the cash, Nest Secure is a fantastic smart home security system with more than enough headroom for enhanced integrations and feature improvements.
How long will it last?
From a corporate perspective, Nest hasn’t had the most relaxing time with its parent company, Google, but has maintained strong support for its existing product lines during that time. Now on a path to merge back into Google’s dramatically-expanding hardware division, we expect support and development to improve further.
Should you buy it?
If you’re comfortable spending $499 on a smart home security system, and you’re already invested in their ecosystem, then Nest Secure will make a great addition to your smart home.