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The Best Home Security System for 2020: DIY Kits, Video Doorbells and More


Chris Monroe / CNET

The home security industry is booming after about 10 years of unrest caused by apps. There is a whole new wave of cheaper do-it-yourself systems cameras, smart locks and video doorbells that should be in addition to professional alarm and surveillance systems being considered has been around for decades. Large companies such as Amazon and Google also want part of the action.

It is admittedly quite a bit to get involved ̵

1; and current security companies don't always make it easy to compare the store to say the least.

However, we come in – not only by testing these systems in the CNET Smart Home, but also by evaluating the entire buying process and taking a closer look at features such as two-way audio, motion detection, smart. thermostats, night vision, contact sensors and even carbon monoxide detectors. We also look at other important factors, including the privacy issues associated with filling your home with cloud-connected cameras and outdoor cameras.

Keep reading for our rundown of the best home security systems we've tested so far, including home-made home security systems that you can install yourself, professionally installed systems that promise to automate your entire home, and standalone gadgets like video door bells.

Best Home Security System We Tested

Best Do-It-Yourself System SimpliSafe $ 230 in advance Monitoring starts at $ 15 per month, $ 25 per month including mobile app operation and integration with Alexa. See it online
Best professional installation system Comcast Xfinity Home $ 99 in advance Monitoring costs $ 40 per month during the first year, $ 50 per month thereafter; bundling discounts with TV and internet. Watch it online
Best video doorbell Nest Hello $ 230 in advance Continuous withdrawal from $ 5 per month. View it online
Best for part-time monitoring Location $ 299 upfront Monitoring available for $ 20 per month. View it online

Install it yourself systems

If a professionally installed security system from alarm companies or Brinks Home Security sounds like excessive, then you can save a lot of money by buying a system that you install yourself . For my money, such systems offer the best value for your home security dollar.

You don't miss much in terms of functionality. While professionally installed security systems can provide an enthusiast touchscreen control panel / keyboard or surveillance center to operate the security cameras, sensors, alarm system and monitors, the rest of the hardware is largely the same as what you get when doing odd installation route, depending mainly of wireless, battery powered sensors that you plug into your home. One thing to keep in mind with DIY protection systems, however, is that while they deter intruders, it may be more difficult to connect to existing smart devices like carbon monoxide detectors or your smart thermostat. Nor will there be one central mobile app that controls everything.

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When do-it-yourself alarm systems first surfaced as a cheap alternative to go with the pros, if any, came up with an option for professional monitoring or customer service. That is no longer the case. Most do-it-yourself security systems now offer the possibility of professional surveillance – and most cost less for professional surveillance than the professional installation security providers. Automation and smart home devices have helped reduce overheads for professional third-party monitoring, resulting in savings passed on to you. And the fact that most DIY systems don't require a service contract or monthly fee – just a Wi-Fi network and maybe some cloud storage – is another nice part of the field.

Chris Monroe / CNET

SimpliSafe & # 39; s easy to install, easy to use security system is well positioned as the best home security system when it comes to valuation. It offers a comprehensive set of features, security cameras and a very good mix of battery powered sensors, all of which performed reliably well in our tests. Starter kits start at around $ 230, or you can build your own custom system with the exact mix of devices you're interested in.

Professional monitoring starts at $ 15 a month, but you'll almost certainly want to jump for the $ 25 monthly subscription, which adds things like mobile app controls and voice support via Alexa and the Google Assistant. That also means that you have to go with another choice such as Abode or Ring if you do not want professional monitoring via an emergency room, but still want to operate your system via a smartphone app. Overall CNET score: 8.5

Read the full review.

Something else to watch out for: all-in-one do-it-yourself security devices designed for smaller homes and living spaces. In short, just one-point tabletop cameras packed with additional motion detectors and sensors for things like temperature and ambient light, these devices can go well with something like a studio apartment that doesn't have a garage door or many street windows to protect.

Names to watch are Canary Honeywell and the Abode Iota – although our favorite of the bunch, Piper is no longer on the market after Alarm.com bought the parent company in 2016 . If we find another alternative we like as much as we liked, I will update this space.

Abode & # 39; s excellent DIY system is worth considering.

Chris Monroe / CNET

Other options we tested

Our best SimpliSafe alternative, Abode's well-thought-out security system supports both Zigbee and Z-Wave, it works with Alexa, IFTTT and Nest, and it has recently been integrated with the Google Assistant too. The real point of appeal, however, is that Abode offers a lot of flexibility regarding professional surveillance – including the option to only pay for temporary surveillance while you are out of town. No long-term contract required. Overall CNET score: 8.3

Read the full review.

This DIY install option from Nest owned by Google works fine, but the initial cost of $ 399 is much higher than the competition. It's a decent security system, but really only worth it if you want to lock yourself into a Google smart home ecosystem. General CNET score: 7.2

Read the full review.

Ring & # 39; s Alarm Security Kit, a subsidiary of Amazon, is quick to install and easy to use. Apart from a new "Works with Ring" program to bring compatible smart locks and other third-party gadgets into the fold, there is nothing innovative about it, although Amazon Alexa users will appreciate the two-way voting feature, which they can turn on and the system off with voice commands and they can use Ring's sensors to trigger Amazon Alexa routines.

With a buy-in cost of $ 199 and professional monitoring available for just $ 10 a month, Ring Alarm stands out as a valuable choice – but consistent privacy concerns about Ring's failure to protect user data and the controversial cooperation with police organizations does not stop us from recommending it. Overall CNET score: 7.5

Read the full review.

Professionally Installed Systems

These are the pillars of home security – security monitoring company names like ADT and Brinks you've probably known for years, along with home security systems offered by major telecom providers like Comcast and AT&T.

The field is quite similar across the board. In addition to the basic functions such as motion sensors, window sensors and door sensors, these types of professional installations also promise to reduce false alarms to the control room and seamlessly integrate things like door locks, cameras, keyboards, thermostats, carbon monoxide detectors and touchscreens. And they often also support voice control via Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant. Most charge equipment or installation costs upfront, and most require multi-year service contracts. As for the monthly professional monitoring fee, these are mandatory and typically range from $ 30 to $ 50 per month.

Joshua Goldman / CNET

It's not available in all regions (check for local availability), but Comcast Xfinity Home impressed us then CNET Senior Editor Josh Goldman tested the system at home in northern New Jersey. It's a rugged, well-thought-out security system that plays well with your smart home equipment, including old favorites like Lutron Caseta light switches and the Nest thermostat. "What Xfinity Home showed me," Josh wrote, "was how smart home devices make a lot more sense when they are fully integrated with a home security system's sensors and cameras."

You'll get the best price if you're willing to bundle Xfinity Home with Comcast's Internet and TV service, but you can also use it as a standalone service. I also appreciated that the sales approach was less pushy and more helpful than the competition when I gave them a test call (I was able to get a quote for my house in about 10 minutes and the only piece of personal information I gave was a zip code). Overall CNET score: 8.5

Read the full review.

High-end systems like this will sometimes make it difficult to compare stores between companies. For example, visit the ADT website and you'll find plenty of marketing texts that highlight the value of the security company's various home security offerings and customer service, but you won't find much when it comes to price specifications. Instead, the site asks you to request a "free quote", either by calling the security company's sales team or providing your name, zip code, phone number, and email address. By doing the latter, you ensure that an ADT customer service specialist will call you from time to time about ADT offers. If you read the fine print, you will see that these calls are & # 39; offered & # 39; Using & # 39; Auto Call Technology & # 39 ;.

Mind you, the emergency center is not alone here. Some are less glaring about it than others, but you'll find similar tactics – and similar fine print – on just about any professionally installed alarm system website like this . If the website isn't clear on what a system built for your home would cost you, it's best to call the security company directly, tell them what setup you want, and request a quote.

Your experience may vary depending on the seller you speak to. For example, when I first tried to call ADT, the seller told me that he couldn't give me a quote without first doing a credit check . I politely ended the call and called back another day, and had a much better experience with a vendor who had a core system priced for me in 10 minutes, no credit check or other exchange of personal information needed.

Shopping for a professional system

Basic upfront costs Monthly costs Contract duration How long did it take before I got that info when I called What personal information did I have to give to get it
ADT $ 129 ($ 229 for a doorbell camera system) $ 47 ($ 67 for a doorbell camera system) 3 years The first attempt would not give a quote without a credit check, the second attempt took 10 minutes None
AT&T Digital Life Installation cost of $ 550 $ 40 2 years Easily available on the website None
Brinks $ 399 installation cost $ 29 3 years Easily available on the website None
Comcast Xfinity Home Installation Cost of $ 99 (Waived if Bundled with TV and Internet) $ 40 for the first year, then $ 50 afterwards ($ 175 if bundled with TV and Internet) 2 years 10 minutes Postcode
Vivint $ 99 installation cost $ 40 plus funded device costs (for a bare installation, approximately $ 10 per month for 60 months) None 17 minutes None

Whoever you call, don't be afraid to put your foot over your own privacy. Businesses that use robocalls and unwanted email as a sales tactic are not entitled to your address or other personal information until they have fully earned your business.

That caveat aside, the advantage of alarm systems like this is that professionals come to you to install everything for you, and you can usually expect a higher level of hands-on technical support and customer service if you ever want to make changes too in your settings. Choose a professional system from a telecom provider and you will likely be able to bundle your home security with your TV or internet service. That is a convenience with which you can also get a discount.


Vivint & # 39; s system works fine, but the equipment is not cheap.

Chris Monroe / CNET

Other options we tested

Vivint is a solid security system that worked well when we tested it, but the equipment is a bit expensive. A basic starter kit with the mandatory touchscreen control panel, a motion sensor and two access sensors costs $ 599, which you can either prepay or spread over 60 months. Do you want to add cameras to avoid false alarms? Each of them adds an extra $ 5 to your bill every month, in addition to the extra equipment costs. A nice thing with Vivint: no contracts. Overall CNET score: 7.6

Read the full review.

It's not cheap, but we loved this streamlined security system and the fact that clear price specifications were available online. Our service professionals ensured that the signal strength for each device in our setup was optimized during installation – a nice touch that made the professional approach worthwhile. Overall CNET score: 8.3

Read the full review.

Video Doorbells

If you don't need a full security system and instead just want to monitor activity at your front door, consider installing a video doorbell to keep watch.

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You now have many options and thanks to automation, they all send real-time alerts via Wi-Fi or mobile connection to your mobile phone or smart device when someone calls to show you who's at the door. Some also follow unexpected movements or allow two-way audio – and we see many new options that are also able to recognize faces . That includes our top pick:

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Nest's stylish video doorbell is a smart, streamlined choice that has passed our tests. Features such as person detection and geofencing are useful and easy to use, and you can also upgrade to the Nest Aware cloud subscription service to enable facial recognition and access to saved recordings.

Of course, it's best for households that have already committed to Google and Nest's smart home ecosystem, but Nest's doorbell also works with both Alexa and IFTTT, making it a very solid choice for just about anyone. Overall CNET score: 8.5

Read the full review.

Prices for such doorbells typically range from about $ 100 to $ 250, and most also charge an optional fee for viewing saved video clips. To choose one, you first need to find out if your front door has a wired doorbell connection or if you need something battery powered. Then consider features – for example, do you keep a porch light on at night, or do you need something with night vision?

Consider from there with which smart home platforms you want your doorbell to work. On that front you will find many options that work with Alexa and many that work with IFTTT, and also with Google and / or Nest. However, Siri is still catching up – the only HomeKit-compatible video doorbell we've got our hands on so far is the Netatmo Smart Video Doorbell that debuted at CES last January.

Compare smart doorbells

August View Doorbell Camera Ring Video Doorbell 2 Ring Video Doorbell Pro Nest Hello video doorbell
Price $ 230 $ 199 $ 249 $ 229
Color Finish Black, red, white, blue, brass, satin nickel, night gray, bronze Satin Nickel, Venetian (both finishes included with purchase) Satin Nickel, Venetian, Satin Black, Pearl White White and black
Power source Removable, rechargeable battery Fixed or removable rechargeable battery Wired Wired
Resolution 1,920×1,440p HD 1,920x1080p HD 1,920x1080p HD 1,600×1,200p HD
Field of view No information 160 degrees 160 degrees 160 degrees
Live streaming Yes Yes Yes Yes
Cloud storage Yes, free basic plan, plus 15 days of storage for $ 3 per month and 30 days of storage for $ 5 per month Yes, 60 days of storage for $ 3 a month Yes, 60 days of storage for $ 3 a month Yes, 3 hour free image history; continuous withdrawal from $ 5 per month
Local storage No. No. No. No.
Mobile app Android and iPhone Android and iPhone Android and iPhone Android and iPhone
Web app No. Yes Yes Yes
Night vision Yes Yes Yes Yes
Warnings Motion Motion Motion Movement, person, facial recognition (with Nest Aware)
Activity Zones No. Yes Yes Yes (with Nest Aware)
Dimensions (HxWxD) 5.2 x 1.8 x 1.3 inches 5.1×2.5×1.1 inches 4.5 x 1.9 x 0.8 inches 4.6 x 1.7 x 1.0 inch
Third Party Integrations Alexa; Google Assistant; Nest Alexa; IFTTT; Wink Alexa; IFTTT; Wink Alexa; Google Assistant; Nest
Operating temperature range -4 to 122 degrees F. -5 to 120 degrees F. -5 to 120 degrees F. 14 to 104 degrees F.

Many of the major home security systems now offer proprietary video doorbells, and some also offer compatibility with standalone video doorbells and keyboards such as these. Keep that in mind if you think you may want to expand to a full system later.

Oh, and do you want more tips on choosing the right video doorbell? Megan Wollerton from CNET has you covered .

  ring-video-doorbell-two-2 "data-original =" https://cnet2.cbsistatic.com/img/qAsjNmo6F92m8DXuyiQ32-v009k=/2017/06/29/69b9c94f-d53f-473a-b8dc-9d627160224a /ring-video-doorbell-two-2.jpg//19659199 Scarring-video-doorbell-two-2% 19659200 ?? Ring makes a variety of popular video doorbells, but the company faces nagging privacy concerns because of its controversial data-sharing collaborations with police organizations. And according to reports, thousands of Ring customers recently saw their account information. We do not recommend any products from the company at this time. </p>
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Chris Monroe / CNET

Other options we tested

One of your newer options, the August View looks great and the DIY installation was wonderfully easy, but the mobile app was annoyingly slow when we tried the live view feed. That's the last thing you want when someone is busy getting a package from your porch. Overall CNET score: 7.1

Read the full review.

Smart Outdoor Lighting

Many of us use motion-activated lighting on our porch or outside our garage door – and while there's a lot of debate about whether or not outdoor lighting can help prevent a break-in, most experts agree that it can help to play a role in proper use. If you're considering upgrading to something smarter than that cheap porch light, you have a number of options worth considering.

Chris Monroe / CNET [19659035] For the most part, I think Philips Hue outdoor lighting is too expensive and really only worth it if you're willing to to give. That said, I really liked the Philips Hue outdoor sensor, which you can get for less than $ 50. Stick it anywhere you want, and it tracks motion, temperature and ambient light. You can use that information to activate your Hue lights and also activate Apple HomeKit gadgets under your roof.

I wish the Hue team offered a better variety of practical outdoor lighting that didn't break the bank, as well as lights with its own motion sensors – but if you've already bought or if you're using your # 39; if you use Apple HomeKit-compatible lamps, the Hue Outdoor Sensor is definitely worth a look.

Read more about CNET.

Ry Crist / CNET

If you use Alexa to control the smart lights in your home, you might want to try out Alexa Guard, a relatively new home security mode with some nice tricks. After you enable monitoring mode in Alexa app settings just say & # 39; Alexa, I'm leaving & # 39; as you walk out the door to activate it. From there, Alexa turns your lights on and off to make it look like you're at home – and you'll also get a notification when your echo speakers hear the sound of an alarm or broken glass.

Don & # 39; Don't have an Alexa smart lighting configuration yet? Right now, you can get a third-generation Echo Dot bundled with a two-bulb Sengled starter kit for just $ 67, which is a pretty good deal.

Read more about CNET.

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Originally published last year. Updated regularly as we review new products, and also to take note of the privacy issues surrounding the Ring product line .

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