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By Lidia Davis, Associate Writer

Nest Secure Review

Our time testing this product came on the heels of news reports that Google hadn’t been upfront about a microphone feature embedded within the Nest Guard on the product’s spec sheet. Yes — it’s there, but the Assistant technically doesn’t work until you enable it on the app. Members of Congress have asked Google CEO Sundar Pichai to send a full explanation of the previously unlisted microphone by no later than March 12, but as of May there still had been no official explanation, not one released to the public, anyway. What was released to the public was the Nest Hub Max and an itemization of which Google Nest home products contain microphones. In their May I/O, Google made a big push for privacy, so maybe the Nest Secure indiscretion will be the last of its kind.

We reached out to Google for a comment, and while we didn’t receive a response on this particular topic, we were previously advised by a Google spokesperson that the company takes “privacy and security seriously in all of its products, including the Google Assistant, and will not share information without user consent, except in the limited circumstances laid out in Google’s Privacy Policy.” Microphones aside, the Nest Secure is relatively low-maintenance and responsive — a set-and-forget type of home security system (until the 85-decibel alarm sounds).

Nest Secure vs. Other DIY Home Security Systems

Nest Secure
Frontpoint
Abode
SimpliSafe
Scout
Equipment price $399
Call or email for quote
$278 Varies
(i.e. “The Foundation” $229)
$299
Professional monitoring
Optional, $29/mo for no-contract, or $19/mo for a 3-year contract

Required, starting at $35-$45/mo

Optional, $30/mo
Required, $15-$25/mo
Optional,
$10/mo DIY, $20/mo for professional monitoring
Features Easy setup Solid DIY/pro monitoring hybrid system No-subscription free plan
Cancel at any time, fee-free

Highly compatible with other home security devices, IFTTT support

Sleek design

Straightforward DIY setup process

User-friendly hub

Relatively inexpensive professional monitoring
Customizable systems

Customizable motion sensitivity levels

Backup professional monitoring if an intruder tries to disable or unplug alarm

Robust Zigbee, Z-Wave support

Easy setup process

Free cloud storage with the Always On+ plan
Read review Read review Read review Read review

Getting to know the Nest Secure

For the price tag the Nest Secure carries, you’ll find an underwhelming amount of equipment in the box — a hub (the Nest Guard), two key fobs (Nest Tags), and two sensors that detect motion from doors and windows. Compared to some of our other top picks for home security, the Nest Secure’s minimum $400 upfront equipment fee is significant but isn’t the heftiest on the market. The Secure is also worth it if you plan on using or already have an allegiance to Nest products, which work together in a tightly-knit ecosystem without extra legwork on your part — everything is neatly stored in the Nest app.

Nest Secure1

Our First Impressions:

  • Smart, unobtrusive design
  • Easy setup
  • Reminiscent of a Google Home
  • Tags, Detects are low-maintenance and sleek

Easy setup

The setup process for the Nest Secure is designed to be quick and painless, especially if you have a strong internet connection. After downloading the Nest app, you can select “add product” under your settings tab and scan the barcodes on your Guard, Tags, and Detects. We encountered some connectivity issues during setup and relocated, but Nest says it hasn’t found any routers incompatible with the Guard (our first testing setting was in a pretty rural area with spotty internet). After about 12 minutes we were eventually up and running.

We had no difficulty setting up the system in a second location 200 miles away from our original testing site. The only aspects of the product that didn’t adjust as well to their surroundings were the adhesives on the back of the Detect sensors.

Immediately after activation, we noticed we couldn’t access the Google Assistant until we’d completed a software update. Customer service told us we were likely sent an older model and that the device would automatically notify us with an update (which we didn’t receive right off the bat). If this happens to you, you can force an update by pressing the 2 button on the Guard’s keypad — the device will then read you its current version and ask if you want to update. This will enable the Google Assistant. The Assistant later stopped working — the microphone was on, but Google wasn’t answering any of our questions. We couldn’t quite pinpoint the issue (although it might have had something to do with our Wi-Fi), but if this happens to you, try resetting the entire system (hold 5 on the keypad).

Sleek design

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The Nest Guard and two Tags

The Guard’s matte-white finish is soft to the touch and blends easily into almost all surroundings — at only 9 ounces and about 2 inches tall, you’ll find this hub is hardly noticeable. The Tags are discreet and light enough to fit on your keychain, while the Detects certainly don’t scream “home security system.” In fact, the only time you’ll remember they’re attached to your door or window is when you hear the Guard beep when someone enters or exits.

The Nest Guard looks — and acts — like a Google Assistant. You can’t disarm the system with a voice command, but you can ask for status updates and change settings.

Customizable sensitivity levels

There are three security settings to choose from featured on the Guard: off, “home and guarding,” and “away and guarding.” Nest will draw location information from your phone to determine whether you’re home, and if it senses you’re away, you can receive reminders to set to “away and guarding,” if you choose. This means the Guard and Detects will use motion (opening a door, window, or walking near the Guard for up to 10 ft.) to trip an alarm. For “home and guarding,” the Guard only uses open/close detection from doors and windows, so you don’t have to worry about the alarm sounding when you walk near it.

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Nest Detect sensor on sliding glass door

The Guard comes equipped with a blue LED light around the rim that lights up when you use the Assistant or arm the system. While an alarm is sounding, the light turns yellow — to disarm, you can either use the fob or type your passcode on the keypad. Before sounding the alarm, the Guard defaults to a one-minute countdown after either detecting motion on the “away and guarding” setting or a detecting a door opening on the “home and guarding” setting. For one of our testers, this felt like an eternity — for some, it might not feel like enough time. You can change the countdown time in the Guard’s settings tab under “security levels.”

It’s safe to say you can successfully program the Guard to avoid signaling an alarm for minor, insignificant motions. For example, when we let our cat roam around the Guard during the highly-sensitive “away and guarding” setting, and the alarm didn’t sound. However, this example might present a unique scenario, as Nest says cats — along with large pets that can “climb or fly” — can trip the motion sensor on the Guard. If you’re concerned about false alarms, you can always adjust your settings to reduced sensitivity or turn off motion sensitivity for “away” or “home and guarding.”

Pricey

With a minimum $400 equipment fee, the Nest Secure isn’t the cheapest home security system. You can bundle certain products with the Secure upfront, like the doorbell and the Outdoor Cam, but building your home security system with Nest will generally require more than what you get in the basic package. You’ll get two Nest Detects with your Secure, but if you want to safeguard more doors or windows in your house these products will cost you an additional $50 each on Nest’s website.

Some security systems — like SimpliSafe — require a professional monitoring subscription to receive in-app alerts. Nest Secure does not, but you do have the option to add the feature.

Although it can add up to $29.99 per month, Nest partners with Brinks Home Security, a professional security monitoring system that works with your Nest Secure. This means if you don’t feel like keeping tabs on the status of your home at all times, or if an alarm goes off and you can’t be reached, Brinks works as the middleman and can call the police for you. You can rest assured Brinks will work diligently to protect your home, as it was rated the top home security monitoring system by J.D. Power’s customer satisfaction survey for 2018. Plus, you might even snag a deal when you bundle your Brinks purchase with a Nest Guard.

Communication with Nest products

To see how the products worked with the Nest Secure, we also tested the Nest Hello, Outdoor Cam, Indoor Cam, and Nest Thermostat E. If you plan on staying within the Nest ecosystem, the Secure is a viable option. We first thought the security cameras would speak directly to the Guard to signal an alarm, but that’s not quite the case: When an alarm sounds, your Nest cameras will begin recording (regardless of whether you’ve turned them off), and you’ll receive an email update immediately after the alarm ends to detail what happened.

Nest-Collage

Nest Cams also use “person detection” with a Nest Aware subscription (minimum $5 per month per camera), meaning the app will send you alerts when the camera notices an actual human versus general movement or animals. One way you can maximize person detection footage with your Nest Secure is to place the cameras somewhat near your Detect sensors. In other words, if you have a door sensor in the basement and a camera at the entryway of the main level, you probably won’t get any immediate footage of an intruder entering the basement.

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Our tester was hosting a wedding shower, with several different people entering and exiting, resulting in an onslaught of Nest Hello alerts . You can tell the Nest Hello whether you recognize someone — we just couldn’t keep up.

Communication with other home security products

While the Nest Secure is perfect for those who plan on staying within the Nest ecosystem, the Secure is less compatible with other third-party systems; however, it does fall under the Works With Nest category, which boasts an impressive lineup of integrations. The Nest Secure uses Thread and Weave mesh networking to enable product communication. Mesh networks essentially allow devices like smart light bulbs to communicate with each other directly without using Wi-Fi. Although supported by big names like Google and Nest, Thread networking isn’t used as frequently as the Zigbee and Z-Wave protocols — Z-Wave, for example, supports over 2,600 devices and currently holds 90% of the mesh networking market share in the home security industry.

Nest GIF

Nest Hello alerts - our cat walking across the porch caused our Hello to send us a “motion detection” alert

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a simple, all-in-one security system, Nest will get the job done. But to really supplement the system and bring your home a more robust lineup of monitoring devices, you might want to think about sticking with Nest-specific products to optimize convenience and ease of use.

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