As DIY security becomes more and more popular, we're seeing more and more options arrive on the market. The latest offerings come from Oplink Security: the $199.99 sensor-driven AlarmShield package, and the $349.99 TripleShield package, which adds a pair of wireless cameras for the surveillance-minded homeowner. With similar motion detectors, panic sirens, and contact sensors for doors and windows -- not to mention equivalent price levels for both the basic package and the camera-ready package -- Oplink seems ready to compete directly with
The big difference between the two systems is that, unlike iSmartAlarm, Oplink charges monthly fees to use its products. The TripleShield package starts at $19.99 per month. This is still a lot less than what you'll likely spend on an established home security brand requiring professional installation, and you won't need to commit to any long-term contracts, but it's still a bit tough to justify given how similar Oplink's packages are to what iSmartAlarm is offering.
That said, Oplink offers a few distinct advantages over iSmartAlarm that might help certain consumers stomach those monthly fees. First, we like Oplink's cameras a lot better, and Oplink's package gives you two of them as opposed to the single camera you'll get from iSmartAlarm. If you're a surveillance-minded homeowner who wants to keep an eye on things around the house, Oplink's fees might be worth it. Second, Oplink offers the option of backing your system up with a cellular connection that'll keep you online if your wireless network goes out. You'll need to purchase an $80 USB modem, then pay an additional $9.99 per month on top of what you're already paying, but all the same, I think that some consumers will be happy to have the extra peace of mind.
Additionally, it's worth noting that the TripleShield package retails for $349 online, the same price as iSmartAlarm's camera-ready Premium Package -- but it'll sell for $299 at major retail outlets.
Those advantages aside, I'm not convinced that Oplink has enough of an edge over iSmartAlarm for most users to consider it the superior value. I was pleased with how well the system performed, and I'd feel secure having it protecting my home, but I'd hate paying those fees every month, especially knowing that I'd be getting comparable results from iSmartAlarm. Unless you have a specific interest in the admittedly nifty Oplink cameras, I think iSmartAlarm is the smarter choice. If a cellular backup is what's truly important to you, you might also want to check out SimpliSafe -- its base packages are slightly more expensive and it doesn't offer cameras, but its $14.99 monthly fee is lower than Oplink's, with a cellular backup included.
Smart, usable features
The TripleShield package comes packed in a neat little kit, and literally can be installed within minutes. Just plug the Optical Processing Unit (OPU) into your home's router, download the free Oplink app (available for iOS, Android, and Windows devices), and start placing your sensors wherever you want. With sticky pads for the contact sensors and simple mounting kits for the panic siren, motion detector, and cameras, this won't take very long at all. Once you've got your system set up, you'll be able to rename each sensor -- an important step toward making alerts more helpful and meaningful.
After plugging in the two cameras and connecting them with your network, you'll need to wait a few minutes before they begin broadcasting live video to your phone. Once they do, playback within the app is smooth and simple to work with. You'll be able to watch multiple feeds at once in a split screen, or focus on one camera. Oplink's cameras record audio as well as video, so you'll be able to listen in if you like -- don't expect high-fidelity sound, though.
One of the Oplink system's coolest features is that the cameras will automatically switch into night vision when the light gets low enough. Even if it's the middle of the night and your living room is pitch black, Oplink's cameras can still see what's going on -- and so can you. Another key camera feature: if the alarm is ever triggered, the cameras on your network will automatically record 30 seconds of video, starting 5 seconds before the alarm (it keeps a small portion of footage in memory), then save it to the system's hard drive. From within the Oplink app, you'll be able to view a timeline of alerts with corresponding videos showing you what happened. You'll even be able to e-mail these videos out at the touch of a button -- handy information for the police, or your insurance provider.
The TripleShield package comes with a 16GB USB flash drive that connects to the OPU, serving as the storage space for your video. Along with a la carte sensors, you can purchase additional sensors, too. If you decide to purchase extra cameras, keep in mind that each one will add $5 to your monthly Oplink fees.
When it comes to DIY security kits that involve multiple, networked sensors, it's hard to find much differentiation from brand to brand. The motion detectors and contact sensors all look more or less the same -- semiugly white plastic that will definitely stick out amid your decor. If you're more interested in a security option that's designed to blend into your surroundings, you'll probably want to go with an all-in-one unit like