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Home security is changing. Over the past 15 years, professional systems such as ADT have been forced to make room for more affordable DIY alternatives. Meanwhile, internet-connected gadgets -- like smart lockscameras and video doorbells -- have captured our imaginations, giving rise to the expectation that security will also also make your home smarter.

Tech giants such as Google, Apple and Amazon are also wading into the fray, acquiring smaller security-focused companies and partnering with established security brands. These new technologies often mean new vulnerabilities, too, whether it's the risk of hacking that accompanies the proliferation of Wi-Fi connected security cameras in homes or the rise in package theft that has accompanied Amazon delivery's explosive growth.

It's admittedly quite a bit to take in -- and today's home security providers don't always make it easy to comparison shop.

That's where we come in. We're putting the top security systems to the test this year, updating this article as we go according to our hands-on experience with the products. Keep this page bookmarked and check back as we expand it throughout the year to include a deep dive into all the best security systems to protect your home in 2021.

Josh Goldman/CNET

Comcast Xfinity Home security is a terrific, accessible and affordable service. It could cost you thousands less than comparable setups from direct competitors like Vivint and ADT, it works with plenty of third-party smart home gadgets and it doesn't require a contract. If you can get around Comcast's pressure to bundle with their other services (you don't have to do it!) and the service's limited home automation capabilities, it'll treat you well.

Read our full review.

 

Chris Monroe/CNET

SimpliSafe's easy-to-install, easy-to-use DIY home security system is great. 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 begin at about $200, or you can build your own custom alarm system with the exact mix of devices you're interested in. A professional monitoring plan starts at $15 a month, but you'll almost certainly want to spring for the $25-a-month plan, which adds in things like mobile app controls and voice support via Alexa and the Google Assistant.

Read our SimpliSafe review.

 

David Priest/CNET

Vivint is a lot more expensive than Comcast Xfinity, but if money is less of a concern than smart home integration, it's worth considering. Vivint gives you a super-polished experience with nice third-party device integrations -- and it doesn't require a contract. With monthly monitoring ranging from $30 to $45 a month, it's comparable month-to-month with Xfinity.

Read our full review.

 


Julie Snyder/CNET

Editors' note, March 26, 2021: Ring has been called out for its partnership with local police departments in the US, leading privacy advocates to express concern about the data Ring shares with law enforcement and how they use that information. In December 2019, thousands of Ring users' personal information was exposed, leading us to stop recommending Ring products. Ring has since updated its security policies, from offering customers a Control Center dashboard allowing people to more easily access privacy and security settings to requiring two-factor authentication

We have resumed recommending Ring's products with this caveat: If you have concerns about Ring's privacy policies, make sure to familiarize yourself with its privacy statement. You can read more about how we factor Ring's privacy policies into our recommendations. CNET has not and will not be issuing Editors' Choice awards to Ring while the company's policies around law enforcement and surveillance remain on their current course.

A subsidiary of Amazon, the Ring Alarm security kit is quick to install and easy to use. Besides integrating with some other smart home devices, there's nothing all that innovative about it -- though Amazon Alexa users will appreciate robust integrations with their voice assistant. With a buy-in cost of $199 and professional monitoring available for just $10 a month, though, Ring Alarm stands out as a value pick. While Ring's video devices and Neighbors app have contributed to troubling patterns of police overreach and neighborhoods self-policing, neither those devices nor the app are necessary to use the Alarm system -- and it's a great deal without them.

Read our Ring Alarm review.

 

What (and how) we tested

Besides the systems above, we've tested many of the top competitors, including Abode, Abode Iota and ADT. Abode and Abode's all-in-one security camera Iota were both solid contenders that couldn't quite match Simplisafe's price -- but if you're interested in DIY smart home systems for small spaces or that don't require monitoring subscriptions, they're worth checking out. 

ADT on the other hand was broadly disappointing: it's too expensive (not to mention that it requires a contract) and the app is clunky. We've tested AT&T Digital Life, too, though we've removed the system from consideration since the company stopped installing it for new customers.

We have yet to test Frontpoint, Brinks Home, Cove and Wyze security -- though we hope to include those in our consideration in the coming months.

For each system we test, we install it ourselves (or have the company install it, in the case of professional systems), just as any customer would. From there, we spend a week at minimum testing the system, device-by-device and as a whole. Our ranking prioritizes value, but also takes into heavy consideration the quality of hardware, service and general user experience. For more thorough information on any of the recommended security systems above, please read the full reviews.

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