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Cove Home Security Review: Promising but Doesn't Quite Deliver

Despite a solid foundation, Cove struggles to distinguish itself in the competitive DIY home security market.

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David Priest Former editor
David Priest is an award-winning writer and editor who formerly covered home security for CNET.
trey-paul
trey-paul
Trey Paul Senior Editor
Trey Paul is a CNET senior editor covering broadband. His 20+ years of experience as a writer and editor include time at CNET's sister site, Allconnect, and working with clients like Yahoo!, Google, The New York Times and Choice Hotels. An avid movie fan, Trey's career also includes being a film and TV critic while pursuing a degree in New York.
Expertise Home internet and broadband, including plans, providers, internet speeds and connection types. Movies and film studies. Credentials
  • Master's degree in Cinema Studies from NYU and interviews with Conan O'Brien, Stan Lee and some of his biggest Star Trek childhood idols
David Priest
Trey Paul
7 min read
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David Priest/CNET

Where does Cove land in 2023?

When CNET last did a full review of Cove, our writer put it through its paces back at the end of 2021. His conclusion then was that most customers shouldn't make Cove Home Security their first choice -- not because it's a bad system, but because it failed to rise above the competition in any one category. It's not as affordable as Wyze Home Monitoring or as smart as Ring Alarm Pro. Its closest competitor, SimpliSafe, has nearly identical pricing and features but offers a more polished and unified experience overall.

Moreover, there is no self-monitoring option with Cove -- meaning you can't install cameras or sensors and check them on your phone without opting for a monthly subscription that includes professional monitoring. This approach seems at odds with Cove's status as a DIY home security system. Case in point: Cove doesn't force you to start with any specific security packages but allows you to customize your service as you see fit. 

That said, Cove shouldn't simply be relegated to the discount bin. It's a system with promise. It's also currently running a promo for 65% off all equipment (excluding the doorbell cameras), which could definitely sway you if you're on the fence between Cove and another provider. 

Suppose it can tighten its user interface and find more ways to distinguish itself in an increasingly crowded industry. In that case, it could easily compete with bigger and (for now) better home security systems.

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6.6

Cove Home Security

Like

  • Reasonable prices
  • Enticing discounts

Don't like

  • No self-monitoring option
  • Restrictive subscription model
  • Nothing to distinguish it

Here's what you get with Cove

Cove's DIY security system isn't sold in packages. Instead, you order the devices individually, tailoring your setup to your needs. For instance, I got a touchscreen hub, three door/window sensors, one motion detector, one flood sensor, one smoke/CO detector, one glass break sensor, one keyfob, one emergency button, one indoor camera and one outdoor camera -- that added up to $832 worth of merchandise… or approximately $291, under the current promotion.

DIY home security companies seem to have big discounts on their systems all the time nowadays, which can make it hard to review them. My suggestion: Read the reviews, but check the current pricing of whatever system you're considering because it could dramatically differ from its listed price, which I'll be discussing for most of this piece.

Regardless of the hardware price, Cove requires you to subscribe to one of two monitoring tiers: $18 per month or $28 monthly. Both come with professional monitoring, cellular and battery backup, and other basics. Only the more expensive service includes camera support, app control and smart home integration with Alexa and Google Assistant.

That Cove's $18 tier doesn't include camera integration or even app control feels like a huge oversight. Even Wyze's $5-per-month, super-affordable monitoring plan offers more self-monitoring features than that for a third of the price.

The pricier subscription tier is the better value but doesn't stand out against competitors. Despite sharing most of its features with SimpliSafe's nearly identical $25-per-month tier, Cove still feels less worthy of the two. Its app isn't particularly user-friendly, and smart home integration is extremely limited. For instance, I found a place on the app to create "scenes" where a sensor might trigger smart home devices. But I couldn't figure out how to implement them. After scouring the internet and exploring various dusty corners of the app, I finally reached out to Cove for answers -- only to discover that smart home scenes haven't yet been implemented. The reference in the app was just a "tease" for the future feature, though, to me, it felt more like a frustrating app design.

(Un)smooth operations

Setting up Cove's system was, for the most part, painless. The first device you install is a touchscreen tablet that doubles as a central hub. Plug it in, and it guides you through activating your various sensors and additional devices. These devices connected quickly and as intended, leaving me with many sensors and alarm activators. 

So far, so good.

Next came the installation of the two cameras. First up: the indoor camera, which you need to install with the Cove app. (Again, bizarrely, Cove doesn't offer app access to users unless they opt for the more expensive $28-per-month monitoring option.)

To install the camera, I had to scan a QR code on the device, then have the camera scan a QR code on my phone's screen. It's a small hassle, but it worked quickly and without trouble. The indoor camera was good to go within a few minutes.

The installation process for the outdoor camera was pretty much identical. I scanned the QR code with my phone and tried to scan the QR code with the camera… and the code wouldn't scan. No problem, I thought; let's reset the camera and try again. Still no luck.

The good news? There's a link on the app screen to help you troubleshoot. The bad news? That link leads to a screen that never loads.

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Cove's outdoor camera offers few smarts for its $199 price tag.

David Priest/CNET

I reached out to Cove, and they admitted they'd been having this issue with the first generation of outdoor cameras, and the second generation had solved it. Thanks to stocking issues, I have to take their word for it since the second generation wasn't available.

Eventually, I circumvented the problem by snapping a screenshot of the QR code, blowing it up to about quadruple the size on my laptop screen, and scanning it from there.

Overall, the setup process was pretty easy -- but it wasn't as smooth or intuitive as others I've seen. Even tabling the technical difficulties with the outdoor camera, the dual use of the hub for device setup and the app for camera setup makes the system feel less integrated than it is, and the opportunity to learn the app (which has a lot more flexibility than the hub's interface) gets lost in that shuffle.

Hardware made easy

Let's look at how Cove's hardware stacks up against its closest competitor, SimpliSafe (a system we've given multiple Editors' Choice awards).

Cove vs. SimpliSafe


CoveSimpliSafe
Hub $249$200
Door/Window sensors $15$15
Motion sensor $30$30
Flood sensor $35$20
Glass break sensor $35$40
Keyfob $25$25
Smoke/Carbon monoxide detector $95N/A
Emergency (panic/medical) button $20$20
Indoor camera $99$99
Outdoor camera $199$190

You'll notice that Cove's pricing is almost identical to SimpliSafe's -- and it's worth remembering that both often come with discounts. SimpliSafe sells separate smoke and CO detectors, unlike Cove's dual device; SimpliSafe also has a temperature sensor and a slightly cheaper outdoor camera.

The biggest difference is how each company uses its hub. For SimpliSafe, the hub is meant to fade into the background, simply connecting the rest of the devices in the system. The keypad lets you arm and disarm your system conveniently.

For Cove, the hub is crucial, enabling you to check your sensors, manage passcodes, view your history and toggle various other features (it's also got an ear-splitting alarm). The hub is the only way to control the system for the $18-per-month tier of Cove's subscription service.

The similarities between Cove and SimpliSafe reemerge when you look at the cameras: Cove's indoor camera has 1080p resolution, two-way talk and a 110-degree field of view; SimpliSafe's camera is the same, except for a 120-degree field of view. Both include motion detection, though Cove's camera also boasts person detection.

Interestingly, the Cove app says the indoor camera can also listen for various sounds, like babies crying or people calling for help -- a fairly high-end feature that would require computer processing either on the device or in the cloud. I was surprised to see the feature on such an affordable camera and asked Cove's representative about the feature. It turns out it doesn't actually identify different sounds. Instead, it starts recording when it picks up any sufficiently loud noise and then notifies you accordingly. You can adjust the decibel threshold that will trigger a notification. That's not a bad feature, but it's also not great.

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Cove's indoor camera is a solid deal -- but you can't even use it without subscribing to the $28-per-month monitoring plan.

David Priest/CNET

While Cove's indoor camera edges out SimpliSafe's with its person detection feature, the opposite is true for the outdoor camera. SimpliSafe's outdoor camera can send person, vehicle and animal alerts, along with support for specifying motion zones to attend and others to ignore (such as your neighbor's yard or a street). Cove's outdoor camera has fewer features even than its indoor camera.

Moreover, the outdoor camera appears to have no noise-canceling feature, which means a breezy day can render the audio from the Cove camera almost unusable. 

One perk of both of Cove's cameras is that they support using a microSD card, included in the box, for local video storage. Such a feature is great for those who prefer local storage over relying on the cloud, and I'd like to see it become an industry norm. Some devices from Ring, Arlo and Wyze include microSD card slots -- but they rarely include the cards in-package (Ring Alarm Pro being a notable exception).

Cove's hardware is fairly well-priced overall, but its dependence on a hub feels outdated. Worse is the lack of exciting or interesting features in the cameras. The outdoor camera, in particular, feels underwhelming in a field of competitive outdoor cameras with built-in sirens, spotlights, smart notifications and much more -- all with a similar price point.

Should you buy Cove?

All things considered, is Cove worth its full list price? No.

If you can find the system, as I did, on a discount -- and you're less interested in self-monitoring than professional monitoring -- go for it. It will certainly get the job done. For many people, though, there may be better options on the market.