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Frontpoint Home Security Review: Ace DIY System Grounded by Pricey Subscription Fees

This DIY security system competes with offerings from industry leaders like SimpliSafe and Abode, but demands too much for its monthly monitoring fees.

7.5

Frontpoint home security

You're receiving price alerts for Frontpoint home security

Like

  • Approachable system
  • Reasonable hardware prices
  • Solid smart-home device offerings

Don't Like

  • Outrageous monthly monitoring fees

Editor's note, Jan. 13, 2023: Since our review was first published in 2021, Frontpoint has added a feature called Frontpoint ID Protect to its monthly subscription. In partnership with Allstate, this feature allows you to monitor your personal and financial data, and should catch early signs of fraud and reimburse you for fraud-related losses. Our writer didn't get a chance to test this feature out -- it's an interesting addition to the mix of features available from Frontpoint -- but we did adjust the overall score and conclusion in the review below, as well as pricing throughout.


Home security comes in two basic categories: professionally installed systems and do-it-yourself arrays. The professional systems usually cost a lot more, though you can often break up those fees into monthly payments -- and someone else does all the setup for you. DIY systems are cheaper but require a little more elbow grease.

And then there's Frontpoint, a DIY system with high-end professional monitoring. Frontpoint Security Solutions' offering is a solid system with a lot of flexibility -- but its monthly monitoring cost, which clocks in at a grimace-inducing $50, simply makes it too expensive to beat out more wallet-friendly packages from competitors like SimpliSafe and Abode.

This old home (security)

Frontpoint works like most DIY security systems: It arrives in a box designed to unpack nicely. Once you download the app and begin to install each device, the smaller, numbered boxes inside the larger package help guide you through the process.

I got the starter Frontpoint system, which includes a motion sensor, a door/window sensor, a keypad and the central hub. In addition, I got a camera and a doorbell cam. I set up my Frontpoint system in under 30 minutes, and despite some small speed bumps (your account is set up at the time of purchase, and since Frontpoint provided the box for testing, it was linked to someone else's name), I was able to get things up and running without much head-scratching.

I tried out the system as usual for about a week. The hub gives verbal alerts like "Front door open" when doors or windows are opened or closed, which I like. You can switch off the setting easily in the app if you don't. The motion sensor also worked, balancing sensitivity so that intruders would be recognized, but shifting shadows wouldn't set off a false alarm.

Exploring the camera settings was fun and easy, too. You can set zones of interest for the camera so it automatically begins recording when someone or something moves into that zone -- or set up "tripwires" to create a similar effect.

Within two days of installing the system, I received a helpful alert one night that the front door had been left ajar. And I could use the camera to check in on my kids playing in the backyard during the workday, catching when they were getting a little overzealous with their mud and sidewalk-chalk alchemy.

image-from-ios-21

Frontpoint's starter pack comes with one door/window sensor, one motion detector, a keypad, a base station and signs.

David Priest/CNET

In short, home security systems are genuinely useful, and Frontpoint is no different. The big question is, how does it stack up against the competition?

Entering the ring with Ring and others

The DIY security market has exploded in the past decade or so, with startups like SimpliSafe and Abode, and latecomer systems from established smart home companies like Amazon Ring and Wyze. Frontpoint most resembles the startups, where home security is and has always been the primary focus. But its monthly monitoring fee sets it apart.

Let's take a look at the details.

Frontpoint's starter pack is currently on sale for $129 and includes a motion sensor, a door/window sensor, a hub, a keypad and signs. SimpliSafe's most analogous system starts at $173 (though it comes with two more door/window sensors).

So, Frontpoint is cheaper, right? Well, it's complicated. Both brands are almost always running promotions of various sorts. Frontpoint's starter pack is now cheaper than SimpliSafe's Essentials package. But that competitor's deal comes with a "free" indoor camera, which costs $99 on its own. So maybe SimpliSafe, with that included camera (and extra sensors), is offering a better deal than Frontpoint? But let's go on.

Look, the starting price for many of these DIY systems depends on the deal you find, but the best way to get a sense of how the cost stands up over time is to look at device pricing and monitoring fees. There, a pattern emerges: Frontpoint's prices are consistently a little higher than SimpliSafe's -- $10 more for door/window sensors, $16 more for glass break sensors, $19 more for motion detectors and so on.

Add up these small discrepancies over a larger-scale system, and you're looking at hundreds of dollars of difference.

But suppose you're trying for a small-scale system with a camera. In that case, Frontpoint could beat SimpliSafe, especially because its indoor camera is the only device significantly cheaper than SimpliSafe's alternative. Frontpoint's camera is $75, while SimpliSafe's is $99.

SimpliSafe's system is a little cheaper than Abode's for the most part, but both are a little pricier than the Ring Alarm and Wyze budget options. Suffice it to say, Frontpoint's offering fits in nicely with that higher tier of DIY systems… until you look at the monthly monitoring fees.

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Frontpoint's system is comparable to most other DIY security systems on the market, except in one way.

David Priest/CNET

Netflix, but with security

OK, streaming services like Netflix don't seem like a great comparison. Still, monthly monitoring fees or subscriptions are an inescapable element of security systems -- and many DIY options offer prices similar to video streaming services' monthly costs. SimpliSafe charges $18, or $28 with all the monitoring and automation goodies. Abode charges anywhere from $6 to $20. Wyze is $10 per month, and even professional systems like Vivint and Comcast Xfinity only cost $30-$45 monthly for the most expensive options.

Frontpoint charges $50 a month.

To hammer this point home: Frontpoint's monthly fee is nearly equivalent to Abode's most expensive tier, SimpliSafe's most expensive tier and Wyze's monthly fee combined.

I asked a representative at Frontpoint why the pricing is so high, and they chalked it up to the cellular backup, environmental monitoring, video monitoring and automation features.

But Wyze is the only option that doesn't offer cell backup. Various environmental and video monitoring levels are often available, especially with professional systems, and automation features are fairly standard these days. While Ring Alarm works with plenty of smart home gadgets, even more siloed companies like SimpliSafe integrate their services with Google Assistant and Alexa to allow greater automation. Frontpoint has some of those same voice assistant integrations -- so that's not a weakness -- but it certainly doesn't stand above the competition in smart home integration.

In short, I don't buy the explanation for the monthly fee. That $50 price tag is frankly astounding, given where the rest of the industry stands. Practically, it will mean hundreds of dollars more every year compared with its direct competitors. You might as well get the excellent and surprisingly affordable Comcast Xfinity system and call it a day.

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Frontpoint's $75 camera is the best deal in its hardware lineup.

David Priest/CNET

But… is it good?

The monthly fee disappointed me in part because I really liked working with Frontpoint. The setup was painless, and the app was fairly accessible, even while packing in a lot of features and information.

All the basic devices work as you'd expect them to, and the $75 indoor camera, designed by Alarm.com, is a solid deal. It offers 1080p resolution and a 110-degree viewing angle (I like wide-angle lenses for security cameras, but for an indoor option, 110 degrees will almost always do the trick). The camera is a breeze to set up; as I mentioned before, it can record and send notifications based on various user-determined rules.

The video doorbell has 720p resolution with a 170-degree camera -- no 1:1 aspect ratio here, though, despite it making the most sense for video doorbells, where people want to see packages on the ground as much as the faces of people standing only a foot or two away. I couldn't set up and test the video doorbell because my previous doorbell damaged my house's wiring, but Frontpoint uses a branded device from Skybell, which makes doorbells we've tested and liked before.

The other third-party offerings are solid, too, and Frontpoint doesn't inflate its prices. You can integrate a Yale smart deadbolt, for instance, and you'll pay a little less for it on Frontpoint's website than Amazon's. Ditto the Jasco light bulbs and Alarm.com thermostat.

Read more: Best Smart Locks for 2023

These gadgets are all respectable -- and it's refreshing not to see upcharges on third-party gadgets when that's so common. But besides the excellent Yale lock, none of these devices compete with the best stand-alone versions available, like Arlo's video doorbells or cameras or any of our favorite smart light bulbs.

This isn't a deal breaker, but it does highlight a problem with Frontpoint's general value proposition. Home automation is a key justification for the company's $50 monthly fee, but when the smart home devices available are curated by Frontpoint and offer hit-or-miss quality, you have to ask: Why not just use the connection with Alexa or Google Assistant to allow people to choose their own smart bulbs, locks and thermostats to integrate with?

The takeaway

Frontpoint offers a solid security system with performance akin to SimpliSafe or Abode. It even bests these DIY competitors in a handful of price categories -- especially with a few of its smart home device offerings. 

But the outrageous monthly monitoring fee will turn off many people. Frontpoint's customers will pay anywhere from $264 to $384 more per year than SimpliSafe customers -- and that number is closer to $500 more than budget DIY systems like Wyze. You usually buy a home security system for the long run, not just a year or two, so that difference in monitoring fees will mean thousands of dollars for many, if not most, customers.

The Frontpoint ID Protect feature, which is a free addition to the monthly monitoring fee, offers an interesting dimension to this conversation that most competitors don't really address -- and it may or may not be a feature that makes this package more appealing to you. While it makes that $50 monthly fee slightly easier to swallow, paying $600 a year feels a little too expensive unless you're all-in on every feature offered.

If you're ready to pay that kind of money for security alone, a provider like Comcast Xfinity will offer better support at a comparable price (actually a little cheaper). If the appeal of DIY security is its affordability, you're better off sticking to more affordable-over-time options like those offered by SimpliSafe, Abode or Wyze.