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Abode Starter Kit review: An excellent, flexible DIY security system for your home

Abode's home security starter kit is easy to use and adaptable to a variety of monitoring needs.

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Megan Wollerton
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Megan Wollerton

Senior Writer/Editor

Megan Wollerton has covered technology for CNET since 2013. Before that, she wrote for NBC's Dvice.com (now SyFy). Megan has a master's degree from the University of Louisville and a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College, both in international relations. She is a board member of the Louisville chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. When Megan isn't writing, she's planning far-flung adventures.

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The $300 Abode Starter Kit is an excellent entry-point into DIY home security. It really has everything -- a Z-Wave and ZigBee hub with a built-in siren, two door/window sensors, a battery-powered security camera and motion detector, and a key fob for remote arming and disarming. (Abode isn't currently sold internationally, but the Starter Kit converts to roughly £240 and AU$390 at the current exchange rate).

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8.3

Abode Starter Kit

The Good

The $300 Abode starter kit has all of the basics you need for a beginner DIY security system. Add optional accessories and contract-free professional monitoring as needed. It works with Alexa, IFTTT and Nest.

The Bad

Abode's starter kit is on the pricey side, but the value is there -- you get a lot of useful hardware for your money. You have to log in to Abode's web app to create automations and access other advanced features.

The Bottom Line

Abode's scalable hardware and monitoring services, solid performance and smart integrations make it one of the most appealing DIY security systems available today.

Abode also sells a variety of other hardware accessories you can add to the system at any time, as well as a range of optional professional monitoring services. Factor in its support for over two dozen Z-Wave and ZigBee devices, integration with Alexa, IFTTT and Nest, and you have a smart system that's easy to recommend.

Abode makes your connected home more secure

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View activity and recorded clips in the app.

Screenshot by CNET

Welcome to Abode

Setting up Abode's starter kit begins with the related app. Download the Android or iOS software and follow the instructions to pair all of the accessories. Each piece of wall-, door- or window-mounted hardware comes with an adhesive backing for easy installation. You can remove it from a surface with relative ease, but you won't want to do this often -- I accidentally stripped off some paint when we pulled the battery-powered camera/motion detector from a doorframe.

Here's a quick overview of each accessory included in the starter kit:

  • Hub -- Connects to your Wi-Fi router via an included Ethernet cable and power adapter. It works with select Z-Wave and ZigBee devices, has a 93-decibel siren and a 12-hour backup battery. See the complete list of compatible Z-Wave and ZigBee devices here.
  • Door/window sensors -- Attach to a door, window, cabinet or anything else to track opening and closing.
  • Security camera and motion detector -- This 90-degree battery-powered camera doesn't offer live streaming, but it will take three images when the system is armed and it detects motion.
  • Key fob - Stick it on your keychain to arm and disarm your system remotely.

Abode also sent us a live-streaming camera to test alongside the starter kit. This camera is available as an optional accessory for an additional $149.

Take a look at Abode's specs versus some of its competition:

Comparing DIY security systems

AbodeScoutiSmartAlarmSimpliSafe
Hardware cost $300 (starter kit)$276 (hub and accessories, no camera)$150 (starter kit)$230 (starter kit)
Required monthly fees None$10NoneNone technically, but you need to pay the $15 - $25 contract-free fee to access any remote features
Professional monitoring Yes ($30/month, includes cellular backup)Yes ($20/month, includes cellular backup)NoYes (no extra charge)
Cellular backup Yes ($10/month without professional monitoring)Yes (no extra charge)NoYes (no extra charge)
Power outage backup YesYesNoYes
Camera Yes (add $150)Yes (add $169)Yes (add $100)Yes (add $100)
ZigBee/Z-Wave compatibility ZigBee and Z-WaveZigBee onlyNoNo
Smart home partners Alexa, IFTTT, NestAlexa, IFTTT, NestIFTTTNest

A couple of things stand out here. Abode's system is more expensive up front, but unlike Scout and Simplisafe, there aren't any required monthly fees. Abode also offers more smart-home integrations than its fee-free counterpart, iSmartAlarm. Its starter pack also comes with a camera -- a unique feature that none of the other starter packs offer.

You have four main monitoring options with Abode:

  • Free - Three-day timeline storage of recorded events and other activity, self-monitored
  • Temporary professional monitoring - $8 three-day or $15 seven-day 24-7 monitoring for vacation and other quick trips
  • Cellular backup only - $10 per month/$96 per year for 3G cellular backup, 14-day timeline storage
  • Monthly monitoring and cellular backup - $30 per month/$240 per year for 24-7 professional monitoring, 3G cellular backup and 90-day timeline storage
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Select the monitoring option that works for you. The system defaults to the free self-monitored service.

Screenshots by CNET

One annoying thing is that you have to create rules and other custom automations in Abode's web app. I wish you could also do that from your phone. I do like having web access, though, so you can pull up a larger screen with all of the details clearly displayed.

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The web app's home screen.

Screenshot by CNET

Abode worked very well throughout testing. Whether I was using an Amazon Alexa device, the key fob or the app, arming and disarming was responsive. I also created an IFTTT rule that turned on the interior entryway lights (via IFTTT-compatible Lutron switches) every time I opened the front door. Again, it worked great.

I also received prompt notifications and emails, alerting me to status changes (switching to Home mode from Away mode, for instance). The system's auto-arm and -disarm function, which is tied to the location of your phone, also worked as expected.

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The complete Abode starter kit (plus optional live-streaming camera).

Chris Monroe/CNET

The takeaway

If it wasn't already clear, Abode's $300 starter kit is a great DIY option. It makes particular sense if you have more ground to cover than an all-in-one system like the Piper NV or the LG Smart Security Wireless Camera can handle, but you aren't sold on a massive, contract-based system.

And, if you decide later on that you want to add more devices, you can -- either from Abode's own cache of temperature sensors, flood detectors and cameras or from its list of approved Z-Wave and ZigBee devices. The fact that Abode doesn't force you into a monthly fee and works with Alexa, IFTTT and Nest is pretty great, too. Take a close look at this system if you're considering a flexible DIY security setup for your home.

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8.3

Abode Starter Kit

Score Breakdown

Features 9Usability 8Design 8Performance 8