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

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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.

8.3 Overall
  • Features 9
  • Usability 8
  • Design 8
  • Performance 8

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).

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.

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

Abode Scout iSmartAlarm SimpliSafe
Hardware cost $300 (starter kit) $276 (hub and accessories, no camera) $150 (starter kit) $230 (starter kit)
Required monthly fees None $10 None None 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) No Yes (no extra charge)
Cellular backup Yes ($10/month without professional monitoring) Yes (no extra charge) No Yes (no extra charge)
Power outage backup Yes Yes No Yes
Camera Yes (add $150) Yes (add $169) Yes (add $100) Yes (add $100)
ZigBee/Z-Wave compatibility ZigBee and Z-Wave ZigBee only No No
Smart home partners Alexa, IFTTT, Nest Alexa, IFTTT, Nest IFTTT Nest

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.

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