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Icontrol Networks Piper NV review: This overachieving DIY security stunner scores big

Icontrol Networks nails "all-inclusive" security system simplicity with its next-gen Piper NV.

Megan Wollerton Former Senior Writer/Editor
5 min read

One of the beautiful things about DIY home security is that it champions piecemeal installation -- you can grab a SmartThings hub for 99 bucks, the brand's own open/close sensor for another $54, a Dropcam Pro for $199 and a Schlage Camelot Touchscreen Deadbolt for $215 and you've just designed a security system beyond traditional brand-specific confines.


Icontrol Networks Piper NV

The Good

From setup to shutdown, Icontrol Networks' $269 or £230 Piper NV all-in-one security device was an absolute delight to use.

The Bad

You'll spend more upfront than some other standalone security options. It doesn't have an IFTTT channel or offer partnerships with third-party brands beyond its basic Z-Wave integrations.

The Bottom Line

For easy, seamless DIY home security and automation integration, look no further than the Piper NV.

That's a great option when being loyal to one company means settling for less. But every so often, a system comes so close to the "complete package" that there's no need to bother with the third-party search for something better.

Icontrol Networks' Piper NV comes close to this ideal; it has tons of features, no monthly fees, a 2-minute setup and a responsive app. For a solid, self-contained DIY security system that works when you need it, I'd highly recommend the NV, which sells for $269 or £230 (it's yet to be made available in Australia, but that converts to around AU$440).

The Piper NV makes the most of DIY security (pictures)

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Like Icontrol's original Piper , its new NV model is available in either a glossy white or black finish. I really liked the look of the original Piper and the NV isn't any different. So many home security and automation products look fine, but fall more on the utilitarian side of things; they're housed in a boring hunk of plastic and it's tough to distinguish one brand's device from another.

The NV feels different. Yes, it's still a hunk of white or black plastic, but it's a thoughtfully designed one. From its graceful lines to the sturdy stand that snaps into place, every inch of the NV makes sense.

That's even more impressive when you consider its multitude of features, which begs the question: how did the team ever manage to shove so many useful things into the sleek and minimal NV? It's efficient, understated, elegant even.

The Piper NV has a lot of alert options. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

Here's an overview of all the things this minimal-footprint-device can do. It has a camera, a siren, a microphone, a speaker and a Z-Wave hub, as well as motion, sound, temperature, humidity and light sensors. The accompanying Piper Android and iOS apps allow you to arm and disarm the system, set custom alerts, watch live footage on a single or four-panel screen, view the free saved clips triggered by your own settings preferences, check out graphs showing all of the changes the sensors detect over time, add Z-Wave devices like smart plugs, sensors, locks, thermostats and more.

A lot of things are similar, if not identical to Icontrol's first Piper, but a couple of key tweaks take the NV from a great product to an exceptional one. Unlike Piper 1.0, this version has night vision; in fact, the "NV" stands for new version and night vision to denote this major feature upgrade.

Icontrol showcased the NV at CES earlier this month and I had the opportunity to speak with Piper co-founder Russell Ure. He mentioned the challenges of designing night vision for a 180-degree fish-eye lens, which explains the slight visual differences between the version 1.0 and NV cameras. Icontrol also boosted the camera's sensor from 2.0 megapixels on the original Piper to 3.4 megapixels on the Piper NV, as well as adding a snappier processor and an updated Z-Wave hub that can accommodate more devices while simultaneously improving overall security.

You can pretty much see the entire studio with the 180-degree lens. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

I had the NV up and running in roughly 2 minutes and a Jasco Z-Wave Plug-In Appliance Module in a minute flat. Setup was as simple as plugging in the Piper NV, connecting to the Piper Wi-Fi network and then entering the details for the local Wi-Fi network. To add a Z-Wave device, visit the Controls section of the app and let it walk you through the process. For the Jasco device, setup involved finding an obliging wall outlet and pressing the plug's center button once. Presto.

From there, I set custom rules for Home, Away and Vacation mode and created a rule for the Jasco plug, which I connected to a nearby table lamp.

In Home, Away and Vacation mode, motion, sound and indoor temperature changes can trigger a response from your NV. Within each mode and for each specific trigger, you can opt in and out of recording a video clip (it typically records an event for about 35 seconds), getting alerted via push message, phone call, email and/or text, notifying your trusted circle (you can add family and friends using your phone's contact directory) and sounding the siren.

I signed up for various iterations of these rules and received push messages, calls, emails and texts promptly and was able to review saved video clips from the Recordings section of the app. I added contacts to the trusted circle list, who confirmed that they received notifications. And, I enabled the 105-decibel siren. This was a less enjoyable test, as it proved to be fairly deafening, but that's good news if you're looking to scare and disorient an intruder.

Setting up the Jasco plug and the light sensor rule. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

With the Jasco plug, I set it to turn on whenever the ambient light sensor sensed that the room was dark; it worked very well. I also had the option to schedule it to turn on or off automatically, but the app doesn't let you itemize by day. Instead, it was by weekday or weekend, an oversight since plenty of people don't stick to the same schedules day by day.

The night vision also worked well, although standing too close made it tougher to distinguish features. I also detected a slight difference between the quality of the 2.0-megapixel original Piper versus the new 3.4-megapixel sensor. Of course, you have the option of raising or lowering the camera's streaming resolution if bandwidth is proving problematic.

You can definitely see someone better in night-vision mode at a distance. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

This type of product is relatively new to the DIY market. Both the original Piper and a similar product called Canary were introduced via crowdfunding back in 2013. We haven't reviewed the $249 Canary yet, but Ry Crist has spent some hands-on time with a beta version and found it to be tough to setup and lacking some important features, like an auto-siren when a security event is triggered and protocol integrations.

Like the previous Piper, the NV doesn't have an IFTTT channel, it doesn't work with any specific third-party products that speak Z-Wave and Icontrol hasn't announced any particular partnerships with HomeKit, Wink, SmartThings or Nest. It also doesn't offer face recognition, something recently unveiled in beta for the $150 ArcSoft Simplicam . But, Icontrol has hinted at some upcoming features that might change all that.

That does limit its role in the larger smart-home scene, but its massive fish-eye lens, Z-Wave integration and impressive number of alert customizations, plus the improved optics and addition of night vision makes the $269 Piper NV a fantastic all-in-one security and automation system. I would recommend the NV to anyone looking for a reliable wide-angle view to cover the vulnerable spots at home.


Icontrol Networks Piper NV

Score Breakdown

Features 9Usability 9Design 8Performance 9