Nest Secure review: Nest Secure home security system is smart, but spendy

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The Good The $499 Nest Secure alarm system starter kit is incredibly easy to arm and disarm and its Detect sensors do a lot more than monitor whether a door is open or closed.

The Bad It's expensive and locks you into Google's smart home platform.

The Bottom Line Nest Secure works well, but its value is only so-so, especially if you aren’t sold on incorporating Nest thermostats, locks and other Google devices to your smart home.

7.2 Overall
  • Features 7
  • Usability 7
  • Design 7
  • Performance 8

Editors' note, Oct. 21, 2020: Google has discontinued the Nest Secure Alarm System and will no longer be selling the DIY home security system, but will continue to provide support to existing Nest Secure customers. The original review, published Nov. 9, 2017, follows. 

The Nest Secure alarm system starter pack, complete with one Guard hub, two Tag key fobs and two Detect door/window/motion sensors, costs $499. 

Existing and upcoming DIY home security systems from Abode, Scout, iSmartAlarm, SimpliSafe and Wink are all less expensive. Only the $500 Honeywell Smart Home Security System and the $550 SmartThings kit developed jointly with professional security firm ADT are in the same price range.

Read more: Google is killing off the Works with Nest program and it could mess up your smart home set up

Nest needed to do something pretty spectacular to make us want to spend this much. In some ways it succeeded. The system is responsive, the Tag fobs make arming and disarming effortless and the ability to temporarily disarm the Detect sensors at one door or window is truly innovative. Open a window, take the dog out or step outside to talk to a neighbor without sending the house into a frenzy of alerts, accompanied by the Guard's blaring 85-decibel siren.

Is that enough to make it worth buying? Maybe... if you already own (or plan to buy) Nest-branded thermostats, smoke detectors and locks for a completely integrated Google/Nest smart home. But if you're simply looking for a decent DIY home security system, consider Abode, or look ahead to the new Honeywell, Wink and SmartThings systems (and maybe Ring's, if it gets past its ADT lawsuit).

Note: The Nest Secure system is currently only available in the United States. At the current exchange rate, $499 converts to roughly £380 and AU$650.

Installing Nest Secure is (kinda) easy


I am haunted by this error message.

Screenshot by Megan Wollerton/CNET

White plastic accessories are commonplace in the DIY home security market. I understand why manufacturers opt for white rather than, say, bright red (aw, remember the Revolv hub?). Going for basic white is a comparatively discreet way to add sensors and other monitoring devices to a home. But once, just once, I'd like to see something that's still neutral but a bit less boring -- maybe a matte gray?

Unfortunately, Nest didn't stray from the white plastic accessory paradigm here, but I will say its hardware feels more durable than iSmartAlarm and SimpliSafe hubs and sensors.

Connecting the devices to the app is easy (with one potentially significant caveat). Download/open the Nest app on your Android or iOS device, create an account/login to your existing account and select "Add product" from the settings menu. Scan the QR code on each device, starting with the Guard hub and follow the instructions to connect everything.

Secure's hardware installs easily, thanks to strong adhesive backings and easy in-app instructions. The wired Guard hub should sit on a flat surface near the door you use most often (front door, garage entrance); Tags should go on key chains/purses/backpacks; Detects install on doors, windows or walls.

This should take less than 10 minutes in theory, but certain routers are not compatible with Nest Secure. I first tested Secure at the CNET Smart Apartment, where we have an Asus RT-AC88U router. The Guard and Tags paired in just a few minutes, but both of the Detect sensors consistently returned the same error (see the screenshot above).

After attempting every possible troubleshooting strategy with Nest, I tried a second Nest Secure kit at the same location with the exact same result. I abandoned the first system at the apartment and tried the second system at my house on an Apple AirPort Time Capsule, and at the CNET Smart Home with an Asus RT-AC87U. At both locations the complete Secure system installed without the NS030 error message in roughly five minutes.

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