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

Of course, not every router out there will work with every smart home device and Nest publishes the list of routers it has issues with to offer guidance. But our Asus RT-AC88U isn't on the list. Basically, Nest told me new potential incompatibilities might arise with a new system like Nest Secure.

Here's why: Secure uses the Nest Weave communication protocol during the initial configuration process, which also means an option called IPv6 should be enabled on your router (so Weave can work optimally). What's frustrating is that your otherwise Nest-Secure-compatible router might not have IPv6 enabled as a default setting. So you'll most likely have to log in to your router and make that change manually.

That's annoying enough to have to do, but it didn't actually help in my case. I enabled IPv6 and I got the same error trying to pair the Detect sensors. I'm still working with Nest to determine if another router setting could be causing the issue, but this shouldn't happen at most homes. If you get a weird error, you can always contact Nest customer support, but it's frustrating that consumers should have to deal with this kind of thing. Smart home devices can be intimidating enough to install without diving into your router settings.

Getting to know Nest Secure

Nest Secure's features are competitive with DIY home security systems we've reviewed in the past. Take a look at the chart below to see how Secure stacks up:

Comparing DIY security systems


Nest Secure Abode Scout iSmartAlarm SimpliSafe
Hardware cost $499 (starter kit) $300 (starter kit) $276 (hub and accessories, no camera) $150 (starter kit) $230 (starter kit)
Required monthly fees None None $10 None None technically, but you need to pay the $15 - $25 contract-free fee to access any remote features
Professional monitoring Yes ($20/month for a 3 year commitment or $25 month-to-month) Yes ($30/month, includes cellular backup) Yes ($20/month, includes cellular backup) No Yes (no extra charge)
Cellular backup Yes ($5/month) Yes ($10/month without professional monitoring) Yes (no extra charge) No Yes (no extra charge)
Power outage backup Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Camera Yes (add any Nest Cam) Yes (add $150) Yes (add $169) Yes (add $100) Yes (add $100)
ZigBee/Z-Wave compatibility No ZigBee and Z-Wave ZigBee only No No
Smart home partners Google Assistant, Nest Alexa, IFTTT, Nest Alexa, IFTTT, Nest IFTTT Nest

Nest's optional professional monitoring comes courtesy of Moni. It costs $20/month for a 3 year commitment or $25 on a month-to-month basis.

On Nov. 8 T-Mobile announced it would be the exclusive partner for Nest Secure cellular backup. T-Mobile Nest plan subscribers are supposed to get Nest Aware and cellular backup for $15 per month ($10 per month "after a $5 monthly bill credit").

Nest Aware is Nest's optional cloud video recording and storage subscription service for all of its home security cameras, so this particular T-Mobile service plan only makes sense if you have a Nest Cam and want Nest Aware in addition to Nest Secure cellular backup. Adding a Nest Cam (with Nest Aware) to the system means the camera will automatically record whenever the Secure system detects unexpected motion or other activity.

Nest, a Google-owned property, tells me they're "looking into" integration with Google Assistant. Since the Nest Cam IQ just started supporting Google Assistant, I wouldn't be surprised if Secure starts working with it soon, too.

Using Nest Secure was straightforward. Nest assigns you a 6-digit PIN for arming and disarming, one that I immediately forgot (you can also create your own custom PIN). I found myself naturally reaching for a Tag or the Nest app to arm and disarm the system instead. Still, it's nice that you have options. The Guard's built-in 85-decibel siren is loud enough to startle you and anyone else nearby.

The main settings options are "alarm off," "home and guarding," and "away and guarding," which you can adjust from the Guard, the app or with a Tag. Away and guarding mode means any motion detected in the house or open/close activity detected at a door or window will send you an alert and turn on the siren; you'll also get an email. Home and guarding mode will only react if a Detect sensor notices that a door or window was opened. Motion inside the home won't register.

My favorite Nest Secure feature is Quiet Open. With this option, you can temporarily disable the Detect door- and window-mounted sensors in home and guarding mode. So if you want to grab the newspaper in the morning, you don't have to disable the whole system; you just have to press the button on the Detect that's attached to the door you're opening. The status light will turn green, letting you know you have 10 seconds to open the door. Step outside (but leave the door open; it will rearm otherwise) and then back in while your Nest Secure continues to monitor the rest of the house.

Detect sensors are also equipped with something called Pathlight. Pathlight illuminates the Detect sensor's light when it's dark in the house and you're walking nearby. You can adjust the brightness in the app, too, in addition to turning it off.

nestsecure1

It's easy to view and make changes to your Nest Secure system in the app.

Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

The verdict

The $499 Nest Secure alarm system performs well and the app is easy to navigate. It's priced higher than most home security systems, but Nest backs it up with advanced features like Pathlight, Quiet Open and the ability to use other Nest devices with the system (and in the same app). Nest Secure will also likely work with Google Assistant soon. Still, I don't think Nest Secure is right for everyone, especially if you don't currently have or plan to buy other Nest-brand smart home products. The less expensive Abode system will definitely get the job done.

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