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Sentri review: This DIY Sentri offers smart home security sans app

The Sentri home security system packs a camera, a siren, a motion detector, and all sorts of environmental sensors into its sharp-looking frame.

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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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Kronosight, a startup composed of Asus, Acer and HTC alums, launched a Kickstarter campaign in June of 2014 for Sentri, a $299 DIY home security system with a distinct Apple vibe. By the end of its funding period, the tablet-security system hybrid had nearly doubled its original $200,000 goal. A year and a half later and we finally have a Sentri in-house to test out.

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6.6

Sentri

The Good

Sentri's touchscreen interface gives you access to its security features without an app. Its large display looks nice and it's easy to navigate.

The Bad

It costs $299; its 720p HD video quality is disappointing; I'm not convinced that folks actually want to interact with a static touchscreen (although Sentri does offer the touchscreen and a related app).

The Bottom Line

The $299 Sentri may look kind of neat, but its touchscreen design doesn't actually add much value. I'd opt for Piper's Classic or NV security systems instead.

It's clear what Sentri is trying to achieve here -- it's a DIY Wi-Fi-enabled home security system and an at-a-glance access point to the indoor temperature, humidity and air quality, as well as local weather. The touchscreen doesn't have full tablet functionality -- you can't browse the internet or download your favorite app -- but it does present basic security and environmental details in an entirely new way. No app required (although yes, it has one).

The problem is that even though Sentri boasts a unique design, the pricey touchscreen tablet display doesn't actually add much value. Security systems like Icontrol's Piper Classic and Piper NV are also equipped with environmental sensors and other advanced features, but their sleek aesthetics err on the side of discretion, rather than Sentri's comparatively clunky tablet touchscreen; it's the kind of device that could be more of a beacon for potential intruders than a true deterrent.

Yes, Sentri looks neat and it works fairly well, but I'd stick with something a bit more streamlined for home security.

Sentri stakes its claim on the home security space (pictures)

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Design and features

Sentri doesn't look like a security system, but it has a lot of the same features as Icontrol's Piper Classic and Piper NV, two highly rated all-in-one home security cameras and Canary, a less effective Piper-competitor. The main difference between them and Sentri lies in design execution.

Where Piper and Canary are controlled entirely on their related apps, Sentri adds a home screen interface where you can access details directly, like the current temperature, humidity, weather and air quality. Each Sentri also has a built-in 720p HD camera, siren, motion detector, microphone and speaker, as well as night-vision capabilities, but you can access even more from the Sentri Android or iOS app, including live streaming. Sentri is also compatible with the Nest Learning Thermostat, Philips Hue LEDs and Belkin WeMo products.

Specifically, Sentri is a 10-inch tall by 10-inch wide tabletesque device with a 120-degree camera at the top and a smaller, banner-style touchscreen display in the middle (think older-gen iPhones that had a lot of "dead space" above and below the display). It's made of white and gray plastic and has a built-in stand for sticking your Sentri on a flat surface -- and slots for mounting it to a wall.

It would look a little weird to mount this thing to a wall, though, since it has to be connected to its power adapter to function properly. To avoid having a cord hanging down the wall, I relied on the included stand and simply stuck Sentri on a table.

Setup and usability

"Installing" Sentri is as simple as connecting the power adapter, entering your Wi-Fi details and registering your device with your email address and a password. You'll receive a verification email to confirm your set up. After that, you can download the Sentri app on your Android or iOS device and use the same email and password you used to register the device as your log-in.

Sentri's tablet offers roughly the same features and functionality as the app and both are easy to navigate -- the main difference is that you can only access live streaming from the app.

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Sentri's "home screen."

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

From the Sentri device you can swipe left or right to scroll between the "home screen" and other settings. In particular, you can manually opt-in or -out of Away (alerts enabled) and Home modes (alerts disabled), make general adjustments to the brightness of the screen, choose whether you want to view temperature readings in Fahrenheit or Celsius, change the background wallpaper, connect to a different Wi-Fi network and switch to a different cloud storage plan. Sentri users have free access to cloud-stored photos, videos and alert logs for one month. After that, you have the option to upgrade to a "premium plan."

There are four premium options -- 7 days of storage for $10 per month; 30 days for $20 per month; one year for $100 per month; and $300 per month to keep your photos, videos and alert logs forever. (Icontrol offers free cloud storage.)

The main "home screen" provides the current time, indoor temperature, humidity and air quality (in parts per million) and the current forecast. And, two shortcuts in the top right corner direct you to settings or to the activity log. The activity log shows a rundown of the activity Sentri has detected, including time-stamped alerts, saved video clips and more.

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Viewing the indoor temperature, humidity and air quality from the Sentri app.

Screenshots by CNET

A final screen in the app lets you add a new device, including Nest, Belkin WeMo and Philips Hue products.

It is relatively simple to swipe through the various screens and access settings, the home screen, the activity log and the "add a device" section. But, the touchscreen does have a slight delay -- it just doesn't have the same responsiveness that you'll find with a standard smartphone or tablet. For that reason, I preferred to use the app. There's also the added bonus of the app offering remote access wherever your phone has either a Wi-Fi or a cellular connection.

While the touchscreen works fine, it's pretty redundant -- unless you want a connected security device without having to rely entirely on an app.

Performance

Overall, Sentri performed fine. Whenever I triggered the motion detector, I received a prompt alert on my phone that said, "Activity detected at CNET Sentri." Then you can view the activity log in the app or on Sentri itself and review saved clips. It also lets you know when it has been unplugged or moved.

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Setting Home and Away modes and receiving alerts in the Sentri app.

Screenshots by CNET

It's also easy to access the live stream in the app -- but, the video quality was disappointing. The Sentri team claims 720p HD quality, but that wasn't my experience during testing. In fact, pixelation and overexposure at close range seriously hurt its performance.

Also, while Sentri has a siren, there aren't any rules in place that you can opt into that would automatically turn on the siren. Comparable models, like Icontrol's Piper NV has custom rules that you can set, such as, "If Piper is armed and detects motion, then sound alarm."

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Pixelated images occurred regularly with Sentri.

Screenshot by CNET
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Overexposure.

Screenshot by CNET

Icontrol's approach is pretty intuitive, but you have to manually press Sentri's "Siren" button in the app to turn on the alarm. Even though the alarm does work, it isn't very loud and the lack of custom rules majorly limit its functionality.

The Sentri team also says that its units can work as hubs for integration with third-party smart lights, outlets and thermostats. Right now, it lists Nest, Belkin WeMo and Philips Hue as its partnered integrations.

Since we had some Philips Hue bulbs handy at the office, I followed the steps on the Sentri touchscreen to connect them.

This process was very simple -- select add a new device, select Philips Hue, and press the button in the center of the Philips Hue hub. It connected quickly and I was able to control the LEDs in the office from both the Sentri app and the device itself.

However, when I returned to the app for testing the next day, the Hue LEDs were no longer listed as paired products and I had to connect the bulbs to Sentri all over again.

That's what Sentri offers right now in terms of third-party integrations. But, it is supposed to be able to recognize any device with an open API/SDK, so there's potential to add more official partners over time.

Conclusion

Sentri is a decent DIY security system, but it's disappointing HD video quality, counter-intuitive siren feature, lack of rules and glitchy third-party integrations make Icontrol's Piper Classic and Piper NV more appealing options overall.

There's a question of value with Sentri, too. Sure, it sort of looks like an older-gen iPad, but I can easily buy an actual older-gen iPad for less than the $299 Sentri. In that case, maybe it would make even more sense to get the iPad, download the free Manything iOS app and use it in combination with IFTTT to watch over your home instead. Either way, Sentri still has some kinks to work out before I can recommend it.

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6.6

Sentri

Score Breakdown

Features 7Usability 7Design 6Performance 6