SkylinkNet Alarm System Starter Kit review: Skylink's DIY security kit is basic but dependable
This barebones kit might set off your snooze alarms, but it gets the job done.
You've got more home security options these days than ever before, and an increasing number of them don't include long contracts or monthly fees. The latest such system comes from a company called Skylink, which operates out of Canada, Hong Kong, and the US. For nearly 25 years, Skylink's been selling localized, DIY alarm systems, and now, with the newly released SkylinkNet system, the company's bringing your smartphone into the picture, too.
That makes for a system that falls right in line with what we've already seen from kits like iSmartAlarm . SkylinkNet doesn't doesn't do much to one-up those competitors, and compared to flashier gadgets like Piper and Canary , it's downright boring. Still, it's a system works as advertised and,at $150 (available internationally at £95 and AU$170, converted roughly) it costs less than the competition. If you're just looking for a basic level of low-cost coverage that doesn't need to play nice with a larger smart home ecosystem, I think SkylinkNet fits the bill.
Design and features
SkylinkNet follows a path we've seen plenty of other systems tread. You'll plug a hub into your router, stick sensors up around your home, then monitor and control everything from the smartphone app. If you'd rather keep your phone in your pocket, you can arm and disarm your system using a keychain remote.
To get you started, the system comes with a motion detector and two open/closed sensors that you can use to monitor doors and windows. The sensors run on AA and AAA batteries, which, somewhat annoyingly, don't come included. You can also add batteries to the hub as a backup for when the power goes out.
You can add extra sensors to your system as needed -- motion detectors and keychain remotes sell for $25, while extra open/closed sensors cost $20 each. You can also expand your system to include things like cameras, leak detectors, and smart switches from Skylink's existing catalog. Like the starter kit itself, most of the hardware looks rather dated, and isn't designed to work with third party systems or devices.
The SkylinkNet app offers straightforward controls over everything in your system, though it doesn't seem quite as feature-rich or as polished as other systems we've tested out. You have an alarm screen dedicated to arming and disarming the system, as well as a home screen dedicated to your devices. On that screen, you'll be able to monitor that status of each device in real time, or tweak its settings.
You get three arming options on the alarm screen: "Arm Away," "Arm Home," and a button you can slide to trigger the panic alarm. The slider is a nice little touch, as it helps keep you from sounding the siren by mistake.
Set the system to Arm Away, and you'll get a customizable "Exit Delay" that gives you time to leave before the system actually arms. The hub will beep during this time, with the beeps growing faster as the system draws closer to arming. As for Arm Home mode, it's a pretty common feature with security systems like these, and one that's nice to have if you want to activate some of your sensors while you're home, but not all of them.
To this end, you'll be able to customize when each sensor triggers the alarm. For instance, you could set the window sensor to trigger the siren on both Arm Home and Arm Away mode, but set the door sensor and motion detector to only sound an alarm if you're away.
You can also customize when each sensor will send your phone a push notification. Maybe you've got teenagers, and you want notifications every time the motion detector in the liquor cabinet fires up, but you only care about the door opening if it happens while the system is armed. You'll also be able to set the hub to chime whenever a particular device is activated, as well as give each device a custom name, which you'll want to be sure and do if you're using multiple sensors of the same type.
Usability and performance
Skylink's sensors use their own, proprietary wireless protocol. The company claims that this helps extend the battery life for each sensor to as long as two years, while also making the system more difficult to hack. However, it also largely cuts out the possibility of integrating a Skylink setup with other smart home tech, so if you're looking for something you can incorporate into an all-in-one connected home ecosystem, look elsewhere.
To test SkylinkNet out, I installed the starter kit in my smallish one-bedroom apartment. The app did a nice job of guiding me through the setup process, with clear, step-by-step instructions and helpful visuals. After about 10 minutes, I had everything up and running.
You'll have plenty of flexibility with where you place your sensors. The kit comes with 3M sticky tabs for mounting hardware on the walls, as well as screws for sturdier, more permanent mounts. The hub, however, is less flexible. Unlike the clever base station that you'll find with SimpliSafe , you'll need to keep the Skylink hub -- which doubles as the system's siren -- connected to the router at all times. That isn't ideal if you keep your router tucked away in a back room.
My other setup-related complaint lies with the motion detector. To pair it with the system, you'll need to open it up and press a button on its board. That sounds simple enough, but the thing is insanely difficult to pry open.
Sore fingers aside, I was quickly impressed with the responsiveness and reliability of Skylink's sensors. After repeated tests, they never failed to detect my comings and goings, and they never sent me a false alarm either. Alerts consistently showed up on my phone within seconds. Even with the Wi-Fi turned off, they still came through quickly, though your mileage may vary depending on how good your signal is.
Also speedy: the home screen icons indicating the status of each device. They change in real time -- the blue door representing an open/closed sensor opens and turns red when the door is open, for instance. I liked these quick, visual cues, and appreciated that they never lagged too badly.
The actual controls in the app, on the other hand, were a little more sluggish. Though it never crashed on me, there were times where the SkylinkNet app grew unresponsive for upwards of ten seconds or more as I tweaked the device settings. It's a relatively small frustration for sure, but still one that makes me wonder if Skylink's software might be playing catch-up to its hardware.
That said, it's worth noting that Skylink's app offers almost the exact same features as iSmartAlarm's app, which has enjoyed at least an extra year of development. Skylink might seem a bit derivative, but it's largely because iSmartAlarm's been somewhat slow to improve its offerings, with new peripheral devices and a redesigned camera that have taken longer than expected to make it to market.
I wasn't able to test out Skylink's peripheral devices for this review, but if we end up taking a look at the company's cameras, for instance, I'll update this space. The majority of Skylink's gadgets look like relics of the last decade (or earlier), which leaves me slightly skeptical of them -- though for what it's worth, the reviews on sites like Amazon are mostly positive.
SkylinkNet is not a flashy system. Its bland, dated-looking sensors aren't designed to integrate with buzzworthy third-party gadgets. It doesn't boast unique, groundbreaking functionality. It doesn't do anything that similar systems can't also do. But, it works. And, at $150, it's less expensive than those other options. For many consumers, I suspect that'll be enough, and I can't argue with them.
For those who want more, a system like SimpliSafe , which offers live monitoring and a more feature-rich design, might be a better bet. You could also build a comparable setup using SmartThings and enjoy deeper integration into the connected home. But if all you're after is basic, small home security at a minimal cost, Skylink is worth a look.