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Viper Home review: The most comprehensive DIY security system yet

Viper is known for its car security products, but now the company is taking its expertise indoors.

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Megan Wollerton
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Megan Wollerton

Senior Writer/Editor

Megan Wollerton covers renewable energy, climate change and other environmental topics for CNET. Before starting at CNET in 2013, she wrote for NBC Universal's DVICE (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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Viper is a Directed Electronics brand that makes all sorts of car-related gadgets. Recently, though, the company added a DIY home security system to the mix. That means that this new $229.99 system, dubbed Viper Home, is competing against similar products like the $349.99 Oplink Security TripleShield, $199 iSmartAlarm, $199 Canary Smart Home Security Device, and $239 Piper.

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8.0

Viper Home

The Good

The <b>Viper Home</b> offers clever design and consistent performance. Plus,the app works with Viper's vehicle security and convenience products.

The Bad

The starter kit costs $30 more than similar packages from Oplink or iSmartAlarm. You have to pay $9.99 a month to use the camera's video streaming -- although that's better than Oplink's $19.99 monthly fee.

The Bottom Line

Due to the lower monthly fees, Viper Home is a more intriguing option than Oplink if you want to add accessories like a camera and a siren. If you don't, stick with iSmartAlarm.

The Canary and Piper are all-in-one hubs with built-in cameras. The Oplink and iSmartAlarm, on the other hand, have hubs and separate accessories like door/window sensors and motion detectors. Viper definitely designed its home security system in the style of Oplink and iSmartAlarm. But Viper Home offers something that none of the others can -- optional integration with existing Viper vehicle security products.

Not only that, but you can buy extras like cameras and sirens a la carte and if you get a Z-Wave bridge, you can broaden the functionality of your Viper Home kit to include home automation. So, not only does Viper Home offer DIY home security, you can also incorporate vehicle security and automatable appliances -- if you so desire. That's why I think Viper Home is the most well-rounded option available among DIY security systems today.

Screenshot by Megan Wollerton/CNET

I would recommend this system if you plan to invest in more than just the starter kit. Since iSmartAlarm is less expensive and offers roughly the same functionality, there isn't a great reason to get Viper Home instead. But, if you do plan to upgrade in any way, I wouldn't recommend iSmartAlarm or Oplink: iSmartAlarm's camera didn't do very well during our testing and Oplink's camera comes with a $19.99 monthly fee. Viper Home will cost you just $9.99 a month.

So, over time, Viper would be less expensive than Oplink and it offers a wider range of optional features. It's a particularly great option if you're interested in Viper's vehicle security offerings (or already have a Viper car security system). And if you don't care about the vehicle security options, but do want good-quality video streaming, Viper Home is $10 less a month than Oplink. If you don't want a camera or car monitoring, iSmartAlarm is still the best value around.

Design, usability, and features
It seems like Viper Home paid more attention to design than Oplink or iSmartAlarm. Yes, all three are glossy white gadgets, but there's something about the Viper devices that stands out to me. And by stand out, I mean that they will blend in better with your surroundings. The hub, sensors, motion detectors, sirens, and cameras are small and carefully designed to maintain a sophisticated, yet inconspicuous presence in your home. Each item looks nice alone and blends in well with the other products. There aren't any colorful logos messing with the flow like the Oplink system or oddly inconsistent design like iSmartAlarm's line of products -- the hub is square, the sensors are squarish, and the camera is rounded -- why?

Colin West McDonald/CNET

In the basic $229.99 starter kit you get a hub, a motion sensor, and a door/window sensor, along with the requisite batteries, power cord, and Ethernet cable you need to install the thing. The setup process really was painless. The hub connects directly to your router via the provided Ethernet cable and then you have to register your security system.

Next you find a good spot for the door/window sensor and the motion detector. They're equipped with adhesive strips, so that's about as simple as possible. Just find a good place in your house and stick 'em where you want (the guide offers suggestions for optimal performance). The sides of the door/window sensor should be three-quarters of an inch or closer to one another. Keep the motion detector out of direct sunlight and put it at least 72 inches off the floor. If you have a hard time reaching that high, that will likely be the biggest inconvenience you will face during this installation.

Now, it's time to download the app -- also simple. It's free and it's currently available for both Android and iOS users. Just use the log-in you created during registration and you can access the Viper Connect app. For all of the available options offered through Viper Connect, the app is incredibly straightforward and well-designed. To access the home security portion, select Home Control.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

From there, you can choose among the following: Arm Away, Disarm, Arm Stay, and Panic. There's also a Status section in the bottom right corner so you can see what setting you're currently using. The Panic button won't call the police, it will actually send notifications to emergency contacts you specifically add to the system. In fact, Viper Home is not designed to contact the authorities at all. It simply lets you know when a "security event" occurs and then you decide how to respond. If there is a security breach of any kind, though, you will receive an e-mail sent to the address you used during registration and a notification from the app.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

If you add in other features like the $149.99 camera/motion sensor, the $49.99 siren or additional door/window sensors and motion detectors you can do even more. With the camera and the $9.99 monthly fee, for example, you will receive live video alerts during security violations. And don't forget the home automation possibilities available with the addition of a Z-Wave bridge. That way, you can control a whole bunch of different home appliances from the same Viper Connect app.

Viper Home can support up to 32 users and up to 64 different devices. And the app has a history section where you can view the dates and times of specific security events and filter by user. It's easy and there are so many ways to make it work for your lifestyle.

Performance
I installed the starter kit, a siren, and a camera at home. I had no issues with the system during testing -- no false alarms or inconsistent notifications to note. Every time I triggered a security event, Viper Home responded as expected.

Basically, this meant that I got to spend a lot of time trying to stealthily get past the motion detector unnoticed and open and close the window to test the sensor. Every time I got near the motion detector when the system was armed, I received an e-mail and a notification. Same goes for the door/window sensor. The camera, too, doubles as a motion detector and it absolutely refused to let me sneak into my own living room (no matter how hard I tried).

Screenshot by Megan Wollerton/CNET

I guess it makes sense, since the motion sensors have a detection range of 39.4 feet. Also important: the siren was loud. Apparently, it can go up to 85dBA for a minute and a half after an intrusion is noted. It's surely loud enough to scare away a skittish thief.

Conclusion
I am extremely happy with Viper Home. It looks good, it's easy to use, it offers a lot of features, and it works. If you are interested in a DIY security system, Viper Home is a solid competitor.

If you really care about design, the Viper Home starter kit might even be worth the extra $30 over Oplink or iSmartAlarm -- whether or not you plan to upgrade. It also depends on what sort of system suits your needs. Piper and Canary are both intriguing design-focused options. The all-in-one system is definitely more subtle and it comes with a camera to capture footage of intruders.

I can't think of any reason you should get Oplink over Viper Home. Oplink's monthly fee is $10 more and it doesn't offer anything extra that justifies the price hike. So if you do want a camera that works and will offer live streaming, Viper Home is the best bet. And, if you're interested in a security system for your home and your car, Viper vehicle security and remote start options are accessible on the same Viper Connect app. There's something appealing about having all of your security needs efficiently condensed into a single, well-designed app.

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8.0

Viper Home

Score Breakdown

Features 8Usability 8Design 8Performance 8
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