The 4 Best Smart Home Security Systems of 2016

Keep your home safe with these security systems

Everyone wants a secure home, but not everyone understands how to go about making their home safe and secure. There are just too many products on the market, and with the advent of smart tech like the Samsung SmartThings and Google’s Nest, the possibilities are nearly endless. So what’s a homeowner to do?

The best course of action is to figure out exactly what your home needs—before doing any research. From there, you can begin to narrow down the type of home security system that’s right for you and your family. To help guide you in choosing the right one for your home, we’ve compiled a list of the best smart security systems available.

Best Overall: Nest Cam

Nest Cam
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Formerly called “Dropcam,” the Nest Cam is a pretty little gadget meant to deter would-be intruders from doing all the bad things intruders do. It features 24/7 live vide streaming (HD) to your phone or tablet, motion and sound alerts, night vision, digital zoom, two-way audio and an easy setup. It also features one of the strongest designs we’ve seen from a security cam, with a magnetic base, pivoting stand and a sleek appearance that’s just plain cool.

While the Nest Cam packs enough functionality into the core product, you may be tempted to spring for one of Nest’s subscription packages. Most smart home security solutions skip the fees (because, honestly, no one wants to pay fees), but Nest Aware certainly has its selling points. For $10/month or $100/year you’ll get cloud storage of your video streams for up to 10 days. That time limit increases to 30 days with the $30/month, $300/year packages. Nest Aware also gives you alert summaries, downloadable clips, and time-lapse functionality, among other features.

But maybe the biggest selling point for the Nest Cam is its compatibility with Nest’s other smart home products: the Learning Thermostat and the Protect Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Detector. As a family, these products offer an impressive array of possibilities. Buy from Amazon »

Best Overall Runner-Up: Piper nv

Piper nv
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Piper nv is similar to Canary in that it’s a standalone module with familiar home security features: There’s a camera, a siren and motion detection. But it has a few additional features that make it more of a competitor with the Nest Cam (albeit a little more pricey) rather than the Canary.

The HD camera can record video or be used to monitor your home in real time from your phone. The 180-degree field of view (compared to the Nest Cam’s 130 degrees) is another nifty perk that sets the Piper apart from the pack. Like the Nest Cam, it features two-way audio, which allows you to yell at any intruders scrounging around in your home. It’s also well designed and aesthetically pleasing—a point that a lot of manufacturers overlook when designing products that are meant to sit around in plain sight.

Piper nv also doubles as a home automation hub, allowing you to connect any Z-Wave module, light dimmers, switch or sensor. The only problem with that is the somewhat limited saturation of Z-Wave products. Some folks prefer the competing ZigBee standard, but many more simply prefer an either/or situation. Piper nv is just Z-Wave. Some users may also find the app experience a bit irritating. All-in-all, though, the Piper nv is a solid standalone smart home security solution. Buy from Amazon »

Best for Large Homes: iSmartAlarm

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The iSmartAlarm takes a modular approach to home security, sort of like Samsung’s SmartThings. The system features a variety of switches, sensors, cameras and remote tags that can be bundled together or bought separately according to your needs. The system as a whole is self-monitored and self-controlled, and this is perhaps its greatest strength and its greatest weakness.

At the heart of the iSmartAlarm is the CubeOne hub, which coordinates the activities of all the different sensors and switches. It’s easy to set up and necessary if you want a highly thorough, home-wide security system. This DIY approach allows you to, in a sense, customize your home security. There are capabilities for SMS and push notifications, break-in detection and real-time monitoring through the associated App. There are also no monthly fees or contracts to sign, and the network can be expanded to control a near-unlimited number of sensors.

The biggest drawback, however, is that the system does not automatically contact police or emergency services. (Hence, the “self-monitoring” format.) The iCamera, which can be bought individually is buggy and a bit of a hassle to set up, and you may experience some difficulties connecting it to the CubeOne.

Still, iSmartAlarm is a decent option for securing your entire home with smart tech. There are a variety of packages for the iSmartAlarm system, (You can also buy individual sensors, switches, and cameras.) Buy from Amazon »

Best Plug-in-Play for Apartments: Canary

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Unlike iSmartAlarm, the Canary is an all-in-one home security solution—with a few extra perks thrown in. The beer bottle-sized device includes a motion sensor and HD video camera, as well as temperature, humidity, and air quality sensors in an affordable package.

All that hardware allows for an impressive range of features, including a 90+ dB siren (which is loud!), motion-activated video recording, automatic arming and disarming, and instant access to emergency services. And it’s easy to set up: no installation, contracts, or fees to pay.

While the Canary may be a solid smart security solution for small apartments and studios, its single-unit design is less practical for large homes. Set it in a room with valuables and rest easy knowing you have the room well monitored, but if you want the same for other areas in your home you’ll have to buy another one.

Some users have complained about the accuracy of the various sensors, while others have expressed concerns about an over-active sensor, poor reliability and a clunky user interface. This could be problematic because the number one attribute you want from a home security system is reliability.

With that said, the Canary may prove useful if you have a specific home security need, and maybe you want to monitor your home’s air quality while you’re at it. Buy from Amazon »


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