Nest has made its name by adding smart features to things that you might already have around the house. It's worked pretty well in the past with devices like the Nest Thermostat, but home security is a more serious business. It's different than a thermostat—people rely on a security system to control access to their homes. The new Nest Secure is trying to take the place of an existing product with an important function. It's a balancing act between convenience and safety, and Nest mostly gets it right. The hardware is capable and innovative, and setup was a breeze for me. However, it's missing a few features, and the price is high at $500. That's just the starter pack, too. If you want to outfit all your doors and windows, get ready to spend a whole lot more.
|The app||The Nest app is excellent, and Secure integrates with all your other Nest devices (assuming you have some). It makes for a nice little dashboard of your home.|
|Nest Detect||This one device can go on a door, window, or on a wall to detect motion.|
|Works with some other Nest devices||Your Nest cameras will record during an alarm, and home/away assist works with Secure.|
|Quiet Open||It's easy to open doors without going through the hassle of disarming and re-arming the system.|
|Access history||See what's been going on in the house for the last ten days in just a few taps.|
|Price||$500 for the starter pack is steep for the Guard with two Tags and Detects.|
|Wasted Detect features||The Detects are $60 each, and the motion detection features don't work if you mount them on windows. Your house probably has a lot of windows.|
|No Assistant||There's no integration with Google Assistant.|
Setup and the basics
The Nest Secure consists of three pieces: The Nest Guard, Nest Detect, and Nest Tag. The Guard is the heart of the system—it's the keypad hub that connects to all your other Secure devices and bridges them to your WiFi network. It also looks like someone chopped a Google Home in half. The Nest Detect is the all-in-one sensor gadget used to monitor for open doors and motion. Finally, the Nest Tag (touching the Guard up top there) is the NFC-enabled key fob that can disarm your system.
Now that we've got the terminology straight, let's talk about getting all these things up and running. To set up the Secure, you need to have the Nest app on your phone. Nest's setup process has always been good. Despite a few small bumps, it's the same story with the Secure.
Like other Nest products, the app guides you through the setup process one step at a time as you scan each device's QR code sticker. The app has you configure your Guard with a passcode, and then you test each Detect. The Detects can be mounted on doors, windows, or walls with an adhesive or mounting hardware (I just used the adhesive). There's an LED in the Detect that lights up to help you test the location and motion detection sensitivity, which is very clever. There's also a button on the end for Nest's Quiet Open feature (more on that later). My only issue here was some confusing terminology in the app. You have to choose a name for the Detect and then choose a location for it. At first, it looks like you're just repeating the same step over.
The Guard should be placed close to where you usually enter and leave the house. That might mean placing it out in the open, but it's not an obnoxiously gadgety piece of hardware. The keypad lights up only when you need to enter your code, and even the mode indicator buttons around the perimeter are off unless it detects motion. Yes, there's a motion sensor in the Guard hub in addition to the Detects, which is a nice touch. Around back is a panic button you can press in the event of an emergency regardless of whether or not the system is armed. There's a battery backup and (optional) cellular backup inside to keep it operating if the plug is removed or your internet is down.
The Guard awaiting the passcode.
Like other Nest products, the Guard talks to you when there's something to point out. For example, it tells you how long until the system is armed and to enter your passcode when you press the disarm button. When something triggers the armed system, the Guard tells you what's wrong in the "pre-alarm" phase before the siren goes off.
Setting up the Tags is quick and easy. Just scan the tag and assign it to someone in the house. The Tag works alongside the individual PIN codes people set up, so you don't have to choose one or the other. You can also shut off the Tag from your app in case you lose one.
App and features
All features of the Nest Secure are configured and controlled from the same Nest app that plugs into the company's thermostats, cameras, and other devices. When you assign rooms to the various pieces of Nest Secure, they appear in the rooms listed in the app alongside your other Nest devices (assuming you have any). Tapping on any Nest Secure item in the main app interface opens the Secure dashboard interface.
At the top of the Secure UI is a slider for turning the alarm on and off. There are actually three settings here—off, home and guarding, and away and guarding. In home guarding mode, the door and window sensors are active, but motion detection is off. In away guarding mode, you get motion detection and door monitoring. This mode also comes with a 30-second countdown when enabled so you can get out of the house without triggering the alarm. That's obviously necessary if you use the button on the Guard to set the alarm, but the app can be used once you're already outside.
Let's say you don't remember to set the alarm when leaving. The Nest app has home/away assist, and Secure plugs into that. The alarm won't enable automatically, but the app does push a notification asking if you'd like to arm the system. Nest says this helps prevent accidental alarms compared to just enabling the system automatically. You get a similar notification when arriving home. I really wish I could have the Secure push this same notification on a schedule to arm the system at night. In the event an alarm does go off, any Nest cameras you have will turn on and begin recording.
At the bottom of the Secure screen in the Nest app are two useful options. One provides a shortcut to your family and guest settings, allowing for the addition or removal of people from the household. You can, for example, grant temporary access to a guest or add your new roommate to the Secure from this menu. The other option is history. The Secure tracks everything that happens for a period of ten days into the past. Each time you arm or disarm the system, it logs who did it and when. It even records when doors are opened and closed regardless of whether the system is armed.
Living with the Nest Secure
One of the main annoyances with home security systems in general is the clunky arming and disarming process, and Nest tried to address that in several ways. It was overall successful, but some parts of Secure feel unfinished. Having lived with the Secure for a few weeks, my favorite thing about it is Quiet Open, which means much less changing of the armed status. Just press the button on your Detect, and you can open the door without triggering the alarm. You don't even have to check whether or not the alarm is on, which has led me just to press the button when I have any reason to think the alarm might be on. It's great for letting the dog out or leaving for an early appointment without disturbing anyone. If you don't want Quiet Open to work on your system, it can be turned off in the settings.
Detect in Quiet Open mode.
The Nest Tag goes toward the same goal of making home security easier. It does help, but it's not as cool as I'd hoped it would be. Tapping the tag on the Guard is theoretically easy if you've got it on your keys and they're already out, but in practice, it needs to be touching the surface for a second or two in order to read. It doesn't really save me much time compared to using a PIN.
The location-based notifications to arm Secure are useful, but there's no Assistant integration at all. I could understand not allowing the system to be disarmed by voice—that's something we see with a lot of remote door locks. However, you can't arm or even check the status of Secure via Assistant. This is a major oversight.
The Detect sensors are a really impressive piece of hardware in practice. This one device can work on a door, window, or just on a wall as a motion sensor. The motion detection area isn't as wide as some standalone sensors, but it's good enough to cover most rooms. However, the motion detection hardware is disabled if it's mounted on a window (because curtains). The starter kit comes with two Detects, and each additional one costs $60. You probably have more windows than doors, so you'd pay $60 for each extra window sensor. That seems wasteful considering the motion detection hardware won't even be used. I know the goal is simplicity, but Nest should have a cheaper window-only sensor.
It also strikes me as odd that you cannot use the motion sensors in devices like the Nest Thermostat to cover more rooms via Secure. Maybe these sensors aren't of the same quality as the Detect, but making it an advanced option would be nice. These $60 all-in-one sensors are just a tough sell.
Guard with mode buttons illuminated.
I do appreciate the addition of a low-sensitivity mode for the Nest Detect sensors, though. As I mentioned above, I have a dog (under 20 pounds). The first time I armed the system after setting it up, the dog almost immediately tripped the motion sensor. Turning on low-sensitivity mode on the living room Detect solved the problem. Now, it only alerts when a roughly person-sized object passes by the sensor.
When the system is tripped, you have 30 seconds to disarm. You can do so via the Guard (if you're home) or in the app. By default, the alarm countdown is 60 seconds, and the lowest setting is 30 seconds. That still seems a little long, but the Guard will speak during that time to explain the reason for the alert (eg. "The side door was opened"). The alarm is loud (Nest says 85 dB), and it sounds for ten minutes after being tripped. The alarm is loud enough to be heard everywhere inside my house, as well as in the immediate vicinity outside. The Nest app gets alarm notifications with a disarm button and the aforementioned video feed from any Nest cameras you have in the same area. If you have the Moni professional monitoring, you'll also be contacted by an agent at this point.
There are a lot of things to like about the Nest Secure. Setup is easy, and it plugs into the same excellent app you might already be using to keep an eye on your home. The Detect sensors are incredibly powerful, and the Quiet Open feature is genius. The basic operation of Secure is slick and well-implemented.
I do have qualms about the lack of Assistant integration—this seems like a no-brainer. Hopefully that's rectified at a later date. The Detect sensor is also really expensive, and some of its features won't work if mounted on a window. You only get two of these $60 sensors in the starter kit, which is $500. My relatively small house has nine ground level-accessible windows, so I'd need $540 worth of Detects just to protect all points of entry. Nest needs to make a cheaper window-only sensor without motion detection and Quiet Open.
The Guard in pre-alarm mode.
The issue with Detect pricing feeds into the primary issue with Secure overall: the $500 price tag is steep. If Ring ever gets its legal issues with Protect worked out, it will cost less than half as much. For now, I think Nest Secure has some appeal to people who have already invested in other Nest Products, specifically Nest security cameras. I don't see a lot of people picking up the Secure without already being in the Nest ecosystem, though. If you're on the fence, I'd wait it out a little and see if more economical options come along. The upcoming release of Nest's Secure-compatible smart locks might sweeten the deal, though.