At 3.2 by 0.9 by 0.9 inches (HWD), the Z-Wave contact sensors for doors and windows are bulkier than the sensors that come with the Vivint Smart Home system (2.5 by 1.0 by 0.5 inches). They're each powered by a CR123 battery that is rated to last three years and can be installed using double-sided tape or with mounting screws. The motion sensor (3.5 by 2.4 by 1.7 inches) also runs on a CR123 battery and uses a Z-Wave radio to communicate with the base station. The range extender (3.1 by 1.8 by 1.1 inches) plugs into a wall outlet and extends the Z-Wave signal by up to 250 feet, so you can place sensors just about anywhere.
Even if you experience a power outage, both security systems will continue to work thanks to cellular connectivity. This feature is available from Nest for an additional $5 per month or $50 for the year. Ring includes this feature as part of their Protect Plus plan. Nest’s backup battery will last for 12 hours, while Ring’s will last for 24. With a longer battery life and an included cost, Ring is the clear winner here.
When you add the keypad, you’re asked to come up with a four-digit PIN that you’ll use to arm and disarm the system. If you opt in to professional monitoring, you’ll also need to come up with a verbal passcode that you’ll use to identify yourself as an authorized user when the monitoring service calls (so be sure to provide this information to your secondary contact, as they’ll need it as well).
Speaking of monitoring, there are different modes that you can set when arming the alarm. When you're at home, there are two choices, including Disarmed and Home. With disarmed, there is no 3rd-party monitoring happening, so you can open and close the doors, windows, and more as you please. Home mode is used for times like when you're home alone or going to bed, and there is external monitoring involved. With Home mode, you can opt to change which sensors are active and which aren't, which is great for if you don't want a motion sensor to go off because of your pets or something.
Once the base station is online and your account set up for monitoring, the rest of the devices in your starter kit are automatically identified in the Ring app and you can set them up one by one. With each one, you can provide a name and room location to help identify the accessories in notifications and the app. With the keypad, you'll set up an access code that lets you arm and disarm the alarm, and you can set up different codes for different people. As you set up each motion detector and contact sensor, the app will have you test each one to ensure that they're probably detecting events.
The rest of the kit remains relatively standard. The Ring Alarm entry sensors are about a quarter-of-an-inch bigger than SimpliSafe's sensors and don't perform double duty like Nest's large sensors, which also sense motion. They're easy to install with the included mounting hardware and 3M-branded sticky tape, but they seem unnecessarily large and were hard to place so that the magnets would meet each other on both my front door and the back sliding door.
Ring makes sure that no matter your experience level, you're empowered with information. The minute you open the box, there are neatly packaged containers with nearly every component needed to install the kit. Before you do any of that, however, you'll have to add each device through the Ring mobile app, which is extremely straightforward — all you have to do to start setting up accessories is tap the button that says "Set up a new device."
The Ring Alarm is equipped with the hardware to serve as a smart hub, though it's not quite there yet. While the base station contains both ZigBee and Z-Wave radios, only the latter is user- accessible, and any noncertified third-party devices that are paired won't trigger the alarm. You can pair Z-Wave products through the Ring app, but they'll only use the base station as a bridge.
Ring Stick Up Cam Battery and Stick Up Cam Wired feature motion detection, 1080p full HD resolution, night vision, two-way talk, a siren, and a wide viewing angle – all for $179.99 each. Stick Up Cam Wired is powered by Power over Ethernet (PoE) or through a micro-USB power supply, which gives users a reliable connection to the internet as well as consistent power. For indoor use, Ring Stick Up Cams bring the Ring of Security inside so users are notified of any suspicious motion within the home. For those looking for additional outdoor security, neighbors can place the Stick Up Cams around the outside of the home to monitor activity on their property and help prevent a crime from taking place.
Arlo Pro can be used outdoors only if running on battery or solar power. (While they once sold an outdoor power adapter, it is no longer available due to quality issues.) If you’re using battery power, you will have to charge your camera indoors as the included power adapter is not rated for outdoor use. Furthermore, if your battery is too cold from being outside, you might have to wait for it to warm up before you can begin to charge it. If you don’t like the sound of that, you can invest in the $59.99 Pro Charging Station and an additional rechargeable battery ($49.99). You can use the charging station to charge two batteries simultaneously so that you always have one ready to go when needed. You can also purchase the Arlo Pro UV-resistant silicone skins, which provide added protection against condensation and sun glare.
What sets Nest Guard apart from the abode and Ring’s base station is its intuitive nature. First of all, the integrated keypad is a smart choice because let’s face it; phones get lost. In addition to a keypad which accepts a numeric passcode, Guard has several buttons. You can press a button to quickly swap between modes (alarm off, home and guarding, and away and guarding) or you can press for immediate help using the panic button which is found on the back of the device.
With home and away modes, you're able to customize entry and exit delays up to two minutes before the alarm goes off, giving you enough time to leave the house after arming and enter the access code on the keypad upon returning home. When an event is detected, you'll get a notification on your phone, and the Ring app will display a countdown giving you the configured period of time to disarm the system before the alarm goes off. If you fail to enter the keypad code or disarm from the Ring app within the allowed time, the base station will emit a very loud beeping sound, and if you are signed up for professional monitoring, authorities will be notified.
Both the Ring Alarm and Nest Secure are easy to install by yourself. You don’t need to purchase professional installation, but both offer that option for an additional charge. Neither platform requires a contract, so you won’t be forced to pay monthly ongoing subscription fees. Both Ring and Nest also offer the ability to control your home security devices via a user-friendly app on your smartphone or tablet, making it simple to check in on things at home when you’re out and about. You’ll also get a notification on your device if the system detects anything out of the ordinary, so you’re always in the know about what’s going on at home.
Our favorite security system for do-it-yourself monitoring and home automation is the $280 Abode Essentials Starter Kit, because not only does it add professional monitoring to your home, but it also works as a smart hub for third-party devices and helps facilitate home automation. But if you're looking for something a little more affordable and dead-simple to set up, Ring Alarm is worth a look.
Installing Canary Flex was easy. Part of that comes from the fact that I’m a Canary indoor camera user. To add Canary Flex, I plugged it in (Even though it can be battery-powered, Canary recommends starting with a full charge.), turned my phone’s Bluetooth feature on, visited the app, and selected “Add Canary device”. From there, you confirm the physical location of your camera, tap the button on the back of the device, and it begins to pair.
There is currently no support for controlling the system with voice commands, but it should come as no surprise that Ring is developing an Alexa skill. Once you can arm your security system using a voice command, you won’t want to do it any other way (disarming it that way is whole other question). Harris was slightly more circumspect about supporting Google Assistant. “We remain committed to being open to all of the different pieces that are important to our customers. We’ll continue to march down the path of trying to support everything we can.” I got a similar answer when I asked about support for Apple’s HomeKit technology: “We’ve given it a lot of time. Again, we remain focused on bringing HomeKit support across the product line, but it won’t be available at launch with the Alarm products specifically.”
The battery version of the camera can only use a battery. You can’t plug it in. According to Ring, the batteries should give you six months of life before needing to be recharged, but that wasn’t my experience. After testing the battery for three weeks, my battery level dropped from 100% to 47%. It was depleted before the two-month mark. If you plan to use a battery, I suggest buying two. As mentioned in the installation guide, Spotlight Cam ships with one battery, but it supports two. This configuration will improve your camera’s uptime. When one battery dies, you can charge it while battery two kicks-in to power your camera. Ring sells additional batteries for $29.
Ring also doesn't currently offer any additional security accessories, but it plans to add a leak sensor and other devices at some point. And while your Ring security cameras and video doorbells ($250 at Amazon) live in the same app as your Ring Alarm Security Kit, there aren't any direct integrations between them today. I'd like to see something like, "If the Ring Alarm Security Kit's front door sensor notices that the door is opened in Home or Away mode, then tell my Ring Video Doorbell Pro to record automatically" -- even if the Video Doorbell Pro itself hasn't detected motion yet.