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The best security systems we tested

Tech continues to play a key role in our homes, and this has led to an indisputable boom in home security options. In addition to professional systems that have been around for decades there is a newly established bumper crop made from lower-cost DIY systems that you can install yourself as well as gadgets like smart cameras locks and video Doorbells are also worth considering.

Best home security we tested

Best Handyman System SimpliSafe $ 230 in advance Monitoring begins at $ 1
5 a month, $ 25 a month, to include app controls and integration with Alexa.
Available online
The most professionally installed system Comcast Xfinity Home $ 299 in advance The surveillance costs $ 40 a month for the first year, then $ 50 a month. Bundling discounts with TV and Internet. Watch online
Best Video Doorbell Nest Hello $ 230 in advance Continuing recording starts at $ 5 a month. Available online
Best for part-time monitoring Abode $ 299 in advance Monitoring available for $ 20 per month. Watch it online

Admittedly, there is a lot to record – and today's security vendors are not always making it easy to find a comparison shop. But hey, here we come in! Read on to get an overview of the best home monitoring options we've tested. You will also receive links to learn more about our top picks.

Disclosure: CNET may receive some of the proceeds from purchases made via the links on this page.

Install-it-yourself Systems

If a professionally-installed system sounds like over-the-top, buying a system that you install yourself can save you a lot of money. For my money, systems like these offer some of the best solutions for your home.

You do not miss much in terms of functionality. Although professionally installed systems offer a fancier touch screen that controls the system, the rest of the hardware is much the same as the one you get when you choose the home improvement route. They rely mainly on wireless, battery-powered sensors that monitor you around your house

When DIY systems appeared for the first time as a cost-effective alternative to the professional, few, if any, had the potential for professional monitoring. That is no longer the case. Most handyman systems now offer the power of professional surveillance – and most of them cost less than the professionally installed security providers. The fact that most do-it-yourself systems do not require a service contract is another nice part of the course.

One more thing to watch out for: All-in-one home security appliances for smaller homes and living spaces. Basically, it's just single-point desktop cameras with extra motion, temperature, and ambient light sensors. These devices work well for a studio apartment.

Names to visit include Canary Honeywell and the Abode Iota – although our favorite of the group, Piper is no longer after in the market after Alarm.com acquired its parent company in 2016. If we find another alternative we like as much as we like, I will update that area.

Abode's excellent DIY system is worth considering.

Chris Monroe / CNET

Other options we tested

Ring Alarm

Ring's security kit is an Amazon subsidiary that installs quickly and is easy to use. Apart from a new "Works with Ring" program to bring compatible Smart Locks and other third-party gadgets into the bag, there is nothing so innovative – and it does not even offer full integration with Alexa – but with a Der Buy In price of $ 199 and professional monitoring for just $ 10 a month ring ring alarm. Total CNET score: 7.5

See Amazon

Read the full review

Nest Secure

Nest's DIY option, owned by Google, works great, but the $ 499 acquisition cost is much higher than its predecessor. It's a decent system, but it's only worth it if you want to be part of a Google Smart Home ecosystem. CNET Rating: 7.2

See at Nest

Read the full review

Professionally Installed Systems

These are the mainstays of home security – names like ADT and Brinks that you've probably been familiar with for years, along with home security systems offered by major telecom providers such as Comcast and AT & T.

The playing field is pretty similar across the board. In addition to basics such as motion sensors and door and window sensors, a professional set-up promises to seamlessly integrate things like door locks, thermostats and touchscreens, and voice control is often supported through Alexa and the Google Assistant. Most require an upfront equipment or installation fee and most require multiyear service contracts. The monthly fees for the professional supervision are obligatory and usually range between 30 and 50 US-Dollar per month.

High-end systems like these make the comparison shop sometimes difficult. For example, visit the ADT website. Here's a wealth of marketing text that praises the value of the company's various home security offerings – but you will not learn much about pricing. Instead, the site encourages you to request a free quote by either calling the company's sales team or providing your name, zip code, phone number, and email address. The latter ensures that "an ADT specialist occasionally calls you to ADT offers." Read the fine print and you'll find that these calls are "provisioned" with automatic dialing technology.

Mind you, ADT is hardly alone here. Some are less rude than others, but you can find similar tactics – and similar fine print – on on almost every website for professionally installed systems like this . If the website is unclear as to what a home-built system would cost you, it is best to call the company directly, tell them what kind of facility you want, and request a quote.

Your experience may vary depending on the seller you're talking to. When I tried to call ADT for the first time, the seller told me that he could not make me an offer without first conducting a credit check . I politely ended the conversation and called back another day. I've had much better experiences with a salesperson who set me a core system within 10 minutes, did not require a credit check, or any other exchange of personal information.

Purchasing for a professional system

Basic costs Monthly costs Contract length How long did it take for me to receive this information when I called What personal information did I need to provide in order to obtain it
ADT $ 129 ($ 229 for a system with a doorbell camera) $ 47 ($ 67 for a system with a doorbell camera) 3 years The first attempt would not make an offer without a credit check, the second attempt lasted 10 minutes. No
AT & T Digital Life Installation fee of $ 550 $ 40 2 years Easily available on the website. No
Brink's installation fee of $ 399 $ 29 3 years Easily available on the website. No
Comcast Xfinity Home Installation fee of $ 299 (dispensed on TV and Internet) $ 40 for the first year, then $ 50 ($ 175 when combined with TV and the Internet) 2 years 10 minutes postcode
Vivint $ 99 installation fee $ 40 plus equipment cost paid (for a bare-bone setup, about $ 18 for 60 months) None, but equipment is funded over 5 years 17 minutes No

Whoever you call, you are not afraid to put the floor above your privacy. Companies that use robocalls and junk mail as a sales tactic have no right to your address or other personal information until they have earned their business. Apart from that, the advantage with systems like this is that professionals come to you to install everything for you, and you can usually expect a higher level of hands-on technical support if you want to make changes to your system setup as well , Choose a professional system from a telecommunications provider, and you'll probably be able to bundle your home security with your TV or Internet service. This is a convenience that can also help you get a discount.


The Vivint system works well, but the equipment is not cheap.

Chris Monroe / CNET

Other Options We Have Tested

AT & T Digital Life

It's not cheap, but we liked this lean system and the fact that uncomplicated pricing was available online. Our service experts have taken care to optimize the signal strength for each device in our setup – a nice touch that helps to make the Pro approach worthwhile. CNET Rating: 8.3

See AT & T

Read the full review

Vivint Smart Home

Vivint is a solid system that has worked well in testing, but you know that you need to fund the cost of your devices in addition to your monthly fees for five years. As an example, look at the touch screen panel up there. Vivint charges you a whopping $ 600 – and it's a compulsory part of the system. Total CNET score: 7.6

See Vivint

Read the full review

Video Doorbells

If you do not need a complete security system and instead only want to keep an eye on activities at your front door, consider installing a video doorbell.

You now have many options that will all send a notification to your phone when someone calls to show you who's at the door. Some also track unexpected moves or allow two-way conversations – and we see many new options that can recognize faces as well . This includes our top selection:

Doorbell prices, such as these, typically range between about $ 100 and $ 250, and most also charge an optional fee for viewing stored video clips. To find one, you should first find out if your front door has a hard-wired doorbell connection or if you need battery-powered accessories. Then think of functions – for example, leave a light on the veranda at night or do you need something with night vision?

From there, decide which smart home platforms your bell should work with. In this regard, you will find many options that work with Alexa and many that work with IFTTT as well as with Google and / or Nest. Siri is still catching up – the only HomeKit-compatible video doorbell that we've ever come across is the Netatmo Welcome which debuted at CES last January.

Comparison of smart doorbells

August View Doorbell Camera Ring Video Doorbell 2 Ring Video Doorbell Pro Nest Hello Video Doorbell
Price 230 US dollars $ 199 $ 249 $ 229
color finish Black, red, white, blue, brass, matt nickel, midnight gray, bronze Satin nickel, Venetian (both versions included with purchase) Satin Nickel, Venetian, Satin Black, Pearl White White and black
current source Removable battery Hardwired or replaceable battery hardwired hardwired
Resolution 1920x1440p HD 1920x1080p HD 1920x1080p HD 1.600×1.200p HD
field No information 160 degrees 160 degrees 160 degrees
live streaming Yes Yes Yes Yes
cloud storage Yes, free baseline plus 15-day storage for $ 3 per month and 30-day storage for $ 5 per month Yes, 60 days of storage for $ 3 a month Yes, 60 days of storage for $ 3 a month Yes, free 3-hour storytelling; continuous record from $ 5 a month
Local storage No No No No
Mobile App Android and iPhone Android and iPhone Android and iPhone Android and iPhone
web app No Yes Yes Yes
night vision Yes Yes Yes Yes
Alerts movement movement movement Movement, Person, Face Recognition (with Nest Aware)
activity zones No Yes Yes Yes (with Nest Aware)
Dimensions (HxWxD) 5.2 × 1.8 × 1.3 inches 5.1 × 2.5 × 1.1 inches 4.5 x 1.9 x 0.8 inches 4.6 × 1.7 × 1.0 inches
Third-party integrations
19659135] Alexa; Google Assistant; nest
Alexa; IFTTT; to wink Alexa; IFTTT; to wink Alexa; Google Assistant; nest
Operating temperature range -4 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit -5 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit -5 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit 14 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit

Many of the major home security systems now offer their own video doorbells and some are also compatible with such standalone video doorbells. Remember, if you think you want to expand to a complete system later.

Oh, and you want more tips on choosing the right video doorbell? Megan Wollerton of CNET treated you .

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Chris Monroe / CNET

Other Options We Have Tested

Ring Video Doorbell 2

We are big fans of the replaceable, rechargeable battery in this version of the popular Ring Video Doorbell – though this does make things a bit bulkier than average , If it fits on your door frame, it's a great choice that works well with Alexa and IFTTT. CNET Rating: 7.4

See Amazon

Read the full review

August View

One of the newest options: The August view looks great and was wonderfully easy to install. However, the app was annoying when we tried to view the live feed. That's the last thing you want when someone just picks up a package from your porch. CNET Rating: 7.1

$ 229.00 at Amazon

Read the full review

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