Tech is everywhere in our lives and in our homes, and that's led to an undeniable boom in your home security and monitoring options. Along with cameras, smart locks and that are worth considering, too., there's a newly established bumper crop of less-expensive , as well as gadgets like
It's admittedly a lot to take in -- and today's home security providers don't always make it easy to comparison shop. But hey, that's where we come in! Keep reading for our breakdown of the best DIY home security systems, professionally installed monitoring services and standalone gadgets like video doorbells that we've tested to date.
Best home security we've tested
|Best DIY system||SimpliSafe||$230 upfront||Monitoring starts at $15 per month, $25 per month to include app controls and integration with Alexa.||See it online|
|Best professionally installed system||Comcast Xfinity Home||$99 upfront||Monitoring costs $40 per month during first year, $50 per month after that; bundling discounts available with TV and internet.||See it online|
|Best video doorbell||Nest Hello||$230 upfront||Continuous recording starting at $5 per month.||See it online|
|Best for part-time monitoring||Abode||$299 upfront||Monitoring available for $20 per month.||See it online|
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If a professionally installed system sounds like overkill, then you can save a lot of money by buying a system that you install yourself. For my money, systems like these offer some of the best value for your home security dollar.
You're not missing out on much in terms of functionality. Though professionally installed systems might offer a fancier touchscreen to control the security cameras, sensors, alarms and monitors, the rest of the hardware is largely the same as what you'll get if you go the DIY route, relying mostly on wireless, battery-powered sensors that you stick up around your house.
When DIY systems first started popping up as a low-cost alternative to going with the pros, few, if any, came with an option for professional monitoring or customer service. That's no longer the case. Most DIY systems now offer the option of professional monitoring -- and most of them charge less for it than the professionally-installed security providers do, too. Automation and smart home devices have helped lower the overhead cost for third-party monitoring, which results in savings passed on to you. And the fact that most DIY systems don't require any sort of service contract or monthly fee is another nice part of the pitch.
Best we've tested: SimpliSafe Home SecurityChris Monroe/CNET
SimpliSafe's easy-to-install, easy-to-use system is well-positioned as one of the best values in home security. It offers a comprehensive set of features and a very good mix of battery-powered sensors, all of which performed reliably well in our tests. Starter kits start at about $230, or you can build your own custom system with the exact mix of devices you're interested in.
Professional monitoring starts at $15 per month, but you'll almost certainly want to spring for the $25-per-month plan, which adds in things like app controls and voice support via Alexa and the Google Assistant. That also means that you should go with another pick like Abode or Ring if you don't want professional monitoring but still want to control your system from your phone.?Overall CNET score: 8.5
Something else to keep an eye out for: all-in-one DIY security devices designed for smaller homes and living spaces. Basically, just single-point, tabletop cameras packed with extra sensors and detectors for things like motion, temperature and ambient light, these devices can be a good fit for something like a studio apartment that doesn't have garage doors or many street windows to protect.
Names to look at include, , and the? -- though our favorite of the bunch, , is no longer on the market after . If we find another alternative that we like as much as we liked that one, I'll update this space.
Other options we've tested
Our top SimpliSafe alternative, Abode's well-thought-out system supports both Zigbee and Z-Wave, it works with Alexa, IFTTT and Nest, and it offers lots of flexibility with regard to professional monitoring -- including the option of only paying for temporary monitoring during the times when you're actually out of town.?Overall CNET score: 8.3
A subsidiary of Amazon, Ring's security kit is quick to install and easy to use. Aside from a new "Works with Ring" program to bring compatible smart locks and other third-party gadgets into the fold, there's nothing all that innovative about it, though Alexa users will appreciate that they can arm and disarm the system using voice commands, and that they can use Ring's sensors to trigger Alexa routines. With a buy-in cost of $199 and professional monitoring available for just $10 per month, Ring Alarm stands out as a value pick.?Overall CNET score: 7.5
This DIY option from Google-owned Nest works great, but the upfront cost of $399 is much higher than the competition. It's a decent system, but really only worth it if you're looking to lock yourself into a Google smart home ecosystem.?Overall CNET score: 7.2
Professionally installed systems
These are are 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 like Comcast and AT&T.
The pitch is pretty similar across the board. In addition to basics like motion sensors and entry sensors for doors and windows, these kinds of professional setups will also promise to seamlessly integrate things like door locks, cameras, keypads, thermostats and touchscreens, and they'll often support voice controls via Alexa and the Google Assistant, too. Most charge an upfront equipment or installation fee and most require multiyear service contracts. As for the monthly fee for professional monitoring, those are mandatory, and will typically range from $30 to $50 per month.
Best we've tested: Comcast Xfinity HomeJoshua Goldman/CNET
It isn't available in all regions, but Comcast Xfinity Home left us impressed when CNET Senior Editor Josh Goldman tested the system out at his home in northern New Jersey. It's a robust, well-thought-out system that plays nicely with your smart home gear, including longtime favorites like Lutron Caseta light switches and the Nest thermostat. "What Xfinity Home showed me," Josh wrote, "was how smart home devices make much more sense when fully integrated with the sensors and cameras of a home security system."
You'll get the best value if you're willing to bundle Xfinity Home with Comcast's internet and TV service, but you can use it as a standalone service, too. I also appreciated that the sales approach was less pushy and more helpful than the competition when I gave them a test call (I was able to get a quote for my home in about 10 minutes, and the only piece of personal info I gave was a zip code).?Overall CNET score: 8.5
High-end systems like these will sometimes make it tough to comparison shop. For instance, head to?ADT's website?and you'll find plenty of marketing copy touting the value of the company's various home security offerings and customer service -- but you won't find much by way of pricing specifics. Instead, the site directs you to request a "free quote," either by calling the company's sales team or by submitting your name, zip code, phone number and email address. Doing the latter ensures that "an ADT Specialist will call you, from time to time, about ADT offers." Read the fine print, and you'll see that these calls are "provided" using "automated dialing technology."
Mind you, ADT is hardly alone here. Some are less egregious about it than others, but you'll find similar tactics -- and similar fine print -- on just about every website for professionally installed systems like these. If the website is unclear about what a system built for your home would cost you, then your best bet is just to call the company directly, tell them what kind of setup you'd like, and ask for a quote.
Your experience might vary based on the salesperson you're speaking with. For instance, when I first tried calling ADT, the salesperson told me that he couldn't give me a quote without running a credit check first. I politely ended the conversation and called back another day, and had a much better experience with a salesperson who priced a core system for me within 10 minutes, no credit check or other exchange of personal info needed.
Shopping for a pro system
||Base upfront cost||Monthly cost||Contract length||How long it took me to get that info when I called||What personal data I had to give to get it|
|ADT||$129 ($229 for a system with a doorbell camera)||$47 ($67 for a system with a doorbell camera)||3-year||First attempt wouldn't give a quote without a credit check, second attempt took 10 minutes||None|
|AT&T Digital Life||$550 installation fee||$40||2-year||Easily available on the website||None|
|Brinks||$399 installation fee||$29||3-year||Easily available on the website||None|
|Comcast Xfinity Home||$99 installation fee (waived if bundled with TV and internet)||$40 for first year, then $50 ($175 if bundled with TV and internet)||2-year||10 minutes||Zip code|
|Vivint||$99 installation fee||$40 plus financed cost of devices (for a bare-bones setup, about $10 per month for 60 months)||None||17 minutes||None|
Whoever you end up calling, don't be afraid to put your foot down over your own privacy. Companies that useand junk mail as a sales tactic don't have a right to your address or other personal info until they've earned your business, full stop.
That caveat aside, the advantage with systems like these is that professionals will come to your place to install everything for you, and you can typically expect a higher level of hands-on tech support and customer service if you ever want to make changes to your setup, too. Pick a professional system from a telecom provider, and you'll likely be able to bundle your home security with your TV or internet service. That's a convenience that can also help you score a discount.
Other options we've tested
AT&T Digital Life
It isn't cheap, but we liked this sleek system and the fact that straightforward pricing specifics were available online. Our service professionals made sure to optimize the strength of signal for each device in our setup during the installation -- a nice touch that helped make the pro approach feel worthwhile.?Overall CNET score: 8.3
Vivint Smart Home
Vivint is a solid system that worked well when we tested it out, but the equipment is a bit expensive. A basic starter kit with the mandatory touchscreen, a motion sensor, and two entry sensors retails for $599, which you can pay upfront or spread out over 60 months. Want to add cameras? Each one will add an extra $5 to your bill each month, in addition to the extra equipment cost. One nice thing with Vivint: no contracts.?Overall CNET score: 7.6
If you don't need an entire security system, and instead just want to keep an eye on activity at your front door, then you might consider installing a video doorbell to keep watch.
You've got lots of options right now, and thanks to automation, all will send an alert to your cellular phone or smart device whenever someone rings to show you who's at the door. Some also track for unexpected motion or allow for two-way talk -- and we're seeingthat are . That includes our top pick:
These systems are quicker to install, easier to manage and often don't require any sort of monthly fee or extended service contract either.
Best we've tested: Nest HelloTyler Lizenby/CNET
Nest's stylish video doorbell is a smart, sleek pick that aced our tests. Features like person detection and geofencing are helpful and easy-to-use, and you can also upgrade to the Nest Aware cloud subscription service to enable facial recognition and access to saved recordings.
It's obviously best for households that have already committed to Google and Nest's smart home ecosystem, but Nest's doorbell also works with both Alexa and IFTTT, which helps make it a very solid choice for just about anyone.?Overall CNET score: 8.5
Prices for doorbells like these typically range from about $100 to $250, and most also charge an optional fee for viewing saved video clips. To pick one, first figure out if your front door has a hardwired doorbell connection or if you'll need something battery-powered. Then, consider features -- for instance, do you keep a porch light on at night, or will you need something with night vision?
From there, think about which smart home platforms you want your doorbell to work with. On that front, you'll find lots of options that work with Alexa and plenty that work with IFTTT, and with Google and/or Nest, too. Siri is still playing catch-up, though -- the only HomeKit-compatible video doorbell we've gotten our fingers on thus far is?, which debuted at CES this past January.
Comparing smart doorbells
||August View Doorbell Camera||Ring Video Doorbell 2||Ring Video Doorbell Pro||Nest Hello Video Doorbell|
|Color finish||Black, red, white, blue, brass, satin nickel, midnight gray, bronze||Satin nickel, venetian (both finishes included with purchase)||Satin nickel, venetian, satin black, pearl white||White and black|
|Power source||Removable, rechargeable battery||Hardwired or removable, rechargeable battery||Hardwired||Hardwired|
|Resolution||1,920x1,440p HD||1,920x1080p HD||1,920x1080p HD||1,600x1,200p HD|
|Field of view||No information||160 degrees||160 degrees||160 degrees|
|Cloud storage||Yes, free basic plan, plus 15-day storage for $3 per month and 30-day storage for $5 per month||Yes, 60-day storage for $3 per month||Yes, 60-day storage for $3 per month||Yes, free 3-hour image history; continuous recording starting at $5 per month|
|Mobile app||Android and iPhone||Android and iPhone||Android and iPhone||Android and iPhone|
|Alerts||Motion||Motion||Motion||Motion, person, facial recognition (with Nest Aware)|
|Activity zones||No||Yes||Yes||Yes (with Nest Aware)|
|Dimensions (HxWxD)||5.2 x 1.8 x 1.3 inches||5.1 x 2.5 x 1.1 inches||4.5 x 1.9 x 0.8 inches||4.6 x 1.7 x 1.0 inches|
|Third-party integrations||Alexa; Google Assistant; Nest||Alexa; IFTTT; Wink||Alexa; IFTTT; Wink||Alexa; Google Assistant; Nest|
|Operating temperature range||-4 to 122 degrees F||-5 to 120 degrees F||-5 to 120 degrees F||14 to 104 degrees F|
Many of the major home security systems now offer video doorbells of their own, and some offer compatibility with standalone video doorbells and keypads like these, too. Keep that in mind if you think you might want to expand to a full system later on down the line.
Oh, and want more tips on picking out the right video doorbell? CNET's Megan Wollerton.
Other options we've tested
Ring Video Doorbell 2
We're big fans of the removable, rechargeable battery in this version of the popular Ring Video Doorbell -- though it also makes the thing a little bit bulkier than average. If it'll fit on your door frame, it's a great pick that plays nicely with Alexa and IFTTT.?Overall CNET score: 7.4
One of your newest options, the August View looks great and was wonderfully easy to install, but the app was annoyingly laggy whenever we'd try to view the live feed. That's the last thing you want if someone's in the process of nabbing a package off of your porch.?Overall CNET score: 7.1
Originally published earlier and updated frequently.