For as smart as our homes have become — with damned near every device you can buy today connected to the internet, and probably with some sort of smart assistant baked in — alarm systems have sort of lagged in the past. Legacy companies continue to dominate, in no small part because there traditionally was very little for homeowners to do other than sign a check.
But advances in networking and in the simplification of the technology itself means that it's gotten easier for anyone with a screwdriver to install all sorts of cameras and sensors in and around their home. In late 2017, Nest — already known for its thermostats, smoke detectors and cameras — announced its "Nest Secure" system. And upstart Ring — which has made quite the name for itself with a series of connected doorbells and lights, each with cameras built in — has followed suit with its "Ring Alarm" system.
Nest Secure is available today. Ring Alarm is coming sometime in the spring of 2018. The two systems aren't really a 1:1 comparison, whether it's in price or products. If you're looking to deck out every point of entry in your home, one will cost significantly more than the other, at least on paper.
But it's still worth taking a look at them side by side, which we'll do now.
Nest Secure ($499, available now)
What you get: For the base price you get a Nest Guard base, two Nest Detects, and two Nest Tags. The Nest Guard includes a keypad and is how you'll arm and disarm the system. (You also can do so with your phone.)
The Nest Detect looks like a typical door or window sensor to alert when something's been opened, but it also serves as a motion detector. Or, it can do both. (It also provides path lighting.)
Nest Tags are little keyring-size pucks that you can tap on the Nest Guard to arm and disarm the system.
Add-ons: An additional Nest Detect will cost $59 each. That'll get expensive real fast if you're looking to monitor every door or window in your home. But remember that each one can also serve as a motion detector. Additional Nest Tags cost $25 each, and you can pick up a Nest Connect range extender for $69.
Monitoring: Just like with Nest's other products, everything will ping into your phone. For $50 a year (or $5 a month) you can add a cellular backup option, so you'll still be alerted even if your home internet is down. And there's full 24/7 professional monitoring available through MONI, starting at $25 a month with a three-year contract — $900 over the life of the plan.
Our take: Nest Secure certainly looks like an expensive option. But that also fits into Nest's product range — function and style, along with ease of use, and a price tag to match. Arming every single point of entry would get very expensive — we might just concentrate on strategic locations instead.
Ring Alarm ($199, not yet available)
What you get: The bottom-line price gets you a base unit and separate keypad. Also included is a single door/window contact sensor, and a single motion sensor.
Add-ons: The basic Ring Alarm system is a lot less expensive but comes with fewer sensors. However, it also has more products available to tie in to the system.
An additional keypad runs $50. Each additional motion detector is $30, and additional contact sensors are $20 each. A flood/freeze sensor is $25, as is a smoke/CO sensor.
Monitoring: You can shell out $100 a year (or $10 a month) hooks you in to Ring's "Protect Plus" plan, which gives full playback and sharing from all of your Ring devices, lifetime warranty, and discounts on future devices. Ring Alarm also will have a battery backup and cellular LTE backup option, should your Wifi go out.
Our take: Ring Alarm was pushed back due to legal issues, and we don't know exactly when it'll be available, or what might change in the interim. It's more of a DIY home security thing and lacks the sophistication of other systems. But it's far less expensive and should still be a good option.
The bottom line
If you're looking for alternatives to the legacy alarm vendors, both Nest Secure and Ring Alarm should be intriguing options — especially if you're already using products from either ecosystem.
Nest Secure is more expensive. I could rig up all of the doors and windows of my home with Ring Alarm and have money left over for more motion detectors. On the other hand, Nest Secure may make more sense if you've got a Nest Thermostat or Nest Cam and want to have products in as few ecosystems as possible.
I've got Nest products in my home. I've got Ring products in my home. Both work well, though Nest's software tends to work a little better in my experience (your mileage may vary), and often is easier to set up. On the other hand, I love my Ring doorbell.
I'd look at this as a couple of good options for different budgets. And, again, we'll have to see how the thing actually work once Ring Alarm is released.
Updated Jan. 16: Ring Alarm will have battery and LTE backup options, the company tells us.