You might recognize the name Nest, owned by the tech powerhouse Google, from the popular smart thermostat that propelled smart home automation into the mainstream. It comes as no surprise that Nest offers much more than just futuristic thermostat designs. As one of the first companies to develop a device ecosystem that integrates into one easy-to-use platform, Nest offers a full range of home security products, known as Nest Secure, and smart home automation features. This selection had our team of experts eager to conduct an all-encompassing hands-on review. We found that the third-party integration options gave us plenty of room for customizations, and everything was fairly simple to install. However, at $399, we found Nest Secure to be more expensive than the average home security kit.
When the products arrived, we took a close look at the devices, including the Nest Guard (keypad alarm with built-in Google Assistant), Nest Detect (door and window sensors), Nest Tag (fob for arming and disarming), and Nest mobile app (smartphone command center). Everything felt sleek and well-made. The products seemed more durable than Ring or Arlo, but still, nothing to write home about.
In our research, we found that Nest places a strong focus on the value of user-friendliness, from the installation process to the management of devices, which has earned them glowing customer reviews. We’ll get more into this in a bit, but overall, we did feel that Nest was intuitive and easy to get up-and-running, although it’s not as simple as other systems we’ve seen and tested.
We also felt that Nest’s expansive lineup of add-ons and upgrades made it difficult to select a system for our needs, and we test security systems daily. So if it’s challenging for us to choose a setup, we can only imagine that everyday customers may find the selection burdensome. However, you can always just go with the basic Nest Secure setup and worry about the add-ons later.
Pro Tip: It’s often better to purchase a base package and upgrade over time, rather than purchasing an expensive package that might not be right for you.
We put the Nest Guard in place and installed Nest Detect sensors on all doors and windows. Unfortunately, the kit didn’t come with nearly enough sensors, so we had to purchase additional sensors at $49 each. This amount is double the price of other sensors on the market, which usually range between $15 and $30 apiece. We then tested the system for days on end. Our findings were about what we expected. One thing that immediately stood out was that the Nest Detect sensors doubled as motion detectors, which was pretty neat and something unique to Nest. But we had to mount them just right, between 5′ and 6’4″ above our floor, to access this feature.
We also knew that Nest was a smart alarm system, with intelligent learning capabilities.1 In our testing, we found the learning capabilities, where the devices learn from one another and also learn your routine and activity habits, to be mostly accurate but not entirely useful. If you want to spend even more money on Nest’s smart devices, you can even purchase features like facial recognition.
Overall, the basic Nest Secure alarm system secured our entryways just fine. The motion sensors worked pretty well, though we did find them overly sensitive. One nice thing about Nest Secure is that it does offer options for tech-savvy smart-home enthusiasts. Many other security systems on the market woefully lack smart home options.
Our team found the Nest Secure sign-up process to be somewhat daunting. The system is available for purchase through many retailers, but we chose to shop through the Google Store and wade through their endless offerings to find what we needed. In their dropdown menu for “Connected Home,” we were given nearly 50 options to choose from (see below). While this is okay for those who understand how home security and home automation systems work together, it can be overwhelming to those who are new to these setups.
Once we found “Nest Secure alarm system” on the menu and clicked on it, it took us to the Nest Secure sales page. From here, we could either purchase the system for the full price ($399) or sign up for Google Store financing (6- and 12-month financing through Synchrony Bank). We added it to our cart, and it arrived within 3-5 business days.
Did You Know: Brinks has an exclusive relationship as a Nest Secure reseller, and we recommend buying the system through them for the best experience.
After researching and testing hundreds of systems, we know that it can be a pain to rush to disarm your system before it goes off. This task is especially stressful for people with physical disabilities. Often, we only get seconds to beat the clock, so Nest Secure found a way around this. They let us set a custom time to meet our preferences. During the countdown, we also received a nice reminder so that we always knew the time remaining when it came to disarming our system. Also, when we forgot to arm our system when leaving the house, we received a helpful notification reminder via our mobile app.
Using the Nest Tag key fob, we were able to schedule a time during the day for the system to disarm. We tested this feature, and it seems like it might be helpful for homeowners who often have friends, family, or service workers who need to enter the house at a predetermined time of the day. One question we had was, “What if someone loses the key fob?” Well, we simulated this circumstance, and we were able to disable the fob remotely with Nest Secure’s “deactivate lost Tags” function. So no worries there, as Nest thought of that.
If you’re into smart home gear as much as we are, then you are going to be enamored with Nest Secure. To be honest, up to this point, our team thought Nest was overpriced and a bit too hyped. So we went all in as we normally do. We signed up for the Nest Aware subscription plan, and we set up a handful of Nest cameras at one of our homes.2 The promise was that the cameras and motion detectors would send smart alerts with facial recognition and other intelligent notifications. Well, it (kind of) worked.
After a while, the smart cameras learned our faces, and the system sent instant mobile alerts to notify us anytime a stranger came within 50 feet. But for the steep price, we were expecting greater accuracy with the facial recognition feature and fewer false alarms. For the fancy tech, you’ll have to buy the Nest Cam IQ Outdoors ($399), and the Nest Aware monthly subscription for video support and history alerts. These features are not for the faint of heart.
We went with the Nest Aware 30-day video recording plan, which gave us 24-7 recording for a full month. The video showed up crisp and clear, and we liked the easy playback feature. The 1080p HD video quality was a bit better than other brands we’ve tested.3 But this makes sense, as Nest has glass camera lenses, not the plastic lenses that many security cameras use. We also had access to a live video stream via our smartphones. The Nest Aware plan also comes in 5-day and 10-day options. The 5-day is only $5 per month, whereas the 30-day plan is a whopping $30 per month.
FYI: If possible, purchase a security camera with 1080p HD image quality, as this will help to capture every little detail of a package thief or intruder.
Nest kept our recordings safe and accessible through a cloud-based service that uses AES 128-bit encryption and two-step authentication. Be sure to get heavy encryption like this if you opt for cloud storage over local video storage.4 Due to this level of protection, we had no problem trusting our clips to the cloud.
Our testing of Nest Secure revealed one big advantage. This home security system gave us the most options for integrations, both with Nest products and third-party equipment. We hooked up quite a few devices at one of our homes, and we found everything to function fine using just the Nest platform. But beware, the setup and configuration process might take some time and patience. For third-party hardware, the “Works With Nest” label helped to show us our available options.
Our team found the voice alerts to be somewhat unnecessary. But this feature comes with the Nest mobile app, so no complaints here. A human-like voice announces our activity alerts, instead of the usual beeps, chimes, and chirps. We could have done without this feature, though.
Nest’s mobile companion app gave us centralized control on our mobile devices and web browsers. The more we expanded our Nest Secure system by adding on lots of upgrades, such as cameras and additional sensors, the more helpful the app became. It allowed us to customize alerts and assign priority to devices. Overall, it felt like we had more control of our setup. Expect app features like a timeline view of video clips, if you get Nest Cams, along with the ability to create clips from your video history. Most security systems come with a mobile app these days, but they don’t all achieve this level of integration.
Nest performed well during the installation phase of our testing. The in-app and pamphlet instructions were fairly easy to follow. We had our Nest Secure devices mounted and ready to go within 20 to 30 minutes. We could tell that Nest wants to compete with the likes of Ring Alarm and SimpliSafe when it comes to fast and easy installs. Also, as far as arming and disarming our system and controlling it, it was quite easy to manage. If you’re anything like us, you’ll find yourself primarily using the mobile app to manage your system.
Our most significant issues came when configuring smart home devices into Nest Secure. The company claims that it’s straightforward and effortless, but we found there’s a learning curve compared to other systems we’ve tested. We installed a full Nest Secure system with Nest Home products, including smart smoke alarms, the Nest Learning Thermostat, security cameras, and other devices. We can say it wasn’t as easy as, say, SimpliSafe or Ring. With that said, you will probably be fine with a little patience. If worse comes to worse, you can always call tech support, or you can request a professional installation for a fee.
Pro Tip: If you don’t enjoy DIY projects, it’s best to choose a security brand that offers professional installation, just in case you need it.
For testing purposes, our team called Nest’s customer service several times. We wanted to see how their customer service measured up against the competition. We also accessed their self-help articles, online guides, and the Nest community of users.
There is nothing exceptional to report here. It’s what you will find from many of the leading brands. One thing that did impress us was Nest’s social media presence. We messaged them on Twitter, and they quickly responded to our questions. We thought that was a neat resource. In addition to these avenues of getting help, you can also get email support. Nest makes the mark in the customer service category.
When considering the value of the Nest Secure home security system, you need to think about the upfront cost of the base system, the customizations for your home, and whether or not you want an on-going subscription for video surveillance. Thankfully, we didn’t have to sign up with a long-term contract. And we were able to use the base security system’s equipment without having to purchase a monthly subscription. It’s not the perfect system by any means, but if you want upgrades and smart technology, Nest might be a good fit for you.
Nest Secure gave us the choice of three Nest Aware subscription tiers. The first tier was $5 per month or $50 annually, which covers 5-day video history, 24-7 continuous recording, intelligent alerts, clips, time-lapses, and custom activity zones. The second tier and third tier offer the same feature sets. The second tier increases the video history to 10 days for $10 per month or $100 per year, and the third tier offers a 30-day video history for $30 per month or $300 annually.
Again, we went with the 30-day video history option for testing purposes, but our team preferred the $5 or $10 monthly plan for long-term use. Remember, this pricing is on a per-camera basis, and you will only need the Nest Aware plan if you have Nest security cameras. If you’re only using the base security system, you won’t need to purchase these plans. Phew!
If you’re on the fence about getting video surveillance for your home, we typically recommend it. If something happens, you’ll have hard evidence to seek justice and reclaim stolen packages or valuables. Also, in our research, we’ve found that the presence of surveillance cameras makes people feel safer.
FYI: Studies show that the mere presence of a home security system is enough to deter upwards of 60% of burglars.5
As far as 24-7 professional monitoring goes, we had the option of getting professional security monitoring via Nest’s partnership with Brinks. And that we did. This monitoring plan gave us access to trained professionals in case our alarm sounded, and we needed help.
Our monitoring package also came with cellular backup so that we remained protected even when our Wi-Fi went down. Yes, we tested that, too. We had two monitoring options: $19 per month with a 3-year agreement or $29 per month with a month-to-month agreement. Of course, we chose month-to-month, but if you plan on being in the same home for a while, the 3-year contract is a reasonable deal.
After testing the system, it performed well for us, but we found it to be a bit too expensive for a good chunk of the market. We had to pay $399 for the base equipment package just to get started. And that’s before we purchased any upgrades, video support, or a professional monitoring plan. So the value is there if you also want Nest Home automation. But if you’re just looking for a basic security kit to protect your home, you might want to look elsewhere.
We discovered that Nest excels in the home automation industry. They offer a range of devices that could function independently or with our Nest Secure Alarm System. Here’s a rundown of the Nest products that our team liked the most. We didn’t test all of these devices, but the ones we did test worked pretty well.
The smart smoke and CO alarm has some unique features. It was easy for us to set up, and it displayed in plain English where the environmental threat was. It also synced with other Nest smart detectors we installed. During our testing, we did experience a false alarm, but it was easy to turn off using our Nest app.
Did You Know: You can quickly disable false alarms if you keep your mobile device close at hand.
We found that the Nest Protect is also capable of distinguishing steam from smoke. If the shower was steamy, we didn’t have to worry about the proximity of the sensor. Another helpful feature were the lights on the detector. It just about lit up the room when it went off at night, allowing for quick egress to safety. This pathlight feature also acts as a motion light.
The Nest Protect comes in a battery-operated wireless option or a hard-wired option. We always preferred the wireless model. You can also run tests on the detectors using the Nest app, and it self-tests, too. While Nest Protect was fun to try out, we wouldn’t buy one for our own homes at the $119 price point. We think it’s a bit too expensive for a smoke and CO detector.
As you probably know, Nest’s flagship product is the smart thermostat. The Nest Learning Thermostat and the Nest Thermostat E gave us smart control over our indoor temperature. During testing, we were able to control the thermostats from anywhere using the Nest app. The learning features adjusted to our schedule and temperature preferences, allowing us to save some money and stay comfortable. The Nest Thermostat E has additional energy-saving technology. If used for an extended period, we do believe it would further reduce energy costs simply due to the hibernation mode.
FYI: Studies show that smart thermostats like Nest help homes become more energy efficient.6
The design of these devices are modern and appealing, and they blended into our existing decor. Also, in our research, we found that some utility companies offer rebates on smart thermostat purchases. So this discount is worth researching. Nest’s line of smart thermostats are some of the best smart home devices we’ve researched and tested.
This video doorbell will integrate into any Nest Secure security system. We didn’t test this specific device, but our team conducted in-depth research on it and pored over countless user reviews. Unfortunately, it’s a hardwired video doorbell, and it’s not easy to install. So you’re probably better off with professional installation.
The Nest Hello Video Doorbell offers 24-7 live streaming with HD quality video in 4:3 aspect ratio. The 3-hour snapshot history lets you check out what happens when you’re not viewing it live. The mobile alerts also let you know if it senses motion or sees a person. We found that if you have a Nest Aware subscription, the video doorbell can notify you when it recognizes a familiar face or notices a stranger or intruder. With its two-way microphone, you can communicate with visitors at your door. Finally, like all Nest products, it will connect with a Google Home Mini device for voice notifications of visitors.
As the name implies, this device acts as a bridge between the Nest Guard base unit and the Nest Detect sensors. It worked alright in one of our homes, but we noticed some lag when placed far away from some devices. The main point for having Nest Connect is that it ensures coverage throughout a larger home. It came with a battery backup in case our power went out, but we never needed it. After testing, we would say that most people should get what they need from the Nest Connect device. But if you live in a mansion, you might be out of luck. The range you get is typical of what we’ve seen and tested on the market.
We’re big fans of smart locks. Well, the good ones, that is. This smart deadlock integrates nicely into the Nest Secure system. It interfaces with the Nest Connect or the Nest Guard. In testing the device, we were able to lock and unlock our door remotely, as well as create unique passcodes for friends and family. Using the app, we could see who was coming and going. It’s tamper-proof, and the lock has a low-battery notification. There’s also a charging option in the event of a power outage. Our extensive research shows that Yale makes some of the best smart locks on the market. And we must say, our team was satisfied with this collaboration.
Did You Know: Smart locks require batteries, so be sure to replace your smart lock battery before it depletes.
Our team tested all four of Nest’s security camera options. Their features include:
This is Nest’s outdoor home security camera, which is weatherproof and has a 130-degree field of view. It offered us live-streaming capabilities with a crisp, clear video. But we were especially impressed with the cam’s 8x digital zoom. However, while the HD picture was good, expect a similar picture from other cameras in this price range. Our Nest Cam Outdoor also included several types of mounting hardware, including wall anchors and a mounting magnet. So it was easy enough to install (almost plug-and-play easy).
We found the Nest Cam Indoor to be a bit pricey as far as indoor cameras go. But this camera did meet our standards during testing. It offered us a simple DIY setup with several different mounting options, including standing, magnet, wall, and tripod. We tried all mounting options, but we were able to get the best angles by using the built-in magnet for mounting. This cam gave us the same live streaming capabilities as many of the leading indoor cameras today, so nothing groundbreaking there. The biggest advantage we discovered is that this cam integrated into our Nest Home platform with ease.
We’ve tested our fair share of high-tech security cameras. So we had high expectations for the Nest Cam IQ lineup. The IQ security camera is Nest’s higher-end option with intelligent monitoring. When we set it up, we immediately began digging into these smart features. Our tests revealed that it does, in fact, learn a person’s face using facial recognition technology. It also sent instant activity alerts to our smartphones, but only when it sensed a person. While it wasn’t 100% accurate, it was able to distinguish between people and other moving objects.
We actually got a lot of use out of the Nest Cam Outdoor’s motion-activated alerts. When someone came within 50 feet of our camera, it took their picture and sent us an instant notification to our smartphones. There were some false alarms, but overall this too was accurate. Also, the speakers and microphone offered noise and echo suppression to improve the audio quality of the stream and communication.
These cameras are also tamper-resistant, so a criminal can’t damage them or bypass your system in any way. The power cord is hidden to prevent that avenue of attack. We also liked that these cameras have a 4K sensor, 1080p HD image quality, 24-7 mobile streaming, and 12x digital zoom. These features combined put Nest Cam IQ in the upper echelon of the cameras we’ve tested. But remember, with great technology comes a great price tag. Expect to pay $299 for the indoor camera and $399 for the outdoor camera.
Pro Tip: Customize your alerts in the Nest App to receive a unique chime for different activity types.
In our testing, we found Nest Secure to be a good option for those who can afford it. The equipment offered us new and innovative features that were practical and helped to secure our home better. The technology isn’t perfect by any means, as we did notice a few bugs and glitches here and there. Overall, we got our money’s worth. At $399 for the basic setup, we found this system to be pricier, but also more advanced, than other security systems with similar features.
However, we don’t recommend Nest Secure for most people that are indifferent to smart home automation. But for the tech-savvy folks out there, you can upgrade this system with literally dozens and dozens (technically hundreds) of smart devices. You can integrate Nest’s products into the system, as well as third-party devices. With that said, this home security system will add up in cost over time, so just be ready for it. We’ve found that people who like gadgets, those who are contributing to the projected $68 billion smart home industry, really don’t mind paying for their “toys.”7 They wouldn’t have it any other way. All in all, our hands-on experience with Nest Secure yielded positive results and a glimpse into the future of home security.
Google. (2020). Nest Secure Alarm System.
Google. (2020). Nest Aware.
1080p. (2020, February 14). Wikipedia. Retrieved March 4, 2020.
Cloud Storage. (2020, January 30). Wikipedia. Retrieved March 4, 2020.
Blevins, K. R., Kuhns, J. B., & Lee, S. (2012, December). Understanding Decisions to Burglarize from the Offender's Perspective.
U.S. Department of Energy. (2016, December 15). Better Buildings.
Grace Market Data. (2019, January 4). $68.1 Billion DIY Home Automation Systems Market by Offerings, Product, Technology and Region – Global Forecast to 2024. (Research and Markets No. 4721743).
As Managing Editor for SafeHome.org, Rob Gabriele has written and edited over 1,000 articles in home security. His expertise is in smart home automation and home protection with thousands of hours of testing and research under his belt. Formerly a reporter and producer for the USAToday network, Rob has been a writer and editor for over 10 years. He holds a Master’s of Science with an emphasis on writing from the University of Montana, and he currently lives in the Reno/Tahoe area of Nevada.