The “abode” DIY Home Security and Automation Starter Kit ($299) is an excellent entry point for folks just getting into the home security game, like myself. I’ve been testing this setup here in my home for the past few weeks, and now it’s time to give you my final thoughts and rating.
Design and performance
The black-and-white gateway has dimensions of 7.7 by 1.7 by 5.7 inches (HWD). It has a small LED status light on the front that lights up red when an alarm triggers and yellow when there’s a connectivity problem with the gateway or one of the sensors. Otherwise, this light is usually off.
The back of the Gateway has an Ethernet port, a SIM card slot, a battery backup switch, a power connector, and a USB port, which doesn’t do anything right now, rather it’s there for future use.
On the inside, there’s a rechargeable battery that provides up to 12 hours of juice during power outages. There are also Z-Wave, ZigBee, and RF radios, as well as a cellular radio that keeps your Gateway connected to the cloud, should your internet connection die on you. This feature does require a cellular plan, however. (See below for details on plans.)
As for its alarm, the abode houses a 93dB siren, which is (hopefully) plenty loud enough to scare off an intruder. I, luckily, can’t speak from personal experience here – and I hope you never have to either. The alarm sure does scare my puppy though, and I can hear it all the way on the other side of my apartment or in any of the back rooms loud and clear.
The Door/Window Sensors have dimensions of 1.2 by 3.2 by 0.8 inches, making them just a bit on the bulky side. They’re not necessarily “big”, but they do stand out just a bit. They come out of the box pre-paired to the Gateway and have A and B labeled stickers on them to keep them together until installation.
The sensors work by aligning them within one inch of one another on the door/window and the doorframe/window frame and using an adhesive backing to stick them to the desired surface. The adhesive is strong and doesn’t seem to lose strength much if you need to pull a sensor off to reposition it.
When the sensors separate from one another (i.e. a door/window opens) and the system is armed, you have 60 seconds to disarm the system via either the app or the remote KeyFob before the alarm sounds.
The motion-sensing camera measures 4.8 by 2.7 by 2.0 inches and contains a camera that takes 640-by-480 resolution photos when triggered. It’s worth noting that you have to enable the higher resolution, as it actually takes photos at 320-by-240 out of the box. This is done in the device settings, via the abode website. The camera has a 90-degree field of view and uses a flash to take color snapshots at night.
The keychain fob is also black-and-white and measures 2.0 by 1.3 by 0.4 inches. It has four buttons on it: the Arm Away button that activates all sensors, the Home button that activates all perimeter sensors and disables all interior sensors, allowing you to move about the house without triggering an alarm, and a Disarm button that puts the system in standby mode.
I wrote a pretty detailed guide on how to install the abode system. If you’re thinking about purchasing this setup, or you already have one and just need help starting out, you should give my tutorial a look. Just to reiterate the facts here in this review, however, the process is as simple as it gets.
You plug the Gateway into an electrical socket, then connect the Gateway to your router with an Ethernet cable. Next, you install both Door/Window Sensors and the wide-angle Motion Sensing Camera. And what’s really cool is, there’s no need for drilling to get set up. Everything comes with adhesive backing – that’s quite strong, yet not destructive, by the way – so there’s no need for nails or screws, either.
From there, everything is done from within the abode app on your smartphone. It’s compatible with both Android and iOS, and it’s well-designed and easy to use.
30 minutes or less
I actually held off on setting the abode system up for a few days after receiving it, as I was skeptical of the DIY claims. I’m the least handy person in the world, so even smaller projects always seem to stretch into an all-day event for me. But with the abode, it was quite the contrary.
From start to finish, or from start to secure in this case, it took about 30 minutes to install the Gateway, sensors, and camera. No handyman skills necessary. And most of that half-hour was spent deciding on placement for the sensors and camera.
It’s worth mentioning that I relocated the camera three times during the install process. At first, I had it positioned too far away from the front door. The camera shots captured my living room, but it was impossible to make out more than a silhouette of a person standing in the doorway, making the camera useless from that location.
Then, I put the camera in the left-hand corner above the front door. From this position, the front door blocked the shot when it was open. So, finally, I put it in the right-hand corner of the doorway to my kitchen, caddy-corner to my front door, and that’s the sweet spot. It gets a pretty clear view of anyone coming and going from there.
And better yet, the first adhesive backing I used on the camera stayed sticky enough throughout all of the moves. It’s still holding strong over a month later.
Abode offers three different plans, starting with a free plan that provides 3 days of timeline storage on the company’s cloud service. The $10/month plan gives you 14 days of timeline storage, plus cellular backup for those unfortunate times when your Internet connection goes out.
And for $30/month you get 90 days of timeline storage, plus 24/7 professional monitoring from the company’s UL-Listed Center. Even on the high end, we’re talking about the price of an inexpensive dinner for two for professional monitoring. If you’re in need of such a service, it’s likely that monthly fee won’t be a financial burden on you.
In addition to its already great security service, abode offers integration with several outstanding and well-known 3rd-party services.
The system works with IFTTT, allowing users to create automated actions, like having the abode automatically arm when you leave your house using your smartphone’s location services. You can also set it to automatically disarm when returning home, so you don’t have to fiddle with the KeyFob.
This is how I have my system set up, and it works very well.
Abode also features integration with Alexa and a slew of Z-Wave and Zigbee devices. The company recently added Nest, Philips Hue, and Ecobee integration, as well.
I really like that I can say, “Alexa, tell abode I’m leaving.” Alexa then arms the abode system. Obviously, I don’t need to do this with the IFTTT setup I’ve got going on, but it’s nice to be able to just to show off to friends.
Impeccable customer support and crisis management
One thing I want to make sure to point out in this review is that, as is the case with all technology, abode isn’t 100% perfect. About a week ago, the company experienced a brief outage due to technical issues on its end.
Now, as you can imagine, this is bad business for a company who’s in the game of keeping all of your personal belongings safe. But what’s really impressive is the way the company responded.
I had several emails explaining what caused the outage, the steps that were being taken to rectify the situation and an ETA for service restoration. This happened in real-time, not days later. To have the company on-the-ball with keeping its customers informed like that was an extremely good move on their part, in my opinion.
It’s not about what goes wrong in life, rather it’s about how you rebound from those setbacks – and abode did an excellent job of rebounding in this particular case.
Thumbs up, Team abode!
Final thoughts and rating
I don’t live in the best neighborhood. Having the abode security system doesn’t give me 100% peace of mind, but I don’t think anything ever will in my apartment complex. That being said, I think this is a wonderful system that, even at its lowest tier plan, provides an extra level of security and a safety net for a possible unfortunate event.
At very least, if someone breaks into your home while you’re away, you’ll be notified and you’ll have a photo of the criminal stored on the cloud. This will hopefully provide some assistance in finding the bastards responsible for violating your living space.
For $300, I highly recommend the abode Starter Kit. And, if you have extra money to throw at expanding the system, they also make a 1080p streaming camera now that you may want to consider adding, as well as several other accessories and add-ons.
You can get snag up an abode Starter Kit for yourself over at the company’s website.
Be sure to let them know Android Unfiltered sent you!