If you want a DIY home security system with professional monitoring, stop reading right now. The $450 Honeywell Smart Home Security Starter Kit doesn't offer optional professional monitoring or cellular backup -- yet.
This US-only kit instead consists of a self-contained, all-in-one security camera/system (sold individually for $350), plus two door/window sensors and a key fob for quick arming and disarming ($450 total for the starter kit I tested). The security camera has 1080p HD live streaming, a built-in Alexa speaker, siren and Z-Wave hub, 24-hour free video clip storage and facial recognition, among other basic features.
The thing is, for such a seemingly simple system, the Honeywell Smart Home Security Starter Kit is incredibly expensive -- and not especially easy to use. Its facial recognition was hit or miss (and, oddly, only available for a two-hour window each day), and the Alexa skill was unable to handle basic functions like calling and music streaming.
Honeywell has promised some software updates post-launch to address some of these issues, but that's never very reassuring for someone making a purchase right now. This scalable Honeywell system is too expensive, too confusing to use and too limited in its features to be worth considering today, even if you want a security camera front and center for your home monitoring needs. When and if Honeywell addresses some of this system's shortcomings, a revisit to this review might be warranted.
Get to know Honeywell's Smart Home Security Starter Kit
Comparing smart home security systems
|Honeywell Smart Home Security Starter Kit||Ring Alarm Security Kit||Nest Secure Alarm System||Abode Essentials Starter Kit|
|Required monthly fees||None; free 24-hour video clip storage and optional 30-day video clip storage for $5 per month||None||None||None|
|Professional monitoring||No||Optional; $10 per month||Optional; $29 per month||Optional; $30 per month|
|Cellular backup||No||Included with professional monitoring||Included with professional monitoring; $5 per month as a standalone feature||Included with professional monitoring; $10 per month as a standalone feature|
|Power outage backup||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Camera||Yes, included with the starter kit||Not included in this kit, but available separately||Not included in this kit, but available separately||Not included in this kit, but available separately|
|Smart home partners||Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant||None||Google Assistant, Nest||Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT, Nest|
Right away, you'll notice that the Honeywell system is the most expensive of the bunch. Nest's Secure system used to cost $499, but the Google-owned brand dropped the price to $399 to be more competitive.
The most obvious reason the Honeywell kit costs more is its camera, which acts as the hub of the system (and is itself a Z-Wave hub) -- Honeywell calls it the "Base Station." You can buy the Base Station as a standalone device for $350 -- or spend the additional $100 for the starter kit (adding in two door/window sensors and one key fob). Either way, you have to buy this camera. None of the other starter kits we've tested have included a camera as a required piece of hardware.
Honeywell's Base Station is a 1080p HD live-streaming indoor plug-in Wi-Fi camera. It has all of the basic functions you'd expect, such as night vision, motion detection and alerts (you can customize the alerts if you want to receive push notifications, but no emails -- or vice versa). But the camera also offers motion detection zones, facial recognition, a built-in Alexa speaker, and integration with Google Assistant, as well as Honeywell Voice, Honeywell's own voice AI that responds to the wake phrase, "OK, Security."
Unlike nearly every DIY home security system we've reviewed, Honeywell's Smart Home Security Starter Kit doesn't currently offer optional professional monitoring or cellular backup.
Facial recognition is only available on select cameras, and Honeywell offers it for free. Free is always welcome, but the camera wasn't able to consistently identify faces during my testing. It also has a strangely glitchy setup process and odd limitations on its use.
Whether you use the security system for free -- or pay $5 a month for extended video clip storage -- you currently get just a two-hour window of access to the facial recognition feature every day. The $60 Tend Secure Lynx camera offers 24-7 facial recognition for free, whereas Nest charges a monthly fee for access to its "familiar face alerts" facial recognition feature.
Given that, I suppose it's nice that Honeywell offers free facial recognition at all, but this two-hour window thing doesn't add any significant value.
In addition, you can also only add two faces max to your facial recognition "database." Honeywell suggested one use case might be confirming that your kids have gotten home safely from school. The camera would look for them only between the hours of 3 and 5 p.m., and then switch back to not detecting faces for the rest of the day.
Not only is that odd, it didn't work well. The app clearly instructs you how to scan your face into the database by taking a series of pictures with your head turned to the left, to the right and so on. But it took me and my colleague multiple attempts for the Honeywell app to "accept" our images. We kept getting error messages that said we had to retake one or several of them.
On top of that, the camera only managed to identify me once during my two-hour testing window (and I was standing extremely close to the camera, staring directly at it). I walked by it dozens of times, and so did my colleague, Chris, who was also in the database.
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