is the most feature-packed smoke and carbon monoxide alarm available today, but it comes at a premium price. Is it worth it? How good can a smoke alarm be? I’ve been finding out.
Nest Labs – co-founded by former Apple engineers – made a name for themselves in 2011 with the Learning Thermostat, an intelligent heating control device that learnt about the habits of its users to conserve and optimize energy usage. The Protect, $130, is the second product to be released – a WiFi-enabled smoke and carbon monoxide alarm that aims to take the frustration out of protecting your home. There are two versions and two colours to choose from: long-life battery, or wired version; black or white. We have a battery-powered white model to give away at the end of this review.
Note: Since this review was published, sales of the Nest Protect have been halted due to a possible situation where a real alarm could be unintentionally silenced by the Nest Wave feature. The wave-to-disable functionality has been disabled in all existing units by a wifi update, including the unit we send to the winner.
The Nest Protect doesn’t just act as a speaking smoke and carbon monoxide alarm; it also features a motion-activated night light, gesture alarm deactivation, and will send notifications to your phone remotely so you needn’t be home to be aware of problem. The closest competitor is the Kidde vocal smoke and CO alarm for $30 – two of which I already have fitted in my home, though the only feature they have in common is a spoken alarm in addition to the standard siren.
The Nest Protect is packaged nicely, in a recycled cardboard box just like the Fairphone, which gives it an immediate human feel: this isn’t just an overpriced smoke alarm – it’s a home product that will protect your family and give peace of mind.
Under the card insert, the Nest Protect is shielded by a solid plastic shell. Sitting under that is the mounting plate and four rather good looking screws: these aren’t your common old Home Depot screws.
The main alarm comes fitted with 6 long-life AA batteries, supposedly enough for around 5 years. Don’t worry though, the Nest Protect will glow yellow to indicate if they’re running low.
Fitting and Setup
Unlike some smoke alarms, it’s immediately obvious to see how the main unit clips on and twists to secure itself to the mounting plate. In the past, I’ll pulled down entire chunks of ceiling – no kidding – because the attaching clips were frustratingly difficult to eject; the Protect presented no issues.
Setting up Nest Protect was trivial. After downloading the mobile app for Android [No longer available] or iOS, you scan the QR code on the back of the device. You then need to connect to the local WiFi network being broadcast by the Protect, at which point you configure the device to connect to your own Wifi from within the app. At no point was a I left wondering what to do next.
Living With The Nest Protect
Let’s not beat around the bush here: it’s a smoke and carbon dioxide alarm. It would be terrible if it failed at this, and it doesn’t. If your Android tablet runs a bit slow, you’re not going to die; if your smoke alarm fails, you might.
On a level above this, it’s about how the alarm warns of you of impending doom, and how easy it is to maintain. A lot of people end up taking the batteries out of their smoke alarms as they’re difficult to deactivate when you fry the bacon a little too much – in which case, the very core function of the alarm fails miserably and is no longer protecting you. Nest Protect tackles this by offering the most natural gesture possible to temporarily turn off the alarm: waving your hands around. You can also just press the button to silence it, but where’s the fun in that?
In fact, you might not even get to that point thanks to the early warning system – “Heads Up”. When rising, but not dangerous, levels of CO or smoke are detected, the alarm will glow yellow, accompanied by natural voice gently alerting you that something might be wrong imminently.
Each Protect is assigned a location from a set list of around 10 generic names, like “upstairs hallway” or “lounge” – if you have more than one Nest Protect fitted in your home all, the alarms will sound, indicating where you should avoid as you escape.
With its WiFi connectivity, you’ll receive push notifications on your phone for any events, and are given the option to immediately call 911 for emergencies (not localised for the UK, sadly). These alerts could be immeasurably valuable if you were away from home – even shaving minutes off the response time of a fire rescue crew can make all the difference.
Should you buy the Nest Protect?
Living with the, I’ve found it’s the comforting re-assurance that the device offers which is the really unique selling point. Other alarms get put on the ceiling and forgotten about, until you either pull them down that one time and forget to put them back up again, or your sleep is interrupted with an occasional high pitched beep for a few weeks, before you realise that it’s your low battery warning. The Protect is nothing like that. When you turn out the lights every single night, the Nest Protect performs a self-check and glows green to indicate all is goos. It sounds stupid, but it’s so comforting to know the device is there, working, protecting our home. You can’t put a price on that level of reassurance – not with a family around.
The night light feature is a bonus – again, nothing ground breaking – but with movement detection and integrated RGB LED light, it seems only natural they would include night light features too. It’s a dim white light that activates on movement – that’s all. The actual usefulness is diminished given that it’s only going to light up one small area of your hallway – so you’d still have to navigate the tortuously gadget-littered bedroom floor (or maybe that’s that just me?). But again, it just feels good. The Nest Protect knows it’s dark and offers what it can to prevent you from falling over. It’s almost… cute, like a little robot that looks out for me. That’s right – I’ve actually anthropomorphised my smoke detector.
I don’t have a Nest thermostat to control my heating, so I can’t compare the experience, but I get the impression this is the aim of the Nest brand – to really make everyday functions into something pleasurable; something more human than just a dial, or a switch. And, having now been purchased by Google, I’m ready to accept the overlords into my house.
How do I win the Nest Protect?
You may enter by submitting your name and email address. You’ll receive one entry simply by doing so.
After that, you’ll also be offered various methods to earn additional entries. They range from sharing a link to this giveaway on social networks; to commenting or visiting a specific page. The more you participate, the higher your chances of winning! You will receive 5 additional entries into the giveaway for every successful referral via your shared links.
This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, April 11. The winner will be selected at random and informed via email. View the list of winners here.
Congratulations, Valentina Leonova! You would have received an email from firstname.lastname@example.org. Please respond before May 22 to claim your prize. Enquires beyond this date will not be entertained.
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