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Review: Nest Protect Reinvents The Lowly, But Life-Saving, Smoke/CO Detector

Review: Nest Protect Reinvents The Lowly, But Life-Saving, Smoke/CO Detector

January 31, 2014
Company: Nest Product: Nest Protect Price: $129.99 Compatibility: Any iOS device Website: Date: Jan. 31, 2014

The Product

I’ve got a quick question for you. How many smoke detectors are in your home, and when is the last time you’ve tested them? More likely than not, you don’t know the answer to either question. But Nest wants to change that with its new Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector unveiled in late 2013. And just like with its popular learning thermostat, the now Google-owned company wants to turn a boring appliance into a major part of the connected home. Have they succeeded? Past the color choice – black or white - you’ll need to figure out whether to purchase a battery-powered or wired version of the Protect. The best way to do that is to check what kind of alarms you have installed now and purchase the same kind to switch out. I used a battery-powered version for the review. According to Nest, the six long-life lithium batteries can last for up to five years. In the case of a power outage, the wired version also contains a backup battery. Setup is quick and simple. Since I already own a Nest thermostat, I had the app installed. But if the Protect is your first product from the company, just download the free companion app from the App Store. It’s universal for both the iPhone/iPod touch and iPad/iPad mini. Once an account is setup, the quick process includes connecting to the Protect itself and then entering your Wi-Fi’s network password. You’ll also need to select where the device is located in the house. My device is located near my children’s bedrooms, so I chose “Hallway.” To finish the setup process, you will need to test the device. After pushing the large round Nest button in the middle, you’ll have 10 seconds to back away. The detector emits a horribly loud high-pitched warning. I can’t see anyone ignoring the Nest if an alarm is triggered. Along with the usual alarm sounds, the Protect provides spoken warnings and the light ring will change colors depending on the status. For example, if there is a carbon monoxide warning, after the alarm sounds, you’ll hear “Emergency. There’s carbon monoxide in the (room name.) Move to fresh air now.” The light ring will also pulse red. And when the batteries need to be replaced, instead of the infamous chirping sound, the ring will pulse yellow and the Protect will announce the situation. The device will also offer spoken warnings if any sensors have failed and when the Protect needs to be replaced in seven years. Probably one of the nicest features of the Protect is the Heads Up warning. When the smoke level begins to rise, but not to an emergency level, the device will inform you with an audible warning and a yellow light ring. Waving your hand near the sensor will automatically “hush” the unit. That’s a big help for when you've just burned the toast and don’t need the smoke detector waking up the entire neighborhood. Even though I could manually test the Protect, I also tested its sensitivity with a smoke detector tester. Basically a can of smoke, it’s a safe and easy way to make sure the device is working. And it did great. With just a little bit of smoke, I was able to hush the alarm with a wave. But with a substantial spray, the unit detected an emergency, and I was unable to quiet the alarm unless I physically pushed the Nest button. So it worked just like advertised. While you can’t test the Protect directly from the app, it will inform you of any Heads Up or Alarm notices. You can also check the status of all your detectors. The Protect also offers two interesting other features that can be enabled or disabled via the app. With the path light, when any motion is detected during the night, it will help light the way with a white light. That’s definitely been handy when walking to my children’s room in the middle of the night. When turning in for the night, the Protect will also quickly show a green light on its LED ring if the device is running fine. A yellow light means that there is some sort of problem. If you happen to use more than one Protect, both devices will be wirelessly interconnected. That means if one Protect senses smoke or carbon monoxide, the other devices will announce that there is an issue in a certain location. Nest Thermostat users will also be happy to know that if carbon monoxide is detected, the thermostat will automatically shut off the gas heater, which could be a possible source of the CO. The Protect will also help act as a sensor for the thermostat’s Auto Away feature. The only downside I can see with the Protect is its price. You can easily purchase a non-connected combination CO/smoke detector for less than $50 that offers the same level of protection. While I think the extra features are worth the high price point, more than a few buyers won’t even think about purchasing the Protect until its price is lowered. Since I already own the Nest Thermostat, the Protect has made a nice addition to my home. But if you’re on the fence about purchasing one device or the other, I would definitely save up and purchase the thermostat first.

What’s Hot

  • Beautifully designed hardware is easy to install.
  • Interfaces nicely with its universal app.
  • Ability to silence some alarms with a hand wave.
  • Spoken alarms and warnings.
  • Color notifications are easy to understand.

What’s Not

  • Prohibitively expensive to install throughout an entire house.

Our Advice

Nest has done it once again. While its thermostat helps homeowners control their energy usage and save money, the Protect does something even more important. I’ll easily admit it, even though I have two young children at home, fire safety was usually the last thing on my mind. That’s now changed. We recently had our first family fire drill, and thanks to the Protect, I know my family is even safer if the unimaginable ever happens. And that’s priceless.


Aesthetic Appeal: ★★★★★ Wow Factor: ★★★★★ Build Quality: ★★★★★ Value: ★★★☆☆ Buy Now: $129.99, and a number of other retailers. [gallery link="file"]

Mentioned apps

Nest Mobile
Nest Mobile
Nest Labs

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