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What are the best home security systems and do they require Wi-Fi?

Protect your home from ghosts and ghouls this Halloween. ZDNET found the best home security systems that come with a video doorbell, smart lock, and window sensors.

A home security system can help keep your home and lawn decorations safe from pranksters and thieves this Halloween. You don't need to spend a fortune to secure your home, and thanks to mobile technology, our options now extend far beyond locking the front door.

Home security devices that leverage mobile connectivity, apps, and sensors are endlessly improving each year. Smart video doorbells record both video and audio feeds in real-time when you have a visitor. Motion and sound sensors can be used inside and outside along with digital door locks and night-vision cameras.  

However, not all smart home security products are created equal, and some are more costly to set up than others. A few select devices can be enough to protect your home (and office) against intruders and alert you when suspicious activity is detected. 

ZDNET has rounded up the best home security devices for a variety of budgets and homes to help you protect yourself and your property. Our top picks include everything from window sensors to full kits.

Also: What are the best security cameras for protecting your home?

Pros & Cons
pros
  • Subscription not required
  • Wireless and versatile
  • Extendable
  • 24/7 monitoring available
cons
  • Expensive to set up outside of sales events
More Details

ZDNET's top pick is the SimpliSafe Haven home security system bundle. You can't beat the 14-piece kit, and it's currently on sale for $305 with a 40% discount. SimpliSafe Haven can not only help protect your home from intruders but also detect safety threats inside, like water damage and fire. 

The kit includes a base station, keypad, panic button, wireless siren, smoke detector, water damage detector, temperature sensor, key fob, four entry sensors, and two motion sensors. You can also choose to add extra devices like glass break detectors, indoor or outdoor cameras, and yard signs.

Read the review: SimpliSafe Home Security review

Pros & Cons
pros
  • Versatile
  • Ability to add or remove modules
  • Easy installation
  • Affordable
  • Optional subscription
cons
  • Wi-Fi connection can be difficult
More Details

If your home has multiple bedrooms, you should consider the 14-piece Ring Alarm Security kit. This second-generation kit contains a base station, two keypads, eight contact sensors, two motion detectors, and a range extender for blanket home coverage. The best part? It's currently on sale for $90 off.

According to Ring, this bundle can protect up to eight windows or doors, with added protection from motion sensors in vulnerable hallways. 

Best Buy also has an 8-piece option retailing for $249 right now.

Read the review: Ring Alarm review: An affordable home security system

Pros & Cons
pros
  • Excellent value
  • Compatible with home ecosystems
cons
  • Tired design
More Details

The Abode Iota All-In-One Security Kit is another ZDNET top pick for home and office security. The bundle includes an HD camera, motion sensor, 93db siren, and two-way voice channel. You can place the camera in a hallway, living room, or perhaps with your main window in view. 

The camera is compatible with Wi-Fi and 4G cellular networks, so the device can automatically switch to 4G if your Wi-Fi connection fails. Plus, the security bundle is compatible with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant.

Right now, the Iota All-In-One Security Kit is on sale for $245. Or, you can also pick up the Iota Bundle #1 on sale for $289, which is 50% off the original price of $700. 

Read the review: Abode review: Smartly integrated home security

Pros & Cons
pros
  • Wireless
  • Built-in siren
cons
  • Not stylish
  • Subscription required to unlock all features
More Details

Arlo is a vendor worth exploring if want to improve your security with a video doorbell. When I first installed a video doorbell, I thought it was overkill. But after enjoying the convenience of a video doorbell for several years, I wouldn't go back. 

Video doorbells aren't just useful for communicating with delivery staff and dealing with packages. With the Arlo Essential doorbell, you can monitor your front porch, see and talk to visitors, and receive motion detection alerts. 

Plus, a video camera doorbell may be enough to deter unwanted guests from approaching your home. This Arlo bundle includes a doorbell, chime accessory, spare rechargeable battery, screw kit, and mounting plate. An extra 10% discount is added if you select all items at checkout.

Pros & Cons
pros
  • Integrated spotlights
  • Wireless
  • Built-in sirens
cons
  • Subscription required for full benefits ($3+ per month, per camera)
More Details

If you're concerned about protecting outdoor spaces, like your garden, porch, or garage doors, the Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight Camera Security Bundle is a great option for you. This bundle is available at Best Buy and comes with three cameras that can be mounted in or outdoors. Each camera offers a 160-degree field of view and records footage in 2K HDR video. 

The weather-resistant cameras are wireless, easy to install, and powered by rechargeable batteries -- and each comes with an anti-theft mount. You can check the camera feeds any time, day or night, and even zoom in on details if necessary. Plus, the cameras feature color night vision, which makes make them an excellent option for vulnerable outside spaces. 

The pack also includes a charging station, security key, batteries, and screw kits. Plus, you'll receive a sign that you can place in your front yard to politely warn potential intruders that your area is being monitored. 

Pros & Cons
pros
  • Professional installation and monitoring
  • Subscriptions vary
  • Customizable
cons
  • Can be expensive
  • Some users report poor customer service
More Details

Homeowners who need a professional security service should check out Vivint, a respected company that provides 24/7 monitoring. If you want a hands-off option where you pay for professional installation and a subscription, Vivint may be the best option for you.

Whether you want to protect your home or office, Vivint provides smart cameras, locks, doorbells, security sensors, intrusion detectors, control panels, and smart home automation solutions. Plus, you can customize your security system depending on your needs. 

Read the review: Vivint home security review

What is the best security system?

At present, ZDNET recommends SimpliSafe Haven as the best security system on the market. We wanted to consider as many ways to protect your home and home office as possible. You can protect entry points like windows and doors with smart door locks, sensors, and cameras. Should an intruder manage to trespass, monitoring systems can send you alerts immediately. These measures can make all the difference between perpetrators being caught or getting away with their actions.

Security systems that you can set up and monitor yourself tend to be popular. However, some systems offer subscriptions for people in higher-risk areas who need professional monitoring or the ability to store and record footage. The best security systems on the market balance security, usability, and connectivity. 

Home security system

DIY?

Professional monitoring?

Price?

SimpliSafe Haven Home Security System

Yes

Subscription

$305

Ring Alarm DIY Security Kit

Yes

Subscription

$329

Abode All-In-One Security Bundle

Yes

Subscription

$245

Arlo Wireless Doorbell Bundle

Yes

No

$279

Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight Camera Security Bundle

Yes

No

$399

Vivint Smart Home Security System

No

Subscription

Varies

Which security system is right for you?

Today's smart home security products can offer you peace of mind both in and outside of your house. Unlike businesses, homeowners usually don't need to invest in heavy-duty solutions. Instead, a few carefully selected devices placed around your front porch, garden, and ground floor windows can be more than enough to protect your home.

We recommend a camera, video doorbell, smart lock, and window sensors if you're building your home security system for the first time. Large properties can also benefit from additional security devices. 

Choose this home security system…

If you need…

SimpliSafe Haven Home Security System

A robust home security system

Ring Alarm DIY Security Kit

A cheap DIY security system

Abode All-In-One Security Bundle

A smart ecosystem-compatible option

Arlo Wireless Doorbell Bundle

Front porch security

Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight Camera Security Bundle

Extended outdoor security

Vivint Smart Home Security System

Professional monitoring

How did we choose these security systems?

ZDNET experts have tested several security systems over the years. We have a demonstrated history of delivering breaking security news and in-depth advice on how to protect yourself at home, at work, and online. 

We researched the best security systems on the market, weighed their pros and cons, and judged them based on price, ease of installation, smart features, and customer reviews. 

Why are sensors important in a home security product?

Sensors are the key to effective, discreet home security. There are many different kinds of sensors, including infrared, magnetic, audio, and motion sensors, and their application depends on the type of security product involved.

For example, motion sensors are used for video doorbells and cameras, while other door and window products may combine motion and magnetic sensors to detect unauthorized entry.

Do you need an internet connection?

For smart home security systems, the answer is usually yes. Compared to business security systems that are often monitored remotely, home systems offer you power and visibility -- and this generally requires internet connectivity and a mobile device. Some products include both WiFi and cellular connectivity, so your device can use a mobile network if your home hub fails.

Do you need a subscription?

Subscriptions aren't always required, but you may prefer one. Without a subscription, a basic security system may notify you when a sensor detects activity without providing access to video feeds or recordings. 

If you want access to your cameras' feed history, it's worth signing up for a subscription. Plus, subscription services will usually sweeten the pot with additional security layers like professional monitoring, automatic emergency calls, or multiple device monitoring.

Are there alternatives worth considering?

While our top picks for the best security system can suit a variety of functions and uses, maybe all you need is a standalone camera or two. You don't always need to invest in a full system to improve your home's security, so the below products are also worth considering:

Editorial standards

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