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Nest Protect review

Gordon Kelly

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Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
Nest Protect

Summary

Our Score:

9

User Score:

Pros

  • Looks superb
  • Easy to install
  • Works flawlessly
  • Polished browser & app UI
  • Brings peace of mind

Cons

  • Costs 10-20x a dumb alarm

Key Features

  • Smoke & carbon monoxide detection
  • App & web browser access
  • Spoken notifications
  • Motion detector
  • Light sensor
  • 85 decibel alarm (3m SPL)
  • 5 year battery life
  • Manufacturer: Nest
  • Review Price: £109.95

What is the Nest Protect?

This is the second product from Nest Labs, a company widely known as being "what the creator of the iPod did next”. That creator is Tony Fadell who set up Nest Labs in 2008, having spent the previous seven years at Apple where he conceptualised, designed and oversaw the production of the iPod.

The Nest Protect is a ‘smart’ smoke alarm and it follows in the footsteps of the immensely successful, but currently US-only, Nest smart thermostat. Yes Nest Labs is all about ‘the Internet of Things’ and we’ll deal with what makes the Nest Protect so smart shortly, but first things first.

Nest Protect: Design

The Nest Protect comes in two versions, wired or battery operated and we received the latter. Ours ships with six AA batteries that Nest claims will last five years, while the wired edition ships with three AA batteries that kick in during a power cut.

On the surface the Protect could’ve very easily come from Apple. Like iPhones and iPods it comes in black or white and like iPhones and iPods it is a drastic change from anything that came before.

As such the Protect dumps the usual circular design of a smoke alarm for what is essentially a square with rounded corners and its textured finish hides a powerful alarm that manages 85 decibels (SPL at 3 metres). The Nest logo in the centre is a circular button and around it is an LED which changes colour depending on the situation:

  • Blue during status updates
  • Red should the alarm sound
  • Yellow to indicate a technical problem
  • Green to indicate all is well
The reason behind these colours is to assist the hearing impaired and it makes for a stylish yet highly practical feature. Cleverly, the green light doesn’t stay on all the time, instead it works in harness with a light sensor so it only glows for a moment when you switch the lights off at night to reassure you all is well.

At 134 x 134 x 41mm and 352g the Protect is substantially larger than a typical smoke alarm, but we have yet to find anyone who thinks it doesn’t look great and given what it packs inside this extra bulk shouldn’t be surprising.

Nest Protect: Features

So what exactly makes the Nest Protect smart? Being a member of the ‘Internet of things’ the first port of call is its online connectivity. The Protect has Wi-Fi and this allows it to report its status remotely via a web browser or iOS and Android apps.

All are beautifully designed and via the apps you will receive a notification should smoke or carbon monoxide be detected with further notifications should the alarm be manually stopped by someone in the house and when smoke or gas starts to clear. You are also able to check to see the status of your Protect at any time. In one fell swoop this eliminates fears you left the gas on.

But the Protect does much more than this and the most surprising thing is it talks. Press the central button and it speaks its status, press it again and it will run through a manual test (something distinguished in the apps from an actual alarm) vocalising each step. Furthermore you get a spoken warning prior to the alarm going off so you aren’t taken by surprise and can stop it in time along with spoken confirmations that – like the apps report – smoke/gas is clearing.

The Protect will also speak to warn you of low batteries. Again, this will occur several times in the days prior to an incessant warning beep going off, which means you won’t suddenly be woken in the night by beeps.

In addition to this the Protect packs light and motion sensors. The latter handles the aforementioned single green glow of the Protect when you go to bed, but it also allows it to double as a soft light delivering a timed glow of white light should you walk past it at night.

This can be switched off, but many won’t as it ingeniously saves you finding a light switch which will trigger bright light that both pains your eyes and potentially wakes up a partner or child.

Secondly, the motion detector allows you to silence the alarm simply by waving your hands in front of it, no need for tea towels here. The alarm can also be silenced by pushing the button, but this isn’t of great help if the Nest Protect is mounted on a high ceiling.

There is one further party piece. For owners of the Nest thermostat (available in the US for over a year and finally due in the UK in early 2014) the Protect will pair automatically (as it will with other Protects installed around the home or in multiple homes) to work in unison.

This means, for example, should the Protect detect gas it can tell the Nest thermostat to switch it off. This is where the Internet of Things and ecosystems within it become even more interesting.

Ralph

December 26, 2013, 12:53 pm

Why don't they put a web cam in it as well so that it doubles as a burglar alarm? And more importantly, if the smoke alarm goes off whilst you're out you can check to see what's caused the problems.
Lastly, I would also prefer to see a SIM card in the thing - if there's an electrical fire it could cause the wireless to go down just as you need the connectivity

Gordon Kelly

December 27, 2013, 12:51 pm

You can have all those things... for about £600 ;)
I'd expect premium versions to come out in time with additional features, but for now trying to convince people to pay over £100 for a smoke alarm is a big enough challenge. The main thing Nest nailed is, right out the door, its first model works brilliantly.

Guest

December 30, 2013, 9:25 am

Is there a 230V wired version of the Nest Protect? On the nest website I could only find a 120V wired version.

Steve

January 6, 2014, 10:45 am

It's a carbon monoxide detector as well and those costs about £25-£50,
so the price difference isn't as bad as you make out, although it is
expensive.

I had a demo at B&Q and was mighty impressed, so will look into this a bit more and see about buying one.

The fact that it talks to you should sell it to any geek, feels like you're in your own sci-fi world!

Steve

January 6, 2014, 3:24 pm

Were you on the GB web site? I just checked and it's a 230v wired unit. Maybe they updated it?

Janne

January 13, 2014, 6:37 am

One of the most important feature, how the Nest connects with other alarms, is not covered in this test. I'd like to no, how does it work, when the alarm goes off in downstairs. Does other alarms in the alarms go off also? Does the other alarms tell, which alarm is the that triggered the alarm? How far is their range, can they link to a Nest in my sauna in the back of the yard? Do they link together only with WiFi? What if the fire has burnt my WiFi sender already? I'd also like to no more about carbon monoxide: does it tell what is the consentration of carbon monoxide in the air? Does the 230V version load the included batteries, so I can install the Nest to the ceiling light wire (so it loads the batteries, when the light is on). That sort of things are more important to me, than how the thing looks like and such!

Janne

January 15, 2014, 9:03 am

Ok, I have been doing some more research and reply to my own question: when linked together, they all alarm and do tell (by speach) where the problem is (which alarm has triggered the alarm). They link together with their own wireless connection, not with the wifi, so they work even if wifi is off. The 120 or 230 V versions do not load batteries. (the alarms need to be linked, becouse you might not wake up to the alarm downstairs, when sleeping upstairs (atleast here in Finland with good insulation between stories)).

Then about the price, which actually is not so big: a regular, wirelesly connectable (to other alarms), wire powered alarms with CO cost atleast 50€ a piece. If you want to now wich of the alarms has gone off (to deal with the alarm), you need a central unit, that costs over 200€. A regular house needs at least 4 alarms (one in each bedrooms, one in the kitchen and one in the livingroom). With nest that would about 500€, with other devices atleast 400€.

I'll gladly pay 100€ of easy set up, and the brilliant "soft first warning" wich also tells where the problem is (instead of rushing to the central unit with ear pearsing noise to see where the problem is) and the nice alarm canceling waving. And the night light might be a nice feature too.

And why do I need the "soft first warning"? Think that you have just been working for an hour to get the kids to sleep, have a nice evening making some dinner and burn your steak. The alarm goes off around the house, the kids wake up, and the evening is ruined.

wiseyoungman

February 7, 2014, 10:13 pm

Correct me if I am wrong but the big downfall with this device is the cost of ownership. From reading the manual it says that the life of the nest is only 7 years after which time it needs to be replaced. Has a pre-programed expiry setting. So if you have say 5 alarms in your home @ €500 every 7 years in comparison to a standard carbon/smoke detector with an unlimited life span at about €20 each x 5=€100. So over 21 years for example you will spend €1500 on the nest compared to €100 on a standard alarm. You will also have increased power consumption due to the wireless communication, lights and extra bells and whistles. Don't get me wrong I like the idea of it but don't like the way nest have been so sly about the life of the device. There really is no reason to limit the life of an electronic device to extort more money out of your customers (especially when this one has technology to monitor itself if there is fault or failure).

DanF

February 11, 2014, 11:59 am

Big CON for me and many... it does NOT email or text you in an emergency, you have to have the Nest App up and running and then you will see the notification. It does NOT have an alarm or flashing screen or anything at all to tell you that your house is possibly burning down taking your pets with it. It will email you that the battery is low, and you cn get countless emails from their marketing department... but the most valuable reason for buying this expensive is completely inadequate... in my opinion. Huge CON.

Dan Forth

March 12, 2015, 4:37 am

For what reason does this review carry the date "15 Jan 2015" when it is clearly more than a year older than that? That kind of obscene playing with dates is fraudulent - and especially misleading given that the review gives the impression that all is (still, in 2015) well with Nest Protect, whereas a wider search shows they have had terrible problems with false alarms. DON'T DO THIS AGAIN.

PeevedInOntario

March 21, 2015, 11:44 am

Just as a point of clarification: conventional smoke and CO combination alarms also have EXPIRY DATES. They should be replaced BEFORE the expiry date listed on the device (modern standards typically demand replacement 5 to 7 years from MANUFACTURE). That still doesn't take away from the fact that the Nest is 2-4 times the cost of a conventional smoke and CO combination alarm.

PS This article is obviously very OLD. It's March of 2015 and the date on the article is 15 January 2015. It very obviously was written in early 2014 given all the "a year ago" comments. Don't trust this review anymore :(

Barbie Nolan

May 25, 2015, 8:01 am

I wish I had not bought this alarm. There appears to be a real problem with false alarms. I have had one fitting replaced after a false alarm while I was on holiday that meant the fire services were called out unecessarily. Another fitting in the living room told me there was a fire in the kitchen for no reason. I'm probably going to have to bin them and start again. My dog is sat at the bottom of the garden right now after another false alarm.

Allen Huang

October 13, 2015, 5:28 am

Sound of mind. Live apart from my parent half world away and just got my first alarm 2 am in the morning after a year of purchase. Although it's a false alarm (just need to be cleaned), I feel safe that I know there is nothing wrong at home and my parents aren't in danger. A little annoyed, but a feel a lot better and know I did the right thing installing it into their home.

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