Abode home security starter kit (2018) review: This entry-level smart home hub continues to evolve

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Abode’s security-focused smart home system has been on the market for barely a year. When reviewed in March 2017, we found it to be a surprisingly capable system that covered the basics; one that beginning users could get their arms around. The system wasn’t perfect, but it did display a maturity that we seldom find in crowd-funded projects.

Abode has made several changes to its starter kit offerings since coming to market, although its core hardware—a chunky gateway that’s wired to your router—hasn’t changed. Earlier this year, Abode dropped its lackluster integrated camera/motion sensor in favor of a standard motion sensor with no camera. The company dropped one of the door/window sensors in its bundle, but kept the remote-control key fob, a godsend that simplifies the process of arming and disarming the system.

The new baseline starter kit, reviewed here, costs $279. Two other kits are also available: The Connect bundle adds one year of 3G radio backup and costs $329, while the $379 Secure bundle includes the radio plus one year of professional monitoring that calls the cops if a break-in is detected.

Editors’ note: This review, originally published March 8, 2018, was updated on May 16, 2018 to report on its enhanced Alexa skill (details from Abode are available here) and again on November 4, 2018 to report on the company’s new Cue software.)

Abode app

Abode

Abode’s timeline is easy to understand at a glance.

There are no subscription fees associated with the Basic bundle, but the Abode app maintains just three days of history before its logs are wiped. After the first year, you’ll pay $10 per month ($96 if paid annually) to continue the Connect bundle’s 3G service with 14 days of history, or $30 per month ($240 if paid annually) to continue the Secure bundle’s 3G service with 90 days of history plus professional monitoring.

As a security system, very little, if anything, has changed. Setup is streamlined and painless. Once you set up an account with Abode, a six-character code is used to connect your gateway to that account. Sensors are detected automatically, without having to scan codes, punch buttons, or tap in identifying information. Other devices, like the key fob that makes arming and disarming your alarm a snap, come pre-paired and ready to go right out of the box.

The app has also been refined a bit, though it still revolves around three operational modes: standby, home, and away. In standby mode, the only evidence of the system is a convenient chirp any time a door or window is opened. In home mode, door and window sensors being tripped will set off the alarm: a 93dB siren integrated into the gateway. In away mode, the motion sensors will also work. There’s no way to change any of these settings, or even to adjust the sensitivity of the motion sensor—a pet mode is still nowhere to be found. Geofencing, which lets you arm the system automatically when you leave the home, still works well.

Adobe Essentials

Abode

The price-reduced Abode Starter Kit now consists of just the gateway, a remote control, and just two sensors.

Smart home features

Abode is also attempting to move the product beyond its roots as a basic security system, but here the system has some growing to do. Like many similar devices, Abode has developed hooks that connect its gateway to other smart home gadgets. For starters, several devices—primarily smart lights, including the Philips Hue, plus various switches and door locks—can be integrated and controlled directly with the Abode app. In testing, these features work well enough, though the interface is on the rudimentary side, can be slow to respond in the app, and is sometimes prone to crashing when working with third party devices.

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