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Canary review: A sophisticated home-security system packed inside a camera

Michael Brown | June 11, 2015
The Canary I've finally had a chance to review isn't as sophisticated as the Canary I wrote about when its manufacturer was crowdfunding its development. That doesn't mean it's a bad product--it has a strong price/performance ratio for a $249 home-security system--it just means its developer's ambition exceeded its grasp in a few key areas. And in some other areas, the developer wasn't ambitious enough.

Future paid service plans

Canary plans to offer three tiers of paid subscriptions at some point down the road: A $10-per-month plan increases video cloud storage to 7 days and allows you to save up to 50 clips. For $20 per month, you'll get 30 days of video storage in the cloud and the ability to store 100 clips. The Deluxe package, priced at $40 per month, increases the cloud storage to 90 days and you can permanently save 250 clips.

If you find the idea of a call center monitoring your security system and automatically dispatching emergency responders — a feature that typically earns you a discount on your homeowners' insurance — you'll be able to add that to any service plan for an additional $10 per month. Each of the service plans will cover up to four Canarys. 

Now for the big question: Should you buy a Canary?

There is a lot to like about Canary, starting with its $250 price tag — that's just $50 more than a Dropcam Pro, and there's no monthly service fee (unless you sign up for a higher level of service). Canary bristles with sensors, it has a great camera, a very loud siren, a very good app, and solid cloud support. It's super easy to set up, but there's free telephone tech support if you run into any issues. When I called, someone answered after the second ring and resolved my issue quickly. (Phone support is not available on weekends.)

You can get around Canary's reliance on AC power by plugging it into an uninterruptible power supply. And you can get over its reliance on 2.4GHz Wi-Fi by running an Ethernet cable to it (adding support for 5GHz Wi-Fi would be a better solution). Most of Canary's other shortcomings could be addressed by integrating it with other systems or at least enabling it to communicate with other sensors. But I don't know if that's doable. There's certainly no way to overcome its reliance on your broadband connection. And if the ability to download video clips, save more than 5 video clips in the cloud, or have a call center monitor your home-security system are important to you, don't buy the Canary until those features and added-cost services are available.

In the end, I keep coming back to that $250 price tag and the ability to have four Canarys work together. That is a lot of bang for the buck, but it's not enough for me to give up my current home-security system that does integrate door/window sensors, that does enable me to control my lights, that does allow me to unlock my front door without needing a key, and that does all the other things a more sophisticated system can handle. None of that is free, but I feel I'm getting my money's worth.

If those features aren't of value to you, Canary could be a good security solution for your home. Just be sure you're okay with of all its shortcomings. 

 

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