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Featured Review: MyFox Home Security System & Privacy Camera

July 23, 2015 - Written By John Anon

As with most things, the connected work and the IoT seems to be changing how consumers use all of their home electronics. This also includes the way in which they protect their home. Over the last couple of years, the home security system market has seen a massive influx thanks to the numerous new options which have become available. Most of these newer systems allow the user to maintain and monitor the level of their home security and all from an android app. Very recently, a new addition joined the digital home security market in the form of the MyFox Security System and here we take a quick look at what this system has to offer.

For those unfamiliar with the MyFox security option, the system became available to buy at the end of May and largely consists of two units. The first is the main security system and the second is a security camera which was launched as a separate product. That said, the security camera can be integrated into the main system offering a more comprehensive system overall. In terms of pricing, the MyFox Security System is available from MyFox and priced at $279.99. The Privacy Camera is also now available and priced at $199.99.

Design & Hardware

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When it comes to units like this, price is always likely to play a factor in the design and build of the hardware. This is certainly the case with the MyFox system. This is not one of the cheapest home security systems, but by the same token, the build and design of the elements do not feel cheap either. The main package (excluding the camera) comes with the main alarm unit, the connection hub, one door/window sensor and a keyfob. The camera which is purchased separately comes simply with the main camera unit and power supply.

In terms of the main alarm unit, this seems to be a rather well-designed unit and adopts quite a modern and somewhat discreet look. By discrete, the device as a whole is anything but discreet and due to its size is easily noticeable when placed in the room. That said, it is not automatically identifiable as an alarm unit.

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The main control hub is far more basic in terms of design and is largely just a power socket and this is where the design of the unit notes its first major criticism. The main hub is not really built with the same premium design as the rest of the unit and feels much more of an after-thought. In fact, it was not evidently clear as to why the function of this unit could not have been incorporated into the main alarm unit and thereby omitting the need for the additional unit. Doing so, would have understandably meant that the main hub has to be directly connected to a main power source, however, as the unit indirectly needs to be connected to a power socket anyway, the use of the additional component was disappointing.

The key fob, like the main alarm unit, is another element which does seem to built with premium in mind and therefore, consists of a metal bridge encompassed in a plastic frame. This certainly feels much better than many of the other key fobs on the market, although is a little bulky and does add weight to your keys when attached. That said, the design in play here is excellent.

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Of course, there is also the camera. As noted, this completes the main setup although is only available as a separate purchase. In terms of the design of the camera, this adopts a much similar look and design to the main alarm system, albeit on a reduced size scale. Therefore, when laid flat, it does fit in quite nicely with the alarm system. However, to best utilize the camera, it is designed for a more vertically standing position. The building of the camera is also rather good with a metallic frame. A small stand comes included as well and this is magnetic allowing for easy connection to the camera when the two come into contact. The stand basically adopts a sort of cradle approach to holding the camera.

One of the biggest features with the camera is the inclusion of a motorised shutter. This means you can automatically activate the shutter (opening and closing) directly from within the app. Although, this was well designed and implemented, it was slightly disappointing that the camera does not allow manual opening and closing. You can force the shutter open from the closed position. However, you cannot force the shutter closed from the opened position. This, of course, could be purposely designed to stop an intruder closing the shutter. But either way, the need to have to open the app and activate the closure of the shutter was a bit more time consuming than otherwise would have liked. Also, again and likely for security reasons, the power lead does not easily detach from the unit when you do want to detach it.

Setup & Installation

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Systems like this always require a degree of fiddling with before they are ready to go. Thankfully, the app does do much of the work for you. However, it is still an arduous task. The main units themselves require little handling during the setting up procedure. Each part (alarm, door sensor and key fob) all come with inserts deactivating the batteries and therefore, each unit does have to be opened and the insert removed to fully initiate the individual elements. Once again, this is all explained through the setting up procure within the app. At the appropriate times, you are prompted to open the parts and remove the inserts.

Starting off, the initial aspect to be setup is the main connection hub. Now, the benefit of this hub is that unlike some of the other options out there, you do not have to directly connect this line to your router. This essentially means that you are free to place the main hub wherever you want (as long as it is within reach of a power outlet). This personally was a big selling point over the must-connect-to-router alternatives. Once connected, the app prompts all the instructions to you including holding down which buttons, waiting for which sounds and letting you know when the connection has been established.

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The same procedure is in place for the alarm unit, door sensor and key fob. During the installation of each piece of the kit, the same illustrated instruction are provided by the app guiding you through the process. As such, the setup procedure, although long, was straight forward and easy enough to follow.

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When it comes to the camera set up, much of the same procedure was in place. During testing, the camera was purposely set up after having the main system up and running for 24 hours or so. This was just so see how easy it was to connect the camera when buying as an after purchase. As this does not come with the unit, it seemed better to test the system alone and then connect the camera independently.

As the system was already in place and when opening the app, it once again offers you the option to install additional aftermarket units (either the camera or additional door/window sensors that you might purchase). As such, it is easy enough to add on additional components. That said, the method was found to be a little trickier to activate than the rest of the units. During the installation process, the camera required focusing on an in-app barcode to activate the hardware. You hold the app in front of the camera and move the smartphone backwards until you hear the beep. At which point, the camera begins the connection process. This is where a problem with the setup was first encountered. In truth, it took four or five attempts before the camera finally did accept the connection and connect. What’s more is that the camera did not really provide any in-depth information as to what was causing the misconnection. Therefore, it was difficult to troubleshoot the problem and instead the only option was to restart the process (which took at least ten minutes each time) and hope that it finally connects. Whether this was an isolated instance or not remains to be seen, but connecting the camera was not as straightforward as the additional units.

App & Software

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As with all of these systems, the myFox setup does come with its own dedicated app. This is essentially the brains of the operation and is what unifies all the hardware units and also controls the system overall. The app is available from the Play Store and comes in at 24MB. In terms of the presentation of the app, the app is well designed. There are elements of Material Design in play and it did feel like much thought and intention had been incorporated into the app in what is a polished and ready-to-use offering.

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As noted, the app is essentially the instruction booklet to the system as well. There are paper instructions that come in the box, however, thanks to the detailed instructions in-app, there was no need at all to use the main boxed instructions which was good to note.

Once the system is up and running, the app is the control centre and allows access, activation and control of all the elements that make up the security system. Illustrations and drawings make up the first main contact with the app and result in an easier ability to identify which parts are which. In fact, by clicking on any of the hardware links opens further pages which then highlight the battery level of that particular hardware aspect and also allows for the sensitivity to be adjusted if needed. Basically, if the door sensor is too sensitive, you can dull it down so it does not trigger as easily. So overall the app does provide a good micro level of control.

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However, the features aspect of the app raised both positive and negative impressions for the software. For instance, the app is extremely feature-heavy and especially compared to other options on the market and so there is a ton of stuff you can do. However, it did feel as though there were too many features. After all, this is an alarm system and most people will just want it to work turn on and trigger when needed. Instead, MyFox has attempted to give the user a far greater level of control over the system. Which although is considerate, is a little overwhelming and possibly unneeded for a majority of users. For instance, there are additional privacy settings which allow you to monitor the arrival of you children, view fob owners who are home and even a section dubbed ‘My Community’ which allows neighbours and the likes to have limited (thirty-minute) access to the system so when you are not nearby they can deactivate it when triggered. Although, all of these have their merits and will be of benefit to some users, it all felt a little too much for just someone looking for a reasonable self-assembly home security system.

That said, if you bypass all the peripheral features the main feature of the app is quite simple to use and effective. Once up and running, the main alarm page consists of a main circle broken down into four segments. Each segment designed to easily control the main system. Arm, unarm, unlock and panic siren. This was all rather self-explanatory and hitting any of the segments instantly triggered the relative command.

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The main alarm screen also comes with a pull-up window at the bottom which when pressed showed a breakdown of all the recent activity. This was a timeline based schedule which would highlight if the alarm was triggered, when users deactivated or activated the alarm and even if a connection was lost and the unit had to resort to its backup (6-hour) battery life.

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Moving to the camera side of things and the software for the camera has its own subsection within the app. Once the system is setup, on the main app page is a small eye in the top right corner. Once hit upon, the app opens the camera software and from here you can check and monitor everything camera related. This includes direct access to the camera feed so you can see what is going on in real time. The feed is relative live (minus a few seconds of delay) and proved to be quite responsive when tested. The camera is also a HD camera meaning you do have crystal clear images on show which will be especially handy if they do capture any introducers in view.

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But that’s not all. In addition to the direct feed, the camera allows two-way talking which essentially means you can talk to whoever is intruding and warm them that you can see them. Although, this might attract the introducer’s attention to the actual camera, the good news is that the footage is captured and recorded remotely so you can actually play back the footage once it is no longer live. These recorded elements can be viewed at any time from within the app too.

While cameras are not new to the home security market, the one feature specifically touted with the myFox camera, is its ability to enter a private mode for when you do not want to worry about the camera recording you. This feature can be activated at any time from within the app and once activated, the app will advise that you are in ‘private mode’ and the motorized shutter on the camera automatically closes.

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Overall, the system was felt to be one that does work quite well. Yes, there is the criticism of being a little too heavy on features, but this is not necessarily a problematic issue. You can ignore the features you do not want to use and just stick to the main use of the alarm. The software itself responsive and works very well.

Usage & Performance

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As discussed, this is a very feature heavy application compared to some of the other options on the market and therefore, you can get as much or as little as you want out of the performance. If you want a very in-depth and heavy interaction with your alarm system which prompts you when the kids are home, offers access for your neighbours and so on, then this will do that. However, for the sake of ease we will just discuss the unit in terms of its primary focus, protecting your home.

Overall, there were no major issues with the alarm system. It does do its job and does provide you with a more than adequate deterrence system. Like so many of these systems, its ability to do more than notify and deter is limited. This is not patched into your local security company (like a paid service) and the police won’t be en route when it is triggered. However, that is not an issue that is relevant to just MyFox but instead to the DIY home security industry as a whole. That said, as a deterrent, the MyFox system works extremely well. The big deterring feature is the siren built into the alarm and this one is loud. In fact, depending on the size of your home, the siren at times was too loud. and certainly does offer an audible deterrent. If this is placed anywhere near your main entrance(s), the alarm sound will be noted by an intruder and most likely by your neighbours too. In this particular aspect, the alarm was significantly more powerful and effective than many of the other options currently available. Notifications are also in play when it comes to any significant changes (like the alarm being triggered). Notifications come both in push notification form as well as an email advising of what has happened.

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In terms of the sensors, unfortunately, only one sensor is provided out of the box and therefore you are limited to how many doors/windows you can protect without having to fork out more money. But if you were to pay for additional sensors then you can at least rest assured that they do perform to a good level. Additional sensors are priced at $49.99 and therefore, could become pricey if you need a lot of them to secure a larger property. The ‘intelliTAG’ sensors are designed to be able to tell the difference between someone knocking on your door and actually trying to break through. In testing, this seemed to be quite a reasonably executed feature and the sensors are definitely intelligent enough to be able to decipher between knocking and a more heavier physical intrusion.

Summing Up

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Overall, the MyFox system left both positive and negative impressions after testing. The market as a whole is one which means users are somewhat left with having to financially decide how much they can spend on protecting their home and this unfortunately, is the truth of the matter. As these home systems are designed to be more cost-effective the current escalation of their prices starts to detract away from their affordability and the MyFox system is a prime example of this. The system is not cheap by any standards. There are more affordable options out there and if you want a full set-up, alarm, camera and enough sensors to occupy all of your windows and doors then it is going to cost you. That said, this is a very rich featured system and in that respect, you are getting more for your money than a lot of the other options. For those willing to pay the premium price, you are going to receive a premium built set of hardware. You are also going to receive a nicely developed and intuitive application to control the unit and you are going to be able to delve as deep as you want into the controlling of the system, the alarm and the protection of your home. Therefore, if you can afford the cost of the system as a whole and if you are willing to put in the time to set it up, then this is a worthwhile purchase.