Whether online or offline, security is a massive buzzword in recent times. While there are many security options for your home, in a more connected world, the option to protect your house without the need for a month to month premium paid service is becoming easier and more affordable. This is where options like Skylink Home Alarm System comes in. Offerings users an affordable, self-installation and self-monitoring option.
Editor Notes: The Skylink Home System Starter Kit was used for a period of two weeks. The system currently sells for $149.99 and can be picked up from a variety of stores including on Amazon. Skylink Home System Starter Kit works with both iOS and Android devices.
Contents & Hardware
For a home unit, the box that turns up might seem rather small. However, it does contain everything you need to get yourself up, running and protected. The contents in the standard option include the main router hub, one wall motion sensor, two door/window sensors, brackets, double-sided adhesive, screws, an Ethernet cable and a keychain remote.
The units are all plastic in build and this is probably where you will most notice the difference between this option and maybe a more premium paid subscription unit. Items are lightweight, basic in style and presentation and lacking any significant design features with an overall generic look. The router hub consists of an Ethernet port, DC input, along with four numbered keys which act as a manual code lock. There is also a battery compartment underneath which will accept four AA batteries. These are not a necessity for the system to run, but Skylink does suggest owners include the batteries so that the system can maintain its activation during a power outage. Unfortunately, batteries are not included with the kit.
Moving on to the sensors. Similar to the main router hub, these are not particularly well built or strong units and again adopt an almost purely plastic build. That said, they are sturdy enough to presumably maintain a long life. Like the main hub, the sensors are battery operated. However, unlike the main hub, the use of batteries in the sensors is compulsory. Which again, felt a little dated for today's market. The main room sensor takes AA batteries while the smaller door/window frame sensors take AAA batteries. Once again, these are not included in the pack. If you are looking for a system which offers a greater number of door/window sensors then it is worth pointing out that you can purchase additional sensors and connect them to the existing system. So what comes in the box, is not all you have to work with. The keychain is by the far the most durable part of the system and this is in line with what you would expect. The Keychain is after all, designed to be carried with you and expected to endure a typical day to day routine. As such it was nice to see the keychain had been built with durability in mind.
Setup & Installation
Setting up the kit is relatively simple. The whole process is easy enough for anyone to be able to do by themselves and without any particular expertise or knowledge. However, the initial process is slightly longer than you might expect and at times can be quite fiddly. The first aspect of the setup is the hub which has to be connected to your internet router. This is connected directly via Ethernet and as such must be positioned (and remain) located within the distance of your router. There is no ability for a wireless setup to the system, which is slightly disappointing. The other downside of this sort of setup is that the hub effectively is your siren or warning unit. As this is connected directly to your internet router, depending on where your router is located, will determine how effective the audible alarm really is. For instance, on this occasion, the internet router is located in a small cupboard. As a result, so was the alarm.
Following connection, the app will need to be downloaded which further guides a new owner through the installation process, including connecting the sensors individually. This was also a slightly tricky procedure as the sensors are not the easiest units to open. The accompanying paper instructions suggest using a coin to open the motion sensor. Which should go some way to highlighting the fiddly nature of setting up the system for the first time.
App & Software
During the installation process, you will be prompted to download the app. This is a necessity for the smooth running of the system as the app is the brain behind what you are investing in. With that in mind, you would expect the app and the software to be of a very good level. It is. The app works extremely well and once installed does provide a clean and very easy interface to play with. During the installation, the app will be what is used to connect the motion sensors and the door/window sensors to the main hub. This is all rather easy to do once the app is running and guiding the process.
The same level of ease was noted in the day to day running of the system. The app is very well thought out and clearly details the system in an easy to understand and use manner. You have three choices when it comes to the main system. These are 'Arm Home', 'Arm Away' and 'Disarm'.
These are rather self-explanatory. Once 'Arm Home' is activated, the system will advise you of what is happening ie. motion detected but will not sound the alarm as the system is aware you are in the house. Likewise, the 'Arm Away' will provide all the same services except the alarm is effectively active in this mode and will instantly notify you when the alarm is activated. Disarm, as you would expect, disarms the alarm completely with no more notifications provided or alarms sounding. It is also worth noting that the system (like the keychain remote) does come with a panic button feature which can be activated directly from within the app. This is a 'slide to use' type panic function and once activated will again launch the siren alarm on the main hub as well as a siren from the phone.
However, the system is not as static as the last paragraph suggests. As well, as the main features and settings, the app does offer individual settings for each connected component (sensors). Therefore, you can turn off notifications for particulate sensors and adjust the way in which they interact with you and with the system as a whole. These customizations extends to both the Arm Home and Arm Away modes.
Usage & Performance
There were no major issues with the unit which does do exactly what it sets out to do. The motion sensor in particular, was very responsive and always made contact when motion was detected. In fact, it was rather surprising how responsive the small single motion detector was. The motion sensor was placed high up in the room and was able to provide a good deal of coverage without issue. As such, the response of the unit was excellent and does cover a significant amount of floor space as the 'hot zone'.
In contrast, the door/window unit was a little more frustrating. The sensitivity of the door/window unit was also extremely high. Which under most circumstances is a good thing. However, depending on how secure and flush window and door units are in your property, will dictate how useful/frustrating the unit is. During testing, it was found that when used on the door, the alarm would often sound without the door being opened or closed, which did quickly become a source of annoyance. That said, this will be dependent on your particular door and window frames. Not to mention, there is also an issue with how far their connection will extend to. These units do have a finite distance in which they can make contact with the main hub and as such, might not be as useful in the largest of properties.
The actual system itself is a secure network and runs off of an independent connection. The positive of this is that the system is far less hackable. The downside of this is that the system is not able to connect to any other systems you may have or want to connect. This does and remains an independent service in your home regardless of how 'connected' the rest of your home might be. One of the nice features of this system though was the variance in which the alarm can be disarmed (once it is activated). As well as being able to deactivate the alarm directly from within the app, the keychain will perform the same function (so you can disarm when arriving home and before you open your door). Not to mention, you can also disarm the system directly from the hub unit. Although, it is debatable how often the latter disarming option will be used. When there is a breach of any of the sensors, you will always receive a push notification that the system has been triggered. These can be turned off or set per sensor offering a good degree of control and customization.
Overall, the system is a good option when considering the cost. This is a standalone service, which does not require any additional payments, plans or fees. Not to mention, the system is easy (enough) to set up. With that in mind, the one-off fee for a unit which does provide you with an additional level of security is worthwhile. That said, it is not without its issues. This is a local network and service and as such, will only warn you of anything untoward which is happening. The system does not and cannot call the authorities and simply does nothing beyond the notification that motion was detected or the window/door had been opened. Not to mention, the standalone connection means if you are intending on having a more connected home, then this will stand out like a sore thumb. The alarm does provide a good level of sound (115 db) and does act as a deterrent, but again, is limited by its volume and dependence on being placed near to the actual router. Not to mention, the volume is not negotiable and is pre-set at the level out of the box.
To sum up, if you are looking for a cheaper alternative to security for your home, without the need for additional costs, which can be installed and monitored by yourself, then Skylink Home Alarm System Starter Kit will get the job done.