Nest Protect 2 review: literally a life-saver
Now that nearly every home in Britain has Wi-Fi to accompany the smartphone in their occupants’ their pockets, companies want to persuade us that everything from televisions to fridges should be connected to the Internet of Things. Nest, owned by Alphabet (the company formerly known as Google), is at the forefront of this, and is attempting to make the mundane – from thermostats to security cameras – both attractive to the eye and connected to the cloud.
The Nest Protect is possibly the most mundane device of the lot. It’s a smart smoke and carbon monoxide detector that alerts your phone to any dangers it detects, as well as sounding the usual ear-shattering alarm.
It’s a tough sell. Every house has (or should have) a smoke and carbon monoxide detector, and these are generally cheap and cheerful. A quick Google search shows that you can buy one of each and still get change from a £20 note, so is it really worth splashing £89 on the Nest Protect 2?
Nest is aware of this and has taken every step to make sure the Nest Protect 2 looks like a high-end product. While most smoke alarms stick to function over form, the Protect 2’s curves and subtle dimpling add a dash of style to proceedings. A central ring lights up in a soothing spiral around the logo, and the colour changes depending on the kind of danger you’re in.
It’s hard to imagine how you could make a smoke alarm look more stylish, but there’s also a question about how much that really matters. Alarms tend to be boxy and functional because they’re not art: they’re attached to ceilings and walls where they’re out of the way. Still, if having a stylish-looking alarm system matters to you, the Protect 2 is hard to fault on that score.
Of course, the price doesn’t only pay for good looks. The real strength of the Nest Protect 2 is in its connected features. Once you’ve attached it to your ceiling (our review model came with six AA batteries, but there’s another version that connects to the mains) you have to set it up with the app on your phone. This was a breeze with the Android version, and we had everything set up and ready within ten minutes.
What does it offer that my smoke alarm doesn’t?
With a Wi-Fi connection, the Nest Protect 2 will contact your phone when it detects smoke or carbon monoxide. If you have more than one, it will even tell you which device has detected the problem, so you can figure out if someone is burning down the living room or simply trying to cook sausages without enough oil. You can also use the app to turn off the smoke alarm remotely, saving the need to stand on a chair, although the alarm will overrule this if it thinks the situation is severe enough.
Yes, the Nest Protect 2 is smart enough to estimate the level of danger. It begins with a mild warning if things are getting slightly smoky (yellow flashing with a spoken message about increasing levels of smoke), and saves its really loud alarm and flashing red light for when it detects a full-on emergency.
Its myriad sensors can not only tell the difference between smoke and harmless steam (the shower or kettle) but also between slow- and fast-burning fires. Obviously, this proved impossible for me to test without invalidating my buildings insurance.
Still, it has sensors for heat, electrochemical carbon monoxide and humidity to name a few. It even detects when you walk underneath it at night, and activates a gentle light to guide your path so you don’t have to turn the lights on.
If you have other Nest products, it works with those too. Your Nest thermostat will automatically turn off the boiler if the Protect 2 detects carbon monoxide, as it knows that’s the most likely source. If you have a Nest cam, it’ll record footage, so you can see what’s setting off the alarm. It’s all very clever, and certainly something no £10 sensor could ever dream of offering.
Perhaps its most crucial feature is that it tests itself. This is a great idea – we all know that we’re supposed to check our smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors regularly, but it’s incredibly easy to let the habit slip. The Nest Protect takes this out of your hands, but also allows you to test it manually if you like – either through the app or by touching the Nest button twice.
Nest Protect in your pocket
Another big plus for the Protect 2 is that it uses the main Nest app and doesn’t require its own, so you can deal with all your Nest products on a single screen. That may not be much use to me when I have only the Protect running, but it’s definitely worthy of praise for anyone who’s concerned with the number of icons creeping over their mobile home screen.
From the app you can examine the health of every Nest Protect 2 in your house. You can turn off alarms, run tests and look at a full log of the device’s detection history. It also provides some general pointers about what to do if your house fills with smoke or carbon monoxide, but it’s nothing you couldn’t get from some a simple Google search and isn’t hugely useful in an emergency.
If you’re in the market for a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector, there’s very little you can say against the Nest Protect 2: it looks good, offers tiers of warnings, integrates well with other products and includes a potentially life-saving self-testing feature. The one thing it isn’t is cheap: £89 is a lot to pay for a smoke alarm when even a cheap no-name model will do much the same thing with fewer whistles but the same number of all-important bells.
If you already have a few Nest devices, the Protect 2 is well worth the cost. If not, it’s a lovely piece of technology but it doesn’t entirely justify its price – and the prospect of buying several to place around the house is dauntingly expensive. Feel free to add an extra star if you have other Nest products; for everyone else, it’s a strong three-star product, but other alarms will do the job just as well.