Should you buy a Nest Protect?

Best answer: The Nest Protect is the best smart smoke detector you can buy. It ties in seamlessly with other Nest products as well as the Google Home ecosystem. It also outperforms other models in controlled testing because of it's superior sensing abilities. It's also very expensive, but a smoke detector is one of those things worth spending more on to get the best. So, yes, you should buy a Nest Protect.

Amazon: Nest Protect ($125)

Why do I want a smart smoke detector?

It seems like everything is smart these days. While some things are unnecessarily smart — and we all have our definitions here — some make us curious. A smart smoke detector is one of them.

Besides the obvious — you can get an alert on your phone when the detector goes off — there are other really good reasons to have a smart smoke detector. Most of us have witnessed a smoke detector going off because someone burnt dinner, or have dealt with having one too close to the bathroom door and hearing it wail when our hot shower has gone on a little long. Having a way to instantly silence the alarm can be a godsend, and so can knowing exactly which detector is going off, or hearing a spoken alert describing everything if you're driving.

Because Nest works with Google Assistant and Alexa, you can also extend the capabilities. For instance, if an alert would trigger late at night you could have smart lights throughout your home turn on or your doors automatically unlock. You can even make sure the window blinds are raised in case things call for more drastic measures and you need to climb out a window. All the while, the Nest app is making sure whoever needs to know about the alert is hearing their phone ring.

On its own, the idea of a smart smoke detector doesn't seem compelling, but when you tie it to the other smart products in your home and factor in the remote alerts it can give via the app, having a smart detector like the Nest Protect makes sense.

What makes it worth the price?

A smart smoke detector is going to be more expensive than one that's not connected. There are more parts that needed installed and the development of the product wasn't cheap. We should expect a smart device to cost more than its "dumb" counterpart. But there is another reason a Nest Protect is more expensive. It's supposed to do one thing — let us know if something dangerous is happening — and it does it better than any other device of its kind.

Tom's Guide tested the Nest Protect in its testing lab and found it's not only the best smart detector but that it is the only detector that passed every one of its tests.

In our lab, we tested the Nest Protect (as with all smoke detectors) by spraying an aerosol smoke-detector-tester spray from 5, 10 and 15 feet away, and timing how long it took each alarm to go off. At the 5- and 10-foot mark, the Nest Protect sounded after 18 seconds. At 15 feet, the alarm activated after 28 seconds. Moreover, it was the only device to pass all of our tests.

This is because of the types of sensors the Nest Protect uses. Besides the carbon monoxide, heat, humidity, and occupancy sensors it has (a package you won't find elsewhere) it houses a split-spectrum photoelectric sensor to detect a fire. Photoelectric sensors are really good at detecting smoldering fires, but ionization sensors are better at detecting flames. The problem is that ionization sensors give a lot of false alarms. Nest solves this by using a separate secondary wavelength in its photoelectric sensor to detect flames, which doesn't trigger so many false alarms.

You get the accuracy you want in a smoke detector without the nuisance false alarms you don't. You get the ability to tie an important piece of safety equipment into the rest of your smart home to make getting out easier if there is a fire or other emergency. And you get to be able to notify yourself if you're away, or up to 19 other people any time the alarm goes off.

Bottom line

A smoke detector is one of the most important things you can have in your home. The Nest Protect is the best one you can buy, and the features it brings make it well worth the price.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.