DIY Security System Face-Off: Ring vs. SimpliSafe

Consumer Reports’ lab tests reveal which DIY security system is best at guarding your home

The Ring Alarm vs. SimpliSafe The Essentials

SimpliSafe was one of the original DIY home security upstarts, launching a system in 2009 that was wireless and that could be easily set up without a service technician. Now the company is far from alone.

Formidable companies including Google Nest, Samsung, and Honeywell Home have since flooded the market with their own DIY security systems. And one brand in particular has become a major opponent to SimpliSafe: Amazon-owned Ring. 

To help you decide which system is better at securing your home, we’ve pitted the Ring Alarm 5-Piece Starter Kit, $200, against the SimpliSafe The Essentials starter kit, $270, in a CR face-off.

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Both systems receive CR recommendations, but there is one crucial difference: SimpliSafe requires you to pay a recurring fee for professional monitoring and Ring doesn’t. Instead, Ring lets you monitor the system from your smartphone free of charge. 

“The flexibility Ring gives you with optional monitoring is great for budget-conscious consumers,” says Bernie Deitrick, CR’s test engineer for home security systems. “We would love to see all systems give you this kind of flexibility.”

Read on to see how these two systems stack up. For more information on choosing a system, check out our home security system buying guide and ratings of 12 popular models.

Vitals

Ring Alarm 5-Piece Kit: This Ring Alarm kit comes with a base station, keypad, motion sensor, one contact sensor for a door or window, and a range extender for increasing the wireless range of the base station in larger homes. The base station has a built-in siren, backup battery, and backup cellular connectivity (subscription required). You can monitor the system yourself from the Ring smartphone app without paying any monitoring fees. Professional monitoring and backup cellular connectivity are available through a Ring Protect Plus subscription, which costs $10 per month or $100 per year. Additional contact sensors and motion sensors cost $20 and $30, respectively.

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SimpliSafe The Essentials Kit: The SimpliSafe kit comes with a base station, keypad, motion sensor, and three contact sensors for doors and windows. The base station has a built-in siren, backup battery, and backup cellular connectivity (subscription required). The SimpliSafe system requires a monitoring plan to receive alerts (without it, the alarm will still go off but you’ll have no way of knowing until you get home).

SimpliSafe offers two tiers of monitoring: The Standard plan at $15 per month and the Interactive plan at $25 per month. The Standard plan includes professional monitoring and cellular backup. The Interactive plan adds on smartphone control, app alerts, a rolling 30 days of cloud storage for security cameras, verification of alarms by checking security camera clips for intruders, and smart home integrations. Additional contact sensors and motion sensors cost $15 and $30, respectively.

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SimpliSafe The Essentials SS3-01

Price: $270

Security essentials
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Test By Test

Here’s the how the two systems perform in each of our lab tests: 

Security essentials: In this test, Deitrick and his team evaluate whether a system offers features they deem essential for a home security system. These include the usual motion and contact sensors, but also stand-alone sirens (for larger homes, you'll need these in addition to the base station’s siren), key fobs for arming/disarming the system, and smartphone apps for remote control.

Both the Ring and SimpliSafe systems receive Very Good ratings in this test, because they both offer most of the essentials. The only notable exceptions are that the Ring system lacks key fobs and the SimpliSafe system doesn’t allow you to remotely activate the siren. As a result, this test ends in a tie.

Security add-ons: Here, we see what kinds of additional security components the manufacturers offer, such as panic buttons and security cameras. The SimpliSafe system receives a Very Good rating, but the Ring Alarm system receives just a Fair rating. The Ring system’s low rating is due to the fact that at the time of testing, the system did not work with smart locks and did not trigger Ring cameras to record when the alarm goes off. Ring has since added those capabilities, but they aren’t enough to make it better than the SimpliSafe system, which wins this round.

Smart home add-ons: Because many systems now function as smart home hubs, we judge them on whether they allow you to connect smart home products, such as smart lighting and thermostats. The SimpliSafe system receives a Very Good rating in this test. It works with August smart locks, Google Nest smart thermostats, and both the Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant digital assistants for voice control. But the Ring Alarm system earns an Excellent rating, thanks to its integration with Amazon Alexa for voice control and its Works With Ring program, which allows the system to integrate with smart locks, smart light switches, and smart plugs. That makes Ring the winner in this test.

Ease of setup: Our testers find both the Ring and SimpliSafe systems very easy to set up, and both earn an Excellent rating here. Each system walks you through the setup process step-by-step, and both have easy-to-install peel-and-stick sensors. This round results in another tie.

Ease of use: We evaluate how easily you can interact with each system via its keypad and smartphone app, as well as whether you can adjust the sensitivity of motion sensors. The Ring performs somewhat better than SimpliSafe, thanks to the ability to remotely activate the alarm from the smartphone app. That makes Ring the winner of this round.

Motion detection: In this test, our engineers attempt to trick the motion sensors to see how well they detect motion. They walk by them slowly at varying distances and even crawl past them. Both systems receive Excellent ratings, meaning they should have no trouble detecting a stranger sneaking around your home. This test ends in another tie.

Video quality: Our testers conduct a video quality test if the security system offers security cameras. This is the same test from our home security camera ratings, where we evaluate video quality using different levels of light. We test the Ring Alarm system with the second-generation Ring Stick Up Cam and the SimpliSafe system with the SimpliSafe SimpliCam. The SimpliCam offers much better video quality, earning an Excellent rating compared with the Ring Stick Up Cam’s Good rating. So SimpliSafe wins this final round.

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