Smoke alarms are one of the most mundane yet necessary items of home tech, and haven't seen much of an update since radiation was discovered.
However, the now-Google owned Nest has taken up the baton and delivered the Nest Protect. So what's different about the Nest Smoke alarm?
First up it looks and feels more substantial than a standard smoke alarm. A perforated surround doubles up as sensor area and speaker grille, while an inner ring glows a range of handy colours. This also serves as a night-light, as well as providing info about the state of connectivity (and indeed relevant panic levels). Luckily our test version is yet to demonstrate flashing red and screaming 'evacuate', but it's certainly something to look forward to. The build quality is excellent, and little details like a drilling template on the box to affix the backplate speak volumes. Speaking of volume, there's plenty of that in the event of disaster, with a sounder capable of 1kHz frequency at 80-decibels (measured at 1-metre) and 85-decibel horn (measured at 3-metres) - that, folks, is loud.
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Build quality aside, there's a reason this smoke alarm retails at more than three times that of standard smoke detectors, and that's the amount of tech packed into it. You're getting a photoelectric smoke sensor, carbon monoxide sensor, heat sensor, no less than three activity sensors, ambient light sensor and humidity sensors. These sensors sync over wifi with an app, which then passes on helpful info to the homeowner. the hidden genius of the system is that it can exchange information with other smarthome devices, so selected lights would flash red in the event of fire, and the smart front door lock could open, for example. The snag comes if that's a result of burning toast, but you get the picture.
Nest have given this last issue considerable thought however, and due to the combination of heat and smoke sensors we've been unable to trigger our test unit with overcooked bread (unless its held actually over the toaster), while an actual smoke test generated a staged warning, amber/yellow, a warning voice prompt followed finally by a full on alarm.
Another neat trick is that the alarm can be deactivated by waving at the Nest Protect, rather than the traditional broom handle/chair combination. Initially this function caused a minor product recall, as it was too easily triggered. However, Nest have tightened up the motion sensing, so a couple of waves are required, but they work, and that's a balance we're happy with.
The app also warns you if the batteries are running low (rather than beeping frantically at 2am), which is nice.
Overall, This is the nicest smoke alarm around, both in terms of build quality and user experience. Of course its by far the most expensive too, but there are considerable benefits built in that offset that cost for us.
Price: £89 | Buy it here