Lorex Smart Home Security Center review: Great cameras, worse home security

Lorex Smart Home Security Center review: Great cameras, worse home security


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Hobie Crase/CNET

Most home security systems work like this: Entry sensors, motion detectors and a slew of other doodads monitor your home for break-ins. When you leave the house — or just turn in for the night — you arm the system, which gives you confidence that if something happens that shouldn’t, you (and potentially emergency services) will be swiftly notified.

Lorex isn’t like other home security systems. Its Smart Home Security Center doesn’t come with the various and sundry sensors that stock the online stores of Ring or SimpliSafe — although if you want, you can buy a separate set of sensors to integrate. Instead, for better or worse, Lorex focuses on two things: cameras and monitors.

This approach means Lorex won’t be for everyone; but those who want that focus on cameras will probably be mostly happy. The system boasts some fantastic features, including free cloud storage and solid cameras. But Lorex’s dependence on an overpriced central hub stops it from greatness.

Like

  • Solid cameras
  • Free cloud storage

Don’t Like

  • Overpriced
  • Dependent on an outmoded hub

The basics

If you get the basic $450 Lorex Smart Home Security Center as I did, you might be surprised at how few devices you find when you first open the box. For that price, the four pieces of hardware – a touchscreen monitor, a range-extender and two security cameras – may feel a little paltry at first.

Competitors like SimpliSafe and Ring, two of the best home security systems on the market, include a lot more hardware with their similarly priced systems – and don’t even mention budget-friendly options like Wyze, where $450 would buy you a veritable camera-copia.

In this case, though, it’s not the cameras that account for this difference in price. Midrange security cams like Lorex’s are going to cost over a hundred bucks no matter which brand you buy, and as expected they sell for about $100 each on the website. What inflates the starter system’s price tag are the other two devices: a range extender and a touchscreen hub.

The range extender works well enough, but it simply won’t be necessary for many people. I set up the cameras on opposite sides of my house and experienced no connectivity issues. Sure, if you want to monitor an outbuilding, or if you plan to install one of the cameras in the backyard, a range extender is a great idea – but it seems odd to include the $80 device in every package sold.

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The cameras work well, although they don’t look particularly up-to-date.


Hobie Crase/CNET

The hub, too, feels like an unnecessary addition. I have a lot of feelings about home security hubs, but essentially they boil down to these: First, decent home security apps provide all the settings and monitoring capabilities hubs do, but usually with a better user interface; second, a basic touchscreen hub feels outmoded in a market with ever-smartening displays, from Amazon Echoes to Nest Hubs.

It turns out Lorex’s hub is actually worse for even more reasons, but I’ll get to those in the hardware breakdown.

Suffice it to say, the package you get with Lorex’s $450 Smart Home Security Center isn’t terrible if you want its particular mix of devices, but it’s too restrictive in its offerings, and the price tag feels unnecessarily inflated by the range extender and touchscreen hub.

The eyes of the Lorex

OK, it may sound like I’m ragging on Lorex at this point, but you’re harder on the ones you love, right? And I genuinely like Lorex’s cameras. Both smart cams that come with the Smart Home Security Center can be used indoors or out, they provide 2K resolution, full-color night vision, person recognition, two-way talk, an easily toggle-able privacy mode, a spotlight and a siren. You can set up motion zones, record video, take photos and adjust plenty of granular settings on the app, too (like adjusting the recording resolution to lengthen the battery life).

These devices can do almost as much as any other cameras on the market, with one exception: they don’t have animal, package or vehicle recognition, as do cameras from Arlo and Google Nest. For most people, though, that won’t be a dealbreaker (Ring’s cameras don’t have it either, after all).

Lorex’s best feature, though, is the free storage. If you’d like to use local storage with microSD cards, you can – each camera supports a 64GB card. But if you just want to use cloud storage, you can do that, too – for free! Lorex offers 10GB of video clip storage, on a two-day rolling basis. This sidesteps the problem of Google Nest’s latest cameras, whose 3-hour rolling storage means clips recorded overnight could evaporate before you wake up in the morning. No, it’s not Wyze’s free 14-day storage, but it also doesn’t have Wyze’s limitations, such as 5-minute cooldowns between clip recordings.

In short, this may be the best free cloud storage option from a major brand, depending on your needs. And if you’re considering Lorex, I’d bet this storage – along with the wide variety of cameras the brand offers – is one of the central reasons.

It’s a shame, then, to see the other core component of the Smart Home Security Center stumble as much as it does.

The heart of the system

Lorex is more ambitious with its touchscreen hub than many home security developers. The screen is fairly responsive, the user interface isn’t bad and there’s even a built-in voice assistant named Lorex. You can issue a variety of voice commands, but the most useful one I found was “show me [whichever camera I was interested to see].”

Of course, the point of voice commands is to be hands-free, so it was a bit disappointing that I had to manually input my passcode (I set it to 1-2-3-4-5-6, with no objections from the hub) before using the assistant.

Overall, it struck me as a serviceable hub, albeit one that looked a little old-school next to my Echo Show 10, which you can catch on sale for $200 – only marginally more than the $170 this hub contributes to the system’s total price tag.

All that said, a few oversights seriously hobble the Lorex hub’s reliability as the heart of your home security system.

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The hub is the weakest part of the system, inflating the price with a device that most people don’t need.


Hobie Crase/CNET

The first problem is this: the hub doesn’t have cellular or battery backup. That means if the power or internet goes out, so does your security system. Most hubs I’ve tested at least include a backup battery for the simple reason that, if the front door sensor goes off in the middle of the night, a local alarm is still useful.

Similarly, many systems include cellular backup, so you (or in some cases, law enforcement) can still be alerted if your internet is interrupted while you’re away and your system detects a break-in.

The lack of these backup measures means the security center, even if you do buy the extra sensors Lorex offers, won’t be the most reliable for conventional home monitoring.

Related to these issues is the fact that the cameras connect through the hub to the internet, rather than directly to Wi-Fi. This means that if the hub gets disconnected from the internet or from power (which, again, it has no protective measures against), you lose connection to your cameras.

Lorex struggles to stand out against its largest competitors largely due to its hub, a device that doesn’t seem built for reliable home monitoring so much as a perusal of your camera feeds from the convenience of your kitchen (or wherever you install it). That may be enough for some customers, but it’s not a replacement for more dependable home security setups.

Putting it all together

Often a great security system is less about the individual pieces than how they fit together. Here, Lorex offers a mixed bag.

Setting up the system was easy, but not particularly quick. I had to charge the batteries for both cameras for at least four hours (using the single provided charger), and a couple of lengthy firmware updates slowed down the process, too. This isn’t so out of the ordinary, and it wasn’t really extra work on my part. But, and this is especially true if you buy the $650 system with four cameras, don’t expect it to finish setup the same day you start it.

Once everything was up and running, I enjoyed checking in on my cameras with the app and the hub. The sirens are loud and the spotlights are nice deterrents. I tested the person notifications and found them to be mostly reliable. In a few instances, the notifications came late or the recordings started after I was halfway across the frame.

The recordings were easy to access, though — and all the features performed as expected. You can even call up camera streams on smart hubs from Amazon and Nest, though once more, being able to do so raises the question of why the hub itself is strictly necessary.

Here’s the real question, though: Is Lorex right for you?

Some home security systems are great, and others are… not so great. Lorex falls between them, and while I can’t recommend it as a true home monitoring system – alerting you if a door opens at night or window breaks — it could be a solid camera system for monitoring larger properties. If you’re looking for reliable cameras and free cloud storage and don’t care about all the other elements of conventional home security systems, Lorex will be a good bet for you.



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