Review: Roku Home Monitoring SE - A Basic Security Solution for Roku Users

Cupertino, October 11, 2023

At a Glance

Expert Rating: N/A

- Basic home security at a low cost
- Supports viewing camera feeds through Roku streaming devices
- Guided home monitoring setup is helpful

- Complicated setup can lead to alert overload
- Limited device support and integrations
- Roku's TV app lacks sensor alerts and fast smart home controls

Our Verdict:
Roku offers home security basics with draw-ins for its TV platform. Roku's security-focused smart home system has almost nothing special to offer. Instead of building its own products from scratch, Roku turned to Wyze Labs, the smart home company best known for selling cheap hardware with a slew of optional subscriptions on top. The Roku Home Monitoring System SE alarm package – as well as the cameras and other additional accessories you can add to it (including smart bulbs, light strips, and plugs) – are all virtually identical to what Wyze offers under its own brand. But Roku's system has one unique selling point, at least for fans of the company's smart TVs and streaming players: It's the only option for monitoring security camera feeds through Roku's TV interface. If your home security needs are fairly basic, that convenience may be enough to overcome the system's limitations. Roku's Smart Home app is linked to the same account you use for Roku's streaming devices, so the integration happens automatically.

What smart home products does Roku offer?
Like Wyze, Roku offers a starter kit that includes a hub (with a built-in siren and battery backup, but no cellular connectivity if your broadband connection goes down), a keypad for arming and disarming the system, two door/window sensors, and a motion sensor. Roku's kit costs $99.99. You can mix and match other components, including cameras, lights, and smart plugs, and manage everything with one app. For this review, Roku also included a Roku Indoor Camera SE ($26.99), a 1080p security camera resolution that can save recordings locally if you provide a microSD card; and a Roku Outdoor Camera SE ($73.99), a weather-resistant (IP65), battery-powered camera with a base station that can support up to three additional cameras (the base station also has a microSD card slot). Roku also sells a video doorbell ($79.99, or $99.99 if you add a chime), a wireless pan/tilt indoor camera ($39.99), a wired outdoor camera ($49.99), a wired floodlight camera ($99.99), and a solar panel for its outdoor cameras ($24.99). Security aside, Roku's smart home device options are limited: There are A19 smart bulbs in white or color, 16- and 32-foot smart light strips, and indoor and outdoor smart plugs. Roku did not provide these additional products for this review. At the time of writing, there are no options for recessed lighting, smart locks, thermostats, garage door controls, smoke detectors, or water leak sensors.

What are Roku's security subscription costs?
Roku has the same subscription structure as Wyze, with separate options for its cameras and home surveillance system. On the camera side, Roku charges $4 per month or $40 per year for a single camera, or double that amount for two cameras. A subscription for up to 100 cameras costs $10 per month or $100 per year. The subscription stores the last 14 days in the cloud and ensures you receive separate notifications for people, pets, packages, and vehicles. Without a subscription, you can view live camera images, save recordings on a microSD card provided by you, and receive motion notifications, but there is a 5-minute cooling period between these notifications. Professional monitoring is provided by Noonlight and requires a separate subscription of $10 per month or $100 per year. Subscribers get 24-hour surveillance from live US agents and an option to summon emergency responders via the app. Without a subscription, you will still receive notifications on your phone, but you will have to handle them yourself.

Roku Home Security: The Setup
To set up the device, use Roku's Smart Home app for iOS or Android. After you log into your Roku account (or create a new account), you'll need to pair each device one by one, including all the individual sensors for Roku's alarm system. The exact installation steps vary by device, but the Roku app does a good job of guiding you through the process. For example, the indoor camera has a button at the bottom that puts it in setting mode. Then you enter your Wi-Fi credentials into Roku's mobile app and point the camera at a QR code on your phone screen to make the connection. Installing the base station for the outdoor camera does have one minor annoyance: it must be connected to your router via Ethernet during the installation process. You can connect the base station to WiFi after the initial setup, but the app doesn't make this clear at first.

Is Roku's home security system easy to use?
Roku's streaming TV devices are almost wrongly focused on simplicity, but that's not the case in the smart home space, where Roku essentially just uses updated versions of Wyze's apps. Out of the box, Roku's app will provide you with notifications for every motion and sensor event, with no guidance on how to roll things back. If you want fewer alerts, you'll need to take some additional steps. For the alarm system, your first stop should be the Monitoring tab of the app, which walks you through the process of adding sensors and setting home and away modes. This includes setting up Roku's keyboard and deciding which sensors can trigger the alarm when the system is armed. This is an important part of the installation but is easily overlooked as part of the initial setup.

The next step is to explore the app's 'Rules' system, which allows alerts to be enabled or disabled based on context. For example, you can have an "I'm home" rule that turns off all indoor cameras and door sensor alerts, or an "Away" rule that turns everything back on. These rules can be activated manually via the app or emergency keypad, or automatically based on things like the time of day or the location of your phone. The Rules System also allows you to link events together. For example, you can turn on a group of light bulbs when a nearby camera detects motion, or activate a camera's siren if a door sensor has been left open for too long. Roku's cameras also offer sensitivity settings and motion alert zones, which can help prevent false positives if an insect comes into view or a car passes by on the street. You can also filter notifications from people, pets, packages, or vehicles, but only with a camera subscription.

Despite its complexity, the system has its limitations. Phone location triggers are limited to one user, so multi-person homes can't turn on the cameras until everyone has left, and you can't filter out triggering conditions; for example, only turning on a camera at night when no one is home. Automation is also limited by the small number of devices Roku offers. If you want your security camera to automate other devices, like thermostats or smart locks, you'll need to pair it with broader platforms like Amazon Alexa or Google Home (more on that soon). One final nitpick: Roku doesn't offer a web or desktop interface for viewing camera events or controlling smart home devices. Everything should flow through the mobile app instead.

Roku home security on your TV
Because Roku's Smart Home app is tied to the same account you use for Roku's streaming devices, the integration happens automatically. Using voice commands on a Roku remote, you can view live camera feeds, control lights, and turn your smart plugs on and off. The Roku Cameras app also lets you view live camera footage and motion alert history. However, the integration could go much further. From now on, you won't be able to receive on-screen alerts for anything except doorbell events. Although the Roku Cameras app hints at support for smart home sensor alerts, these did not appear in my testing. Unlike Alexa devices on Fire TV or HomeKit devices on Apple TV, Roku also doesn't offer any dashboard for controlling lights, smart plugs, or automations.

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