Home security tool is easy to use, but pricey

There's no longer any reason for the average homeowner or apartment dweller not to have a security system. That's especially true given that the days of expensive installations and long-term contracts are over, while software vendors offer an ever-widening array of DIY tools to protect the home front.

These days, the emerging "smart home" category is dominated by security systems like Canary and Piper. One of the newest entrants, Myfox, has a fairly complete and generally effective package, although it's pricey.

Systems like Piper and Canary are one-piece solutions that pack a camera, various sensors, and a siren into a Pringles-can-like canister. Myfox takes a very different approach. More like a traditional home security system, the basic Myfox package contains a hub, siren, door sensor and key fob; the camera (as well as additional sensors and fobs) are optional.

The hub and siren are two different components. You plug the small hub into an outlet and then follow a simple setup procedure to wirelessly sync the siren, which is battery operated and quite loud.

The door and window sensors, called IntelliTAGs, are potentially the best part of the system. While most sensors are two-piece contraptions you need to carefully mount so they can tell if the door or window is open or closed based on the magnetic connection between the two halves of the sensor, IntelliTAGs are one-piece gadgets designed to sense the kind of motion and vibrations a break-in might cause. They can feel a window being shattered, for example, or a door being jimmied open before it even gets breached.

You could stop with these components, or add the Myfox Security Camera, a 720p camera with night vision and a privacy door that you can program to shut automatically whenever you're home. While the camera is treated as an optional part of the system, the reality is that these days a camera is table stakes -- every other modern security system comes with one.

In operation, the system straddles the line between modern and curiously anachronistic. The mobile app is great, for example, but Myfox doesn't use your smartphone to know if you're home or not; it only tracks the location of key fobs, of which the starter kit includes one.

You also can't train the system to turn itself on when you leave home, so you have to control the system manually. And there's no test mode to know if the components are even working. You need to actually turn the system on, breach an entryway and tolerate the deafening siren to ensure the system actually works. Likewise, the camera effectively switches between day and night mode, but it doesn't automatically record motion events or do face recognition. That's a long list of things it doesn't do, but Myfox does have limited integration with Nest.

And while most of the components seemed to work as advertised throughout my test period, I was disappointed with the IntelliTAG. One worked fine on the front door, but a second tag, attached to a large sliding glass door, didn't react at all when I slid it open slowly -- you know, the way a thief might -- when the system was set to "away" mode. The sensor only had one job to do, and it failed, rendering the entire security system ineffective.

I wanted to like Myfox. But glitches and limitations aside, it's just too expensive. The starter kit that includes the hub, siren and single sensor costs $279. The camera in another $199, which means you're at nearly $500 (about the cost of two Pipers or Canarys) before you even get a second key fob or door sensor. And if you splurge for the camera, be prepared for monthly service fees -- to get cloud storage of your video, you need to pay at least $5/month.

There's no way to justify that kind of expense when Piper, which I recently reviewed, costs $279 and offers cloud storage of your security video for free.