Alarm.com Vs. Honeywell Total Connect Shootout
In the smarthome and intrusion market, Alarm.com and Honeywell are two of the biggest names. Both platforms offer remote management of alarms, home automation devices, surveillance cameras, and video doorbells. Among increasingly networked smarthomes, interest is high.
But which system is better, and what weaknesses does it have?
Comparison Criteria Selection
In the sections below, we look at the features and performance that both end users and dealers/ installers will be interested in and therefore are useful to differentiate upon:
- Intrusion Panel Compatibility: With how many brands and types of panels is the system compatible?
- Service Required: What monthly services are required for the system, and how much do they cost?
- Video Surveillance Support: How is video viewing and recording managed? How is performance limited?
- Multiple Panel/Locations Support: Is it possible to control multiple logical partitions from an account? Can multiple panels be managed from one login?
- Video Doorbell Support: Which types of doorbell cameras are supported? Can they be used from within the primary app?
- App & Browser Support: Do the systems support webpage portals, smartphone apps, or both? Are there navigation or appearance differences between them?
- System Pricing: How much does each platform cost, both from a hardware and ongoing service perspective?
- Consumer Brand Recognition
We look at these factors and more in this note.
Overall, our testing found Alarm.com's technology to be superior to Total Connect, specifically:
- Video Support: Quite bluntly, Total Connect 2.0 video is bad, so Alarm.com's HD cameras and live-video browser streaming (and Honeywell's lack of it) make ADC much stronger.
- Eaiser 'DIY' Monitoring: For those looking to shun traditional central station monitoring contracts, ADC can be purchased and used without their involvement at all. TC2.0 requires at least provisioning via central station, and consumers are likely to be forced into buying a monitored system when buying Total Connect.
- 3rd Party Panel Compatibility: ADC is compatible with 4 brands of panels, and even Honeywell panels via modules, so customers are not locked in or faced with forklift replacement when adding on services.
- Partitioning Support: ADC supports panel partioning for large systems, while TC2.0 does not. Even when large Honeywell panels are used, TC2.0 does not support the feature, while ADC does with no added complexity.
- Other IoT Product Support: In terms of 'non-Honeywell' IoT systems and devices, ADC works with Nest, Apple Home, and 'offbeat' IoT brands like Rach.Io, where Honeywell is more closed.
However, Honeywell is better in a few technical areas plus has a large brand advantage:
- Interface Consistency: Total Connect 2.0 keeps the same appearance in controls regardless if using a phone or PC. For 'non-technical' users, the consistency makes using the system easier.
- Compatible Panel Models: While Total Connect is only compatible with Honeywell alarm panels, that still represents over 20 common models used in both residential and commercial markets.
- Thermostat Integration: Honeywell is also a large established vendor for Thermostats, and TC2.0's integration with the WiFI 'Total Connect Comfort' line of color touchscreen devices is better than Alarm.com's support of general Z-Wave models.
- Brand Recognition: In terms of customers knowing the brand, Honeywell brings considerable clout, and consumers who know nothing other than a few basics are more likely to recall and trust Honeywell's name.
Platform Market Comparison
In general, ADC will be a stronger 'residential takeover' solution for dealers, who can sell new services but retain existing hardware, while Total Connect allows Honeywell dealers to sell 'connection services' into the commercial space not fully addressed by Alarm.com.
In the majority of technical categories, Alarm.com is the stronger option, offering more controlled device options, better video performance, more panel compatibility options, and options for DIY monitoring for end users.
However, from a pure cost point of view, Total Connect could be cheaper and offer the same basic features. Especially for users already equipped with Honeywell alarm panels, upgrading to TC2.0 may be less than $5 additional service dollars per month per panel, well under Alarm.com's $30 - $50 typical charge.
Our overview videos of each below gives an introduction to those platforms.
First, from Alarm.com Tested:
In general, both platforms combine remote management and alerts from intrusion systems with surveillance cameras and home-automation integrations with door locks, thermostats, and lights. In both cases, each platform offers additional niche-integrations with other smart-house systems that we note in sections below.
Regardless of platform, however, the core value proposition is end-users is the same: your smartphone is a mobile, roving terminal to check on the situation at home or office.
Intrusion Panel Compatibility
Alarm.com supports four different brands of panels and two takeover modules for connecting Vista and DSC systems, while Total Connect is proprietary to Honeywell.
For users, ADC is compatible with more brands, but fewer panel models including those panels supported when using Alarm.com panel supported takeover 'SEM Modules'. ADC lists the range of panels compatible as ten different models from four manufacturers:
Total Connect is limited only to Honeywell gear, but is generally supported on all lines using current firmwares. The total number of Honeywell-only options is still significant, with more than 20 variations listed compatible:
Total Connect can be installed on the majority of Vista's panels, including the large commercial models, while Alarm.com is focused mostly on combo/wireless residential models like 2Gig and Qolsys. For the residential market, Total Connect is supported in Honeywell's residential Lynx and Lyric panel lines.
Required Monthly Services
Total Connect 2.0 generally requires a central alarm monitoring account, where ADC does not. This fact can hide a big difference in monthly service pricing if 'DIY' monitoring is used with Alarm.com that calls and notifies user cellphones only when tripped.
Total Connect ranges from $15 - $35 per month for most users, but adds another $25 - $50 per month in mandatory monitoring, bringing the total amount to ~$40 - $85 for Honeywell.
Alarm.com costs more, generally $25 - $50 per month, but professional monitoring is often an option. If professional monitored, the total amount will be slightly more than Total Connect, at ~$50 - $95 per month, although systems will generally be priced roughly equal if mandatory monitoring is applied.
The biggest difference is if mandatory monitoring is not desired. Alarm.com services will run $25 -$50 per month, while Honeywell typically requires it for a cost of $40 - $85/ month. In general, 'extra features' like video doorbell support is less expensive with Total Connect, being a part of the monthly cost, while Alarm.com adds about $5 - $10 per account to activate those features.
Video Surveillance Support
One of the biggest differences between platforms is video. Alarm.com supports HD (up to 1080P resolution), while Total Connect does VGA only, and currently live video feeds are not supported in Honeywell's Total Connect webclient. Honeywell says an HTML5 client is being developed that will support both HD and live streaming video, but has not offered an expected release date.
Another difference between platforms is how they classify recorded video clips. Total Connect stores and lists them in a chronological 'event' file, but offers no further searching or grouping beyond manual bookmarking. Video management with Alarm.com is more granular, in that specific alarm events can be used to find video clips, and files are searchable by time/date/camera, while TC is not.
However, a key weakness of both platforms is limited camera choice of relatively low resolutions, and no varifocal or WDR options on par with many boxed kits. However, the cost of these system cameras are pricier than those kits, with an average Alarm.com camera price of ~$100 - $275 and Total Connect Camera costing ~$80 - $275.
In the clips below, we look at video for each platform. First, the overall limitations of resolution and live viewing in Honeywell Total Connect 2.0:
The the overall better experience from Alarm.com:
Multiple Panel/Locations Support
This point compares if more than one partition and connected panel can be managed per app/web login. Alarm.com supports partitioning, although the feature may not be available if the partnered panel lack support for it. However, Total Connect 2.0 does not support the feature even when the parent panel might. The omission of this is not likely significant to most residential users, but even small commercial sites often need partitioning, and some larger houses, especially those deploying automation devices, do as well.
One comment in our Honeywell Total Connect 2.0 Tested noted that while TC2.0 does not support this in Honeywell panels, Alarm.com does:
"How is it that Honeywell can't sort out a second partition, when ADC has a module that wires up to a Honeywell panel that DOES? SMDH..."
In terms of panels per account, multiple Total Connect enabled panels can be access from one app session, but management across panels cannot be done. With Alarm.com, 'global settings' can be applied to multiple panels at once, but updates and communication from panels must happen one at a time.
Video Doorbell Support
In terms of options, Total Connect integrates with one brand and model of doorbell, the puck shaped SkyBell HD. Alarm.com integrates with two models of Skybell, the HD and an Alarm.com specific model named Skybell Slim, shown below:
In addition, Alarm.com integrates with GoControl's Video Doorbell. While ADC supports more options than Total Connect 2.0, performance specs and pricing are similar or the same between types, and physical appearance is likely the biggest deciding factor.
Honeywell tells us they plan to support a 'slim' Skybell when it is available in coming weeks, the Skybell Trim. IPVM will test that unit, claiming better low-light performance, when it hits the market.
Of note, neither platform supports Ring doorbells, one of the leading brands with several models, but a company who is selling their own 'connected devices' with a line of security cameras, video floodlight security lamps, and spotlight cameras in addition to doorbells.
While both platforms generally support Z-Wave models, Total Connect also supports Honeywell's WiFi line of 'Total Connect Comfort' models. In practical terms, the WiFi models are more likely to be installed in commercial deployments where square footage may be greater than Z-Wave coverage from the panel alone supports.
Other Smarthome Devices Support
In terms of supporting 'other' IoT type systems, Total Connect is generally closed to Honeywell branded offerings, while ADC is more open. However, neither platform is 'open' with a published API, and any support must be created by their respective companies. This is in contrast with smarthome automation hubs like SmartThings that uses a large user base to develop new direct device or system integrations.
For factory support, ADC irrigation controllers from Rach.Io, thermostats and smoke detectors from Nest, and Apple Home. Honeywell TC2.0 does not. Both systems support Garage Door operators, water leak detectors, and user geofencing.
While lacking support for any of these niche systems alone may be 'deal breakers' when choosing a platform, Alarm.com has an edge including non-Honeywell products. Dealers are better able to pitch ADC as 'a single application' platform for a house, while Total Connect users will need to manage and operate different interfaces and apps.
App & Browser Support
Both platforms offer well supported and full featured mobile apps for both Android and Apple. Overall, uniform layout and similar controls is better with Total Connect 2.0, that uses a near identical layout between versions. Differences between app and web portal are more obvious with ADC, with total different locations and names given to the same controls between platforms.
However, video is better on ADC, and HD live video streaming is supported in all platforms. Total Connect does not support HD stream at all, and live video is only viewable via the app.
Another limiting factor is availability and support outside US and Canadian markets for these platforms. Total Connect and Alarm.com are available in the US and Canada, although the GPS tracking features of Total Connect are available in the US only.
Both platforms are supported by installing dealers and central monitoring stations, although both platforms are sold online as 'DIY' solutions. If an installing dealer is used, then casual moves-add-changes to a system may be limited to the installing dealer only. Like the intrusion market, panel 'installation codes' may be used preventing other dealers or even users from making changes.
Consumer Brand Recognition
One aspect Honeywell dominates is brand familiarity.
The benefit of customers knowing your brand lessens perceived risks in buying new, 'cutting edge' services like smart-home automation. The strength is due in large part to Honeywell's long-time consumer market presence with home thermostats, air conditioners, and small electronic gadgets, which Alarm.com lacks. We noted Honeywell's strong consumer brand recall in this post, where, for example, Honeywell ranks 7.5X more familiar to consumers than Alarm.com:
In contrast, Alarm.com's brand is not well recognized even in the consumer security segment, undoubtedly due to the relative 'newness' of the company that was started in 2000. However, for more knowledgeable security dealers, Honeywell's shortcomings are likely better understood, which can offset that brand benefit but still not fully overcome the overall consumer recognition for Honeywell.