10 Key Comparison Metrics For Intrusion Panels

Author: Brian Rhodes, Published on Jan 10, 2017

In this note, IPVM reviews fundamental features and attributes for evaluating and comparing intrusion alarm panels.  These criteria are:

  • Number of Hardwired Zones
  • Number of Wireless Zones
  • Number of Keypads Supported
  • Multiple User Codes Supported
  • IP Programming and Control
  • Price
  • Advanced Features
  • System Expandability
  • Video/Access/Fire Integration
  • Dealer Only

Inside we define and describe each of these criteria.

Comparison Chart

The ability to condense the 10 points into a standard format is critical for comparing systems to each other. Conceptually, these factors form a graphic like this example:

For quick 'executive summary' level comparison, a chart is useful. However, our standard report method includes detailed descriptions of each of those 10 points. In the sections below, we describe in detail each category.

Number of Hardwired Zones

How many areas a panel can monitor is a core feature. Keeping track of number of sensors is too simplistic and not always helpful.  Many sensors can often be connected in series, for example in a bank of windows several sensors may be wired together in a chain and connected to the panel in one circuit. If one contact opens, the entire zone the circuit is connected to alarms with no specific indication of which sensor is reporting trouble.  

However, granularity can be achieved when zones are associated with one or a small number of sensors in an building's area. In this way, comparing number of zones is a useful metric.

Number of Wireless Zones

Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

Not all panels or systems support wireless sensors.  Moreover, some panels may only support wireless with optional equipment or in one specific zone. As with hardwired, comparing wireless zones is the standard attribute.

Number and Type of Keypads Supported

For many systems, the type and ability to have multiple input keypads is a major consideration.  While most alarm systems support one installed keypad, the location where it is installed may be inconvenient for quick access by users in all protected areas. Also, the utility of a basic alpha-numeric pad cannot be compared to a full graphic touchscreen that may display or even sound more descriptive messages or be integrated with other systems like video surveillance.

Multiple User Codes Supported

Akin to key control or access control, 'user codes' should be assigned to and may be provisioned differently for individual users. Basic alarm systems may support 20 user codes and be more than enough for a typical residential install, but that number may be too limited or small for small commercial use.

Likewise, each code may carry different privileges, from a 'master' configured to do anything, to a 'temporary' that may expire after one use that is only valid for a specific range of hours.

IP Programming and Control

Not all panels have a web or network interface for notification, control, or programming from a networked device.  While this may not be a major dealbreaker for a simple user, the expectation of easy programming, use, and integration often depend on this feature.

Noting the options and type of IP connectivity is key for modern systems, but many systems lack it or require additional parts to make it happen. This category also indicates the usefulness and/or cost app-based or remote access controls.

Price

Key to all IPVM evaluations is pricing, and the ability to compare pricing of one offering to another. In general, if panels are sold by themselves versus bundled with other elements like sensors or service subscriptions, understanding how the pieces compare. For intrusion panels, a 'low' price is on the order of $100 or less for an eight zone system, while a 'high' price common for combo/ or multiple system integrated panels average twice or more that cost for the same number of zones.

Advanced Features

Comparing additional non essential, but still valuable, attributes of individual systems is key. For example, 'line supervision', or the ability to detect weather sensors on a circuit are tampered with, is not often a major consideration in residential or even small commercial systems, but is often critical in high-security applications. Likewise, noting how many events can be logged into panel memory may make a big difference in some designs but not all.

System Expandability

The maximum number of zones a system supports often require additional hardware or modules to achieve that what is available by default on a stock panel. Additionally, the supported number is often different than the individual number of hardwired zones plus wireless zones available from expansion hardware.

In other cases, hardware zone expanders may physically support connecting hundred of zones, while the underlying panel only supports a fraction of that number. Noting 'expandability' clears up potential confusion.

Video/Access/Fire Integration

In terms of tying other systems into the intrusion system, the variation and ability of supported systems is substantial. Some systems support basic access control or video surveillance camera integration by default, while others require additional hardware or software for proprietary devices. Others may not support any integration at all.  Understanding the options are important comparison factors.

Dealer Only

Understanding the availability, support, and pricing structure behind a platform is another key information point.  Many alarm products are not available via distribution, and understanding this point often is a factor is weighing buying and support options.

Member Feedback

In comments below, please offer you thoughts on these 10 criteria.  Are they complete?  Would other points be more useful? Please let us know.

Comments (15) : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Alexa Guard Expands Amazon's Security Offerings, Boosts ADT's Stock on Sep 21, 2018
Amazon is expanding their security offerings yet again, this time with Alexa Guard that delivers security audio analytics and a virtual "Fake...
BluePoint Aims To Bring Life-Safety Mind-Set To Police Pull Stations on Sep 20, 2018
Fire alarm pull stations are commonplace but police ones are not. A self-funded startup, BluePoint Alert Solutions is aiming to make police pull...
Central Stations Face Off Against NFPA On Fire Monitoring on Sep 18, 2018
Central stations are facing off against the NFPA over what they call anti-competitive language in NFPA 72, the standard that covers fire alarms....
Ascent / MONI Faces Lender Lawsuit and Debt Crisis on Sep 13, 2018
ASCMA, aka Ascent, aka Brinks Home Security, aka MONI, aka Monitronics is being sued by a group of their lenders who allege: As of June 30,...
VMS Export Shootout - Avigilon, Dahua, Exacq, Genetec, Hikvision, Milestone on Sep 13, 2018
When crimes, accidents or problems occur, exporting video from one's video surveillance system is critical to proving incidents. But who does it...
ADT CEO Is Out on Sep 04, 2018
ADT's CEO Tim Whall is out, 'retiring' in less than 3 months, ADT announced. This comes amidst financial challenges, with the company's stock...
Why Vivint / Best Buy Failed on Aug 31, 2018
DIY has bested Vivint. In 2017, Best Buy and Vivint partnered with Vivint employees on the floor of 400+ Best Buy stores, helping customers with...
JCI / Napco Integration Battle on Aug 30, 2018
JCI and Napco are firing salvos at each other over integration issues which both sides blame on the other. The bigger problem is that central...
Ligowave Wireless Profile - Ubiquiti Competitor on Aug 27, 2018
Ubiquiti has become the most common choice for wireless in video surveillance (see Favorite Wireless Manufacturers) but not without controversy and...
Inputs/Outputs For Video Surveillance Guide on Aug 24, 2018
While many cameras have Input/Output (I/O) ports, few are actually used and most designers do not even consider them. However, a good understanding...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Genetec Takes Aim At 'Untrustworthy' 'Foreign Government-Owned Vendors' on Sep 24, 2018
Genetec is taking aim at 'untrustworthy' 'foreign government-owned vendors'. This is not a new theme for Genetec as nearly 2 years ago, Genetec...
4MP Camera Shootout - Axis, Dahua, DW, Hanwha, Hikvision, Uniview, Vivotek on Sep 24, 2018
4MP usage continues to climb, especially for low cost fixed lens models. To see who was best, we bought and tested seven 4MP models from Axis,...
Alexa Guard Expands Amazon's Security Offerings, Boosts ADT's Stock on Sep 21, 2018
Amazon is expanding their security offerings yet again, this time with Alexa Guard that delivers security audio analytics and a virtual "Fake...
UTC, Owner of Lenel, Acquires S2 on Sep 20, 2018
UTC now owns two of the biggest access control providers, one of integrator's most hated access control platforms, Lenel, and one of their...
BluePoint Aims To Bring Life-Safety Mind-Set To Police Pull Stations on Sep 20, 2018
Fire alarm pull stations are commonplace but police ones are not. A self-funded startup, BluePoint Alert Solutions is aiming to make police pull...
SIA Plays Dumb On OEMs And Hikua Ban on Sep 20, 2018
OEMs widely pretend to be 'manufacturers', deceiving their customers and putting them at risk for cybersecurity attacks and, soon, violation of US...
Axis Vs. Hikvision IR PTZ Shootout on Sep 20, 2018
Hikvision has their high-end dual-sensor DarkfighterX. Axis has their high-end concealed IR Q6125-LE. Which is better? We bought both and tested...
Avigilon Announces AI-Powered H5 Camera Development on Sep 19, 2018
Avigilon will be showcasing "next-generation AI" at next week's ASIS GSX. In an atypical move, the company is not actually releasing these...
Favorite Request-to-Exit (RTE) Manufacturers 2018 on Sep 19, 2018
Request To Exit devices like motion sensors and lock releasing push-buttons are a part of almost every access install, but who makes the equipment...
25% China Tariffs Finalized For 2019, 10% Start Now, Includes Select Video Surveillance on Sep 18, 2018
A surprise move: In July, when the most recent tariff round was first announced, the tariffs were only scheduled for 10%. However, now, the US...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact