Tyco DSC PowerSeries Neo Intrusion Tested
Tyco's intrusion system line, DSC, is one of the most widely installed brands.
Their primary intrusion panel series, PowerSeries Neo, is relatively new to the market since release in 2014, but is already commonly used.
But does this recent release have the stability and features of competitor systems that have been in widespread use for decades? We bought a panel and tested it to find out.
In this test, we examined:
- Physical Overview
- System and Sensor Installation
- Keypad Programming
- Lack of Integration Options
- The Alarming Process
- System Price
- Monitoring Options
- System Certifications
Inside, we examine and detail the results contrasting to other typical residential and small business intrusion alarm systems.
The PowerSeries Neo line has some advantages, especially compared to other small commercial or residential systems:
- Many Sensor Options: DSC uses either standard two wire standard alarm sensors/contacts, or multiple series of proprietary wireless options. The scope of offerings is broad enough that most designs will be able to use standard wired or wireless sensor types.
- Easy Keypad Programming: Neo configuration benefits from a solid alpha numeric keypad with detailed text explanations. Even if no PC programming method is used, commissioning a Neo system is faster and simpler than many market alternatives.
- EOL Resistors Optional: Using supervised circuits for residential installs often results in resistors improperly installed in a mess inside the panel. DSC addresses this by enabling the option to have unsupervised/ NC only circuits and omit the resistors, an option that could save labor and prevent maintenance errors.
However, DSC's offering has some drawbacks that are routinely available in the intrusion market:
- Limited Integration: Neo lacks integration options to video surveillance systems, and is only integrated to Tyco's proprietary access control lines, eliminating system appeal for customers seeking tight intrusion system integration.
- Pricing: In the ultra-competitive intrusion market, DSC is often 10% - 15% more expensive for panels and sensors than low cost leaders. High volume dealers may be discounted steeply, but low volume or occasional installers will likely pay higher prices. Similarly spec'd residential Honeywell Ademco, Napco, and 2GIG systems are $20 - $35 cheaper per system unless high volumes factor economies of scale.
- No Integrated Panel Tamper: Access to a Vista panel's power inputs (both hardwired mains and backup battery) means that default settings or alarms can be manually reset by someone with knowledge of system functions without notifications to the panel's owner.
Test System Details
The DSC panel tested was an HS2032 based kit including a power transformer, an alpha-numeric HS2LCD keypad, and a 15W dual-tone 100 dB siren.
Of note, while this kit comprises a functional alarm panel, it does not come with a PIR motion sensor common with other kitted intrusion systems, nor other alarm contacts or sensors. Users and installers will need to buy those companion hardwired or wireless devices separately.
The DSC alarm panel we tested is an 8-zone master board installed inside a steel can enclosure. The enclosure includes room for up to 32 wireless or hardwired zone expanders, and space for two 12 VDC 4 - 5 AH batteries.
Notably, the can is not furnished with a lock, nor the panel with a tamper switch, leaving the main control unit vulnerable to undetected tampering. As such, additional cabinet locks and care must be taken in selecting mounting locations, typically up high in closets or in attic spaces.
The video below overviews the panel:
The panel itself is non-networked and includes no RJ45 port, but it does include two 5-pin serial interfaces that can be use to program the panel via PC if adapters are purchased.
Additionally, the main panel supports up to 4 partitions, 8 supervised keypads with distinct code zones, 500 stored alarm events and 72 user codes. The total number of supported partitions, keypads, and zones is greater than similar residential/small commercial grade systems like Honeywell's Ademco Vista 20P.
Options for Residential or Commercial Installs
Our system supported hardwired sensors and contacts in 8 zones and optional wireless support via expanders to a max of 32 supervised zones.
However, given reduced and relaxed circuit supervision demand for residential systems, the EOL resistor requirement is optional. While an option is not desirable for commercial or high-security residential installs, it does provide an installer a quick, cleaner panel install and mitigates the poor installation practice of sticking resistors in the panel as noted in our Where Do End Of Line Resistors Go? thread.
The video below examines this in detail:
Of note, the DSC panel also includes the option to disable off central station monitoring functions if not used, so that a fully locally (onsite) monitored system can be used without persistent error messages being displayed.
The HS2032 supports programming in two basic ways:
- DLS Software: Dealer-only, free software using a mouse driven utility to create or duplicate configurations and downloaded to panels
- Keypad: While the 'most manual' programming method, DSC's alpha labels and prompts are generally 'plain language' codes that are easy to understand and follow.
The video below describes and shows the process:
Even when using the keypad, a typical 4 - 16 zone residential system will take less than one hour to fully program, label, and test. This is a sharp contrast to similar systems like Vista that makes heavy use of numerical codes and messages via limited alpha keypad displays.
However, either method supports use of 'templates', which are essentially default macros than can pre-configure most of the system according to typical residential or commercial space uses. DSC panels most directly is done via the main attached keypad.
DSC adopts a commercial grade 'pre alarm' and 'stay' vs 'away' arm conditions that may not be available in DIY systems that use 'all-or-nothing' arming states.
While both the process and delay periods are configurable (they can be omitted, or programmed for up to 120 minutes of delay) and even be given single key shortcuts, the default three stage process will be ideal for most customers.
The video below shows how a typical alarm event looks/sounds at the keypad, which includes plain-text alarm descriptions and zone labels on screen:
In general, disarming is only possible when a user code is entered (which is then logged by the system), but arming is possible with single keypad strokes.
Additionally, the stock HS2LED keypad also includes dual FAP (Fire, Auxiliary and Panic) keys where a two finger press and hold can notify fire, medical, or police responders.
While DSC is a dealer-limited brand, channel controls are loose, and the line is generally available from internet retailers to a DIY/public market.
Pricing for systems purchased via these 'grey market' channels is typically higher than prices from dealers that include manual monitoring contract obligations.
In the non-dealer market, a 'typical' with ten door/window, horn, and motion sensor system will typically cost around $325, putting it about 15% - 20% higher than commonly kitted DIY platforms like Simplisafe which sells for ~$265.
However, in the dealer markets, DSC Neo pricing is generally priced at or near similar system offerings from Honeywell, DMP, and 2Gig, although equipment and installation pricing is often heavily amortized by lengthy mandatory monitoring contracts.
No Remote App
Tyco provides a free, app-based remote control for DSC Neo called "PowerSeries Neo Go" that is available for iOS and Android. However, using the app requires an additional ethernet or cellular communicator module and monthly service fees, usually at $10-$15 per month:
In the commercial space, DSC Power Series Neo is limited to integrating with Tyco access control platforms C-Cure 9000 and Kantech EntraPass, but integrated functions are hosted in those platforms and no controls within Neo. DSC claims no onboard video surveillance integration with Neo. The line includes a combo still camera/PIR sensor, but still images are sent and viewable via the app not full framerate or HD video. Exacq also host a Neo integratation, "arming and disarming of the system from the exacqVision Client (via overlay controls associated to cameras), as well as receiving alarm events to correlate to video searches".
In the residential space, Neo integrates with Control4 home automation platform, but again the integration exists within Control4's interface.
Most users will not use Neo as an integrated system, as the primary interface point is a set of programmable relay outputs on the main panel that only permit very basic contact closure signals and no data or alarm flags are passed by the panel.
Central Station Monitoring Options
DSC panels can be centrally monitored by the majority of central stations, ans they use the common SIA and Contact ID [link no longer available] formats. These formats are widely supported by central station providers, with no major coverage gaps in monitoring in any portion of North America and in most of the globe.
The DSC PowerSeries Neo line carries the relevant Commercial Burg, Residential Burg, and Home Health Care UL ratings, as well as SIA CP-01 compliance making it applicable for most home and business intrusion systems.
However, the system only carries a UL Residential Fire rating for household smoke detectors, and is not rated as a commercial fire panel, nor carries a 'combo panel' rating.