Review: HomeKit compatible First Alert Onelink Safe & Sound smoke detector more than it ap...

Posted:
in General Discussion edited June 10
By acting as a pair of safety sensors, a speaker, a HomeKit device, an Alexa smart assistant, and soon an AirPlay 2 speaker, First Alert's Onelink Safe & Sound wants to be a welcome addition to any home. AppleInsider checks it out.

First Alert Onelink Safe and Sound


One of the biggest hurdles for smart home devices is convincing users they need them in their home. They need to offer some sort of tangible benefit to a traditionally low-tech option. A smoke alarm is basically a safety necessity, so First Alert already has a good hook from the get-go with the Onelink Safe & Sound.






The Onelink Safe & Sound is a combo device, checking multiple boxes of convenience along the way. First and foremost, it acts as a smart smoke and carbon monoxide detector. Secondly, it builds in a powerful speaker, that works with smart home platforms such as HomeKit and Amazon's Alexa.

Let's take a look at each of these components, and see how they compare to other options.

Smoke and carbon monoxide detector

First Alert is commonly known as the maker of inexpensive and single-featured smoke detectors, and this isn't that. Aside from having both smoke and carbon monoxide sensors together in a single product, it has a few other tricks up its sleeve.

First Alert Onelink Safe and Sound power adapter


Included in the box is everything needed to get going, even with whatever detector was currently in use. A pair of screws, a mounting plate, three different power adapter cables, and an instruction manual accompany the Safe & Sound.

Getting started, the Safe & Sound was dead simple to install. It took us maybe two minutes to actually do the full installation. We hopped up on a ladder, twisted off our existing detector, unscrewed the mounting plate, screwed into place the new mounting plate, used one of the included power adapters to tie into the existing wiring, and twisted the Safe & Sound into place.

Anyone will be able to install the Safe & Sound, unlike some home automation in-wall outlets, switches, or thermostats.

First Alert Onelink Safe and Sound App


Safe & Sound ties into the Onelink app, which gives it its smart features. After registering and pairing the product within the app, Safe & Sound will be able to send you alerts from anywhere, letting you know if anything is amiss. This can provide users some peace of mind.

First Alert Onelink Safe and Sound Silence Button


One of our favorite features is the ability to hush the alarm in the case of accidental triggers.

Imagine you're in the kitchen and a pan is putting off a bit more smoke than you anticipated. As it should, the smoke alarm starts to sound, amplifying an already frustrating situation. Luckily, the Safe & Sound can be quickly and temporarily hushed using the button on the side, or the Onelink app. This silences the alarm and gives you a few moments to turn the fan on and clear out the room.

We also are fans of the built-in nightlight. It would have been nice if there was an integrated motion sensor to trigger this, but it is useful to have in hallways other areas throughout your home during the night.

If we compare this to a traditional smoke detector, it's clear there are quite a few benefits. Remote alerts and notifications, temporary hush when accidentally triggered, and carbon monoxide detection alongside smoke.

Built-in speaker

First Alert Onelink Safe and Sound nightlight


We can't undersell how much we love the fact that Safe & Sound has a built-in speaker. It is exceptionally convenient and makes use of the existing wiring running through your ceilings.

Music can be streamed and controlled from the Onelink app through a variety of sources. Amazon Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, tunein, SiriusXM, and (soon) Spotify are all options. If you'd like to play music from your local library, however, it gets a bit wonky right now.

Playing music from your library, or Apple Music, you have to switch to Bluetooth mode within the app. Then, connect to the speaker in Bluetooth settings. Music can now be played from the Music app, or any other app for that matter.

This is clearly not ideal.

What's more, while in Bluetooth mode, we noticed quite a bit of disruption in the audio stream. Bluetooth just isn't known for crystal clear audio, and we noticed it seemed particularly jumpy when playing to the Safe & Sound.

First Alert Onelink Safe and Sound bluetooth audio


Fortunately, Safe & Sound will soon support the recently released AirPlay 2 protocol. Using this, music can be streamed through Wi-Fi and will have much-improved quality. On top of that, AirPlay 2 also allows for multi-room streaming.

Right from your iOS or tvOS device, music can be streamed to all AirPlay 2 speakers at the same time, including the Onelink. Siri can even be used to initiate playback, as well as to control it. We will certainly have to revisit the Safe & Sound once AirPlay 2 support is added.

Turning to audio quality right now, when playing through one of the built-in services and not Bluetooth, everything sounded pretty great, though it did lack in the volume and bass departments. Safe & Sound just isn't large enough to move the air needed to produce substantial bass. It also needed a bit more volume to it, though this could just be a case for picking up more of these for each room in the house.

Audio had some solid separation, with the biggest emphasis on the mids, moving into the highs. Both the high and low ends could use a tad more oomph, especially with rock and rap genres.

We wouldn't say this is the most premium sounding speaker, but it did sound good, and being mounted on the ceiling gave it a lot of coverage in the room. When we look at the cost of the Safe & Sound, it is clear that it is more akin to a $100-150 Bluetooth speaker than a replacement for a $200+ dedicated speaker.

Any other speaker will occupy space your shelf or need dedicated wiring run through your walls. Wi-Fi gives it a lot of additional functionality to stream from your favorite services, without needing a phone to act as the source.

Soon, AirPlay 2 will be the killer feature for the Onelink, being able to tie into any other AirPlay 2-equipped speaker. Certainly, many dedicated speakers will win-out in an audio comparison, but there will always be tradeoffs.

HomeKit and Alexa

First Alert Onelink Safe and Sound HomeKit notifications


Being able to tie all the previous features together with smart home and smart assistant integration really ties everything up with a bow. HomeKit offers lots of functionality and automation options, and Alexa offers a useful way to interface with many different smart home devices and skills.

A unique code is printed on the back, side, and instructions to pair with HomeKit and the Home app. After pairing, three devices will be available; a smoke detector, a CO detector, and a nightlight. HomeKit is able to send notifications if either the smoke or CO sensor detects something, and is able to control the brightness and color of the nightlight.

First Alert Onelink Safe and Sound HomeKit automation


Automations and scenes can be set up as well. In our test home, we set up several different routines that are a decent starting point. To make sure we got alerted of something gone wrong anywhere in the home, we turned several different lights red and top brightness if either sensor detects anything, then reverting after it stops. We also used a motion sensor to turn on the nightlight whenever someone happens to be walking through in the middle of the night.

We have a love/hate relationship with Alexa. There are loads more skills that Alexa has that Siri doesn't, but it can also be hit or miss on whether she is able to actually perform them. This really isn't First Alert's problem, though.

Alexa was most useful for us when controlling music playback. She shined here, especially with all the different services she could stream from.

Alexa had no issues hearing us from across the room, and when we tied her into things like the Hue lights, our smart pet feeder, and even our FordLink in our car, there was a lot she was useful for.

Conclusion

First Alert Onelink Safe and Sound


Each of the Safe & Sound's primary features does a great job standing out from low-tech, and even other "high-tech" products. There are clear benefits of using a smart smoke/CO detector, the ceiling-integrated Wi-Fi speaker is way more convenient than others, and smart home/Alexa integration really make the whole product more powerful.

Audio quality - especially over Bluetooth -- left a great deal to be desired, and AirPlay 2 is still MIA. AirPlay 2's unavailability right now is not at the fault of First Alert, and is instead on Apple for delaying it significantly from its expected launch alongside iOS 11. That said, it remains to be seen when the firmware update for AirPlay 2 will arrive.

Once it does, it solves our audio streaming problems over Bluetooth and adds a ton of new functionality in the form of Siri control, multi-room playback, and better audio quality.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

image

We'll come back to this later, when AirPlay 2 support arrives.

Where to buy

The First Alert Onelink Safe & Sound is available for preorder now from Amazon, with availability starting on June 12th. It will run you $249, which can be a lot for a smoke detector, but everything combined it feels like a steal.
«1

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    I bought an first alert and a nest at the same time. The first alert broke down twice within six months , the first time I had it replaced and the second time I threw it out .

    the nest however is working fine 

    so needless to say ....... 
  • Reply 2 of 22
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,582member
    Most importantly, how well does it work as a smoke detector? Does every little wisp of smoke or smell set it off? Some First Alerts have 2 stages so for example, if its someone burned toast it doesn't set it off, but if it senses legitimate smoke it goes off as it should. I'd much rather have this than some gimmick speaker in it. First and foremost, it should function very well as a smoke/CO2 detector. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 22
    bwallsbwalls Posts: 2unconfirmed, member
    Can Alexa be disabled? And can you be sure she's off? Don't really want Amazon listing outside my bedroom door.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 22
    crabbycrabby Posts: 33member
    In our end of the valley we get episodic power outages. Absent a $6500 Tesla Powerwall , that leaves a window of vulnerability which I have managed with battery-operated Nests and an UPS for the WiFi set up. It does not appear this device has that option.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 22
    What about privacy? I don't want Google or Amazon listening to everything that's going on.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 22
    sirozhasirozha Posts: 352member
    They should release a version without the speaker and the microphone. I would buy a few then. The combo of smoke detector, CO detector, and night light with HomeKit integration would be sufficient. If they could also integrate a motion sensor, that would be great. There’s no need to place a speaker and a mic in every device. 
    macxpresswatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 22
    No mention of privacy or security?  What data is collected? How is it used? Can I turn off Amazon functionality? Do they sell a version without speaker? 
    edited June 11 watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 22
    big kcbig kc Posts: 102member
    Could they have come up with a longer, more pretentious-sounding name for the thing? And who wants to stream music through their smoke detector??! NFW it's going to sound even half-decent. Maybe listening to a ballgame or some other non-music content MIGHT be tolerable, but it's a joke to suggest that anyone who can afford this thing wouldn't somehow have much better options on hand for streaming music.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 22
    "One of our favorite features is the ability to hush the alarm in the case of accidental triggers. Imagine you're in the kitchen and a pan is putting off a bit more smoke than you anticipated. As it should, the smoke alarm starts to sound, amplifying an already frustrating situation. Luckily, the Safe & Sound can be quickly and temporarily hushed using the button on the side..."

    so, just like the standard feature on any old £5 smoke alarm, available for the past few decades? smh

    I'm tempted by this, as I am the Nest - but I just can't justify the outlay in replacing all of my smoke and co2 sensors. I think at last count I have at least 12 throughout the house, although none in the kitchen strangely. I would happily exchange alexa/voice control for enhanced sensors - air quality, humidity etc. - that's personally more important to me in smart devices. The silence button on the side rather than centre on the front is a negative for me - if you have high ceilings, you would normally use something to prod the button (I use one of our sash window openers), a side-mounted button would involve getting out a step ladder!! edit* - re-added the line breaks which always disappear.

    edited June 11
  • Reply 10 of 22
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,582member
    sirozha said:
    They should release a version without the speaker and the microphone. I would buy a few then. The combo of smoke detector, CO detector, and night light with HomeKit integration would be sufficient. If they could also integrate a motion sensor, that would be great. There’s no need to place a speaker and a mic in every device. 
    Agree! Why can't we just have a simple smoke/CO detector with HomeKit support? I don't need all of this crap that just raises the price of it and creeps me out because you never know when its listening. God forbid companies make something with freaking Alexa inside it. This is like the new fad these days. 

    I don't need to tell it anything, I don't want to play music through my smoke detector, I don't even want the blue light around it. I just want a simple smoke detector that does a really good job and alerts me on my phone which one triggered it so I know which one to silence, or where its went off in the case of no one being home. Maybe have set so it knows when nobody is home and calls 911 (or whatever it is in your country) automatically. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 22
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 335member
    It can be silenced by a button on the side? That’s actually a downgrade from the regular smoke detectors I have now, which have a button on the bottom. For anyone not tall enough to touch the ceiling, a button on the bottom can at least be reached with the assistance of a wooden spoon, or a stick or something. The button on the side is going to require climbing up on a chair or stool to reach it, which just increases the likelihood of accidents that will delay completion of the dinner smoking on the stove. Alternatively, while the alarm is screaming at you, you can fumble around on your phone, open an app, and silence it from there. Sounds to me like there’s more work needed on this item. This side-button is a very non-Apple kind of engineering design, if you ask me.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 22
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,323administrator
    adm1 said:
    "One of our favorite features is the ability to hush the alarm in the case of accidental triggers. Imagine you're in the kitchen and a pan is putting off a bit more smoke than you anticipated. As it should, the smoke alarm starts to sound, amplifying an already frustrating situation. Luckily, the Safe & Sound can be quickly and temporarily hushed using the button on the side..."

    so, just like the standard feature on any old £5 smoke alarm, available for the past few decades? smh

    I'm tempted by this, as I am the Nest - but I just can't justify the outlay in replacing all of my smoke and co2 sensors. I think at last count I have at least 12 throughout the house, although none in the kitchen strangely. I would happily exchange alexa/voice control for enhanced sensors - air quality, humidity etc. - that's personally more important to me in smart devices. The silence button on the side rather than centre on the front is a negative for me - if you have high ceilings, you would normally use something to prod the button (I use one of our sash window openers), a side-mounted button would involve getting out a step ladder!! edit* - re-added the line breaks which always disappear.

    The rest of the quote after the ellipses is or the app on the phone in your pocket.
  • Reply 13 of 22
    williamhwilliamh Posts: 611member
    crabby said:
    In our end of the valley we get episodic power outages. Absent a $6500 Tesla Powerwall , that leaves a window of vulnerability which I have managed with battery-operated Nests and an UPS for the WiFi set up. It does not appear this device has that option.
    I read the listing on Amazon and it has a built-in 10 year backup battery.  I think they addressed that pretty well.
  • Reply 14 of 22
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,582member
    williamh said:
    crabby said:
    In our end of the valley we get episodic power outages. Absent a $6500 Tesla Powerwall , that leaves a window of vulnerability which I have managed with battery-operated Nests and an UPS for the WiFi set up. It does not appear this device has that option.
    I read the listing on Amazon and it has a built-in 10 year backup battery.  I think they addressed that pretty well.
    Most smoke detectors today have a 10yr lifespan. If they don't, then I wouldn't buy it. 
  • Reply 15 of 22
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 335member
    macxpress said:
    williamh said:
    crabby said:
    In our end of the valley we get episodic power outages. Absent a $6500 Tesla Powerwall , that leaves a window of vulnerability which I have managed with battery-operated Nests and an UPS for the WiFi set up. It does not appear this device has that option.
    I read the listing on Amazon and it has a built-in 10 year backup battery.  I think they addressed that pretty well.
    Most smoke detectors today have a 10yr lifespan. If they don't, then I wouldn't buy it. 
    The actual sensor degrades below acceptable levels after ten years, and then the random false alarms start happening, but only during the hours of midnight and six a.m., which is pretty remarkable for even non ‘smart’ devices that don’t have any sort of clock in them. Seriously, though, it’s because of this that a long-term built-in backup battery is actually mandated to not work longer than ten years. The sensor is less reliable, so a twenty-year battery isn’t allowed, because it would motivate owners to keep using the devices beyond the reliability factor of the sensors. 

    I’d be more interested in the reviewed product if it had a version without Alexa spyware, without the added expense of the music feature (I already have HomePods, which surely sound way better than smoke-alarm Muzak), and a false alarm silencer button on the bottom of the device, where you can actually get to it with a stick or kitchen utensil without climbing on the furniture. My significant other is tolerating my rollout of HomeKit stuff but would probably just go ahead and burn the house down with me in it if told that silencing a cooking-induced alarm would now require opening an app on the phone left out in the car, a conversation with Siri made more difficult by the screaming smoke alarm in the background, or by climbing on the furniture to push a button inexplicably located on the side of the alarm, an action that probably invites hearing damage by putting the user’s head inches away from an alarm blasting at probably 120+ decibels at the source, just to reach up and push that side button.
    edited June 11 gatorguyStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 22
    Andrew_OSUAndrew_OSU Posts: 165member, editor
    macxpress said:
    Most importantly, how well does it work as a smoke detector? Does every little wisp of smoke or smell set it off? Some First Alerts have 2 stages so for example, if its someone burned toast it doesn't set it off, but if it senses legitimate smoke it goes off as it should. I'd much rather have this than some gimmick speaker in it. First and foremost, it should function very well as a smoke/CO2 detector. 
    Two things. In my testing, it did a decent job of not going off in the kitchen. The cheapo Kiddie smoke detectors I had before went off at the slightest smoke. In this case, they seemed to not be triggered so easily. That is really useful.

    I also wanted to say that the speaker is FAR from gimmicky. This is a legitimate enhancement. It isn't like taking a good product and just sticking something that doesn't really belong there. Honestly I want more of these in my house. The ceiling is the perfect spot to be putting a speaker, and it was so easy to install compared to other in-wall speakers.
    gatorguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 22
    It should be noted that, while the smoke detector function is likely as useful as any other smoke detector, the carbon monoxide detector is likely useless. This is because carbon monoxide is heavier than air. Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed near the floor, not on the ceiling.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 22
    jibjib Posts: 6member
    It should be noted that, while the smoke detector function is likely as useful as any other smoke detector, the carbon monoxide detector is likely useless. This is because carbon monoxide is heavier than air. Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed near the floor, not on the ceiling.
    This is incorrect. First, carbon monoxide is actually slightly lighter than air (vs. carbon Dioxide, which is heavier), and more importantly, gases mix in a room, so that CO is easily detected at the ceiling.  The fact that many reputable detector companies  (NEST, First alert, etc.) make combined CO Smoke detectors (all of which must be ceiling mounted for smoke detection) illustrates this. I did not include links, but a quick google search will verify this and refute the common held myth.

    While the detector itself seems interesting, I am happy with my NEST Protect detectors which  link  to my Nest thermostats and each other, and are easily controlled on my iPhones, iPads, and Macs.  They have motion detectors for the built-in night lights (which have three levels of dimming), test themselves periodically and let the thermostat know if someone is home.  (If not, the Nest thermostat can change heat settings to "away").  I would like it ifthey were HomeKit compatible, but they work well. (And they link to my Harmony smart remotes as a bonus). I don't need the speakers in each room, and am not interested in adding Alexa to my smart home.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 22
    zimmiezimmie Posts: 170member
    AppleZulu said:
    macxpress said:
    williamh said:
    crabby said:
    In our end of the valley we get episodic power outages. Absent a $6500 Tesla Powerwall , that leaves a window of vulnerability which I have managed with battery-operated Nests and an UPS for the WiFi set up. It does not appear this device has that option.
    I read the listing on Amazon and it has a built-in 10 year backup battery.  I think they addressed that pretty well.
    Most smoke detectors today have a 10yr lifespan. If they don't, then I wouldn't buy it. 
    The actual sensor degrades below acceptable levels after ten years, and then the random false alarms start happening, but only during the hours of midnight and six a.m., which is pretty remarkable for even non ‘smart’ devices that don’t have any sort of clock in them. Seriously, though, it’s because of this that a long-term built-in backup battery is actually mandated to not work longer than ten years. The sensor is less reliable, so a twenty-year battery isn’t allowed, because it would motivate owners to keep using the devices beyond the reliability factor of the sensors. 
    The ten-year sensor lifespan is for Americium-based ionization sensors. These appear to use photoelectric sensors, which are much more expensive, but have a much longer usable lifespan (tens to low hundreds of years) and are largely immune to false positives.
    patchythepiratewatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 22
    glynhglynh Posts: 126member
    sirozha said:
    They should release a version without the speaker and the microphone. I would buy a few then. The combo of smoke detector, CO detector, and night light with HomeKit integration would be sufficient. If they could also integrate a motion sensor, that would be great. There’s no need to place a speaker and a mic in every device. 
    You are describing the Nest albeit without HomeKit but at least the night light has a sensor on it! It is the added features that put me off...who on earth wants a speaker and voice assistant in a smoke alarm?
    gatorguywatto_cobra
Sign In or Register to comment.