Maximus Smart Security Light ReviewBy - 08/01/2018
The Maximus Smart Security Light is a multi-purpose security product that acts as a smart light and a home security camera. I’ve visited with the team at CES but never had a chance to actually try the product until they offered one up for testing.
The Maximus Product Line
Maximus makes several lights which they sell online and through resellers like Costco. First, they sell a Smart Security Light, which is what I tested. The Smart Security Light comes in four different styles, including Craftsman and Traditional which they make in black and bronze, as well as the Contemporary and Coach lights which are both black. The lights retail at $179.00 and ship with a one-year warranty.
Second, if you have multiple lights, you can purchase and add a Companion Light. The Companion Lights match the Smart Lights in both style and color but lack cameras and two-way walk. Instead, they sync with the primary light via Bluetooth and create a unified appearance. Companion lights retail at $99.00.
Third, there is a Camera Floodlight which sells for $249.00. Though all of the cameras share similarities in terms of intelligence, the Floodlight is slightly different due to its inherent nature which allows it to provide 270-degree detection and illumination backed by a 2400 lumen floodlight.
Finally, there’s an app. The app is powered by Kuna. Where Maximus is responsible for the hardware, Kuna is the software/cloud behind the hardware. Kuna also makes and sells a device called Toucan which has similiar technology but retrofits your existing light setup.
Getting Started with the Maximus Smart Security Light
For testing, I selected the Coach-style Smart Security Light as it met my HOA’s standards. It ships in a massive box which includes the light, installation hardware, and a bulb. I would love to tell you all about the installation process, which Maximus suggests can be done in minutes, but I cheated.
I decided to hire help as I installed the light in an area where there’s no overhang and no protection. Though the light is weatherproof (IP43 Rated), the thought of messing up was too intimidating. The electrician I hired replaced my current light fixture with the Maximus Smart Security Light for $60.00. It took him about 15 minutes to do so. If you prefer to install the light on your own, you can reference this helpful installation guide which includes a video walkthrough.
What I do know about the installation process is that there’s no way to test the light before installing it. My suggestion is to take another device outside to make sure that your WiFi signal is strong enough before committing, or invest in a good range extender. Also, the camera can only connect to routers using a 2.4GHz signal. Fortunately for me, my router uses a dual signal. Unfortunately, it doesn’t play super well with the light. I use a mesh network (Google WiFi) which worked for a full two weeks before disconnecting. According to the Maximus support rep I worked with, the light was confused about which access point to connect to. He suggested that I make changes to my router, which I didn’t want to do, so I persevered as is.
With the light in place, I was able to download the mobile app, which is available for Android and iOS users, and connect to the light.
TIP: After the electrician installed Maximus I did have a brief freak out moment as the app was not finding the light. What I learned is that your light switch must remain on in order for the light to work. If your light switch is off, you can’t use any of the light’s features, including the camera. If you run into issues during installation, check your phone’s settings and turn Bluetooth on. Also, make sure the light is turned on. Finally, before dismissing your electrician, look for a flashing LED light on the bottom left-hand side of your light. The LED light indicates that Maximus is ready to be paired with the app.
Some Features Are Free, Some Are Not
My first impression of the light was that it’s fun. I’ve been testing security products since 2013, and often they all seem like slight deviations of the same thing, but the Maximus Smart Security Light felt different, mostly because it can talk. The downside here is that the light ships with a 14-day trial of Kuna’s Peace of Mind plan. Unfortunately, that means that for the first two weeks, you aren’t really getting an accurate picture as to how the light behaves without a paid plan. With that in mind, I decided to test the light for more than two weeks, both with and without a paid service.
— Rose Thibodeaux (@Rose_Thibodeaux) July 16, 2018
In testing, I definitely preferred a paid plan to using the light for free. Without a plan, clips are deleted from your history in a mere two hours, which simply isn’t enough for home security. If you’re in a meeting, watching a movie, or even driving in the car, there’s a good chance that footage might be gone before you have a chance to check on things. Beyond cloud storage, you’ll also lose intelligent motion detection. On a positive note, the free plan includes a lot like rich notifications, Greetings (explained below), and the same clip length as the paid plan. I’m not sure what the max clip length is, but I had a few that were over two minutes. Also, clips pre-buffer and include the 10 seconds before the event as well as the event itself.
If you only have one Maximus Security Light, my suggestion is the Essential Security plan as it provides plenty of storage and all of the right features. Also, if you pay annually, the price falls to under $5 per month which is a reasonable price for storage and intelligence.
|No Plan||Essential Security||Peace of Mind||Absolute Control|
|Number of Supported Cameras||Unlimited||1||Up to 4||Up to 8|
|Video History||Last 2 Hours||Last 7 Days||Last 14 Days||Last 30 Days|
|Pre-Recorded Messages/Automated Greetings|
|Unlimited Downloads||3 Downloads/Month|
|Lifetime Theft Protection|
|Event Detection||Classic Smart Detection||Person/Car Detection, Areas of Interest, and More Coming Soon||Person/Car Detection, Areas of Interest, and More Coming Soon||Person/Car Detection, Areas of Interest, and More Coming Soon|
|Rich Notifications||iOS Only||iOS Only||iOS Only||iOS Only|
|Other||Quick 9-1-1 Access, In-App Sound alarm||Quick 9-1-1 Access, In-App Sound alarm, 5% Discount on Purchases||Quick 9-1-1 Access, In-App Sound alarm, 10% Discount on Purchases||Quick 9-1-1 Access, In-App Sound alarm, 15% Discount on Purchases|
|Buy From Amazon|
|Buy From Costco|
If you choose to sign up for a plan and decide it’s not for you, you can cancel at any time. Even if you pay annually, you can cancel and request a balance refund.
All that said, having features is much less important than how they actually perform, so let’s dig into the details.
Security Features in Action
Thanks to Kuna, the Maximus Smart Security Light has several intelligent features. Of course, it is first a camera.
Video Resolution and Performance
As Maximus replaces your existing porch light, you don’t have a lot of control over the placement of the camera but the camera isn’t entirely fixed.
Surrounding the camera, you will find a locking ring. By turning it counter-clockwise you can loosen it, allowing you to adjust the camera’s angle. You can rotate the camera 40-degrees up, down, left, and right. The camera itself has a 116-degree field of view and an HD 720p resolution. Also, a quick reminder that the Smart Security Light is a front porch light. If you want the camera to capture your yard, for example, you might want to consider purchasing the Maximus Floodlight which offers a wider field of view.
During the day, I thought the video performance was fine, and certainly on par with other HD cameras I’ve tested. (Compared to Arlo Pro above.) The fact that the camera is so high off of the ground did make it difficult to see faces unless the camera woke up in time to capture the person walking to the door, which didn’t happen often. Fortunately, the camera also offers digital zoom which you can use while live streaming and also while viewing recordings.
At night, performance was not good, even with the light on. First of all, the camera lacks night vision. Second, even with the light turned on, nighttime performance is questionable. The light sits right above the camera which blinds it.
(Night Without Light)
(Night With Light)
I tested the light using the bulb it ships with (1x 500 lumen LED bulb), but according to GetKuna.com, your bulb choice might make the glare better or worse.
We recommend a bulb with a maximum of 800 lumens or less to minimize glare. Our tests show the best results from a standard A-15 LED or CFL light bulb, 450 lumens.
Motion Detection In Action
The Maximus Smart Security Light also has a built-in motion detector. I think the motion detector’s behavior is one of the biggest differences between using the device for free and using it with a paid subscription plan.
Without a paid plan, the light will revert to standard detection, which means that it will pick up on all motion events, multiplying false alarms. While using the light with the paid plan, I had just two false alarms in two weeks, which is a very good record. Such performance is possible as Kuna AI adds things like people and car detection. Unfortunately, as I tested Maximus in my backyard, I wasn’t able to test car detection, but I got plenty of practice with person detection. My favorite feature being that it can tell you not only if it sees a person, but how many people it sees. You can also click in to see how confident Kuna is in its assessment and adjust settings accordingly. As you can see below, person detection isn’t entirely accurate, but that’s not uncommon.
When your camera thinks that a grill cover looks more like a person than you, it might be time for a haircut. 😂 pic.twitter.com/o2hGb1bsOb
— Rose Thibodeaux (@Rose_Thibodeaux) July 27, 2018
TIP: If you prefer all events, but still want to take advantage of Kuna AI’s other features, you can always turn intelligent detection off using the mobile app.
From the mobile app, you can further reduce your chances of false alarms by setting motion sensitivity. The sensor is adjustable on a scale of 0 to 100. I tested at 95 the entire time.
Second, when if you have AI Smart Detection turned on, you can create two motion zones.
The first zone falls under “People Area of Interest.” Here you can tell Kuna what areas to monitor and what areas to ignore. Blue highlighted tiles represent areas you want Kuna to monitor. As you can see, you can get pretty creative with zone detection.
The second zone falls under “Vehicles Area of Interest.” For example, you might choose to ask Kuna to monitor cars that enter your driveway area, while ignoring the street in front of your home.
From the Kuna AI screen, you can also choose between Fewer Events, Default, and More Events. This is separate from motion sensitivity. Motion sensitivity adjusts the motion detector’s range, choosing between the options mentioned above will adjust your AI alerts (people and car detection).
Though false alarms were few and person detection appeared to be accurate, I did have one issue with motion detection which I’ll call “distrust.” The Maximus Smart Security Light uses a PIR motion sensor with a rather limited range. According to Maximus, the range of the detector is about 10 feet, which isn’t very far. What I found is that even at max sensitivity, it often took a long time for it to notice me, if it noticed me at all. The performance was better when I bumped detection from Default to More Events, but I still felt uncertain.
Part of this could be due to the way I had the light installed. My backyard porch light sits about 8.5 feet off of the ground. According to Maximus, the Smart Security Light really needs to be installed about 5.5 to 6 feet off of the ground. Correct positioning allows the camera to focus its view on your porch rather than your entire yard.
Also, to be fair, the problem was somewhat alleviated when I used the free plan meaning that though the paid plan reduced false alarms, it was also more inaccurate. With a paid plan in place and Kuna AI turned on and set to default, I was able to walk right by the light without a notification. I really had to stand around for a bit to get the motion sensor to trigger. Often times, I would forget that the light was there, start looking for the praying mantis in my flower bed, and then jump ten feet high when a booming voice would announce, “Hi, we can’t answer the door right now, but the camera is recording, so please just leave us a message. Thanks for coming by,” which is one of Maximus’ entertaining and useful built-in features.
Responding to Motion Events
If Maximus detects an event, it can take action on its own or you can take action using the mobile app. My favorite action is called “Greetings.” Greetings play automatically when motion is detected. By default, the speaker volume is plenty loud and clear. From the app, you can adjust speaker volume, turn the feature off, and also choose which message you want the camera to play. The app is preloaded with six different messages.
- Video Voicemail
- Barking Dog
- I’m Busy Right Now
- Can I Help You
- Sorry, Not Interested
According to my contact, they also launch seasonal messages from time-to-time like spooky sounds for Halloween and holiday greetings around Christmas.
Though this feature is my favorite, it’s not without fault. Unless you turn the feature off, the message plays all of the time, even when you are trying to enjoy your yard. Unfortunately, turning Greetings on and off is a manual process as the device lacks geofencing.
The second thing the Maximus Smart Security Light can do on its own is turn on the light. There is a separate motion sensitivity slider related to this feature. The slider doesn’t necessarily control motion sensitivity, but rather how often your light responds to motion. In addition to turning the light on when motion is detected, you can set a motion timeout which will turn the light off after it detects motion. You can choose between 30 seconds, five minutes, and custom. Custom allows you to choose anything between 1 and 60 minutes. Ideally, there would be a setting that allows you to say, “Turn light off when motion is no longer detected,” but that’s not the case. Finally, you can allow the light to be triggered by motion always or only at night. When you set up the app, you will enter your home address which allows Maximus to track your home’s sunset/sunrise schedule.
On its own, that’s all Maximus will do, but there are other actions that you can take to respond to a security event including using two-way audio. The two-way audio feature is a walkie-talkie style feature. You have to press and hold the button to talk and release it to listen. Again, the speaker is loud and clear, and there was no lag. The only challenge is pressing and releasing the button in time to hear the other person respond to you.
From the live view screen, you can also turn the light on and off, play one of the pre-recorded messages, record footage, sound the 115+db siren, and call 911. In testing, I found that there was no lag between what was happening in real life and what I saw on the screen.
My second favorite KUNA feature is rich notifications (available for iOS only). Instead of a regular push notification that provides little value, you can not only view a video clip but also respond to events without opening the app.
When a push notification comes through, it will let you know what it saw. For example, it might let you know that it saw two people. If you choose to press and hold the push notification, you will be presented with the screen you see above. The screen includes a quick GIF-like video of the event, an option to play a message, and the option to snooze all alerts for two hours, which happens to be my third favorite feature.
(Android users are not completely left out. While Android devices do not support the GIF feature supported by iOS, the notification will still come through with a snapshot of the event.)
Currently, I use Arlo in my backyard, and I love it, but when the guys come to mow my lawn, it drives me bananas as it sends alert after alert. When Maximus detects them, I simply turn all push notifications off using the 2-hour snooze. The downside here is that this only turns off notifications; if you have a Greeting set to play, it will continue to play. Finally, if you want to override a snooze you’ve created, you can do so from the Account menu.
Using the Smart Light
We’ve already covered many of the smart lighting features such as the ability for the light to turn on when there’s motion, but there’s more to the story.
First of all, you can schedule the light to automatically turn on at dusk or at a set time. You can schedule it to turn off at dawn or you can again choose a custom time. You can also set the lights to never turn on and off, or you can mix and match. For example, you can set the light to turn on at 7 pm and off at dawn or on at dusk and off at 12:34 AM.
In testing, the schedule feature worked well as did the dusk/dawn setting.
In addition to following a schedule, there are advanced features you can play with. You can keep the light on, create a separate weekend schedule, adjust motion settings, and create a dusk/dawn offset. For example, you can set the light to turn on 35 minutes after sunset or 10 minutes before dawn.
From the Alexa app, search for the Kuna skill. Enabling the skill will allow you to control the light feature of your Smart Security Light, not the camera. Using your voice, you can turn your lights on and off.
The Google Assistant skill is also called Kuna. Again, the skill only allows you to control the smart light by turning it on and off.
I don’t plan to continue paying for Kuna AI. I already have Arlo in my backyard with free cloud storage, and I pay just $2.99 per month for Arlo Smart, which adds features similar to Kuna AI; however, I don’t plan to remove the light. I did, after all, pay to have it installed, and the smart lighting features are worthwhile and the greetings are also entertaining, albeit embarrassing when my neighbor is in his backyard. But if you plan to buy a Maximus Smart Security Light, I highly recommend budgeting for Kuna AI. Two hours of cloud storage just isn’t enough, and person detection significantly cuts down on the number of false positives you’ll receive.
As far as performance, I’d give Maximus a 7.5/10. Its strong suits are Kuna AI, rich notifications, a clear speaker, a loud siren, a stable app, and a smart light, but motion detection was questionable and night vision was awful. If you can live with those two shortcomings, then I feel confident that you’ll enjoy using the device.