Easy to arm and disarm
Great app for ultimate control
Triggers and motion sensors are reliable and easy to install
Uses a landline
Doesn’t include cameras
Complicated setup instructions
If you’re in the market for a comprehensive home security and alarm system, the Fortress Security Store has excellent options at an affordable price. Depending on the package, you can get motion detectors, door/window contacts, RFID key tag, a wireless siren, remote controls, and a main panel. We tested the Fortress S03 Wi-Fi Home Security System in our home over a few weeks. Here’s what we liked and what we didn’t.
Setup: Easy to mount, but complicated instructions
Setting up the Fortress was our least favorite part of this alarm system. Even though we’re fairly used to setting up new tech gadgets, the S03 was overwhelming at first, but we found this was due to the instructions. In the end, it was easier than it seemed at the start.
You can choose between various bundles, but the “Classic Kit” ($139.99) we ordered is recommended for medium-sized homes and offices and includes many pieces (14 to be exact): the main panel, two standard motion detectors, five door/window contact sensors, one panic button, two remote key fobs, two RFID (radio frequency identification) key tags, and one micro-USB power supply.
All of the included sensors and accessories are already programmed to the panel, so it’s almost as easy as mount and go. Before getting started, we read through the manual (though we actually found the setup and usage videos on the Fortress website were easier to follow and answered most of our questions) and downloaded the My Fortress App.
All of the included sensors and accessories are already programmed to the panel, so it’s almost as easy as mount and go.
We then began by connecting our panel ($79.99 when sold separately) to our app and turning it on using the simple on/off switch on the back. Once on, we were able to create and program our own password, as well as two emergency phone numbers. The system stores these phone numbers and contacts them with a prerecorded message or text message when there is a breach in your security system. For this feature, you can use a landline, VoIP number, Wi-Fi, or install a SIM card. The system has six “slots” for phone numbers, but we didn’t choose to use them all.
Also, each device in the system is already labeled with a zone number, so when they are triggered, you’ll know where the corresponding sensor is. You can set up to 99 different zones (front door, back window, etc.) and connect up to 10 accessories per zone. This amount of flexibility allows for total coverage and peace of mind. The instructions suggest writing down which zone goes with each of your pieces as you get to know the system. To connect the S03 system to Wi-Fi, we used the Fortress App to scan the QR code on the back of the panel and followed the instructions to configure the Wi-Fi. You must connect the system to Wi-Fi to use the app to control its features.
Each piece comes with its own sticky tape, screws, and wall brackets, which made mounting the sensors and panel quick and painless.
Performance: Has a learning curve, but is reliable and secure
Arming and disarming the Fortress system was easy. When using the panel, there is a chirping sound whenever you arm or disarm the system, but you can turn this feature off if you want.
We really like that there are two arm settings: home and away. The home setting restricts the perimeter sensors (like door/window contacts which use a magnetic sensor to alert you when a door or window is opened) but lets you move around your house without setting off the motion triggers. The away mode is full protection with all the sensors engaged.
We really like that there are two arm settings: home and away.
One of the Fortress system’s most important features is the zone types, which determines how your sensors will behave. The first zone type, instant, is for door/window sensors and will set off the alarm immediately in both home and away modes. The second type is delay, which is active in home and away but won’t trigger until the exit delay is done. The third is emergency, meaning it’s active whether your system is armed or disarmed. The fourth zone type is disabled, meaning, of course, that the sensors never trigger the alarm. And finally, the last sensor type is away armed, which means it’s only active when you’re out of the home.
The S03 comes with a built-in siren and remote wireless siren. We liked having both options, and while we didn’t have to use them during our testing period, we know they would be a deterrent for intruders (they’re loud, though the volume is adjustable).
The system also comes with two remote key fobs. They can be used to arm and disarm the system from up to 150 feet away, without having to punch in any numbers or codes on the keypad. The fobs have four buttons: Disarm, Arm, Home Mode, and Panic. To disarm the system, we could also simply swipe one of the two RFID key tags, an easy option we loved. We gave a key tag to our nanny so that she could have access without us giving out our password. If we wanted to restrict her access, we could simply delete the key tag.
Design: Minimal with a well-lit display
The Fortress system looks more expensive than it is. The panel and accessories are all white, minimal, and unassuming. We installed the main panel near our front door, the window sensors in our bedrooms and living room, and the motion detector near our sliding back door. We didn’t have any problems with them once they were set up, and they blended in well. The panel keypad looks sleek and high-tech when mounted—wherever you put it. When you press the keypad, the whole thing lights up, so it’s easy to read and control even in the dark.
App: Does it all
The My Fortress App isn’t the most intuitive app we’ve come across, but it gets the job done. From the app, we could easily arm/disarm and check the status of our system. We could also add, view, and re-program sensors and accessories, share our device with authorized users, change our password, add contact phone numbers, change the panel settings, set off and change siren settings, view the battery life of connected devices, and place calls to the main panel.
Monitoring Service: None
The Fortress system works as a local alarm, so you don’t need to add a service if you don’t want to. You can use this system and all its features without paying a subscription for self-monitoring features.
Features & Connectivity: Lots to learn but keeps you safe
This system has a ton of useful features like entry/exit delays, remote controls, “Ready to Disarm” notifications, sirens, and even a tamper protection feature (if you remove the panel from its wall mount, the alarm will be triggered and your system will dial its contact numbers). When connected to Wi-Fi, you can use the app and panel as two-way communication or control the system by voice using Alexa. The S03 connects really well with other Fortress accessories like the Fortress wireless siren or Fortress smart outlet.
Price: Very affordable
The Fortress S03 Classic Kit we tested retails for $139.99, which is a steal considering how expensive it is to subscribe to a full-service alarm system. Plus, there’s no contract or monthly charges—and you get a three-year warranty and a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. If you don’t mind not having cameras, and you prefer relatively low-tech features and easy installation, it’s a really great deal. Fortress has three systems: the S6 Titan, The Camera System, and the S03. Within the S03, you could save money by choosing the Starter Kit, which comes with one less motion detector and only two door/window sensors for $99 or choose more comprehensive coverage if you have a large home with the Deluxe Kit. The Deluxe Kit includes three motion detectors, eight door/window sensors, three remote fobs, a black siren, and four RFID key tags.
Fortress Security Store S03 vs. SimpliSafe Home Security
Much like the Fortress Security Store S03, SimpliSafe is a popular option for a “basic” DIY home security system at a fair price. While the systems are fairly similar, you might opt for SimpliSafe if you want 24/7 monitoring and home automation. Considering the other similarities, add-on accessories, and entry price point, we would still choose the Fortress Security System.
Simple home security at a great price.
The Fortress S03 Wi-Fi Home Security System is a stellar DIY alarm system that has all the features you could want, a sleek main panel, Wi-Fi connectivity, and an easy-to-use app. If your priority is home or office security but you don’t want to break the bank and don’t need cameras, this system is an excellent buy.
- Product Name S03 Wi-Fi Home Security System
- Product Brand Fortress Security Store
- MPN S03
- Price $99.99
- Weight 2.65 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 6.3 x 1.4 x 4.3 in.
- Battery Battery-powered, corded electric, dc
- Power Micro-USB 5V, 1A, internal battery backup
- Wireless Frequency 433 MHz ~150 ft. wireless range RJ-11 Land Line connection
- What’s Included S03 Wi-Fi Main Panel, 2 Fortress Motion Detectors, 5 Door / Window Contact Sensors, 2 Fortress Remote Fobs, 1 Panic Button, 1 Internal Siren Fortress Security Store, 2 RFID Key Tag, 1 Micro-USB Power Supply