ADT Security System Review
This company has stood the test of time and now offers smart home automation
What We Like
- Trusted company: With over 140 years in business, we felt comfortable with choosing ADT right off the bat.
- Alexa integration: We enjoyed telling Alexa to arm and disarm our system as well as control smart lights, locks and thermostats.
- User-friendly app: The ADT Pulse app was easy to use on both iPhones and Androids alike.
What We Don't Like
- Professional installation only: Although this meant less work for us, it also meant we had to pay a fee to get our security system installed.
- Three-year contracts: Unfortunately, we had no choice but to sign a binding, three-year contract rather than a flexible monthly contract, locking us into the service, but that's normal with traditional alarm companies like ADT.
- Monthly fees aren't lowest-price available: If you like negotiating, you'll love signing up for ADT, as none of their monthly fees are set in stone. However, expect to pay about $40 to $60 a month on 24/7 professional monitoring and cellular backup, which is an average price for the more established security companies like ADT.
Bottom LineIf you're looking for a security system that's trustworthy, ADT is your best bet. With over 140 years in business, ADT offers professional monitoring that'll give you and your family peace of mind plus protection.
ADT is arguably the most recognizable home alarm company in the U.S. and for good reason — they’ve been around for over a century, and never stopped innovating the home security industry.1 One of their most recent innovations is SMART Monitoring, which aims to cut down the number of false alarms they receive, while improving response times. Of course, just because something has been around for a long time doesn’t mean it’s effective. In this review, our security experts tested out ADT’s security system from unboxing it to getting alerts. Let’s see how it stacks up!
|Control panel||ADT Security touchscreen panel|
|Wireless controllers||Key fob and panic button|
|Indoor camera||ADT Indoor Camera|
|Outdoor camera||ADT Outdoor Camera|
|Video doorbell||ADT Video Doorbell Camera|
How Did ADT Perform?
ADT doesn’t only work well, it works as smoothly as you’d expect from a company that has been refining its products and service for over a century. ADT is easy to use. There are plenty of ways to manage an ADT system, from the smartphone app and touchscreen control panel to smartwatch applications and voice control. For a more simple option, you can also add traditional devices like key fob buttons or panic buttons.
Our favorite way to control ADT, though, is through our voice. Having partnered with Alexa and Google Assistant, ADT now supports voice control through Alexa-enabled devices and Google Nest smart speakers and displays. The seamless voice control made us feel as though we were living in the future.
Another aspect we liked about ADT products was their durability. Most pieces of equipment were made of hardened plastic that remained durable throughout the months we had them installed.
Overall, we found the system easy to use. Anyone from your elderly grandmother to your tech savvy son will be able to use ADT with ease.
Video Review of ADT
Do you prefer seeing and listening to reading? Watch our video review of ADT, which will show you the system and cameras in action.
Components of the ADT Security System
In this section, we’ll explain our experience using each component and how it enhanced our home’s security.
The digital panel was our control center. Essentially, it let us control ADT’s arming modes — we could either disarm, arm away, or arm stay. When armed in away mode, every component was at the ready to report discrepancies. In stay mode, only the sensors we selected were armed. For instance, the sensors on the front door and first-floor windows remained active when we’re home and sleeping, but the motion sensors were not to prevent alerts when we go for a midnight snack.
The panel was also responsible for creating automations using the smart home devices we integrated. Although we could control every device individually through the panel, we were also able to create schedules and scenes that performed actions even without our input. In fact, we get home from work with a thermostat set to our ideal temperature and a well-lit living room thanks to ADT.
We placed the contact sensors on doors, windows and their respective frames so that we were notified whenever they were opened or closed. Because they are wireless, the sensors were easy to install and test out. Plus, we appreciated the fact that ADT had a bunch of contact sensor options in terms of installation and size. You shouldn’t have any issue finding a contact sensor that works for your home with ADT. Our favorite is the recessed door sensor, which bores right into your door frame, making it practically invisible.
Expert Advice: Put contact sensors on any windows on the ground level of your home.
As stated, ADT security systems came with several control options. One of those was the keychain remote, which looks like a car remote, except it arms and disarms the system. We used it when we were far away from the panel, such as when we’re upstairs or in the bedroom. What stands out about it is that it doesn’t require a passcode unlike the digital panel. You could literally arm and disarm ADT with a push of a button. That being said, you’ll want to make sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, so treat it the way you treat your house and car keys.
Aside from arming and disarming, the keychain remote also has a panic button that, if pushed, contacts the monitoring team directly requesting help. We recommend keeping these in your bedside table, as this could definitely come in handy in an emergency, or when you forget to arm your system before going to bed. Plus, the remote is totally wireless and has a battery life of up to five years, so once we got it, we didn’t have to worry much about power.
This is pretty self-explanatory: the motion sensor detected motion in a range of 35 by 40 feet, which was more than enough for our small-ish house. And although we don’t have pets, it was cool to read that the motion detector doesn’t pick up motion from pets. Rather, users can adjust it to the pet’s weight so they only get notified from movement from humans. It’s wireless with a seven-year battery life, and even attempting to tamper with the motion detectors didn’t work; our digital panel was still alerted as was our ADT Control app.
Glass Break Sensors
Although it may seem redundant with the motion and entry sensors, some intruders will break in by smashing glass, and for those instances, there’s a glass break sensor, which has a 25-foot range. We adjusted the sensors’ sensitivity, as we tend to be a bit clumsy with glasses, to the lowest sensitivity out of four options. Like the motion detector, the glass break sensors are wireless with a five-year battery life and tamper protection, which was confirmed in our testing.
Otherwise known as a panic button, the emergency button let us contact emergency services through two buttons, which can be programmed to contact the police, the fire department and even local hospitals (we chose the two former options). We also wore the emergency button as a necklace for easy access, but it can also be worn as a bracelet, clipped onto a belt or just used on its own. But don’t get us wrong, with recessed buttons, we didn’t experience any false alarms or accidental “butt dials,” if you will.
ADT Video Doorbell Camera
We’re on the lazy side, which is why we love video doorbells in general. They let you use an app to see and speak to whoever’s at your front door, but of course, they’re not all created equal in terms of quality. Video-wise, we were disappointed at the doorbell’s camera quality, which was 720p HD, not as clear as our preferred 1080p HD like that of the Ring Video Doorbells. However, as far as the field of view went, it was 180 degrees, giving us the widest possible picture of our front yard. We were also impressed with the camera’s infrared night vision and two-way audio, which actually reduced the amount of background noise we heard compared to similar models.
Now, keep in mind that we did have to hardwire the doorbell camera into our home (well, the professional installer did, anyway). Don’t buy the video doorbell unless you have an existing 8-24 VAC system like us! If you don’t have an existing doorbell setup, check out the Skybell Slim Line Doorbell Camera, which is battery-powered. In terms of durability, the ADT Video Doorbell Camera impressed, working in temperatures from four to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. It didn’t exactly make our list of the best video doorbells. If you’re looking for one of those, you might want to check out the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 or the Nest Doorbell, but aside from the sub-par video, we were pretty satisfied with ADT’s doorbell camera.
ADT Outdoor Security Camera
Of course, having a camera at our front door wasn’t enough. For us, we also wanted to get an outdoor camera for our backyard. Unfortunately, the outdoor camera had the same video quality as the doorbell camera: 720p HD, which gave us footage that wasn’t as crystal-clear as we would’ve liked. Double unfortunately, the camera gives a really narrow picture with a field of view of only 95 degrees, which was only enough to cover half of our backyard. Still, we will salute the outdoor camera for its weather resistance; not only could it withstand any solid we threw at it, but it even worked after we sprayed it with powerful water jets! As long as you don’t immerse it in water, the outdoor camera will continue functioning normally, with infrared night vision for those dark nights. Still, given the low video quality, we wouldn’t recommend the outdoor camera we tested, but the good news is that ADT has released a new version of the outdoor camera, now with a 1080p HD resolution.
ADT Indoor Security Camera
Finally, there’s the indoor camera which yes, has 720p HD video, infrared night vision, and a decently wide field of view of around 130 degrees. One feature we really liked about the indoor camera, despite its disappointing video quality, was the fact that whenever the camera detected motion, we received a video clip of the livestream. However, when we tried to speak through the app, we found that the indoor camera actually lacks two-way audio, a huge drawback. Again, the camera we tested was an older model. ADT’s new indoor camera solved both issues we had with the older camera, namely, the sub-par resolution (it now has a 1080p HD resolution) and lack of two-way audio (which it now has).
If a smoke detector goes off and no one is around to hear it, does it even matter? Well, if it’s a WiFi-connected smoke detector from ADT, then the answer is a resounding yes. To test this out, we burnt toast and can confirm that we, along with ADT’s monitoring team, received an alert. Plus, the detector itself shone LED lights and even sounded a siren, in case the message wasn’t clear enough!
Carbon Monoxide Detector
While we couldn’t exactly test the carbon monoxide detector by producing a dangerous amount of CO, we can tell you that ADT’s version is tamper-protected, has an LED light and alarm, plus a hush button, which seems like it would definitely come in handy.
Finally, there was the flood sensor, which can detect water leaks before they turned into full-blown floods.
ADT also offers other smart home products like smart light bulbs, thermostat, plugs, and garage door controls, but since they’re only tangentially security-related, we didn’t test them out for this review.
Home Automation with ADT
Our ADT system worked with the Amazon smart home ecosystem, meaning we could tell Alexa2 to control it, including arming and disarming the systems and controlling smart lights, locks and thermostats. The same applied to the Google Nest smart home ecosystem and Google Assistant. Using our Nest Hub Max, we were able to control our ADT system with our voices. Unfortunately, if you’re using Apple’s HomeKit ecosystem for your smart home, it doesn’t work at all with ADT.
FYI: ADT works with Alexa and Google Assistant, but not with HomeKit, and by extension, Siri.
Now, aside from voice assistants, we were also able to set up our system with Internet of Things, or IoT devices from Kwikset, Liftmaster, and Sonos.3 At our house, we had the smart locks open our doors when the smoke and CO alarms went off so we could quickly get out if necessary. This all occurred automatically, which was not only convenient but super safe. All in all, we were satisfied with how ADT fit into our existing smart home, but it might not be the best choice for those already in the Apple HomeKit ecosystem. As far as Apple goes, the only security system we’ve reviewed that works with Siri is abode. Learn more in our abode review.
ADT’s Monitoring Plans
ADT being the old-school company that it is, it was no surprise that all of their systems required us to pay for 24/7 professional monitoring and cellular backup, which kept the system on even during a power outage. While we’re huge fans of professional monitoring, we wish ADT at least gave us the option to self-monitor. On top of that, we had to sign a binding, three-year contract, which meant that we had to pay anywhere from $40 to $60 a month for a few years (although the exact number will differ based on your equipment and services).
This is among the more expensive monthly costs, so ADT isn’t a great choice for those looking to save money. However, for those of you who definitely want 24/7 professional monitoring and cellular backup, it could make sense; just know that you’re not exactly getting the lowest price possible, as some companies charge as little as $17.99 a month for the same exact thing (looking at you, SimpliSafe! Read more in our SimpliSafe review).
Our Installation Process with ADT
Since ADT is professionally installed, we didn’t have to lift a finger to get our security system up and running. Even better, now that ADT has partnered with Dish Network, we were able to get security and entertainment installed all at once.4 Of course, we did have to pay a negotiable installation fee just as we did for the rest of our equipment and services from ADT. That’s a bit annoying.
We discovered that, in the past, ADT’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals have included free video doorbell installation, but that didn’t help us at all when it came to a full-system installation. In the end, ADT is only a good choice for those that definitely want professional over DIY installation.
The ADT Control App (Formerly ADT Pulse)
ADT did require us to get professional monitoring, but we still had control over our system similar to self-monitored systems. A smartphone app served as our main point of access to the system. Now, you might notice that there are two ADT apps: ADT Pulse and ADT Control. When we first tested ADT, they had us use the ADT Pulse app. Later, they released the ADT Control app. Those who started using ADT before the ADT Control app was released are supposed to use ADT Pulse. Meanwhile, new customers get access to the ADT Control app. However, the two apps have the same main functionalities, and besides a few aesthetic improvements, we didn’t notice any significant difference between the apps. Using both apps, we were able to arm our security system, create schedules and automation, control connected devices, receive notifications, and access live footage of our cameras. The only requirement was that we connect our smartphone to the internet.
We found the apps for iOS5 and Android6 really easy to use, and other ADT customers agreed with us, rating it with a 4.8 and 4.6, respectively. The ADT Pulse app was actually one of the least-buggy security apps we’ve reviewed, so this is a great feature of choosing ADT. As for the new app, its 4.8 star rating on the iOS and Android app stores indicates that it works just as well.
ADT’s Customer Support
ADT offers 24/7 phone support, email support, and live chat, in addition to their online help center7. But in our experience, we found that the quality of the support we received was hit-or-miss. Speaking over the phone was really time-consuming and we found that most representatives didn’t know how many infrared sensors their indoor camera has, a seemingly simple question. Additionally, it was frustrating to not be told directly how much their products and services cost. However, we found the live chat feature to be superior over the phone line in terms of how quickly we got our answers.
Tip: If you need help with ADT, use live chat before you call them over the phone.
Recap of the ADT Security System
ADT has a huge reputation to uphold, and as far as the actual system goes, we were pretty impressed, save for the indoor and outdoor cameras. But like we’ve said, ADT has already improved its camera lineup since we last tested it, which goes to show that ADT is evolving for the better. They even earned a spot on our best home security system list. When it came to easy functionality and a user-friendly app, the company impressed, but it’s not the most flexible around and therefore only good for some people and not others.
Who We’d Recommend ADT For…
- Someone who wants 24/7 professional monitoring and cellular backup: If you have $40 to $60 a month to spare for added security, ADT will work for you.
- Anyone okay with signing a long term contract: ADT may be a better choice for homeowners rather than renters.
- Someone who wants professional installation: If DIY installation isn’t for you, you’ll love having your ADT security system professionally installed, especially since ADT has partnered with Dish Network for installation services.
Who We Wouldn’t Recommend ADT For…
- Someone that wants to self-monitor: ADT’s 24/7 professional monitoring is among the most trustworthy in the smart security market, as the company has been around for over 140 years. However, if you don’t want professional monitoring, there’s no option to self-monitor only.
- Anyone on a budget: We think ADT’s pricing reflects their quality; in other words, you pay for what you get. However, if you’re looking for the absolute lowest-cost home security system around, ADT may not make as much sense.
- A person that wants DIY installation: We loved ADT’s professional installation because it ensured that our system was installed correctly, plus, we didn’t mind sitting back and relaxing while someone else took on all the work. But if you don’t want to pay for professional installation, ADT may not be for you, as DIY isn’t an option.
How much is ADT per month?
The monthly cost of ADT depends on the user’s equipment and services. Unfortunately, it can vary from customer to customer, so users will need to get a quote from an ADT sales representative.
How much do ADT cameras cost?
Unfortunately, ADT doesn’t list the cost of their products on their website. Rather, users will need to speak to sales representatives to negotiate the prices of their cameras and 24/7 professional monitoring.
Is ADT worth the cost?
Although ADT is pretty expensive in terms of equipment and monitoring costs, we still think it’s worth the cost.
What does ADT Pulse include?
The ADT Pulse app lets you arm their security systems, set up schedules and home automations, control connected devices, receive notifications and livestream footage. Keep in mind that if you buy a new ADT system now, you’ll likely use the new and improved ADT Control app, which offers the same functionalities as ADT Pulse.
Will ADT negotiate?
ADT will negotiate as they customize their pricing based on the users’ equipment and services.
Does ADT install cameras?
ADT does install their cameras along with the rest of their security system.
ADT. (2020). About ADT. adt.com/about-adt
Amazon. (2020). ADT Pulse App. amazon.com/ADT-LLC-Pulse/dp/B01NARHJWE
ADT. (2020). ADT Pulse Approved Devices. adt.com/pulse/approved-devices
ADT. (2021). ADT and DISH Network Partner to Bring Smart Home Security to More Customers.
Apple App Store. (2020). ADT Pulse App. apps.apple.com/us/app/adt-pulse/id355736423
Google Play. (2020). ADT Pulse App.
ADT. (2020). ADT Help. adt.com/help