Vivint SmartHome Review
Combining total home security with advanced smart home automation features
Home security is one area of life that you definitely don’t want to skimp on. That being said, just because something is higher-priced doesn’t necessarily mean it’s higher quality, leaving many customers in a conundrum. In this review, we’re testing out a security system from Vivint, one of the leading security brands in the United States. With over 20 years in business, Vivint was acquired in 2012 for over two billion dollars and yes, that’s billion with a b. Today, they have over 1.4 million customers across the United States, so our experts wanted to see what all the hype was about. Is Vivint worth it or not?
Our Favorite (and Least Favorite) Things about Vivint
Before we go too far into detail, make sure that Vivint is a viable option for your home.
What We Like
- Free professional installation: Vivint is the only security system that we’ve reviewed where installation is both professional and on the house.
- Integrations with Alexa and Google Assistant: In addition, Vivint works with Philips Hue smart lighting and Nest thermostats.
- User-friend app: The Vivint Smart Home app is easy to use on both iPhones and Androids.
What We Don’t Like
- Expensive monitoring: Depending on how many cameras you have, you could end up paying as much as $60 a month for video monitoring.
- Moving fee: Although initial installation is free, if you move, you’ll have to pay $129 to get your system re-installed.
- No app with self-monitoring: If you don’t pay a monthly fee for Vivint, your system will become a local alarm system only.
Vivint Review Video
Want to see Vivint in action? Watch our full video review below.
Vivint Basic Security System Components
We ordered the Basic security system1 from Vivint which included a SkyControl Panel, security sensors, a Kwikset smart lock, a video doorbell, smoke and CO monitors plus an indoor camera. Later, we added the Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro to our system, which we also detail below.
The SkyControl Panel is the touchscreen command center of our entire Vivint security system. Not only did we use it to control every connected device, but we could also watch live streamed footage and speak through two-way audio right here, which is actually pretty rare from a security touchpad. On top of that, the SkyControl Panel is where we could arm and disarm our security system, press a panic button to connect with the monitoring teams, and even view cloud storage. Although we mounted our SkyControl Panel to the wall, it can also be used as a standalone object.
When it comes to home security, the three main sensors we’ve seen are typically motion sensors, entry sensors for doors and windows, and glass break sensors, all of which we received from Vivint and installed. Wireless, the sensors connected to, you guessed it, our SkyControl Panel so we got alerted when they went off, along with the monitoring team.
Ping Indoor Camera
Now, if you haven’t figured it out yet, we’re sort of obsessive about security cameras, so naturally, we were very excited to try out Vivint’s Ping Indoor Camera. Video-wise, it impressed with a clear, 1080p HD display and a wide, 155-degree field of view, in our opinion.
The infrared LED sensors allowed us to see clearly at night, plus, as we mentioned before, we were able to speak to our guests through two-way audio.
Although we didn’t have any intrusions during testing, fortunately, we did use the two-way audio to tell other household members when dinner was ready, which was much more civilized than yelling like normal. Unfortunately, the camera lacks local storage. Instead, we had to pay $5 a month for 14 days of cloud storage, all divided into 30-second clips. However, there was another option if you want continuous recording for 30 days, namely, Vivint Smart Drive, which costs $249. This was a bit expensive, so we stuck to those clips.
Another drawback of the Ping Indoor Camera is that it only detected motion, not people, so we received a lot of unnecessary notifications. So while it might not be the best choice for someone with pets, we were still overall satisfied with Vivint’s indoor camera, especially in terms of video, audio and night vision.
Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro
Not to overstate anything, but Vivint’s new outdoor camera is one of the most impressive models that we’ve ever tested out. First, let’s talk about video. Yes, it has that clear, 1080p HD display that we liked in the indoor camera, but on top of that it also has 4K sensors, which means twice as many pixels as 1080p HD. It also has HDR, which helped with light distortion outside. Throw in a nice, 140-degree field of view and the ability to zoom in three times in HD and 10 times digitally, and the camera’s video was more than clear enough.
The night vision and two-way audio also impressed, and the outdoor camera has the same storage options as the indoor camera. Again, we stuck with the $5 a month plan rather than shelling out $249 for the Vivint Smart Drive.
But by far the best feature of the Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro was the artificial intelligence. Unlike the indoor camera, the outdoor camera could differentiate between people and other moving objects, meaning we only got notified when it detected a person. This seriously reduced the amount of false alarms we got, which was good because we have things to do and places to go, too! Plus, if someone was on our lawn for too long, the camera actually lit up its red LED light ring and sounded warning tones, while sending us a thumbnail image of said loiterer. This was a bit much, especially when our mail was delivered, but definitely good for our outdoor security. Keep in mind that the siren goes all the way up to 85 decibels, about as loud as a snowblower, so the whole neighborhood could get involved. In fact, some of our neighbors told us that they could hear it from inside their houses!
On the flip side, one drawback of the Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro was the fact that it needed to be plugged in. While this meant we didn’t have to worry about the battery running out, it certainly made our placement options a lot more limited, as it had to be near an outlet. However, once we got the proper extension cord, it didn’t end up being a problem. Overall, we’re more than happy with the Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro, although it’s pretty expensive at $399. However, this is the exact same price as the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor, which has extremely similar features, so basically, you pay for what you get.
Vivint Doorbell Camera
One really easy way to seem like you’re home when you’re not is to get a doorbell camera that lets you “answer” your door remotely. Vivint’s waterproof doorbell camera, which works in temperatures from 14 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, retails for $249.99. This was definitely a bit expensive compared to the industry average of around $190, especially when we saw that the camera’s video display was only 720p HD, not 1080p HD. When you consider the fact that something like the Ring Video Doorbell 2 costs $169 and has 1080p HD video, the Vivint Doorbell Camera seems even more overpriced, but it does have person detection, which the Ring Video Doorbell 2 lacks.
In our opinion, this is a pretty essential feature of a doorbell camera that’s most likely facing the street as ours did. We didn’t get alerted when every car passed or every squirrel ran by; rather, just when people were at our door, and once we got alerted, it was fun to speak to them through two-way audio.
Although the video quality wasn’t as clear as we would’ve liked, the 180-degree field of view gave us the widest possible image of our front yard, which we appreciated. Of course, it had two-way audio we could greet guests, plus pretty clear infrared night vision and the same storage options as Vivint’s other cameras.
While the Vivint Doorbell Camera can be hardwired or battery-operated, we opted to hardwire it to our existing doorbell setup, but for those that want wireless, the battery life is three to five years.
Note that Vivint just came out with a Doorbell Camera Pro, which fixed a lot of the issues that we had with the original. For example, it has that clear, 1080p HD video plus HDR, which helps with interference from the sun. It’s totally wireless, and it even has detection for packages as well as people!
Kwikset Smart Lock
It’s 2020; are you still getting locked out of your house? With a smart lock, we don’t have to worry about that anymore. Vivint gave us a smart lock from Kwikset which we could either control remotely through the app or open via a numerical code, which was great the one time we left our keys at the office. We were also able to give 30 unique codes to people so that they could come in when we weren’t home, which we used for friends, family, and even the house sitter. And even though the lock is manufactured by a third party, we had fun connecting it to other Internet of Things devices and creating automated actions. For us, that meant having the doors unlock when the smoke alarm went off, which brings us to our next point…
Did You Know: Don’t leave a key under that mat. Rather, use a smart lock that lets you give users unique access codes.
Vivint also gave us a WiFi-connected smoke alarm so that we’d be alerted if it went off, even when we weren’t home. It protected a 35-foot radius, had an 85-decibel siren and a five-year battery life, and in our experience, it worked well, alerting us as soon as we burnt our popcorn (which is too easy to do, by the way). It was cool to see how the smoke alarm tested itself throughout the day to ensure it had enough power and was connecting with the SkyControl Panel properly; with so much self-testing, we felt protected from smoke and fires.
Vivint offers a nearly identical detector, except that it detects carbon monoxide and not smoke. While we didn’t actually release dangerous levels of CO into the air (as it can be deadly if you ingest enough of it), we were impressed that the detector is already linked up with other connected devices. For example, if it goes off, the doors will automatically unlock, the window sensors will automatically disarm and the furnace fan will turn on, allowing for ventilation and an easy escape. Basically, the CO detector does more than beep!
Finally, Vivint offers a water sensor that prevents leaks, which we placed near our washing machine (although it can be anywhere that leaks can occur). The water sensor is also wireless and has a battery life of three to six years. And that’s it for Vivint’s components!
Vivint and the Smart Home
We’re huge smart home nerds, so we were thrilled to see that Vivint works with both Alexa2, Amazon’s voice assistant, and Google Assistant3, Google’s version. Let’s talk about how we could command our Vivint system with Alexa vs. Google Assistant.
We’ll admit it: we bossed Alexa around a ton when it came to Vivint, whether it was controlling smart lighting from Philips Hue, smart thermostats from Nest, our Kwikset smart lock, or simply arming our security system. We also had Alexa show our live streamed footage on our Echo devices along with Fire TV. It was great to see our footage on the big screen!
Alexa wasn’t the only voice assistant we commanded. Google Assistant also performed the exact same functions as Alexa, except we viewed our footage on the Nest Hubs instead of the Echo Shows.
All in all, Vivint fits in really nicely to any smart home, unless of course you have the rare Apple ecosystem. But for most smart homes, Vivint is a great addition. Not only does it work with Alexa and Google Assistant, but we were also able to create automated actions like having our thermostat go down to 60 degrees when the security system was armed in away mode. Not only did this prevent us from having to adjust the thermostat everytime we left the house, but it also saved us money on heating and cooling, a win-win!
The Vivint Smart Home App
The Vivint Smart Home app was our home away from home, a way to arm and disarm our system, control connected devices, speak through two-way audio, livestream footage, view cloud storage, and receive notifications when we weren’t at home. In terms of usability, we had no issues with the Vivint Smart Home app and other users agreed; it has a 4.4 rating on the Google Play4 store and a 4.6 rating on the Apple store5. Easy to navigate and free of bugs, we enjoyed total access to Vivint using their app.
We’ve mentioned this before, but Vivint gives all of its customers professional installation for free, meaning that we got to sit back and relax as a professional installer did all the dirty work for us. But if you move, you’ll have to pay an $129 to get your system re-installed, which is a bit of a burden. For those that want DIY installation, check out Ring Alarm or Nest Secure.
FYI: If you’re planning on moving anytime soon, plan to pay an $129 installation fee to move your Vivint security system.
Did Vivint Work Well?
Since our system was professionally installed, let’s talk about how well it worked post-installation. Using our system on a day to day basis, we didn’t encounter any problems, and we’ve had it up and running for over a year at this point. The Panel made the system really easy to navigate if you’re home, and the app made it easy if you’re not. Overall, the Vivint system is really painless to install and use. It’s also super durable; not one component has broken in our time using it.
Vivint Monitoring and Pricing
When it comes to monitoring, Vivint works pretty different than most. Although it is possible to avoid monthly fees, then you won’t have access to the Vivint Smart Home app, turning your security system from smart to local only.
Tip: If you want to self-monitor and still use the app, Vivint isn’t for you.
We chose to pay the monthly fee to use the app, and the price was dependent on our equipment. Since we have nearly everything Vivint has to offer, we paid $49.99 a month, which included monitoring for our indoor and outdoor camera.
|Package Name||Smart Security Service |
|Smart Home Service |
|Smart Home Video Service |
($49.99/mo. for first 2 cameras)
|Google Home Mini||✓||✓||✓|
|Recessed Door Sensor||✓||✓||✓|
|Glass Break Sensor||✓||✓||✓|
|Garage Door Controller||✓||✓|
|Nest Thermostat E||✓||✓|
|Nest Learning Thermostat||✓||✓|
|Vivint Element Thermostat||✓||✓|
Of course, we wanted professional monitoring for our doorbell camera as well, which brought the cost up to $54.99 a month. Keep in mind that cloud storage was a separate, $5 a month cost, bringing our total monthly fee to about $60.
|Number of Cameras||Monthly Price|
|Four (maximum on one account)||$59.99|
Overall, we’d say that in terms of pricing, Vivint is certainly on the higher end. Companies like Ring Alarm charge only $10 a month for professional monitoring and cellular backup, and even throw in 60 days of cloud storage compared to 14. So for those on a budget, Vivint definitely isn’t for you.
Contract-wise, you either sign up on a month-to-month basis, or if you financed your Vivint equipment, it’s equal to the timing of the loan. We paid upfront, meaning we got to
Support with Vivint
There’s no harm in asking for help! Vivint offers support6 via phone and live chat. We have had mixed experiences with the customer support team. When we first chatted with a representative, the connection was lost and the conversation ended. The next time we tried to click on the “Support Chat” button, it was not clickable. As we much prefer chatting online over speaking on the phone, this was a bit annoying.
Vivint really wants you to call and speak to their representatives, so we called to ask for some information about their packages, and 25 minutes later, still did not have all the information we wanted. All in all, it was not a great experience- we were on hold for a while, then transferred between multiple people, and told to “look at the website”, which has little to no information on it regarding packages. So when it comes to customer support, Vivint wasn’t up to par with a company like Frontpoint, whose representatives are truly helpful.
Although Vivint certainly has its disadvantages, which mostly had to do with pricing, as a security system it worked really well. We were especially impressed by the Outdoor Camera Pro, and the entire system integrated nicely into our existing smart home ecosystems. We’d recommend it for some people more than others, fully broken down below.
Who We’d Recommend Vivint For…
- Professional installation: You won’t have to lift a finger (or pay a penny) to get your Vivint security system installed.
- High-quality outdoor camera: Although it’s pricey, the Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro was one of the most impressive outdoor cameras we’ve ever tested.
- Google and Amazon integration: Whether you use Google Assistant or Alexa as your voice assistant, Vivint will fit right into your smart home.
Who We Wouldn’t Recommend Vivint For…
- Affordability: From equipment to monthly fees, Vivint is certainly not the cheapest option around.
- DIY installation: Especially if you move your Vivint security system, you’ll have to pay a $129 fee for professional installation.
- App use without monthly fees: Unfortunately, if you want to use the Vivint Smart Home app, you’ll need to pay a minimum of $29.99 a month.
- How much does Vivint cost per month?
Vivint has an optional monthly cost of $39.99 if you want remote control of your system, 24/7 customer support online and over the phone, in-home technician services and an equipment warranty. However, you can avoid monthly fees completely if you prefer.
- Is Vivint a good company?
Vivint is a decent company, although they’ve gotten in legal trouble for their aggressive sales tactics and deceptive marketing in the past. However, they do provide a new security system with Alexa and Google Assistant integrations, free professional installation and an easy to use app.
- Is Vivint better than ADT?
We believe that Vivint and ADT are on the same playing field, so it depends what you’re looking for. While ADT has better professional monitoring than Vivint, Vivint wins for customer support and its app.
- Can I cancel Vivint?
One can cancel Vivint if there was a death of a close one, a bankruptcy, a transition to an assisted living home or another extenuating circumstance. Otherwise, users may not be able to get out of their contracts, if they financed their equipment.
- Can Vivint see my cameras?
For customers that pay for professional monitoring, the monitoring team can check into their cameras if an alarm goes off in order to verify an emergency.
- Does Vivint run a credit check?
For users financing their Vivint equipment through FlexPay, Vivint will run a credit check. However, Vivint won’t run a credit check for users paying for their equipment up front.