Vivint Smart Home Security Review

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4.6

Vivint Smart Home Security

Vivint home security

 The Spruce/Bradley Berman

What We Like

  • Superior technology for communication between devices

  • The control panel and app are intuitive

  • Vivint installers are well trained 

  • The monitoring center responds in seconds

  • HD outdoor camera is loaded with smart functionality

  • You can avoid a locked-in contract by paying for gear upfront (or finance with zero interest)

What We Don't Like

  • Can be more expensive than some systems

  • Vivint doesn’t list the cost of components and prices on its website

  • Small devices called “repeaters” use up outlets in the house

  • Vivint doesn’t install in-wall light switches

Vivint Smart Home owns and oversees every aspect of its products and services—from component design to monitoring stations. Due to its integrated approach, Vivint provides a high-quality, innovative, and reliable home security system with a great customer experience.

4.6

Vivint Smart Home Security

Vivint home security

 The Spruce/Bradley Berman

We spent nearly two months testing the Vivint home security system and found it to be the best option currently on the market today. And we feel this way for a few reasons. First and foremost, the Vivint system is effective and has rock-solid connectivity. Secondly, its control panel and mobile apps are user-friendly and fun to use. And it doesn't hurt that a dedication to the customer experience guides Vivint’s selection of devices—the suite of components you need for a complete solution of home security and automation.

We spent nearly two months testing the Vivint home security system and found it to be the best option currently on the market today.

The slight downside is that the higher quality comes with a steeper price. Vivint is more expensive than competing professionally installed systems—although not by much even when compared to DIY solutions with less quality. Fortunately, you can spread the payments over 42 or 60 months with zero interest. Vivint also allows to pay off equipment costs in a lump sum to reduce monthly bills and avoid getting locked into a long-term contract.

With that said, take a look at our full review of the service below, from ordering, to installation, to functionality and more to see how it all works.

Ordering

Buying a Vivint system typically begins with a phone call about your security goals. A sales representative will also inquire about the layout of your home and your desire for automated features such as a smart lock, thermostat, and controllable lighting. That’s when you’ll make a preliminary selection of sensors, devices, and a monthly monitoring plan.

You can also ask Vivint to send a “Smart Home Pro” to your house for a free in-person consultation. This allows you to follow a thoughtful planning process to select the necessary equipment. Be advised that the Vivint phone agent and the Smart Home Pro earn commissions. Customers have three days after installation to return the entire system and 30 days after installation to return individual products.

You should also know that Vivint supplements its salesforce with authorized dealers. However, Vivint dealers sell equipment and services at the same price as what’s offered directly by the company. And in a major distinction from other security companies, Vivint is always solely responsible for the lifetime customer relationship, including installation, service, support, and professional monitoring.

Vivint Home Security
 The Spruce/Bradley Berman

Installation

On the scheduled day of the installation, the technician arrived at about 15 minutes early. He took an entire hour to walk us through the process of installing the selected equipment. “My job is to secure your home,” he said. “Let’s put in security first and the toys afterward,” referring to optional smart locks and voice assistants.

We walked through each room to confirm which doors, windows, and hallways should be protected. The installer advised us about what he called “a smart second line of defense,” such as placement of a glass-break sensor where someone might smash a window rather than prying open a door.

Vivint technicians—who are employees of the company, not contractors—go through a rigorous education process. It starts with four weeks of field training, followed by a one-week intensive at a Vivint center in Utah or Florida. After passing the exam, the advisors return to field operations for a couple of weeks before taking on their first solo installation.

Vivint technicians—who are employees of the company, not contractors—go through a rigorous education process.

Vivint’s components have solid construction. Their design is attractive. Our sole gripe was that the door sensors are only available in white. We would have preferred a color to blend in with our natural wood. Smart door locks come in bronze, satin nickel, and polished brass.

Vivint purposefully does not offer an expansive catalog of hundreds of sensors, cameras, locks, and thermostat. It’s what Jeremy Warren, Vivint’s Chief Technology Officer, told us is a “curated ecosystem” for tight integration and quality control.

Vivint home security
 The Spruce/Bradley Berman

The installer led me through the process of naming each device (e.g., bedroom sliding door, dining room light, etc.) and he provided a tutorial for how everything works. But the lion’s share of his time was spent conducting diagnostics to ensure that the control hub, sensors, cameras, devices, and the smart lock have robust communications to one another. 

In a mature, formal procedure, Vivint assigns a score to the system’s multiple radio frequencies, Wi-Fi, and cell signals. The hub offers further diagnostics and self-testing tools, so you know everything is working. Over two months, we received several app notifications when a device needed to have a battery replaced or went offline for other reasons. (We find these messages reassuring because we’ve read many horror stories about consumers finding out that an alarm system isn’t working only after an intrusion.)

The installation, which costs $99, took six hours. Vivint often waives the fee during promotions, but you will never be charged more than $99, which is paid upfront. 

We believe that lighting is an essential part of home security. While Vivint sells a plug-in device to control outlets, as well as Hue smart light bulbs, these devices stop working if an appliance’s switch (or the wall control) is inadvertently turned off. The solution is to replace your current light control with a smart switch from Lutron, Wink, or Wemo. However, Vivint technicians are not licensed electricians. So while they can drill holes and mount cameras and doorbells, they do not change in-wall switches—leaving it to an electrician or DIY consumer to make the upgrade.

How It Works

There are two primary ways that users interact with a Vivint system—the Smart Hub and a smartphone mobile app. Some users prefer a control panel placed near the front door, while others like using the phone app. The choice is up to you.

In both the control panel and app, the home screen is labeled “Security.” From a glance, you can see if the system is set to Disarmed, Armed Staying, or Armed Away. The home screen also provides a status of any doors or windows that are open. That gives you the option to walk around the house, closing everything—until you get a message reading, “Everything looks good. Your home is ready to arm.” Or you can decide to set the alarm to bypass any open door or window for the duration of that armed session. The home screen also allows you to see the status of smart locks—and with a single touch, lock, or unlock doors.

Vivint Home security
 The Spruce/Bradley Berman
Vivint Home Security
  Lifewire/Bradley Berman

The Security screen on the app offers a way to sound the alarm immediately. And a similar “+” button on the hub provides a way to trigger panic, emergency, or fire immediately.

By holding the Fire button down for two seconds, the monitoring center immediately dispatches the fire department. Holding down the Panic button sounds the Smart Hub siren and contacts the monitoring center—while the Emergency button contacts the monitoring center without sounding the siren.

We were advised by Vivint to use the Emergency button to evaluate the monitoring center’s response time. We conducted this test twice. In each case, we were speaking with the monitoring center via the hub in about 10 to 15 seconds. (Don't worry, we explained that it was a false alarm to the representative.)

The next navigation icon is Cameras, allowing you to see live and recorded video events—and to turn privacy mode on and off. A clock icon for Activity links to a running log of every activity—doors opening and closing, motion sensors picking up movement, and people detected walking in front of the house.

Vivint Home Security
 The Spruce/Bradley Berman

The hub allows you to individually customize the notification sound for every action—with a door chime, piano riff, or other sound effects. So you know which door opened without looking up. Similarly, a subtle green light is emitted from the bottom of the hub when all the doors and windows are closed, and the system is ready to arm.

The hub allows you to individually customize the notification sound for every action—with a door chime, piano riff, or other sound effects.

The power (and fun) of the Vivint system comes from setting up “Custom Actions” that connect one device to another. Here are examples of functions you can set up:

  • Turn on specified lights when entering the house.
  • Automatically disarm the system after punching in the code to the smart lock.
  • Alarm or disarm the system at a specific time or sunset/sunrise.
  • Enable privacy mode on indoor cameras when the system is disarmed (or armed in stay mode).
Vivint Home Security
 The Spruce/Bradley Berman

One of the smartest applications of a custom action is to use the siren built into an outdoor camera when an alarm is triggered. So in addition to sounding the hub’s 85-decibel siren inside your house, the outdoor camera’s siren will blast a warning to the neighborhood. It’s one of many examples of how multiple devices can combine with one another. And Vivint recently started selling a Car Guard that easily plugs into a car’s dashboard port. If Car Guard detects the car being disturbed in your driveway, it can tell your outdoor camera to start recording.

Again, these “custom actions” are built-in. Therefore, they don’t require a complicated if-this-then-that equation. They are powerful but can be set up quickly and easily.

Perhaps the highest praise for Vivint’s system is how quickly its operation becomes second nature.

Best Features

Reliable Communications: When you’re shopping for a home security system, it’s easy to get distracted by things such as voice assistants, Bluetooth speakers, and automated rainbow-colored light shows. But none of it matters for security if you don’t have reliable, lightning-fast connections between your devices and the monitoring center.

Vivint Home Security
 The Spruce/Bradley Berman

That’s why our favorite Vivint feature is the company’s underlying, redundant communications strategy. Many competing systems use your existing Wi-Fi network as the backbone. But Vivint goes several steps further. But how? Vivint added extra ports to our router, including one for a Power Line Communications (PLC) connection between the Internet and the Vivint Smart Hub. PLC uses a home’s electrical wiring to send data. The outdoor camera also ties into PLC, essentially creating a wired system for devices far away from the hub. 

In some cases, Vivint uses Ethernet connections to reduce interference for cameras placed on the edge of a home. Other added ports created hard links to the 24/7 hard-drive for video recordings and a bridge for Philips Hue lightbulbs. And critically, the Vivint Smart Hub uses its own dedicated Wi-Fi network rather than piggybacking on yours.

Here’s why these steps matter. A few weeks after the installation, we discovered locking or unlocking our Kwikset smart lock took about 20 seconds to work. So the Vivint technician returned to add signal repeaters for both the hub’s main 345-MHz radio signals and the 908-MHz Z-Wave network, the protocol used for connecting many third-party devices. Based on these strategies, the response time on the smart lock was reduced to about one second. On the same visit, he updated the firmware of the Vivint Outdoor camera, which sped up the talk function for more effortless conversations with people at the door.

Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro and AI-Based Smart Sentry:

Vivint Home Security
 The Spruce/Bradley Berman

In April 2019, Vivint introduced a new outdoor camera—and it’s fantastic. It has 4K Ultra HD capability, with high dynamic range and 40 feet of night vision. The field of view is 140 degrees. With a pinch, we were able to zoom into the scene with minimal loss in detail. Two far-field microphones with echo canceling provided clear audio. It’s was also equipped with two-way talk and a siren.

The camera offers a Smart Sentry function that sends a smartphone notification when it detects somebody lurking in the driveway. To avoid false alarms, we used the app to draw boundaries to establish where I want the camera to look or disregard. The camera’s built-in intelligence can differentiate between a human being and a passing car or swaying tree. If it detects a person, a sound is emitted, and a ring of red light illuminates around the lens. The effect is that intruders look up just in time for a photo to be snapped and sent to our phone.

The camera offers a Smart Sentry function that sends a smartphone notification when it detects somebody lurking in the driveway.

When we clicked on the notification, we were brought into the camera section of the app. And because we had the Smart Drive, we were able to rewind the footage to see the entire scene of a person approaching and leaving. Each detected action is marked on the timeline with a little white dot for easy identification. Without the Smart Drive, you get 14 days of clip storage per camera in Vivint’s cloud. The clip length for the Vivint Outdoor Camera is up to 90 seconds. Clips from the doorbell camera and Ping indoors are 30 and 20 seconds respectively.

Price and Fees

The Vivint starter kit costs $599. It includes the Vivint Smart Hub, two door/window sensors, one motion sensor, and a credit for $100 worth of additional sensors. For our system, we added this list of security gear:

  • 7 additional door/window sensors: $350 ($50 each)
  • 1 additional motion detector: $100
  • 2 glass break detectors: $200 ($100 each)
  • Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro: $399

If we had left our order there, it would be about $1,650—similar to an average Vivint order. But we went a little crazy, pushing our order to $3,173 with these items:

  • 2 Vivint Ping indoor cameras: $398 ($199 each)
  • Vivint Doorbell Camera: $249
  • Vivint Smart Drive: $249
  • 1 CO detector: $100
  • 1 additional water sensor: $50
  • 1 smoke detector: $100
  • Kwikset smart door lock: $179
  • 4 lamp modules: $200 ($50 each)

The Vivint Smart Home monthly service plan is $39.99 plus $5 per camera, which includes 14 days of clip storage per camera. If you have a Vivint Smart Drive, the same pricing per camera provides 24/7 recording of up to four cameras. We recommend the Smart Drive, even at a relatively pricey $249, because it provides a quick experience of viewing and rewinding.

Vivint also offers a monthly Smart Security service for $29.99. It’s for a basic system that does not include cameras or home automation. Vivint says that only about five percent of its customers choose this option.

The Competition: Vivint vs. ADT

Vivint is a professionally installed security system. Therefore, it should only be compared to other full-service systems like ADT, Brinks, and Xfinity Home—rather than DIY products. Unlike ADT, the most popular home-security service, Vivint designs and makes nearly every product that it sells, resulting in a consistently higher-quality product and service. ADT bundles equipment with its services, so in most cases a relatively high monthly fee is charged indefinitely. On the other hand, Vivint separates the cost of equipment to reduce the monthly expense after the gear is fully purchased.

Final Verdict

One of the best systems to use to protect your home.

Vivint is the no-brainer choice for the most reliable, trustworthy, and full-featured home security system and monitoring service. With smart features, custom security actions such as being able to sound alarms from exterior cameras, and near fail-proof power line communication between the Internet and the Hub, Vivint offers worry-free protection for your home.

Specs

  • Product Name Vivint Smart Home
  • Product Brand Vivint
  • Price $39.99
  • Base Price $599 for hub, two door/window sensors, one motion sensor, and a $100 credit for more sensors
  • Monthly Fees Vivint Smart Home monthly service plan is $39.99 plus $5 per camera. Monthly Smart Security plan for $29.99 does not include cameras or home automation.
  • Installation Cost $99
  • Plan Lock-In 42 or 60 months if the equipment is financed (with zero percent). Or month-to-month with no lock-in if the equipment is paid upfront.
  • Return Policy Three days after installation to return the entire system and 30 days after installation to return individual products
  • Warranty Fully warranted for the first 120 days after installation. After 120 days, service calls are $49
  • Available Smart-Home Products (Partial) Smart lock, lamp modules, smart lightbulbs, voice assistants
  • Available Cameras Outdoor, indoor, doorbell camera