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ADT’s video doorbell isn’t much more expensive than the competition, but is it as smart? We tested it to find out.
Unless you live in a rural area, your front door is probably not a likely entry point for a thief, right? Wrong. Most thieves will use any door or window as long as it’s unlocked or unguarded.1 So if it’s time to start beefing up home security, investing in a little porch protection definitely makes sense.
Millions of Americans use ADT security systems to keep prowlers at bay. ADT’s professionally monitored, hardwired systems offer a caliber of protection that’s difficult to match. But doorbell cameras can be tricky. Without the right features, they can be more of a hindrance than a help.
To find out what ADT’s video doorbell would bring to the table, I added their latest model to an existing ADT security system and spent a few weeks testing it out. I more or less knew what to expect from previous experience reviewing ADT equipment — like professional installation and quality components. However, I did discover a few things that could come in handy if you’re still on the fence about ADT or about building out your own ADT security system.
Did You Know: 63 percent of burglaries in the U.S. involve residential property. The average loss is $2,661.2
I knew from a past ADT installation that my ADT equipment would not be unboxed and up on my wall in under 12 minutes flat. That’s the experience I had when I tested Cove’s wireless home security system, and it was great. But there’s a big difference here. ADT systems are hardwired, meaning every security component is literally connected to my central, wall-mounted hub by wires. In fact, that’s the only way my video doorbell can communicate with ADT security professionals in the event of an emergency.
So, having an ADT pro in my house was a definite plus, despite the extra time it took. If your experience is anything like mine, installing and testing your doorbell shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes.
Home Security Tip: Considering an ADT home security system for the first time? To benefit from live video monitoring, you’re going to need to go for the premium Video & Smart plan. The upside of the extra cost (besides stronger security) is that smart home automations are bundled in.
Style-wise, ADT’s brushed steel and black porch camera took a little getting used to. (Personally, I’m a bigger fan of Cove’s sleek white YI cam.) But at the end of the day, I wasn’t paying $200, plus installation and monthly monitoring fees for eye candy.
In terms of functionality, ADT’s doorbell camera did a few things just right. I liked its wide-open 180-degree views, for instance. At the same time, I can understand readers who are partial to a square (1:1) aspect ratio, which can be a little easier on the eyes. If you’re one of them, check out my experience with Vivint home security systems.
ADT also talks up their infrared night vision feature quite a bit on their website. I found ADT’s night vision mostly lived up to the hype. There was enough contrast to put after-hours visitors in focus, which is exactly how I wanted them. Together with ADT’s two-way audio (via the Control app, at home or on the go), I felt I was in full control of my front door area. That was impressive.
The problem was that, at 720p, the resolution on ADT’s video doorbell wasn’t great. It’s technically high definition, but in practice I found the picture a little grainy compared to the best 1080p home security cameras I’ve tested. If you’re anything like me, the last thing you want is a nighttime encounter where you can’t tell if the blurry shape on your front porch is a ficus or a prowler, even if you can technically talk to them.
FYI: 4K is now the gold standard for home security cameras. To picture the difference in quality, imagine a crisp 1080p image. Not bad, right? Now imagine that instead of 1,080 pixels on the horizontal axis, you had 4,000. That’s 4K Ultra HD. Check out our 2023 guide to home security cameras for a full list of this year’s must-have home video surveillance features.
To be perfectly honest, I also wasn’t thrilled that ADT’s video doorbell didn’t allow me to program motion zones. If this is new to your home security lexicon: Motion zones let your doorbell cam zero in on and “guard” specific areas of your property. In other words, with the right tweaking, I’d get an alert if there was a suspicious movement on my walkway, but not every time a car drove past my house, reducing false alarms. Given my experience testing Ring’s video doorbell, which comes with this capability, I was hoping my similarly priced ADT camera would, too.
Bottom line? While an ADT video buzzer hasn’t made our best-of-the-best doorbell cameras list yet, I expect that might change soon — especially since the rest of ADT’s cameras have seen major upgrades in the last couple of years.
Until then, for homeowners who set a high bar for video, most experts around here recommend checking out the Ring or the Nest Hello, two top wireless home security options. One important note to make here is that ADT security systems now work with the Google Nest Doorbell, so if the default ADT doorbell really isn’t your type, it’s the next best option.
Did You Know: Facial recognition is hit or miss with most video doorbells, so if yours thinks the mustachioed Domino’s driver is your mother-in-law, don’t fret. You can try to retrain your doorbell by deleting “false positive” in your app’s database (if it gives you access). Other than that, there’s not much you can do at present.
ADT video doorbells don’t operate in a vacuum. They’re part of the ADT security ecosystem. To get the most out of mine, I needed to purchase ADT’s Video & Smart equipment package, which starts at $1,049. Obviously, this isn’t pocket change by a long shot. But when you crunch the numbers, ADT’s costs are about in line with close competitors like Vivint. If you want to see with your own eyes, I’ve got a breakdown of Vivint’s pricing by plan.
That said, ADT’s $1,049 doesn’t include “life safety” sensors. I wish it did because smoke, CO, and water leak sensors are pretty basic.
The good news is, my video doorbell ($200) was included in my Video & Smart package — along with five sensors, a smart door lock, an indoor HD camera, and a few other components (nine in all).
The other thing to remember with ADT is that they let you pay off your equipment in installments, which is the option I would have chosen if this wasn’t a test run. In my case, that would have come out to $19.15 per month, plus monitoring fees (another $59.99).
Too many numbers? Read our complete guide to ADT’s security camera plans and pricing for a step-by-step analysis.
FYI: Google Nest Doorbell, a more elegant, slightly cheaper video doorbell, now works with ADT. Once you purchase your Nest (with your choice of battery-powered or wired), you can integrate it with your existing ADT security system pretty easily.
I’m a big fan of home security apps because when I’m not hardwiring doorbells, I’ll admit it, I like lying on the couch monitoring my domain. ADT’s newer Control app didn’t disappoint there. It was easy to tweak temperatures in rooms with sensors and check on the status of the smart deadbolt (locked after 9 p.m.). A good thing, too, because ADT will be gradually phasing out their popular Pulse app. In fact, newer ADT hubs don’t even work with the Pulse.
But that isn’t the whole story.
The other really useful feature you get with ADT’s Video & Smart plan is automations. To set those up, you need to create rules. Unfortunately, my experience with ADT’s video doorbell was a little less than ideal. That’s because I couldn’t use the Control app to create automations. (I had to log in to the ADT online portal from a web browser.) Not the end of the world, but it would have been much more convenient from within the app.
Other than that minor gripe, ADT’s smart automations worked well. The first thing I set out to rectify were my grainy 720p porch pics. Checking a few boxes on the portal informed my ADT system to flip on the porch light whenever the video doorbell detected movement at night. Problem solved.
Home Security Tip: ADT’s geofencing feature (available via the Control app) lets you arm and disarm your home automatically when you’re at a pre-programmed distance from your house. This is great for anyone like me who hates those awful five or so seconds when you’re waiting to punch in the code, praying the alarm doesn’t wail first.
ADT’s Video & Smart plan comes with three options: a nine-, 11-, or 15-piece kit. My nine-piece package came with five sensors, a motion detector, the video doorbell, the hub, and one HD indoor camera, so I had the basics taken care of right out of the gate.
Whatever kit you go for, just remember, burglars casing homes will climb to the second floor if they think a window or sliding door is a soft target. So underequipping your home just to save a few bucks on a glass sensor (which are extra with ADT, by the way) might come back to haunt you somewhere down the line.3
I live on a busy city street (crooks don’t like traffic) in a relatively small 2,000-square-foot home with only two vulnerable entrance ways. So I was ok with having a single glass sensor and indoor camera (for the back entrance), coupled with motion sensors in all the rooms, and the video doorbell out front.
If you have a lot of front yard to keep an eye on, or a vulnerable backyard, you might consider an additional outdoor camera or two. Those cost extra, but ADT runs plenty of deals. For a closer look at how ADT’s equipment performs in the field, read our full report on ADT’s indoor and outdoor security cameras.
Did You Know: Remember how I said that ADT requires a professional installation? If you prefer to self-install your security system, ADT has an alternative called ADT Self Setup. You’ll buy the wireless equipment, which can include sensors and cameras from Google Nest, and ADT will ship it to you for DIY installation. Better still, it’s a professionally monitored system, so you’ll still enjoy ADT’s best-in-class protection.
Ordering an ADT video doorbell (with the required upgrade to the Video & Smart plan) made a lot of sense for me because it gave me two things I didn’t have with the entry-level Secure plan: live video monitoring and smart home automations. It’s safe to say that to truly benefit from an ADT home security plan, you’d want to do the same. The question is: Is it worth it?
I’ll definitely say that I would think twice about shelling out $1,049 (plus extra for monitoring) for a video doorbell. And for the time being, ADT clearly isn’t the best of the best. While the price isn’t exactly prohibitive, image quality lags (720p versus 1080p, which is the industry standard). And without motion zones, I had to basically bite the bullet and resign myself to getting the occasional alert when ADT mistook a dog walker for a cat thief.
On the other hand, with my new upgrade, I was getting a whole lot more than a video doorbell. I had a sturdier smart lock I could program and an app that could (with a little help from the ADT online portal) automate pretty much anything in my house that ran on electricity. I also had a secure home professionally monitored by the oldest name in the business.
So, to answer my question: Is it worth it? While I totally get why cheaper DIY home security systems are getting a lot of attention these days — for the time being, I’m going to say, yes, in my book, an ADT home security system is still definitely worth considering.
FYI: Home security systems communicate with emergency services in three ways: via Wi-Fi, a landline, or via a cellular signal. We typically recommend cellular monitoring services because they’re the most reliable and get the quickest responses.
No. Unless you purchase a Google Nest Doorbell (battery) from ADT Self Setup, your ADT video doorbell will require professional installation.
Yes, after installation, monitoring via the ADT Control app is simple.
At present, ADT video doorbells are 720p, so they’re not the highest resolution. Without motion zones, they’re also not the smartest of the lot. But they’ve got great infrared night vision and wide-angle 180-degree views.
No, ADT doorbells need to be wired to an existing ADT alarm system to function properly.
You can find cheaper options. Google Nest Doorbells (now ADT-compatible) run $149 a pop. But at $200, ADT’s video doorbell is reasonably priced.
Kuhns, Joseph. (2012). Understanding Decisions to Burglarize from the Offender's Perspective.
FBI. (2022). Burglary.
Burcham, Kathryn. (2019). Thieves scaling homes to break into second-story windows, police say.