A smart doorbell camera with crisp video and plenty of customizations
Whenever we get our hands on a new doorbell camera, we’re always looking for the trifecta of features: Crisp and clear resolution, a wide viewing angle, and smartphone controls. With this in mind, we recently had our local Vivint technician drop by to install a full smart home security system in our home… and with it, a Vivint Doorbell Camera Pro. And trust us, this little doorbell cam made our everyday FedEx delivery or grocery drop-off appear larger than life.
But while our doorbell addition made life more convenient (we even answered the door from our couch without taking our eyes off Peaky Blinders), can Vivint really “Banish Porch Pirates” like it claims?
To answer that, we tested Vivint’s Wi-Fi doorbell for over 100 hours, getting hands-on experience with its features and tech, customizations (there’s lots), user-friendliness, and overall value. We really wanted to see how it stacks up to other top contenders in the doorbell domain — like Ring Video Doorbell and Nest Hello. So keep reading to see if Vivint makes sense to guard your castle.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get the satisfaction of unboxing that sleek little device you see above. That’s because a Vivint technician visited our home and had the equipment all configured and ready to go (thanks, Don).
First off, we were surprised by how small it was. It’s much smaller than the Ring Video Doorbell, and we’re all about that black & white design. As you’ll see in a bit, the button on the bottom lights up different colors depending on the activity it sees.
Overall, it gave a great first impression. But as you know, we never judge a book by its cover. So let’s briefly go over the installation process before jumping into the performance and what you can expect from this doorbell.
FYI: The Vivint Doorbell isn’t meant to be a standalone product, as you’ll have to pay for Vivint’s monitoring plan anyway. Rather, this doorbell camera is meant to be used as just one component in a comprehensive Vivint smart home security system.
That’s Don up there on the ladder, the fellow who installed our Vivint Doorbell Camera. He also got us up-and-running with several other products, which we cover in-depth in our full Vivint smart home security review.
It took Don 10-15 minutes to install the hardwired device. It replaced our existing doorbell, and spliced right into those wires. But keep in mind that this camera can run off batteries, too, so it doesn’t need to wire into your wall. That said, we recommend the wired option if your home has the right doorbell setup already, as you won’t have to worry about changing batteries. We live in the Sierra Nevadas where it gets really cold in winter, and we don’t want to fumble around with batteries if we don’t have to.
Installation in a Nutshell: Our Vivint technician Don first hooked up our entryway with the hardwired doorbell camera, and then he came inside, climbed his ladder, and configured our doorbell chime. Easy-peezy. Just know that Vivint’s professional installation might cost you upwards of $200.
When the install wrapped up, we were (mostly) happy with the way it looked in our entryway. Our only gripe is that you can see some of the wires poking out of the side of the camera. Look closely at the image below to see what we’re talking about. We noticed this on installation day, and had we mentioned it, we’re sure Don would have fixed it for us. No biggie, we can fix it ourselves.
We know… you’re chomping at the bit to find out what this video doorbell can do. Well, strap in because there’s lots of good info to cover!
First things first: the controls. We had our trusty Vivint Smart Hub — which is Vivint’s 7” touchscreen control panel — sitting in our home office. We were able to view our live video from the Smart Hub, and change some settings here as well.
But honestly, we found the app to be much more convenient to use. This is par for the course, as other top-of-the-line doorbell cameras also have touchscreen panels, but we end up spending most of our time in the mobile app. Go figure. Note that we did view our cameras on the Smart Hub when we wanted to see more detail, as it’s a bigger screen compared to our iPhones.
But if you really want to view your doorbell on a much bigger screen, note that Vivint works with FireTV via Alexa, so you can ask Alexa to stream your front door on a Fire TV screen.
The Vivint mobile app is solid all-around. This user-friendly app put all of our Vivint equipment in one centralized platform. Keep in mind that Don installed everything from door/window sensors and motion sensors, to Vivint’s Ping Camera and Outdoor Camera Pro. So having everything at our fingertips was a big deal. Check out the app interface below.
Video resolution matters, and Vivint performed very well in this category. The default video quality is set to “Medium,” which we found to be the sweet spot.
The camera streamed for us in 1080p HD.1 We experienced sharp video with very little distortion or lag. In fact, on its worst day, the video only lagged 1-second behind real-time. Not bad! But bear in mind that our internet speeds are also lighting-fast, so your mileage may vary. Here’s the quality of live-streaming and recorded videos you can expect…
Also notice those viewing angles. Since Vivint’s Doorbell Pro offers a 180-degree field of view (FOV), we could see everything on our patio — pretty much from doormat to dormers. Even if someone tried to get sneaky and climb our side banister onto our porch, our Vivint doorbell camera would sense their presence and begin recording them.
Pro Tip: If you have a large entryway, look for a field of view of at least 140-degrees. Vivint’s field of view is 180° vertical x 180° horizontal — which is enough to see the face of a 10-foot man or get a closer look at that package on your doormat.
To give you some context here, most video doorbells in this price range come with 1080p HD without an HDR sensor, and most tap-out at 160-degree field of view. So we were thrilled with Vivint’s 180-degrees of pure front porch. That said, the image quality itself really wasn’t any better than what we’ve seen from the Ring Video Doorbell 3 or the August View doorbell.
Vivint’s motion detection was decent, but nothing to write home about. It does offer ‘Smart Detection’, which means the camera can tell the difference between people, pets, and cars. But we’re seeing this more and more with other top competitors.
Also like other doorbell cameras we’ve used, we were able to set the motion sensor’s “tripline” so we didn’t receive any false alerts (see image below). Passing cars never tripped the camera to record, even with the motion detection going well into the street. Note that we also dialed-in the motion sensitivity to “Medium.” To us, that’s a great thing. The more you can customize how your doorbell detects motion, the better. With these customizations, we were able to avoid false alarms, and at the same time, make sure everything notification-worthy was recorded.
All right, so what happens when the video doorbell does detect motion? Well, it records a clip for as long as the action continues. We have videos in our Event Timeline that are over 3 minutes long. We’ll take this any day over the standard 20-second or 30-second clips we’ve seen from a lot of brands out there. But we’ll talk more about this in the Vivint Monitoring section below. Here you can see our recordings in the Timeline view on our Smart Hub…
We’re able to access and view each clip for 30 days before it disappears into the ether. And here’s how our Timeline appears in the Vivint mobile app — where we enjoyed a nifty little hidden feature…
The hidden feature? When we touch an image and swipe left, we’re presented two options: Delete or Upload. We’re really liking the quick Upload feature. If a pesky porch pirate or burglar targets our home, we can easily upload and send the recording to neighbors and the police. Or if it’s one of us taking a spill on our icy front steps, we can keep that for posterity, too.
Here’s one video we uploaded, just so you can get a sense of Vivint’s resolution and field of view:
As for the Delete function, thankfully you don’t have to delete clips one-by-one (that would take for-ev-er). You’ll have a lot of recordings piling up, but note that we were able to delete them by the day or even by the month. We’ve got options here.
So we’ve established that the Vivint doorbell can detect motion and stream ultra-sharp images in 1080p HDR. And we’ve covered some other features that just scratch the surface of Vivint’s capabilities.
Now if you’re wondering if Vivint’s doorbell camera can detect your package — it sure can. The newest generation of Vivint doorbell cameras have something called Smart Sentry Package Detection. As the name implies, this senses when a package arrives at your doorstep, and it alerts you instantly. Here’s a peek at some friends dropping a package off at our doorstep…
And like clockwork, a second later we received the mobile alert via push notification. If these alerts aren’t the fastest we’ve seen, they’re definitely up there. And trust us, alert speeds matter — the sooner you know there’s trouble brewing, the sooner you can get on two-way talk and scare away that no-good package thief. Note also that we received instant notifications whenever the Vivint doorbell sensed someone.
This is different from package detection. And we like the idea here, but honestly, the execution was a bit off. Whenever a package was delivered, we’d be notified, which was great. But then we received this notification: “Would you like us to protect your package?” Why yes, we would. To test this feature, we purposefully pilfered a package on our doorstep and brought it inside, under the camera’s watchful eye.
Have a look, it says “Your camera is currently protecting your delivery,” but lo-and-behold, our delivery is long gone! The takeaway here is that you probably shouldn’t rely fully on this feature to actively protect your goods. Then again, even though a doorbell cam can help stop crime, you shouldn’t rely on it fully to protect your packages or your home.2
Vivint Smart Sentry lets you activate the camera’s LED ring and sound the 65 dB siren to scare away thieves, burglars, or that nosey neighbor of yours. We call this “active deterrence” in the business. And it’s one feature we love to see.
We were also able to set a deter chime, which emits a quick little whistle when someone approaches our door. It’s really just a way to tell people to smile because they’re on camera. We used the 12-hour deter setting almost every night before turning in. That way, if someone tried to storm the castle, at least they’d get a warning!
Did You Know: The Vivint Doorbell Camera Pro works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for hands-free voice control. “Alexa, show my front door.” We’re starting to see this offered by most smart doorbell companies these days.
Yep, the Vivint doorbell has that, too. Nothing too crazy here, but we were able to speak with visitors through the Smart Hub and mobile app. Keep in mind that we’ve experienced up to 5-second delays with other doorbell cams, so we were a bit surprised by the seamless communication here. If there was a delay, it was almost imperceptible.
To really test the two-way talk, I had my wife stand on the porch and raise her hand when she heard me speak; at one point, she raised her hand before I had finished my first word. As for the audio quality, it was good but not great.
If two-way talk is an important feature for you, note that one of our favorite smart doorbells — Ring’s Video Doorbell Elite — offers an impressive intercom experience, and with no delays since it’s powered by an ethernet connection.3 But expect to pay upwards of $350 for one of these professional-grade units.
FYI: To use the Two-Way Talk feature, press and hold the microphone icon you see above. Remember using Walkie-Talkies as a kid? Well, it’s kind of like that. Also note the “Lock” icon at the bottom of the screen. Press this and you can arm your system with one swipe. We like how Vivint makes it easy to secure our home without leaving the live-stream video view.
Our Vivint Doorbell Camera Pro also has a 3x optical HD zoom. This might sound fancy, and it’s better than no zoom feature (which is the norm), just don’t expect to get a lot of detail if you zoom all the way in. Is that sasquatch?
In our tests, we found the zoom feature to work fine up to about 15 feet before the video quality really began to drop off. Also, keep in mind that you can’t zoom directly from the Smart Hub in camera view; however, when you zoom on the mobile app the Smart Hub screen pairs and zooms automatically. We were pleasantly surprised by this little nuance.
This doorbell cam also uses two LED sensors for infrared night vision. As you can see in the image below, we experienced quality nighttime vision, but when our porch lights went out, the picture turned black and white and pretty grainy.
So another quick tip is to keep your porch light on, unless you go with a full-color night vision doorbell (like certain Ring doorbells) that will beam a bright light to illuminate the scene. Honestly, we didn’t love Vivint’s night vision on any of their cameras, but this is more of an issue with infrared technology,4 not so much with Vivint.
Did You Know: Like most outdoor cameras and doorbell cameras, the Video Doorbell Pro is waterproof, but it’s weather-resistant range isn’t so hot (no pun intended) at 14° to 104° Fahrenheit. That said, so long as your entryway gets some shade and shelter, you should be fine.
Note that we had 5 different doorbell chimes to choose from, and there’s even a chime for person detection. We kept our person detection chime set to “none,” as we didn’t want to hear it every time someone came to our door.
You can also choose where you want your chimes to sound. The Smart Hub panel will always play the chime, but we also set ours to ring through our indoor Vivint Ping camera. Just be sure to regulate the chime volume. On the first day testing this feature, we were cooking with Bobby Flay (on TV of course) when the chime from our Ping cam nearly gave us a heart attack.
We’ve saved this feature for last since it’s more of a whole-system feature, not just a doorbell feature. As mentioned, the Doorbell Camera Pro integrates beautifully into the Vivint smart home system, and we were able to set Custom Actions (or “rules”) so that our doorbell cam would perform a certain function when specific conditions have been met. For example, we set this rule…
By creating the rule “I want my Doorbell to record a clip when an alarm is triggered,” we’d be sure to catch all the action at our front door. After all, what if someone breaks in through our back door and runs out the front door? With our doorbell cam set to record, we’ll be sure not to miss any of the action.
We just wish there were a few more Custom Action options for the doorbell specifically. But beggars can’t be choosers — as we typically don’t see this advanced functionality from other video doorbells. Here are the rules you can set, and we imagine Vivint will expand this menu over time.
It’s the million-dollar question. Seeing that the Vivint Doorbell Camera Pro is one of the most advanced video doorbells we’ve tested, don’t be too shocked when you find out it’s $250. Sure, it’s more expensive than the SimpliSafe Video Doorbell Pro ($169.99) and the Arlo Video Doorbell ($150) which are both great picks, but it’s priced right in line with some of Ring’s better options.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Vivint doorbell used to cost $229. It only recently bumped to $249, but now features built-in theft deterrents and 1080p with an HDR (High Dynamic Range) sensor. So that extra $20 is well justified in our eyes. From what we’ve seen, this doorbell is worth every penny. But… only if you have a Vivint system! Check out the latest Vivint prices.
|Vivint Cameras||Camera Type||Price|
|Doorbell Camera Pro||Video Doorbell||$249.00|
|Outdoor Camera Pro||Outdoor Camera||$399.00|
|Ping Camera||Indoor Camera||$199.00|
Remember, you can’t just purchase a Vivint doorbell cam, install it yourself, and call it a day. Unfortunately, the product is an add-on to the Vivint smart home security setup. That’s why we only recommend this porch protector for current Vivint users, or for those already considering buying a fully-integrated Vivint smart home security system. If you’re on the fence about it, you’ll want to circle back and read our full Vivint review linked at the top of this review.
On top of equipment prices, Vivint costs $39.99 per month for 24/7 professional monitoring, plus $5 per month for every camera installed. This is the Vivint ‘Smart Home’ plan that we tested; it’s required to run Vivint cameras, including the Doorbell Camera Pro. You might also have to sign a contract with Vivint, which is never fun. But keep in mind that this includes total home protection from one of the best home security companies in the industry.
With their cloud storage plan called Vivint Playback, you’ll get 1 terabyte (TB) of download capacity and 30 days of continuous 24/7 recording. We won’t get too deep into the technicalities here, just know that you get all of this for $5 per camera per month (on top of other Vivint charges). This is actually fairly standard for cloud storage plans.
Overall, Vivint equipment and monitoring isn’t the cheapest out there, but it’s also not trying to be cheap. Rather, we think Vivint is an ideal fit for homeowners who value premium products/services and have the budget to get the goods.
There is no doubt that Vivint’s video doorbell camera is an investment. In fact, if you’re not a current Vivint customer, and you’re not planning on purchasing a Vivint home security equipment, then there may be better options for you. But if you’re already sold on Vivint, we think this device is a no-brainer and will be a welcome addition to your Vivint smart home security system.
In our experience using this doorbell cam, we enjoyed the expansive feature-set and high-quality optics. Note, however, that the customizations is precisely where the product outshines much of the competition. We also really liked the slim profile and smartphone controls. And the Smart Sentry deterrence features were a great bonus, too.
So if you want the latest in home automation and total home security, then we can say that Vivint is one of the best options on the market today (if not the best). We recommend checking out Vivint, especially if you’re a homeowner and plan to stay at the same address for a while. You won’t be disappointed.
If you’re already a Vivint customer, we think their doorbell camera is a good value at $249. However, if you’re new to Vivint, there are a few costs to consider. See our Vivint pricing section in this review.
Vivint not only offers professional installation, they require it. That’s why we recommend Vivint to people who aren’t so handy around the home. They’ll take care of the dirty work for you.
The Vivint doorbell streams in 1080p with an HDR sensor, so the resolution is always crisp and clear.
You can have your installation technician hardwire it to replace your existing doorbell (recommended), or you can use it as a battery-powered doorbell camera.
If you don’t buy all of your Vivint equipment upfront, you will have to sign a contract to pay off the equipment in installments. These agreements range from 3 to 5 years.
Hartman, J. (2019, January 17). 1080p Vs. 720p — Is A Bigger Resolution Always Better For HD Live Streaming? Boxcast.com.
Will, J. (2019, April 30). Can a Doorbell Camera Actually Make You Safer? WallStreetJournal.com.
Ethernet. Retrieved October 7, 2020. Wikipedia. https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethernet
42 West. 2018, October 22. How do Infrared Cameras Work? Adorama.com.