Do you have your eye on Vivint smart home security? If so, you’re in for a treat today. We recently had our local Vivint technician over to install a complete system in our home. We then spent over a week (close to 200 hours!) using the equipment and pushing it to its limits.
And we must say, this isn’t your average home security setup. It’s an end-to-end experience that’s fully customized to suit your home. But as you might imagine, this premium experience comes at a premium price. Is it worth it? Hint: Yes. With that said, there are some things you’ll want to consider before pulling out your credit card.
Hands down, Vivint is different from any system we’ve tried, and we’ve tried all the top brands on the market. Without getting too mushy on you, we’ll say that it not only protected our home (entry sensors, cameras, the whole bit), it also helped to capture some precious memories. We had family in town during our Vivint trial, and boy do we have some takeaways for you.
So if you’ve got the budget to work with and want the best technology available, we think you’ll like what Vivint has to offer. Keep reading to find out if “the Mercedes of home security” is right for you and your family. We’re putting it all on the table.
Vivint makes no bones about their target demographic. They market to homeowners who value top-shelf products and services (not necessarily Mr. Money Bags… but close). So we expected white-glove installation and a security system that was smarter than the competition.
We also expected to control all of our devices from one central platform. There’s a lot of hype around Vivint’s mobile app and Smart Hub — and we were chomping at the bit to try them out. Keep in mind that we have used Vivint in the past, but not their newest lineup of products, features, and tech.
And finally, we expected it to be super easy to use. Building on the luxury car analogy — a Mercedes is loaded with great features, but many of those features make it easier to drive, not harder. That’s the standard we were hoping to find in Vivint. We didn’t want to be bogged down by technology. Let’s see how it measured up.
Did You Know: Believe it or not, Vivint has been around since the late 90’s.1 But the company recently underwent an extensive rebranding, and they’re doubling-down as the top premium home security provider in the industry.
To get set up, we called in to speak with a Vivint representative. The rep walked us through equipment options and had us choose a monitoring plan. We scheduled an installation appointment a few days out, but they’ve been known to do same-day installations. So if you need it fast, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Here’s the Vivint gear we ordered and tested:
Don Benke, our Vivint technician, showed up right on time on installation day. We were actually surprised by how professional he was in appearance — and by “professional” we mean “branded.” He was decked out in Vivint gear from head-to-toe. In our experience, most companies send outside contractors to do the install, but there was no doubt Mr. Benke was a bonafide Vivint employee. Here, we snapped a pic for you…
Another thing that took us by surprise was the “installation consultation.” We weren’t really expecting it, but Don walked with us around our home (inside and outside), showing us sensitive access points… from the burglar’s perspective. This took about 20 minutes, and we think it’s definitely something that will instill confidence if you’re new to home security.
Then… the cancellation agreement. Now this is critically important: Vivint gives you a three-day window to cancel your service and pull the equipment. Most brands on the market give you 30 days to cancel, which made us think long and hard about Vivint’s policy. Our conclusion? Well, if you’re Vivint’s ideal customer, you want top-of-the-line smart home security, and you won’t think twice about paying for it, contracts be darned! But we’ll talk more about their contract terms in just a bit.
Once we signed on the dotted line, Don told us the installation would take at least 3 hours. Honestly, we weren’t thrilled to have a stranger in our home for three full hours, but Don seemed trustworthy. So he put his booties on and went to work. Sure enough, the installation took every minute of those three hours. But keep in mind that we had one of everything installed. And honestly, the time flew by.
One important thing to note though… be in a good frame of mind, as there is a lot of information transfer on installation day. We wouldn’t say it’s overwhelming, just be sure to have plenty of coffee in your cup!
FYI: Vivint technicians wear little booties over their shoes so that they don’t track anything into your home. We thought this was a nice little touch.
One thing we didn’t love was the stick-on sensors (check out the image below). They just didn’t have the design appeal we expect in a premium brand like Vivint. Now, with that said, Don did ask if we wanted to get Vivint’s recessed door sensors, which we declined for the purpose of this review (but we definitely recommend). Their recessed sensors are virtually invisible, as they sit inside of your door at the edge of your door and door frame. Pretty neat!
Fast forward to the end of installation, and our Vivint tech Don handed us his tablet. On it was a quick survey followed by a short video message from Todd Pedersen, Vivint’s CEO,2 who welcomed us into the Vivint family.
If we’re being honest, we were ready to wrap things up and start testing our new system, but we complied. The video was equal parts authentic and professional, and in the end it was a nice way to tie a proverbial bow on the installation. You certainly don’t get that with DIY security systems.
At its most basic, Vivint put a hedge of security around our home with entry sensors and cameras. When the system is armed and someone opens a door or window, the 100dB alarm sounds, and a signal is sent to Vivint’s monitoring center. Trust us, the siren is LOUD. It even rang through our outdoor camera, which gave our friendly USPS guy a good scare. Hey, it works.
As far as monitoring goes, note that Vivint requires 24/7 professional monitoring — we couldn’t “self monitor” our system even if we wanted to. That’s a good thing in our book, especially since Vivint uses a cellular signal (opposed to a Wi-Fi or landline connection). We’ve found cellular monitoring is the way to go, as the connection is faster and more reliable.
The few times we tested the alarm, Vivint responded in about 35 seconds with a call. Not bad, but not great. It’s pretty much what we expect these days. And the times we accidentally tripped the alarm (it happens!), Vivint gave us 30 seconds grace to disarm it before reaching out. We’re not crazy about this delay, as a lot can happen in 30 seconds if a break-in occurs. We’d rather them call right away, just in case.
Also, keep in mind that every time our alarm triggered, Vivint sent an instant notification straight to our smartphones. This way we could open the Vivint app and check out the live video feed of our cameras to assess the threat. Sure, lots of home security companies offer instant alerts, but Vivint takes it to another level with all sorts of fancy customizations, which we’ll discuss in a bit. They also sent us an email alert (see below). But the email felt unnecessary, so we unsubscribed.
Think of the Vivint Smart Hub as the brains of the system. It communicates with other Vivint devices around the home, and it has the built-in (uber-loud) siren we mentioned earlier.
Don offered to mount ours in our entryway and hide the cord in the wall, but we decided to keep ours free-standing. At any rate, it’s a solid hub with a 7” touchscreen display, built-in two way talk, and even a helpful weather forecast display. We’ve also heard that it doubles as a digital picture frame, but we couldn’t find this function anywhere.
The Smart Hub let us arm and disarm our alarm, set custom notifications and rules, view our video cameras, and do almost everything that the app offers.
One of our favorite features of the Smart Hub is the camera view — it put all of our camera streams side-by-side for easy access. Viewing video on our Smart Hub was much better than viewing it on our smartphone, as we were able to pick up more detail and even pinch-and-zoom for the best picture possible.
We were also able to speak to visitors using the Smart Hub’s two-way talk. That actually came in handy one day when we had special instructions for our delivery driver. Two-way talk is also a great way to scare away would-be intruders. Sure, a lot of security brands offer outdoor cameras with two-way talk and 1080p resolution. But as you’ll soon learn, Vivint’s camera is a step ahead of other top-performing cameras.
Finally, note that the Smart Hub must be plugged into the wall (standard AC outlet), but it is LTE cellular-connected with a 24-hour battery backup for good measure. In other words, your home will remain protected even if your power goes out, or your Wi-Fi isn’t up to snuff.
FYI: On installation day, Don warned us of another home security company that has been active in our area, attempting to sell their products as after-market integrations for Vivint. We know all about predatory scams like this3 — so just be cautious and don’t trust every security salesperson who knocks on your door.
Whether we’re binging Sherlock on the couch or away on vacation, we want our smart home security commands at our fingertips. Well, Vivint’s mobile app is an experience, to say the least, and we’re going to unpack it right here. But before we move on, it’s important to know that most home security systems come with app-based controls these days. So we’re going to focus on what makes Vivint’s app different.
First off, the app has a sleek and modern feel to it. We can tell that a lot of thought (and money!) went into building the app. It certainly isn’t clunky like some apps we’ve tried — but we won’t name any names. Learning the app only took a few minutes, and everything loaded lighting-fast for us.
Swipe much? If so, you’ll catch on quick. Landing on the dashboard, we had the option of swiping left to arm in “Staying” mode, or swiping right to arm in “Leaving” mode.
The main difference here is that “Staying” let’s you move about your home without tripping your motion sensors or indoor cameras, while “Leaving” arms everything so that not even a mouse can scurry about unnoticed (Ok, it’s not that sensitive, but you get the point).
The moment our alarm goes off, we want to know about it right away (is that too much to ask?). Thankfully, most systems we’ve used offer instant mobile alerts. But Vivint takes it a step further and lets you set custom notifications that keep you in the loop, no matter where you are. This is a big plus, as it helps you stay two-steps ahead of burglars and thieves.
Note that you can really fine-tune the notifications in the app’s ‘Device Settings’ dropdown. Here’s a snapshot of what you can expect, but keep in mind that this is only half the list…
We also enabled notifications for whenever our cameras spotted someone or a package was delivered. So pretty much anytime a visitor came onto our property we were notified.
FYI: Bear in mind that Vivint’s outdoor security cameras aren’t cheap. So if you really want to secure your perimeter, expect to pay a pretty penny.
Here’s what those notifications looked like on our smartphone. Remember, we opted for push notification alerts, but you can get these by SMT/text message and email as well.
The question is… how much of this will you really use? It’s true that you might see diminishing returns if you’re not the techy-type. If you don’t really care to outfit your home with smart features and automations, then there are probably better systems out there. But here’s our take on it: It’s better to have horsepower under the hood and not use it, than it is to need it and not have it. Make sense? With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at Vivint’s Custom Actions.
This is where Vivint’s intelligence really starts to shine. While it’s nice to be notified when, say, we leave our garage door open at night, it’s even better if Vivint automatically closes it for us at a predetermined time.
So one custom action (or “rule”) that we set went like this: “I want my garage door to close when a person is detected by any of my cameras.” Other custom actions that we set were:
As you can see, these actions can get pretty specific. And really, we think you’ll like having the option to get ultra-granular if you want. Vivint certainly brings the customizations to the table, more than any other brand we’ve seen. In our experience, the next best options for custom alerts and custom rules are ADT and Frontpoint.
If we had to pick a favorite feature of Vivint, it would probably be their security cameras. We’ll give you the rundown here, but if you want to really dig into these devices, we recommend checking out our full hands-on Vivint camera review here.
Vivint’s indoor security camera, the Ping Camera, offers two-way talk, night vision, and other helpful features. It feels extremely well made and comes with a swivel mount that you can see in the image above.
However, we weren’t crazy about the resolution on this camera. The company calls it 1080p HD (which it is), but in our experience, the image quality seemed more like something we’d get from a 720p HD camera like the SimpliCam. No biggie, but it’s something to note. Have a look at what we mean…
That said, one great thing about the Ping camera is One-Touch Callout. You’ll find a little button on the top of the device — press it once and it’ll make a fancy chiming sound and send a smartphone alert. I used it once to call the wife who was out grocery shopping, and she was able to hear me clearly through the camera’s speaker and microphone (gotta get that broccoli!). We can see this being a great feature for parents with kids. There’s no fiddling with technology; one touch is all it takes to reach out.
In our opinion, the Outdoor Camera Pro is Vivint’s best product. Don was able to install this camera to cover our driveway, and it integrated seamlessly into our smart security system. How so? Well, whenever it sensed someone in our driveway or front lawn, it immediately began recording a clip and sent an alert to our smartphone. Day or night, we were covered.
We uploaded a short video taken by our Outdoor Camera Pro so you know what to expect (we don’t expect you to buy flowers for your wife – but it doesn’t hurt!)…
Keep in mind that the outdoor camera is hardwired, which is where professional installation really starts to make sense. It uses a Wi-Fi connection with a PoE Wi-Fi Bridge. We’ve found PoE to be one of the best connection types in the industry — it’s fast and reliable.4 And since it’s hardwired, you don’t have to worry about switching out batteries. Have a look at Don and his giant drill…
Again, we found this device to be a natural fit in our Vivint system. The image resolution is impressive with its 4K Sensor with HDR for ultra-crisp and clear video. The Outdoor Pro also has a built-in siren for active deterrence. Anytime our siren went off on the Smart Hub, it also sounded from the camera. This is something Vivint calls Smart Sentry, and we’re liking it. Trust us, it’s loud enough to leave your neighbors down the street wondering what’s all the fuss!
While using Vivint, we welcomed some family from out of town. As their car pulled up, the push notification read: “Person Detected – Driveway.” Now, don’t let the person detection feature fool you; it’s sadly not AI facial recognition like the Nest Cam IQ and select cameras offer these days. However, it can distinguish between people, pets, and other moving objects. At any rate, we were able to greet our family using the two-way talk on the camera — which isn’t a common feature in outdoor cameras.
Note the “Events” tab at the bottom of the app. Here we were able to pull up a running history of all video events or activities that occurred. You can also capture and save photos with the little photo icon. Finally, press the “Locks” icon and it will take you to the main dashboard to quickly arm your system should a bad guy be lurking about.
Needless to say, there’s plenty of functionality with this outdoor camera. And good thing! It’s not the cheapest product in Vivint’s lineup. Expect to pay $399 for this camera. As far as outdoor cameras go, this is one of the more expensive devices we’ve seen. Would we buy it all over again? Most likely! It also works great alongside the Vivint Doorbell Camera Pro. And that’s the genius of Vivint… every component acts as an integral piece of the larger puzzle.
This device also performed well during our testing. As you can see from the image above, it sports a pretty slim profile with a black & white modern design. Anytime someone came to our door it would trigger an instant notification to our smartphone. This way we could open the app and view the activity in real-time.
The motion detection works well… maybe too well. Since the Video Doorbell Pro picked up a jogger on the street, we lowered the sensitivity from High to Medium. Bonus points if you can spot the jogger in the image below.
We were also able to reset the virtual “tripwire” on the camera, stretching the perimeter of the tripwire to the very edge of our lawn, but no further. From then on we had no problems at all with false alerts. And yes, if you’re wondering, the wife is going through an oddly-shaped gourds phase. We guess there’s a season for everything!
If you’re wondering what this looks like in real life, we actually uploaded a Vivint Doorbell Camera Pro video for you. Have a look…
Thankfully, we didn’t experience any package theft or break-ins while testing Vivint. However, we did welcome family from across the state and had a wonderful visit with them. But all good things must come to an end — here we are waving goodbye… until next time.
If you’re just looking for a camera system, we’ll be honest, there are standalone cameras on the market that are much more affordable. But you have to remember that Vivint cameras are naturally designed to integrate with their broader smart home security system.
So if you do choose to go with Vivint, we definitely recommend going all in with the Outdoor Camera Pro and the Doorbell Camera Pro. You can probably pass on the indoor Ping camera.
Vivint has the smart home category dialed-in. If you want to use your voice to arm and disarm your system, or perform any number of specific commands, then you’ll be glad to know Vivint works with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant.
Then you’ve got the smart devices for purchase directly through Vivint. These include the Element smart thermostat, smart lock, smart plug, and plenty of smart environmental sensors like smoke detectors and flood sensors.
Finally, keep in mind that Vivint also works with Z-Wave and Zigbee devices, which means if you want to really transform your house into a smart home, your options are almost limitless. In fact, more so than any other system on the market, Vivint over-delivers when it comes to home automation.
Pro Tip: We picked up a Vivint glass break sensor for an extra layer of protection. We recommend installing one if you have lots of windows in your home. These nifty devices can detect the high-frequency sound of glass breaking, and they’ll sound the alarm which will (hopefully) make the bad guys tuck tail and run.
Along with offering uber-smart home security features, we like that Vivint continues to think outside the box. Some of their unique services include Car Guard and Vivint Solar.
Car Guard adds wireless security to… you guessed it… your car. It lets you know if someone tampers with your vehicle or dings your door, plus you can enable GPS tracking. On installation day, Don actually had one stashed in his gear bag. Have a look at this nifty little device below.
Then you’ve got Vivint Solar. This combines Vivint solar panels with Mercedes-Benz batteries (see, we weren’t far off with our Mercedes analogy). And believe it or not, Vivint Solar is one of the biggest solar brands in the USA and is currently available in 21 states.5 Now, we’re getting a bit away from home security, so let’s rein it in and quickly touch on Vivint equipment pricing and monthly fees.
As for equipment prices, we purchased a starter kit for $599. We ran up an even bigger tab by adding extras like the Vivint Doorbell Camera Pro ($249), the Ping Indoor Camera ($199), and the Outdoor Camera Pro ($399). So we invested well over $1,000 in Vivint — but we think you can get a great equipment package in the $800-$1,000 range when the dust settles. One good thing about Vivint is that you’ll customize a system to fit your specific home, and you can always add to the system over time. Have a look at Vivint’s latest plans and pricing here.
Did You Know: You can finance Vivint’s equipment and pay in monthly installments over time. If you go this route, you will have to sign a contract, and note that Vivint contracts range between one and five years in length.
The only other cost you’re on-the-hook for is the monthly monitoring fee. Vivint’s monitoring prices start at $29.99 per month, which is competitive compared to other professional home security systems. For instance, if you want home automation with ADT, you’ll be spending $40-$50+ per month. Note, however, that the more Vivint cameras you include, the higher the monitoring fee goes until you hit $59.99 per month. We’ll take a quick look at Vivint’s monitoring below.
We like that Vivint keeps it simple here. They offer three monitoring plans starting at $29.99 per month and ranging up to $45 or more depending on how many cameras you have installed. Again, we think it’s worth the extra $10-$15 per month to get video support, so if it makes sense in your budget, you’d be wise to consider the Smart Control plan.
|Vivint Subscription Plan Options||Smart Security||Smart Home||Smart Control|
|Protection Level||Intermediate||Intermediate to Advanced||Advanced|
|24/7 Cellular Monitoring||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Smart Home Automation||No||Yes||Yes|
Compared to other premium professionally installed systems, we found Vivint’s monthly subscription fees to be quite reasonable. If anything is cost-prohibitive about Vivint, it’s the equipment, not the monthly monitoring. But keep in mind you don’t have to purchase the whole setup on Day 1. You can finance Vivint and likely get on a payment plan that works for you.
Unfortunately, this is one of Vivint’s biggest weaknesses. If you don’t purchase your equipment outright, then you’ll need to sign a contract with the company. With that said, Vivint does offer no-contract home security if you pay for your equipment upfront.
So if you have the money, we recommend that you bite the bullet and buy your gear. Then it’s yours to own. Honestly, contracts aren’t a deal-breaker for us — especially with a reputable company like Vivint.
Note that once we were all signed up, Vivint sent us all of our contracts and agreements in one email for our records.
As you know, the mark of any successful company is finding a hole in the market, and filling it with a high-quality product or service. Well, the folks at Vivint saw a need for a premium end-to-end home security experience, and they were quick to create a solution. So how do we feel about it all?
Well, we like Vivint… a lot. Of course, comparing Vivint to DIY systems like SimpliSafe or Ring Alarm is like comparing apples to oranges. It’s a whole different experience. But we love how smart and intuitive our Vivint system is. A lot of security companies claim to integrate everything into “one easy to use platform.” And it’s true, many of them do. Vivint just does it better. It has a more intuitive feel, better features and tech, and equipment that’s built to last.
Now, that doesn’t mean Vivint is for everyone, as some people will find it downright cost-prohibitive. And honestly, we’ve always had an issue with Vivint’s prices. But then again, some people spend $600 per month on a truck payment, so is an initial investment of $600-$1,000 and then $50 per month really that much when it comes to protecting your home and keeping your family safe? We think not.
Vivint offers a number of different home automation tools and features. This includes garage door controllers, smart locks, video doorbells, and the Element thermostat. You can also link entry door sensors, window sensors, and motion detectors to it.
Vivint offers a number of different camera options. This includes both indoor and outdoor cameras that have motion detection. The company also has a video doorbell that we really enjoyed using.
No, you do not have to pay for Vivint’s home security equipment upfront. You can choose to enter into a four to five year contract using the Flex Plan. This plan requires a credit check. If you do not want to be in a long-term contract with Vivint, you can move to a month-to-month contract as long as you purchase the equipment upfront.
Yes, Vivint offers a lifetime equipment warranty (conditions apply). This is the best warranty we’ve seen in the industry.
Sure is! But Vivint requires professional installation, so you don’t have to figure it out on your own.
Vivint. Retrieved September 25, 2020.
Bloomberg. January 7, 2020. Vivint CEO Todd Pedersen Interview. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2020-01-08/vivint-ceo-todd-pedersen-interview-01-07-20-video
Federal Trade Commission (FTC). (2020). Some Home Security Systems May Be Scams.
What is Power Over Ethernet (PoE)? Veracity Global.
Vivint Solar. (2020). Crunchbase.