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The Vivint Smart Home system offers 24/7 security monitoring and remote control of your cameras, door locks, heating system, and more.
Do-it-yourself smart home security systems are great for frugal homeowners who want to save money by monitoring their homes themselves, but these systems leave it up to you to take action when an alarm is triggered. They don’t check in to see if everything is OK when your smoke alarm goes off or when your front door alarm is tripped, and they don’t call the local authorities. For that kind of response, you need a subscription-based service like the one that comes with the Vivint Smart Home security system. With Vivint you get around-the-clock home monitoring with an incredibly swift response when an alarm goes off, as well as a variety of optional home automation services, all of which can be controlled from a smartphone, a PC, or a 7-inch touch-screen control panel.
Vivint Smart Home systems and components aren’t cheap, but once you decide on a plan you don’t have to lift a finger; Vivint technicians come to your house, install everything, and give you a comprehensive tour of how it all works. That all adds up to an Editors’ Choice award for home security systems.
Vivint Plans and Pricing
When you order a Vivint system, you purchase whatever hardware you need such as door/window sensors, motion sensors, cameras, and thermostats. A $599 Vivint Starter Kit comes with a Smart Hub, a pair of door/window sensors, one motion sensor, and one water sensor. You also get a $100 credit toward additional components.
The Vivint service plan is $49.99 per month and gives you 24/7 professional monitoring and full use of the mobile app, including alert notifications. It also lets you control smart home devices such as door locks, video doorbells, and thermostats, and it provides support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice commands. Other benefits of the service plan include 14 days of recorded video storage for clips of up to 90 seconds in length, 30 days of continuous storage with the purchase of a Vivint Smart Drive ($249), 24/7 online and telephone technical support, in-home technician services, and an expanded equipment warranty.
A Vivint service plan isn’t mandatory, but without it you’ll have to monitor the system yourself and forgo use of the mobile app as well as remote access to the system and 24/7 tech support. Vivint now offers a DIY kit that you can install yourself. For $299.99 you get a hub panel, two door/window sensors, a motion sensor, and a tabletop stand for the panel. For $450 you also get a doorbell camera or an indoor camera, and for $600 you get both cameras. Vivint doesn’t offer the Outdoor Camera Pro as part of the DIY package because it requires professional installation.
Additional component prices are significantly higher than what you get from the competition. Door/window sensors go for $50 each, while FrontPoint and SimpliSafe both charge $14.99 per sensor. A Vivint glass-break detector will set you back $100, while Cove charges $30 and Brinks charges $79. Vivint’s price of $169.99 for its Element Thermostat is pretty much in line with what you can expect to pay for a typical smart thermostat such as the Sensi Touch Smart Thermostat ST75 ($169).
The Vivint Ping Camera ($199.99) is unique in that it can initiate two-way communication using a call button that sends a notification to users that are connected to the system. That feature worked well in testing, and the camera also delivers excellent day and night video, supports event-triggered recording, and interacts with other smart home devices.
The Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro ($399 plus installation) is an outdoor security cam that not only lets you see what’s happening outside, but uses Vivint’s Smart Sentry technology to let intruders know that they are under surveillance. The camera also provides clean two-way audio and works well with other installed Vivint components.
One of our favorite video doorbells, the Vivint Doorbell Camera Pro ($249 plus installation) also uses Smart Sentry technology to deter package thieves and offers stunning HDR video quality with an ultra-wide viewing angle. Vivint recently announced that you can purchase this doorbell separately without having to purchase a full security system.
The Smart Hub is the Vivint Smart Home’s nerve center. It has a 7-inch full-color touch screen that makes it easy to lock and unlock doors, view live and recorded video, adjust heating and cooling temperatures, and activate emergency services including Panic and Burglary alarms that go straight to the local police department. The panel also lets you assign and edit user codes, adjust alarm volumes, tweak camera settings, arm or disarm the system, and run diagnostics. However, you can’t change the sound of the alarms, which can be problematic (more on that later). The hub uses several types of wireless technologies including Wi-Fi, RF, and Z-Wave to control cameras, sensors, door locks, and more.
Vivint App and Performance
You can control the Vivint system remotely using free Android and iOS apps, and from a PC using the web console. It also supports Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice commands, and works with Nest Thermostats and Philips Hue smart light bulbs.
With the mobile app, the home screen displays how many doors and windows are currently open and which doors are unlocked. It also contains a big button for arming and disarming the system and buttons for locking and unlocking your doors. The task bar at the bottom of the screen contains icons for Security, Cameras, Devices, Cars, and Activity.
Tapping the Security icon takes you back to the home screen and tapping the camera icon takes you to a screen where you can view live video from each camera and see clips from recorded events such as motion detection or when someone rings the doorbell. The Devices icon takes you to a page where you can turn wall outlets and light switches on and off.
If you have a Vivint Car Guard installed in one or more vehicles, you’ll see a Cars icon that takes you to a screen where you can view information on each car such as battery and fuel levels and any mechanical issues. Tap a car to view its current location and status (parked, driving, offline). If the car is currently driving, you can tap the map to see where it is and follow its journey in real time. Here you can also view trip history maps and see things like harsh braking and rapid acceleration events and total distance traveled.
The Activity icon takes you to a screen where you can view information such as which windows are open and which doors are unlocked, and there’s a running history of events such as door openings and closings, motion detection, and car trip start and end times. Motion-triggered video clips can be viewed here as well.
The Settings (gear) icon is where you go to configure sensors, enable notifications, and create rules. For example, you can have lights turn on and off at specific times or when an event occurs, have your doors lock or unlock automatically at a certain time or as the result of an event, and have the cameras record video when an alarm is triggered. You can use any of the numerous preset rules or you can create your own.
You don’t get quite as much control with the web app as you do with the mobile app: You can’t lock and unlock doors or configure the thermostat, nor can you use the video doorbell’s push-to-talk feature. However, you can view live and recorded video, arm and disarm the system, create custom rules, and view activities and notifications.
The system performed admirably for home automation tasks. It never failed to manually lock or unlock doors, and the thermostat followed my weekday and weekend heating schedules without issue. I created custom rules to have the system lock all of my doors at 11:00 p.m. daily and turn off my living room lights at 11:30 p.m. and it followed those rules without fail.
Vivint’s home security performance is equally impressive. The window and door sensors worked perfectly in testing, as did the motion detectors. The system followed my rules to have lights turn on when a camera detected motion, and when a door was opened after a certain time of day I received a notification. Live video from the doorbell camera is crisp, with rich colors and sharp black-and-white night vision out to around 15 feet. Recorded video quality is also top-notch. The interior and exterior cameras deliver excellent day and night video as well.
I unwittingly put Vivint’s emergency response prowess to the test, which it passed with flying colors. While heating up a slice of pizza, a chunk of cheese landed on the heating element in my toaster oven, filling the kitchen with smoke and triggering the smoke alarm. I was out in the backyard and could hear what sounded like birds chirping; it was loud, but it took a minute or two to figure out it was the alarm (I had no idea what it was supposed to sound like). I ran inside, turned off the oven, and turned on the house fan. But before I could enter my code on the control panel, a Vivint representative called and informed me that the fire department had been notified since I failed to answer their first call and did not enter my code in time. Sure enough, a fire truck and the fire chief pulled up a few minutes later. The response time from the initial alarm to the fire department’s arrival was less than 10 minutes.
This brings me to my only real performance gripe. The smoke alarm, while loud, doesn’t really sound like a smoke alarm. I’d much prefer the annoying beep or the shrill siren that I normally associate with an urgent alarm. As of now there is no way to change the sound of the alarm, but Vivint may add custom sirens in a future update.
A Powerful Security System for Professional Monitoring
With Vivint Smart Home, you get a full-blown home security system that is constantly being monitored, and a comprehensive home automation solution you can control from just about anywhere, including cameras with Smart Sentry, a high-resolution video doorbell, and a device to monitor your cars. Granted, you can save a lot of money on components with a DIY home security system from Abode or SimpliSafe, but that means you’re responsible for the installation and maintenance of each component. As with most fully monitored home security services, the Vivint Smart Home system isn’t cheap, but if you want the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your home is secure and protected 24/7, it’s money well-spent.