Vivint Security System Review

When it comes to picking out a security system, I want something tried and true- I’m not going to be a guinea pig when my family’s safety is at risk. That’s part of the reason that I was interested in Vivint. They’ve got 1.3 million customers in the U.S and Canada- that’s about the size of the population in the U.S Virgin Islands, to give you an idea. But, as I learned in middle school, what’s right isn’t always popular, and what’s popular isn’t always right. I wanted to see for myself how Vivint works, and if it’s worth buying or not. My Vivint security system review starts now!

What You Get

I ordered a basic security system, which includes the SkyControl Panel, security sensors, a Smart Lock, a Video Doorbell, smoke and CO monitors, and an indoor camera. Let’s see how each product works.

SkyControl Panel 

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Vivint SkyControl Panel

The centerpiece of your Vivint security system is the SkyControl Panel. It’s a simple touch screen that connects all of your smart home features, from your cameras to your video doorbell. From your panel, you’ll be able to control the lights, garage door, thermostat, security system, and any other connected devices in your home. You can also livestream any of your cameras, press a panic button to connect to monitoring teams, and review all of your past footage.

Another feature I like is the two-way audio. Through the SkyControl Panel, you can speak to anyone in your home- no more yelling from the basement to the third floor! It’s also incredibly useful for scaring away intruders. The panel can either be mounted to a wall or can rest on a flat surface.

Security Sensors

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Vivint Entry Sensors

If the SmartControl Panel is the General, then the security sensors are the foot soldiers. They’re the ones that can tell if a window or door has been opened or closed, if glass has been broken, or if there has been motion in an area. The sensors gather information for the SmartControl Panel, which will then communicate with you and the rest of the connected devices.

Smart Locks

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Vivint Smart Lock

Isn’t it the worst when you can’t remember if you locked the door or not? You try to move on with your day but it stays in the back of your mind like a parasite. Vivint’s Smart Locks make this a non-issue. Instead of a key, you’ll use a numerical code. You’ll be able to lock or unlock your doors through your mobile app no matter if you’re in your kitchen or Timbuktu. You’ll also be notified if the door is left unlocked, a nice touch.

Video Doorbell

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Vivint Doorbell

Nothing says “smart home” like a video doorbell. Here’s the situation: someone comes to your door. You’ll be notified immediately via your smartphone or tablet, even if they don’t knock (shout out to smart motion detection). You’ll be able to see and even speak to your visitor be it day or night- did I mention the 2 infrared LED lights? Of course, if you choose to let your visitor in, you can unlock the doors from your phone in addition to the old-fashioned way. Want to relive the magic? Watch Vivint Smart Clips, 30-second video clips that you can watch wherever, whenever on your mobile app for up to 45 days. Upgrade and you’ll get 24/7 recording, uploaded wirelessly to Vivint Smart Drive and of course, viewable from your Vivint app. I’m not sure why anyone would want 24/7 footage of their front yard, but to each his own!

A really unique feature that I rarely see in video doorbells is the smart visitor detection, basically person detection but for the video doorbell. This ensures that you’re only alerted when people stop by your home, not when the 16-year-old who lives next door is learning to parallel park in front of your house. In the same vein, it won’t notify you of shadows or branches blowing in the wind. Artificial intelligence in a video doorbell? I’m impressed.

One thing I’m not so thrilled with: the camera is only 720p HD, way less than the industry standard of 1080p HD. But, given all of the other awesome features, like a field of view of 180 degrees, I’m pretty excited about this video doorbell.

Security Camera

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Vivint Camera

Design

The camera is plug-in only, so you won’t have to worry about changing the battery.

Video quality

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Vivint Video Display

The Ping Indoor has 1080p HD, the industry standard, along with a field of view of 155 degrees, pretty impressive. Unfortunately the camera does not have the ability to pan or zoom in, which is a shame.

Audio

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Vivint Camera Speaker

The Vivint Indoor camera has two-way audio, allowing you to speak to whoever is in the room that the camera is recording.

Night vision

The camera has night vision through three infrared LED sensors. This may not seem like a lot, but I was pretty impressed with the night vision. As you can see it is clear as day (pun intended).

Storage

I’m thrilled to say that the Vivint Indoor Camera comes with both local and cloud storage, a surprising rarity when it comes to indoor cameras. I love that you get storage for up to 14 days of motion, plus, you can upgrade to 30 days if need be.

Smart Platform Integration

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Connecting Amazon Echo and Vivint

I’m glad to see that the camera integrates with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Google Nest, plus Philips Hue lightbulbs.

Artificial Intelligence

Unfortunately, the camera doesn’t have any artificial intelligence. To distinguish people from animals, for example, you’ll have to manually enter motion sensitivity based on height.

Aside from your typical security system features, Vivint provides environmental monitoring as well. Of course, all the sensors connect with your SkyControl Panel and can be manipulated on your app. We didn’t purchase any of the environmental sensors, but I still thought I’d give you some important information.

Carbon Monoxide Sensor

Odorless and colorless, Carbon Monoxide (CO) can be a silent killer if you’re not careful. That’s where Vivint’s CO sensor comes in. Simply put the battery-powered device in your home’s bedrooms and it’ll monitor CO levels within a 35-foot radius. Like all of Vivint’s products, it integrates seamlessly into the SkyControl Panel as well as your mobile app. Plus, there’s a built-in 85 decibel siren, about as loud as a passing diesel truck or snow blower. Between the siren and the notifications, you’ll be aware if the CO levels are amiss. The sensor is battery-operated with a life of three to five years. When the battery is on its last legs, you’ll receive notifications on the panel and the mobile app.

Say your CO sensor goes off. Immediately the doors will unlock and the windows sensors will disarm so you can get some fresh air. The system will also turn on the furnace fan to get your home some ventilation and bring down the CO levels. You’ll be alerted via the SkyControl Panel and your mobile app, and the monitoring team will send emergency services to make sure you’re okay.

I love that the CO sensor doesn’t just tell you if there’s too much CO in the air- it also handles it for you in the most efficient way possible. So far, I’m in awe of the security system- I love how all the parts work together so seamlessly to keep you safe.

Smoke Detector

The Vivint smoke detector connects with your SkyControl Panel and will let you know if it detects smoke or excessive heat. It includes a built-in fire alarm so you don’t just have to depend on mobile notifications. The alarm works for a radius of 35 feet. As the smoke detector works with photoelectric sensors, you’ll be notified of fire danger before you can even smell the smoke. Plus, the smoke detector will stay on even if the rest of your power goes out– it’s battery-powered and wireless, so it can continue to communicate with the SkyControl Panel.

Here’s how it works: if the smoke detector detects smoke, it was shut off the airflow to inhibit the spread of fire. Your smart door locks will automatically  unlock so you can easily make it out of the house. Not home? You’ll be alerted via the Vivint Smart Home app on your smartphone. Once the alarms go off, FireFighter alerts the Smart Home Monitoring Specialists who look after your home’s security and safety. The team will assess the danger of the situation and will choose to dispatch firefighters if necessary.

Important Information

I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you up front that if you buy any of the Vivint products, you are required to also pay for a monthly package. The monthly package provides two things: remote access to your security system and livestreaming. To receive any kind of mobile notification through the Vivint Smart Home app, you’ll need to maintain this monthly subscription. The fee also covers dispatch, which can call emergency services for you if needed. If you are purchasing a security camera, you’ll need the monthly package to be able to view, save, and download footage.

There are three different packages available: Smart Security Service, Smart Home Service, and Smart Home Video Service. The services differ based on what products they cover. To make it easier for you, I’ve made a chart of the plans and the products they cover.

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Vivint Security System Plans

Be sure to negotiate the price with your sales rep on pricing- nothing is set in stone. For more information about the Smart Home Video Service, see the “Professional Monitoring” section below.

If you wish to cancel your monthly subscription, you can do so anytime after the products are installed without a cancellation fee. Your products will continue to run normally even without the monthly plan. While it’s nice that Vivint doesn’t lock you into a monthly fee, it’s annoying how they make you sign up for a protection plan in the first place. I’m shocked that givens like mobile notifications and livestreaming are extra.

I also don’t appreciate how hard it was to find this information. It took multiple phone calls and emails over the course of a few hours, which doesn’t make me feel great about Vivint’s customer service (discussed in more detail below).

It’s also important to note that all of the products function through cellular communication. If the power goes out, all of the products have built-in backup batteries, whether it’s wireless or not. Even if you cancel your monthly subscription, the products all come with cellular backup, so that’s a plus.

Installing the Vivint Security System

Vivint requires professional installation, which certainly makes things easier for me. In fact, your technician is also your delivery person. When you initially buy your vivint security system on the phone with sales, they’ll schedule a time for the technician to come over and set everything up. My technician was extremely professional and thorough, and even wore booties around his shoes so he couldn’t track in door! All in all, I felt very confident afterward that everything would run smoothly.

Professional Monitoring

While some might be okay monitoring their own security system, some people want added protection. That’s why they turn to 24/7 professional monitoring, available at an added cost.

How monitoring works

Smart Home Specialists will monitor your home 24/7 and will send police, fire, or medical help when you request it, or when they can’t contact you. You’ll be able to communicate with them through your SkyControl Panel.

Options

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Vivint Smart Home Video Service

In order to have 24/7 professional monitoring, you’ll need the Smart Home Video Service. For the first two cameras, the Smart Home Video Service is $49.99 a month. For three cameras, it goes up to $54.99 a month, and for a maximum of four cameras on one account, it costs $59.99 a month.

Contract Rules

Vivint offers two contract options- 60 and 42 months, or five years and three and a half years. Again, you can cancel anytime without a fee- you would just have to finish paying for the equipment.

Customer Support

When I called up Vivint’s sales team to order my security system, the entire process took about twenty minutes, a little much considering I knew exactly what I wanted. Unfortunately, this is typical of security companies that still make you order via phone.

How It Works

There’s a few different ways to contact Vivint’s customer support team. You can either call, chat with a representative online, or look through their database, which has information on everything from getting started to installing your smart home devices.

I will say that I personally had mixed experiences with the customer support team. When I first chatted a representative, the connection was lost and the conversation ended. The next time I tried to click on the “Support Chat” button, it was not clickable. As I much prefer chatting online over speaking on the phone, this was a bit annoying.

As you might have noticed from the website, Vivint really wants you to call and speak to their representatives. I called to ask for some information about their packages, and 25 minutes later, still did not have all the information I wanted. All in all, it was not a great experience- I was on hold for a while, was transferred between multiple people, and was told to “look at the website”, which has little to no information on it regarding packages.

Regardless, let’s see what other people had to say about Vivint’s customer support.

Customer Reviews

You know how they say that you’re only as good as your last performance? I think the same thing applies to customer support teams. No matter how many positive interactions the team has had with customers, if one person doesn’t feel like they were listened to and helped, it will probably soil their image of Vivint for life. So, what were people’s experiences with the customer support team? I took to the Internet to find out.

Google

Vivint received a 3.8 rating on Google with over 800 customer reviews. This rating is above average but not great. In the most recent review, the customer complained about the customer support department.

“I couldn’t arm my system for 10 days because a technician could not come out. It’s been almost 4 months and still no sensors!”

writes Moe Sandouga, a Local Guide on Google. In general, it seems like customer support is hard to get ahold of, a common issue for customer service teams.

Better Business Bureau

Vivint, not an accredited BBB business, received an overall rating of B. There’s been 4530 customer complaints as well as government actions against the business. As someone who spends a lot of time looking up security businesses on the BBB, I can say that this is an unusually high number of complaints. Accordingly, the customer reviews were negative, with less than two out of five stars. Given Vivint’s reputation of having an aggressive sales team, I’m not terribly surprised that the customer service is not up to par. One thing I saw repeatedly in reviews was that people did not know that they were signing a five-year contract. My recommendation? Read the fine lines before you sign anything. It’s good advice for life and for Vivint in particular.

App

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Vivint App

Let’s be honest- we’re completely attached to our phones these days. Between Instagram, Twitter, and Gmail, I can spend hours bent over my phone, my eyes glazed over as I pour over useless content. So why not do something productive on  your smart phone? The Vivint Smart Home app is your mobile control center, and it goes hand-in-hand with the security system at large.

Important note: there are two Vivint apps available- the Vivint Classic app and the Vivint Smart Home app. The latter is compatible with the newest panels, and it’s the highest rated app for security systems, which is pretty impressive. The Vivint Smart Home app is what we’ll be talking about today.

Features

On the Vivint mobile app you can disarm or arm your security system, control your home’s temperature, communicate with visitors through the Doorbell Camera, change your locks, be alerted when doors are left open or unlocked, and livestream your camera footage. Basically, if anything happens at home or you want to manipulate your smart home devices, you can handle it through the Vivint app.

Reviews

It’s 2018, and online customer reviews are here to stay. What did people think of the Vivint app?

Apple Store

Vivint Smart Home received a 4.5 out of five star rating on the Apple Store, with almost 10,000 reviews. The large majority of reviews were a perfect five out of five stars. I’m noticing that a lot of negative reviews are about the Vivint sales team, who seem to exaggerate the security system’s abilities.

Google Store

On the Google Play Store, Vivint Smart Home received a 4.6 out of five star rating with almost 43,000 reviews. “Absolutely love having Vivint on my phone. Being able to view my home and control the doors/cameras/temperature/etc. from wherever, and whenever, is awesome,” wrote Lindsay Clunes earlier this month. Of course, not everyone had such a positive experience, but this is typical of all app reviews.

Recap

No matter how you pronounce Vivint in your head, it definitely has some advantages and disadvantages when compared to other security systems. The perks?

  • 1080p HD video
  • An 155 degree field of view
  • Two-way audio
  • Cloud and local video storage
  • Integrations with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Philips-Hue lightbulbs
  • Cellular backup included with purchase
  • No cancellation fees
  • Great app 

The disadvantages are as follows:

  • Camera can’t pan/ zoom
  • No artificial intelligence features
  • Must buy monthly subscription with equipment
  • Livestreaming/ remote access not included 
  • Poor customer support 
Gabe Turner

Gabe Turner

Gabe Turner is an attorney and journalist with a passion for home tech and secure, efficient living. Since graduating from NYU Law, he has maintained a paradoxical existence of trying to live life adventurously while remaining staunchly risk-averse. He is torn by the dual desires of wanting to only be in Brooklyn writing about housing policy and smart home tech and aspiring to visit his friends scattered across the globe. Gabe believes that stable, safe communities are the cornerstone to a vibrant and healthy society, and it is this passion that brought him to contribute to Security Baron.

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