Vivint Smart Home Security System Review - 2020
Vivint Smart Home is a veteran on the home security arena. Founded back in 1997, the company has evolved into one of the leading home security providers with over a million customers in the U.S. and Canada. In 2017, the brand made it to the Fast Company’s list of the World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies. Its home security and automation service is a well-rounded pack backed by professional installation and a broad selection of sensors, cameras, web and mobile apps, and a 7-inch touch-screen control panel in subscription-based and contract-less options.
The Vivint Smart Home system offers professional 24/7 security monitoring and advanced automation options alongside sleek wireless equipment. Keep in mind, however, that the contracts on offer are lengthy, cancellation is not an option, and the rates are higher than average. But the most disturbing thing about Vivint is its customer reviews. You are well-advised to weigh the system’s strengths against its history of poor customer service.
- Portable, elegant equipment
- Cellular connection
- Speedy event response
- Nifty video doorbell with two-way voice
- Remote control for door locks, cameras, sensors, and thermostats
- No-contract is an option
- Robust mobile app
- Financing available
- Expensive upfront cost of equipment
- Remote access is only available in contracts
- Alarm sounds can’t be customized
- Lengthy contracts with 100% cancellation fee
- Poor customer service
- Consistently negative customer reviews
Vivint offers a 120-day warranty on proprietary equipment, such as smoke and motion detectors, and outdoor and doorbell cameras. Its software is compatible with non-Vivint hardware (Nest, Amazon Echo), so if you run those, you need to check with Nest or Amazon for warranty terms.
Vivint proprietary equipment looks sleek, noticeably smaller and more hi-tech than that of its competitors. Its doorbell camera, for instance, does look like an average doorbell without giving away that it’s a camera-powered device.
Its security system mostly relies on cellular connectivity to work and receive updates OTA. It means intruders can’t disable your security system by cutting wires, and your equipment can receive updates without requiring your attention.
Note: cellular-dependent systems may experience performance issues if the signal is weak. Also, customer reviews suggest some equipment starts to act out within weeks after installation.
- SkyControl is a 7-inch full-color touchscreen display, which is your security system’s nerve center. Here, you can lock and unlock doors, view live and recorded video, adjust heating and lights, and activate emergency services that alert your local police department directly. The panel also lets you assign user codes, run system diagnostics, and adjust alarm volume.
- Connectivity – the cameras communicate with the panel using Wi-Fi, sensors and smoke alarm rely on RF, door locks – on Z-Wave.
- Mobile and web UI – besides the control panel, you can control your system and view streams via your mobile app and web portal.
- Doorbell camera lets you speak with your visitors even if you are not at home. It pairs with your mobile app and provides video and audio streaming with a two-way voice connection.
- Customizable remote can arm/disarm the system and has a panic button. You can customize its functions to lock doors, adjust lights and thermostats, and more.
- Indoor and outdoor video cameras offer live streams and can save your footage in the cloud.
- Voice-activated home automation through Amazon Echo uses voice and biometric recognition, responds to commands to adjust ambient temperature, locks, lights, and more.
- Vivint Smart Drive provides 30 days of non-stop video storage for up to four cameras.
Vivint is pricey, and it offers no money-back guarantee – you only have three days after the installation to change your mind. The installation fee is $49.99.
- No lock-in contract option – you can buy your equipment upfront and then pay for monitoring services on a month-to-month basis. This way, you can cancel any time without penalties.
- FlexPay – if you can’t afford to pay for the entirety of the equipment in a single swoop, you can pay in monthly installments. But you have to sign a 42–60 months contract. In which case, the cancellation fee is 100% of the remaining contract balance.
- Plans – Smart Home is $39.99/mo (24/7 monitoring, mobile app, alert notifications), while Smart Home Video costs $49.99/mo (door locks, doorbell cams, lights and thermostats controls and other home automation perks). Both are available in 42 or 60 months contracts, or on a monthly basis if you pay for your equipment upfront.
Aa full pack of equipment can amount to $2,000 and beyond. Notably, the 3.5-year plan has higher monthly equipment bill than the 5-year contract. Also, you need to have a credit score of at least 600 to qualify for financing, and contract details vary based on your score.
Note: if you buy the equipment upfront, you can choose to monitor the system by yourself (mobile app and 24/7 tech support excluded).
Its pricing is higher than average, though, and BBB scores Vivint C+ due to recurring legal issues and deceptive marketing practices. Vivint had to settle with the States of Wyoming, Arkansas, Oregon, Ohio, and Nebraska in the past four years – all due to deceptive sales practices and the company’s refusal to honor its customers’ cancellation notices. In 2014, Vivint also settled two federal class-action lawsuits for allegedly violating TCPA.
Unfortunately, Vivint features consistently poor user reviews of its customer service, sales representatives, and tech support. 71% of reviews on BBB are negative. Customers have accused Vivint of misleading, aggressive and pushy sales tactics, lengthy queues on tech support, and inability to opt-out of a contract when its tech support fails to fix a faulty system. Billing errors and failure to update customer address when it changes are among frequently reported issues, too.
Professional technicians install Vivint’s wireless security systems. The equipment then receives OTA updates, so it requires minimum input on your part. On a side note, when things don’t go quite as smoothly as they should, you can troubleshoot issues by yourself, request live phone assistance or schedule a visit from a technician. The latter will set you off another $50.
The basic equipment package includes Vivint SkyControl panel, the mobile app, 2–4 door/window sensors, a motion sensor, a smoke detector, a key fob, and the 24/7 monitoring.
Additional equipment is available á-la carte, so you can stock up on tilt sensors, recessed door sensors, flood/freeze sensors, carbon monoxide detectors, glass break detectors, small appliance controls, doorbell cameras, smart thermostats, panic pendants, and whatnot.
Things to Consider
- Vivint requires an excellent cellular connection. If you live in a rural area with a signal that’s less than perfect, shop around for alternatives.
- 3.5-5-year contracts come with 100% cancellation fee.
- Vivint is notorious for its misleading door-to-door sales process.
- The company’s installation technicians are paid on commission, so they aim to upsell you on more equipment than you might actually need.
- To qualify for financing, you need a minimum credit score of 600.
- The birds chirping smoke alarm is loud, but not alarming. You can’t change it.
- The SkyControl panel can only handle 2.4 GHz frequency.
- If you are not interested in equipment ownership, you should be eligible for monitoring-only contracts.
- You can upgrade your contract or add extra equipment at any time. But you can’t downgrade your plan. Ever.
- The cancellation period is three days only. If you don’t plan on keeping it, decide quickly.
- Installation technicians check cell signal strength when installing your system. If the signal is weak, consider canceling.