Vivint Smart Home starter kit
Smart home security systems are an ever-increasing market, and you have a lot to consider before declaring allegiance. Vivint's Smart Home is a good option for a monitored smart home with no long-term contracts. The $550 starter kit price tag isn't outrageous, but be prepared to pay at least $40 monthly for security monitoring, app control and other features that are pretty much mandatory for your system to have any smarts. Compatibility with, and makes Vivint's platform a solid choice, as long as you know what you're getting into.
Vivint's starter kit includes a touchscreen SkyControl panel and choice of six smart sensors. Take your pick of door/window sensors, motion detector, glass break detector, flood/freeze sensors, smoke detector or carbon monoxide detector.
From there, you can add additional devices a la carte. Additional door/window sensors, for example, cost $35. Vivint's products also work with the Nest Thermostat and you can purchase this and an Amazon Echo ($89.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond) as part of your Vivint package.
We tested several of Vivint's products at the CNET Smart Home where Rich, our Vivint Smart Home pro, installed our devices and ensured everything was running smoothly. Installation is priced at $198, but some promotions waive this fee. We put the system through a host of everyday scenarios with multiple users and schedules.
At the center of the Vivint suite of products is the 7-inch SkyControl panel. This white, wall-mounted control center acts as your home base for every device. Controlling and adjusting all your devices here is pretty straightforward. The panel's size and shape feels a bit clunky, but the interface is simple and easy to navigate. The SkyControl panel can run on backup battery power and a cellular connection, so it will continue to work when your power or Wi-Fi goes out.
If you're not at home, you can use your Vivint app, a mobile version of the SkyControl panel, for controls and notifications. There's also a four-digit PIN to access the panel for added security.
Cameras and other products
Among the additional products Vivint offers are a few interesting camera options. With the exception of twoplans that cost $55 and $65, most home security starter kits on the market won't include cameras or doorbells. Vivint doesn't include any cameras out of the box, but it does allow you to add devices to the starter kit and essentially create your own package when you sign up. Package prices vary depending on what you buy, but you'll be able to get all the devices you want in one purchase and one installation.
Vivint's doorbell camera costs $230 and offers you a first look at the front door. It resembles a normal doorbell, but with an added camera eye and a lighted button that triggers a chime from the SkyControl panel and notifies your mobile app. Two-way talk and one-way video mean you can see and speak to people at the door and they can hear and reply. On-demand live video from the Vivint app allows you to view your front door remotely at any time. The doorbell camera features a 180-degree wide-angle view and good night vision. It also boasts "smart visitor detection" so you aren't notified every time a car drives by. However, we did receive several notifications due to one very persistent flying insect.
Vivint offers two additional cameras. The, intended for indoor use, and a $300 outdoor camera. What I really like about the Ping camera is two-way talk. You can view the camera's feed and speak to the room's occupants from anywhere via the app. Alternately, anyone in the room with the camera can push a button on top of the camera to call you. The outdoor camera works much like a traditional security camera and you can view it via the app or panel. All three of these cameras include night vision and mobile alerts and record 20-second video clips when motion is detected.
For an additional $10 more a month, your starter Vivint subscription fee turns into the Smart Home Video service plan, which includes 30 days of continuous DVR recording for up to four cameras if you've purchased a 1TB Vivint Smart Drive for $250. While that's very expensive for a 1TB drive, 30-day continuous recording for four cameras is included. The $50-per-month service plan and $249 Smart Drive combo costs $840 for the first year. By comparison, Nest Aware for four cameras will cost $75 per month or $750 for a discounted annual subscription.
Purchasing the Vivint Smart Drive isn't mandatory, though. You can purchase cameras and pay just the $50 per month video service plan. That extra $10 per month provides the ability to play back, save, download and share video. Without the Vivint Smart Drive, you'll have access to 10 days of video clips.
Vivint purchased cloud storage startup Space Monkey in 2014, renaming it Vivint Smart Drive. We reviewed the drive when it was still called, and Vivint uses this same distributed cloud storage system for continuous DVR recording with cameras and doorbells.