Blue by ADT review: DIY smart home security

ADT has finally figured out how to sell DIY security

Blue by ADT Review
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Tom's Guide Verdict

ADT's third shot at a do-it-yourself security system is “just right” in its offerings, features, and price set.


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    Optional professional monitoring

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    Lots of third-party integrations


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    Clunky camera setup

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    Not HomeKit compatible

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Blue by ADT is the security company's third attempt at competing against popular DIY home security kits from Amazon, Google, and SimpliSafe. To the tune of Goldilocks, ADT has finally landed on that "just right" formula. 

Like our other picks for the best DIY home security systems, you can pick and choose your accessories to pair with Blue by ADT's stylish security base station and add on outdoor and indoor cameras as you need. The hardest part is figuring out if you like it more than all the other similarly-priced and well-established security kits already available. Read the rest of our Blue by ADT review to see if this is the best system for your home.

Blue by ADT review: Price 

The exact price of the Blue by ADT security kit depends on your needs. Blue by ADT offers two starter packages for $230 and $300, respectively. The Starter System includes the smart hub and two sets of door and window sensors, while the Starter Plus System comes with four sets of door and window sensors and two motion sensors. Any additional sensors cost $15 for door and window sensors and $25 for motion sensors. There's also a chime extender available for $50.

Blue by ADT introduces smart cameras with its security kit, including an outdoor wireless camera, an indoor camera, and a doorbell camera. Each camera retails for $200. That’s about twice as expensive as some of the best home security cameras

The kit that Blue by ADT provided us for review retails upward of $900. It includes the smart hub, two door and window sensors, one motion sensor, and one of each of the cameras. ADT also sent over a separate flood and temperature sensor for review, which costs $35. 

Blue by ADT review: Professional Monitoring 

ADT offers one tier of professional monitoring for $20 a month. It's on a par with what Abode charges, and what Google charged for its now-discontinued Nest Guard. SimpliSafe and Ooma are more affordable at $15 a month, while Ring charges only half of that and lets you instantly cancel from the app. 

Part of the appeal of some DIY security systems is that you can quickly turn on and off professional monitoring as you need it right from the mobile app. But ADT requires that you physically call its customer service line to set up professional monitoring or put your subscription on hold. It makes sense for ADT to default to this since it has the infrastructure in place, but it can be daunting to deal with a customer service representative on top of everything else.  

The Blue by ADT professional monitoring plan also includes 30 days of cloud storage for each camera. If you'd rather self-monitor, you can pay $3 a month for the same amount of cloud storage for each camera. If you have more than two cameras, it's $13 a month for an unlimited number of cameras. That’s roughly comparable to the best security camera storage plans.

Blue by ADT review: Design and Setup

Compared to ADT’s earlier home security kits, Blue by ADT is much sleeker, though there is still a bit of bulk to some of the pieces that remind us ADT is a security company first. 

Blue by ADT Review

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True to its name, there's a hue of blue represented across the Blue by ADT product lineup, from the packaging to the LED lights. The smart hub and three cameras come in two shades of gray: Pearl Gray and Graphite. The security sensors and other accessories are only available in white, but they blend in nicely with modern crown molding and baseboards.

Blue by ADT Review

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At 5.9 x 4.1 x 4.1 inches, the Blue by ADT smart hub base station is quite considerable. The hub is meant to live on a countertop or table in a high trafficked common area, but place it too high, and little ones can’t reach up to disarm the system. The top of the hub has a keypad with 16 buttons, including numerical keys. Inside, it houses a Z-Wave antenna for smart home connectivity, an 85-decibel siren, a 4G LTE cellular radio, Bluetooth, a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi radio, a speaker, and a 24-hour backup battery.

Blue by ADT Review

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The other part of the starter kit is the bundle of sensors, which arrive pre-paired with the smart hub. Each of the various sensors come with their own set of adhesive strips and mounting hardware. The door and window sensors can be installed on any type of door, though it took a few tries to line up the magnets on my sliding door; I eventually set the system to treat it as a window. And for the motion sensor and flood sensor, I merely placed them where I wanted them as they required no mounting at all.

The Blue by ADT doorbell camera is comparable to some of the best video doorbells. It measures 4.9 x 1.7 x 1.4 inches and features Full HD resolution, up to 180-degree field of view from left to right, night vision, and customizable activity zones. Its chassis is a bit wider than the Nest Hello Doorbell, though it's slimmer than the Ring Video Doorbell 3. The doorbell camera requires a 16- to 24-volt AC power supply, standard on most doorbells in the US. It has a backup battery in case of a power outage. The doorbell clips into a mounting bracket for easy servicing, and renters don't have to drill any holes as the bracket can be affixed using the included heavy-duty adhesive strip.

Blue by ADT Review

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The Blue by ADT indoor camera is 5.8 x 3.5 x 2.6 inches. It's much bigger than the Nest security camera, not to mention its lighter coloring makes it way more apparent on a tabletop. Like the doorbell camera, the indoor camera offers Full HD resolution (1080p), night vision, and custom motion zones. It has a 130-degree field of view, plus an SD card slot for local storage and a backup battery. The LED privacy indicator in the bottom-left of the camera shines red when it's off and blue when it's recording.

Blue by ADT Review

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The outdoor camera is the last of the trio. It's 3.7 x 2.8 x 2.7 inches, making it smaller than the Ring Outdoor Security Camera and slightly larger than the Nest Cam Outdoor. Like the other Blue by ADT cameras, it boasts Full HD resolution, 130-degree field of view, night vision, and custom motion-activated sensor zones. It uses the same LED color schematic as the indoor camera. You can mount the outdoor security camera on a wall with the included hardware or perch it somewhere it’s relatively shielded from the elements. Like many of the best outdoor security cameras, it’s IP65-rated, so it should be able to withstand the elements

Blue by ADT Review

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Each of the three cameras requires scanning a QR code generated by the Blue by ADT app to connect to Wi-Fi. It took me at least three tries to get each camera online because of how difficult it was to align the smartphone screen with the security camera lens. At the very least, I never experienced service interruptions, not even after restarting my router during testing.

Blue by ADT review: App

The last piece of the Blue by ADT security kit is the Blue by ADT smartphone app (Android and iOS), which not only arms and disarms the system, but is the central hub for Blue's smart home configuration, too. At setup, you create a Master Passcode for the smart hub and its accessories. You also choose a Monitoring Passcode, even if you're planning to self-monitor. The passcode is to confirm your identity to the monitoring center for when you have an active subscription. There's also an option to set up a Duress Passcode that you can type into the app or on the keypad to signal to the monitoring center it's an emergency. Then, you're offered a seven-day Practice Period to test the alarm before officially signing up for professional monitoring. I did not try professional monitoring because I reviewed the kit past the testing period.

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You can assign each person accessing the security system a passcode of their own and then choose between three access levels, including Admin, which allows full access to all permissions, and Standard, which limits access to some settings. Or, pick the Basic tier so folks like dog walkers and caretakers can easily arm and disarm the system. 

Blue by ADT review: Features and Performance  

I used the Blue by ADT system for over a month with no glaring hiccups. The hub chimes loudly when opening a door or window in Stay mode; it’s disruptive enough that I had to mute it on one of the doors because it was so loud. The motion sensor is quick to sound the alarm when set to Away. I could hear the 85-decibel alarm in my garage 15 feet away and even way out in the backyard, which is about 30 feet away. However, SimpliSafe and Abode, both our top picks for DIY security systems, have louder alarms by nearly 20-decibels, which you should consider if you're hoping for a neighbor to hear. 

The Blue by ADT app is well designed, with all the essential functions available within a thumbs-reach on the first page. The system status is first, followed by each of the camera previews. Below that is a History log, which expands to offer quick updates on all the connected cameras and sensors. Last is a window for the daunting neighborhood crime watch, which doesn't provide much information beyond a brief description and where. 

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One of the marquee features of the Blue by ADT security system is its constant and persistent notifications. Emails and push notifications are almost instantaneous to the point that you're likely to find yourself shutting them all off if you're home all the time. You can set up Rules, or IFTTT-like formulas, within the app to customize notifications for each sensor and camera. Each sensor also has its own settings panel for adjusting the sensitivity or turning off the chime. 

Blue by ADT review: Camera performance 

The Blue by ADT doorbell camera works just like the best video doorbells cameras. It snaps a clip and sends an alert when it detects motion, chimes when someone presses the button and lets you drop in for a two-way chat. The clips are full HD resolution and provide as much detail as the Nest cameras I’ve had long installed in my home. Because it has a 180-degree field of view, it means you can see everything in front of your door, too.

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There are varying levels of motion sensitivity for the Blue by ADT doorbell camera, including a Basic mode that captures any bit of movement, and a Person Detection mode that I selected to avoid false alarms from all the bustling bird activity in my yard. There is also an option to disable motion detection altogether and receive alerts only when the button is pushed. If you set up home automation with the base station, you can pair a third-party smart bulb to turn it on when it detects motion. The cameras each have settings for motion detection zones and a slider for motion detection sensitivity.

Like the Nest Hello, Blue by ADT's doorbell camera offers facial recognition to notify you of familiar faces. There weren't enough visitors to accurately test this capability, but I like that the feature is available for when life gets busy again. However, there’s no package detection.

I have a broken doorbell chime I never bothered to fix and only know someone is at the door when the Nest Hello alerts my Google Assistant smart speakers. With the Blue by ADT doorbell camera, I could not hear the chime from the outside and only knew someone was at the door because of a push notification. You will need to purchase the additional Chime and Wi-Fi range extender for $50 if you're in a similar predicament and want to hear the doorbell inside the house. 

The indoor and outdoor cameras work similarly to the doorbell camera. They offer the same motion detection zones and facial recognition, plus smoke and CO2 siren detection — the latter is handy if you don’t want to spring for one of the best smart smoke detectors.They also have microSD slots for local storage if your Wi-Fi goes down and backup batteries when the power goes out. The outdoor camera is the only battery-powered model, lasting up to three months on a full charge. 

My only complaint about the Blue by ADT camera system is that the clip previews don't update as quickly as the live view, so you might miss something when checking in. However, I found this to be an issue with the Nest security cameras I've used for years, too, and it's typically a byproduct of dealing with the cloud. 

Blue by ADT review: Smart home features and compatibility 

The Blue by ADT security system smart hub is Z-wave compatible, so you can directly link up devices like third-party smart garage door openers and lightbulbs in tandem with the security system. I did not have any available devices to test this functionality, but it can be done through the Blue by ADT app.

All the Blue by ADT sensors and cameras can be programmed through the smart hub with the built-in Rules system, which employs simple formulas akin to IFTTT. I set up a Rule to turn off the indoor camera's privacy mode come night time, and it worked as programmed. If you want any connection with devices outside of the security system, you'll have to use a third-party application or pair some of your devices directly with the Blue by ADT smart hub. 

Blue by ADT can also be automated through services like IFTTT, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa. However, it is not Apple HomeKit compatible. I tested it with the Google Assistant, which allowed me to make status changes to the system and control linked smart devices. It's not fully baked into the Assistant, so you'll miss out on some Nest-specific features. For instance, the doorbell chime won't alert you through Assistant-compatible smart speakers. You can cast a preview of the Blue by ADT cameras to a Google smart display by asking it to show the camera name. 

Blue by ADT review: Verdict 

The Blue by ADT smart home security kit is a hefty system with plenty of ways to customize it based on your needs and budget. It works as a starter system for those who are entirely new to the idea of home security that you can manage yourself. It's loaded with smart home smarts, making it a viable alternative to Abode, SimpliSafe, and Ring's ecosystem offerings. 

If what you need is a simple security system and you're not already committed somewhere else, the Blue by ADT smart hub and one motion sensor costs less than our top pick, the Abode Essentials Kit. It also offers more expandability down the line, so if you decide later to add security cameras and accessories, you won't be spending much more than other DIY security systems. 

Florence Ion has worked for Ars Technica, PC World, and Android Central, before freelancing for several tech publications, including Tom's Guide. She's currently a staff writer at Gizmodo, and you can watch her as the host of All About Android on the This Week in Tech network.

  • Songo.smith
    ADT is certifiably the worst company I have ever had the misfortune of dealing with. I have been going back and forth with them for over 3 months over hardware upgrades they gave in return for me signing another contract. All of the upgrades they provided have failed to work since day 1. I've had over 6 tech visits (paid for some) and the issues persist. I have been exceedingly patient and calm but they refuse to even engage with me in solving this issue and have instead claimed my expectations are too high. I get 150-200 error notifications PER DAY about cameras, extenders, etc. going offline. I have only a handful of clips that my system managed to record over the past months as they are always offline and require power cycling to come back online (climbing multiple ladders to reach the outlets). Instead of acknowledging any issues with their product, they basically dare me to go elsewhere as they know I'm under contract. I will be buying out almost the entirety of my new 3 year contract as I cannot deal with paying for services that are not provided -- not to mention their ineptitude and/or indifference in providing any semblance of customer service. Seriously, RUN from this trash as fast as possible. Signing this contract was the dumbest thing I've ever done as an adult.