Viper ds4 review

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Viper SmartStart and SmartKey review: Viper SmartKey unlocks cars with hands-free ease, but requires alarm

Viper, a company known for car alarm products, integrated the functions of that plastic fob into the phone, making one less thing to carry in your pocket.

As a new addition to Viper's alarm system, SmartKey works with the Viper Bluetooth module. With it, you can set your car to unlock the doors when you come within a set distance. Likewise, it will lock the doors when you leave the car's perimeter.

To test SmartKey, Viper installed the system in my car. Actually, Viper installed its Security system, SmartStart GPS module, and SmartStart Bluetooth module, all the components necessary to run SmartKey and some location features. There are quite few features beyond SmartKey in this system. It includes the basic whoop whoop car alarm (being a city dweller, I'm not a fan of this feature), remote engine start (not installed on my car because of its manual transmission), car locator, cloud-based remote unlocking, and geo-fencing.

An installer shop handled wiring the components throughout my car -- I just had to install the Viper app on my phone, sign up for an account, and pair my phone with the Viper Bluetooth module.

Proximity unlock

Setting up SmartKey involved a little extra trial and error, although a good shop will walk you through this procedure when you pick up your car after the installation. The Viper home screen, which shows lock and unlock buttons, includes a large Bluetooth icon in the upper left corner when the system is enabled. That button can also serve as a shortcut to turn off SmartKey, useful when you walk by your car but don't want it unlocked.

Opening up the SmartKey screen, located in the setup menu for my specific car, I found a slider control with lock and unlock icons at each end. I could drag red and green dots along the slider to indicate at which distance I wanted SmartKey to automatically unlock or lock my car when my phone was in Bluetooth range.

This slider control is not all that intuitive to use, and it is difficult to differentiate the red and green dots when their positions overlap. Two separate sliders would be easier to use, something Viper could implement with a simple app update. I should also point out that I was testing SmartKey with beta software.

Setting the distance for SmartKey to unlock the doors involves a bit of trial-and-error, as there are no distance markings on the slider control. I spent a bit of time adjusting the slider, walking away from my car and then turning around and walking back to determine at what distance the doors unlocked. Getting that distance right will vary by your parking situation. If your driveway is next to your house, you might want to set a close proximity, otherwise your doors might unlock and lock every time you go in and out of the kitchen.

I set mine with a close proximity activation, the safest bet, so that when I walked by my car from about 6 feet away it didn't unlock, especially important for curbside parking in a city. And once the distance was properly set, I didn't have to mess with it again. The doors faithfully unlocked whenever I was within my set opening distance.

Included with the system were a couple of other ways to remotely lock and unlock my car. Viper included two key fob remotes with lock and unlock buttons. Those fobs send an RF signal to the SmartStart system, not only activating the locks but arming or disarming the car alarm.

For an even more remote solution, I could use the smartphone app. As it sends a signal over its data connection to Viper's server, which then sends the lock or unlock signal to the car, there is no distance restriction. I could activate the locks from anywhere in the world that I had a data connection for my phone. The downside of the app locking is the time it takes, about five seconds. However, if you have the Bluetooth module up and running, the unlock or lock command is also sent through Bluetooth, making it much quicker.

Viper, where's my car?

The cloud-based component of SmartStart allows a set of useful features for security and parenting. The included GPS module let me locate my car from anywhere I had a data connection. Touching the GPS button on the home screen brought up a map showing my current location. When I tapped the car button, it showed where my car was on the map. Even better, I could also view my car's current speed and direction, if it was moving.

If the Viper car alarm didn't prevent thieves from driving off with your car, then you could call the police and tell them exactly where it is. However, driving the car into a garage or area where data and GPS is blocked will defeat that location feature.

The app also let me share the location of my car through Facebook or a text message, useful if I wanted to let a family member or friend drive it.

The GPS module enables a geo-fencing feature useful for parents. With that, I could use the app to define a circular area around a central point. If the car was driven outside of that area, the Viper app shows an alert.

Viper includes some convenient parking features in the app, as well. When I hit the lock button on the app, a dialog box popped up telling me the parking spot was saved in the app's memory, and gave me the option to take a photo. Even more useful, the app includes a parking meter function that let me manually set how much time I had on a meter. I could check it to see when I next need to run out and feed the meter, and it alerted me when the time ran out.

Appropriate vehicles

Many new cars come with Viper SmartStart's GPS features built-in. All GM vehicles, for example, include OnStar, which duplicates a few of these features and includes a stolen vehicle service. Data connections and GPS chips are becoming very common in the automotive market, which might make the Viper system redundant for your vehicle.

I have also reviewed a number of easy OBD-II plug-in devices, such as the Zubie Connected Car Service , which use GPS and a data connection to locate your car, define a geo-fence, and even serve as a driving coach to encourage fuel efficiency.

The Viper SmartStart and SmartKey stand apart in that they offer car alarm features and the aforementioned Bluetooth unlocking mechanism. However, some of these features will require additional equipment in the car. For example, if you want to keep your 1959 Ford Ranch Wagon safe and include the convenience of remote unlocking, you will need to have a central electronic locking system installed.

The type of car you own, and the environment where you live, will be big determining factors in if Viper SmartStart is right for you. Given that I mostly park my car in a garage, the security features are of little interest. The Bluetooth proximity unlocking certainly makes for hassle-free car entry, but that convenience gets sidelined by the need to use a key to start the engine.

What might add to the attraction of Viper SmartStart is its integration with Viper Home, a home security system that can also be controlled from a Viper app. Read CNET's review of Viper Home to find out more about this system.

The cost of the Viper SmartStart system with its Bluetooth module will vary from installer to installer -- this is not a DIY system. In addition, for the cloud-based services you will need to sign up for one of Viper's data plans. That will cost you $99 for one year, or $199 for a three-year subscription.



  • A vehicle's wiring system can be quite complex and difficult to manipulate. Unless you are very knowledgeable about electronics, the best remote car starter installation should be done by a certified electrician. 
  • If you decide to install a remote car starter by yourself, it's very likely that it will void your car's warranty. Make sure to check with your vehicle manufacturer before you do the work.
  • If you do install the system on your own, read the product's manual first. Be sure to examine the diagrams and thoroughly go over the directions. It should not be too difficult if you are technologically inclined.
  • It's crucial that you read your vehicle's manual so you know where all the cables and connections are located. It's important to determine which cables to attach to the remote starter and which ones to avoid. Find a wiring schematic for your vehicle to get the best results.
  • When installing a remote car starter, the first thing you need to do is disconnect the battery. Installation involves creating new connections and soldering wires. This can be dangerous if the battery is connected.
  • The best smartphone car starter can be very convenient, but it can also cause security issues. If you pair your smartphone with your remote starter, be sure to use a secure password.
  • Store your key fob in a container that blocks its signal. This will prevent thieves from using an amplifier and transmitter to steal your key's signal, enabling them to take your vehicle.
  • A system with a cut-off switch under the hood is recommended for safety. This enables you to turn the starter off when you or someone else is repairing your vehicle.
  • Some municipalities have laws that prevent you from running your vehicle while it's unattended. Make sure you know the local regulations before using a remote car starter.


Q: How does a remote car starter work? 

A:  The remote starter is connected to several wires in your vehicle, such as the ignition, power, and starter wires. You turn on the system by using a hand-held remote/transmitter. This starts the engine and activates programs such as the heater.

Q: Will a remote car starter work with a manual transmission?

A: Yes, it can work on both automatic and manual transmission vehicles. To make a remote starter work safely with a manual transmission, it needs the ability to monitor the emergency brake and the shifter.

Q: Can you move a remote car starter from one vehicle to another? 

A: It may be technically possible, but it may not be compatible if the interface of each vehicle is different. Also, it may cost you a bit of money to uninstall it from one vehicle and reinstall it on another one. Even the best cheap remote start can become costly if you need to use a professional installer.

Q: Will a remote car starter drain the battery?

A: It's possible. If your battery is on the older side, a remote car starter may drain it enough to kill it. To check if your remote starter is draining your battery, first disconnect the system. If the battery remains fully charged, you know the remote starter is causing some battery issues.

Q: Will a remote car starter cause problems with the engine?

A: Your engine will not be adversely affected as long as the remote starter is a high-quality product that is properly installed. Make sure to purchase a device with a warranty from a reputable manufacturer. Also, ensure that it is installed by someone with electrical expertise.

Q: Do you need to charge a remote car starter?

A: Some remote car starters come with micro USB cables that allow you to charge them. The handheld transmitters typically feature batteries that can be changed or recharged.

Final Thoughts

Our top pick for the best remote car starter is the Viper 5706V 2-Way Car Security with Remote Start System. The LCD display gives you a lot of information, such as whether your car is running or if it's locked. Also, the engine turns off after several minutes if a key is not inserted into the starter.

For a less expensive option, consider the Crimestopper RS4-G5 1-Way Remote Start and Keyless Entry System with Trunk Pop.

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There’s a saying: You get what you pay for. When it comes to electronics, this is usually the case. The best isn’t cheap, but it’ll last. And in the long run it’s worth every penny. When it comes to car alarms, one of the best is Viper. I’ve used Viper for almost 30 years. I’ve seen some great new features. I had a standard Viper alarm system on my first car. So when given the opportunity to review their new DS4+ system, we naturally jumped at the opportunity. It’s their new DS4+ system with SmartStart Pro.


Features and specs:

Remote Confirmation: Priority Icon Map with LCD Display

Remotes: Includes 1-Way Companion Remote

Range: Up to 1 Mile


Remote Start

Keyless Entry

Trunk Pop

SmartStart Compatible



Domelight Supervision

Stinger DoubleGuard Shock Sensor

Neo Revenger 6-Tone Siren

Failsafe Starter Kill

Anti-Carjacking (VRS)

Guaranteed Protection Plan (GPPP)

# of Auxiliary Channels: 4

6-Tone Mini Siren

Shock/Tilt Sensor


Viper SmartStart-ready

Viper SmartStart GPS Enabled

Location/Speed Tracking

Keyless entry

Virtually unlimited range!


Lock / Arm: Yes

Unlock / Disarm: Yes

Remote Car Starter: Yes

Trunk Release: Yes

Panic: Yes

Aux Channels Compatible: Yes

Viper Motor Club: Yes

SmartPark: Yes

Car Location: Yes

Car Speed: Yes

Speed Alerts: Yes

Lockdown Alerts: Yes

Social Media Check-in: Yes

SmartFence: Yes

HotSpot: Yes

Car Status: Yes

SmartSchedule: Yes

Approximate Weight:

Shipping: 1 lbs


Viper’s new DS4+ system is a simple system that is basically modular. You design it on what you need. You could just get remote start, or just an alarm. You could get both alarm, remote start, and SmartStart as well. Having a 2017 Nissan Titan, it came with just keyless entry. So for review Directed provided the D9756V alarm, DS4SU security upgrade, DS4VP Digital Remote Start, SmartStart Pro, and the THNING harness for Nissan. The D9756V provided two remotes, one of which is a 2-way LED remote. I love the 2-way LED remote. Just looking at the display, you can see if it’s locked or not. The DS4SU security upgrade provided the siren, as well as the digital shock, tilt and temperature sensor.


The remote start is a really cool feature, especially depending on climate. You can set a timer and the remote start will start your vehicle and have it idle for up to 12 minutes. After that time it automatically shuts down. That way if you end up not leaving and forget, your vehicle doesn’t accidentally idle all day! If you live in a hot or cold environment, the remote start is a great help, to get your vehicle cooled off or heated up, depending on where you live.

While these are all really cool features, things get really cool with the SmartStart! It works with not only GPS, but cellphone networks, so a plan is required. With SmartStart Pro, the Premium plan is required. Just download the app for your smartphone, and you will have all of the control at your fingertips. You get a lot of control, and security. It gives you alarm, and disarm, remote start, and a ton of other features. These include SmartAlert, Vehicle locator, Speed Alert, LockDown, and low battery alert. There’s even SmartPark, Parking Meter, and Social Media Check-in.


The Viper SmartStart Pro is definitely loaded with useful features. SmartAlerts will send you a text and email when something is not right, such as alarm trigger, or low voltage. Vehicle locator is a map that shows your vehicle’s current location. Speed alert will notify you via text and email if the designated max speed has been exceeded. Lockdown will notify you is the vehicle leaves the designated area. The SmartPark and Parking Meter features are also really cool. It remembers your vehicle’s location, just in case you forget. And it can even start a timer, that way you know how much time is left on your meter. Updating your location on social media is really easy with the Social Media Check-in.


If you have teenage drivers, the Viper SmartStart Pro can easily be seen as a necessity! After all, it can be your eyes on the road to monitor your teenage driver. You can be notified via text and email whenever they speed. Are they grounded from going to their girlfriend/boyfriend’s house? Just set up an electronic fence that does not have their house in the boundaries. So if they do go outside of the fence to see their girlfriend/ boyfriend…you’ll get a text and email. And if they took off in the vehicle without permission, you’ll also know exactly where they are.

I really love the versatility that the complete Viper alarm with SmartStart Pro provided. It’s foundation as an alarm is top notch. It’s SmartStart also worked great. And if you have teenage drivers that you want to be able to monitor, it delivers that in spades. And I absolutely love the app! Through the app, I can see the current status and see if the alarm had been triggered. If it ever gets stolen, I know exactly where it’s at. My wife also isn’t as good at remembering to turn on the alarm as I am, so if she takes the truck to the store, I can check through the app to make sure it’s armed. And if she forgot to arm it, I can actually arm it from home through the app!

The app itself is also very easy to use. From the home screen, you have options to lock, unlock, panic, trunk, map and SmartStart. They are all pretty self-explanatory. The map button pulls up a map to show where our vehicle is. The top left corner has an alert button that will take you to a screen with the alert history. At the bottom of the Alert Page is the Manage Alerts button. Pressing the Manage Alert button takes you to the Manage alerts page. Here you can choose to receive notifications for low battery voltage. You can also set up to receive notifications if the vehicle moves, goes over a set speed, or goes out of a set location boundary. And there are options to actually have two different smart fences for location boundaries. And touching the vehicle name in the top right corner takes you to a vehicle page, that shows you the last command, the current status, and vehicle settings button at the bottom of the page. The very top left corner holds the menu button. From the menu button you access SmartSchedule, where you can schedule to have your vehicle start automatically based on schedule or temperature. 

The Viper SmartStart Pro system doesn’t just have great features, it also works as advertised. The alarm worked great and was sufficiently sensitive. When it was triggered, I got both a text and email notification. The remote start also worked great. The map feature also worked well. The SmartStart app worked great! I was pleasantly unsurprised. I say that, because Viper has the reputation for delivering it in spades. And this shows that they continue to do so.


If you are worried about vehicle security, or just want to add functionality such as remote start to your vehicle, Viper should be on your short list. Not only does it work well, but it also has a great reputation. They also don’t just bask on their reputation. It shows with great quality new products. Based on it’s design, features, quality and performance, the Viper alarm with SmartStart has earned our Editor’s Choice Award. For m ore info and complete specs, check out their website at

Viper DS4+ Remote Start System - Review


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