4 smart devices you can install in a weekend

07/03/2014 12:00 AM

07/07/2014 10:01 AM

Wired appliances

Belkin WeMo Insight Switch

This device gives you a way to connect the appliances in your home to Wi-Fi for control and monitoring from your smartphone or tablet. From the WeMo app, you can switch your appliances on and off. You also can keep track of usage patterns and get notifications. Use the switch with your television, lights or a space heaters in addition to the washer, dryers and refrigerator.

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: A smaller plastic housing and new power usage tracking on Belkin’s WeMo Insight Switch bring greater visual appeal and usefulness to Belkin’s already winning entry-level smart-home power plug line.

The bad: Setup remains a hassle, it’s still large enough to block adjacent outlets, and reliance on IFTTT (a service for connecting two different applications) for advanced programming functions means you’ll need to bounce between two different apps to get the most out of the Switch.

The cost: around $60; www.belkin.com.

The bottom line: Despite a few usability quirks, Belkin’s WeMo Insight Switch only improves on the simple, low-risk formula that made Belkin’s original programmable WeMo Switch so appealing as a home-automation starting point.

Custom lighting control

Connected by TCP Wireless LED Lighting Kit

Use your smartphone to turn the lights in your home on or off – when you’re there and when you’re not. Control all the bulbs at once or create a custom plan.

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: The budget-friendly Connected by TCP Wireless LED Lighting Kit is a cinch to set up, and the app is easy to use as well. Each bulb gives off 800 lumens – more than Philips Hue or Insteon LED bulbs.

The bad: TCP doesn’t offer compatibility with cool Web services like IFTTT or new all-in-one hubs like Revolv, the way that Philips does.

The cost: $109.99 to $114; www.tcpi.com.

The bottom line: For basic lighting automation, this TCP kit will do the job nicely – and it won’t break the bank, either. For more advanced features and controls, consider the competition, but be prepared to splurge.

‘Smart’ air conditioning

Quirky+GE Aros Smart Air Conditioner

This window unit is almost as conscious of your air conditioning costs as your are. It uses your smartphone’s GPS settings to figure out where you are. It shuts off the air conditioner when you leave home and brings the temperature back down by the time you return. Aros cools 350 square feet.

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: The Quirky+GE Aros Smart Air Conditioner is capable, boasting a fantastic design, clever smart features and a very reasonable asking price.

The bad: The otherwise flawless build is undercut by poorly thought-out ventilation flaps, and some of the smart features didn’t work perfectly in our tests.

The cost: $300 at http://bit.ly/1r79h8p.

The bottom line: For Nest-like cooling control in homes without central air, the Aros looks like an excellent option.

A watchful eye

Dropcam Pro

This Wi-Fi video monitoring service has free live streaming. It also offers remote viewing and monitoring, night vision, as well as optional video storage in the cloud.

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: The Dropcam Pro improves on the image and two-way talk feature of the original Dropcam HD. It’s easy to use and set up, and you can view a remote video feed over the Internet or on your iOS or Android mobile device using the free Dropcam apps. Its new zoom/enhance feature works well; no service fee for basic live viewing; and the addition of Bluetooth makes setup even easier and will allow you to connect optional home-monitoring accessories in the future.

The bad: You may experience some lag with the video and audio, depending on the speed of your Internet service. PC-free setup isn’t available for Android devices at launch. The camera isn’t weather-proof and can’t be placed outside.

The cost: $199, plus cost of a yearlong cloud recording plan ($99 or $299). www.dropcam.com.

The bottom line: The Dropcam Pro dramatically improves on the company’s already impressive previous generation wireless home-monitoring camera.

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