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Aura Walden review: probably the best digital frame available
2:22 pm | May 10, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Smart Home | Tags: | Comments: Off

Aura Walden: Two-minute review

The Walden is Aura's biggest and best digital photo frame yet, but it's also the priciest; it's only available directly for shoppers in the US. Those outside the US can find the Aura Walden from other retailers, and their efforts will be rewarded – the Aura Walden is exquisite, and one of the best digital photo frames available today. 

With a similar frontage to the Aura Carver Mat, the Walden boasts a larger 15-inch display that makes it Aura's largest digital photo frame display, encased in a classic textured white border and black frame.

It comes with a slick metal stand for resting on a sideboard in both horizontal and vertical positions, plus simple wall fittings, too, for horizontal and vertical mounting. Truly, the overall look and feel of the frame is top drawer.

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Aura Walden digital photo frame box

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Aura Walden digital photo frame unboxing

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Aura Walden digital photo frame unboxing

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Supporting frame for the Aura Walden digital photo frame

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Closeup of the Aura Walden digital photo frame's finish

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Rear of the Aura Walden digital photo frame

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Closeup of the Aura Walden digital photo frame's rear and mounting options

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Touch bar panel of the Aura Walden digital photo frame

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Rear of the Aura Walden digital photo frame on a wooden sideboard

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Closeup of Aura Walden digital photo frame charging cable

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

The Walden may feel too big to rest on a sideboard, shelf or any surface, while it can also feel a little small when mounted on a wall – 15 inches is an awkward middle ground.

That said, I do prefer the size of display over the smaller 10.1-inch Aura Carver Mat, since it allows you to shows off your photos and videos on a larger scale – and having the option to wall mount or have it freestanding can only be a good thing.

For a digital photo frame, Aura's app is as good as they come: simple to use and to share with friends and family, who can also upload images to the frame from anywhere there's an internet connection, and with unlimited photo and video storage included.

Aura Walden: design

  • Slick frame with neat touch bar panel
  • 4:3 aspect ratio display
  • Aura's largest frame yet, and it can be wall mounted

Most digital photo frames – like Aura's own Carver series – are around 10 inches, and designed to stand on any surface; but the Walden is a different proposition, dwarfing those frames with its 15-inch display. 

You probably won't quite be able to squeeze it onto bookshelf, and your sideboard will need to be generously sized to accommodate the frame comfortably. But if you have the space then the Walden will be the preferred choice; plus it's also easy enough to mount it to a wall instead. 

The frame's power cable is covered in a cream-colored fabric, which is more likely to blend into the background than a black cable. Trailing cables can spoil the effect of a digital wall-mounted display, but this shouldn't be a problem here. 

That said, while 15-inches feels big on a sideboard, it comes up small on a wall. For around twice the outlay, the 27-inch Vieunite Textura Digital Canvas is much more at home on a wall, plus that frame offers free and paid-for digital downloads of famous artworks and those from upcoming artists.

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Aura's app for the Walden digital photo frame

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Aura's app for the Walden digital photo frame

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Aura's app for the Walden digital photo frame

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Touch bar panel in use of the Aura Walden digital photo frame

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Touch bar panel in use of the Aura Walden digital photo frame

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Touch bar panel in use of the Aura Walden digital photo frame

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Touch bar panel in use of the Aura Walden digital photo frame

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Touch bar panel in use of the Aura Walden digital photo frame

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Supporting bracket of the Aura Walden digital photo frame on a wooden sideboard

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Aura Walden digital photo frame on a wooden sideboard alongside the smaller Aura Carver Mat

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Design-wise, the Walden is eye-catching. It's slicker than the similarly sized Netgear Meural Wi-Fi art frame, sporting a matt-black frame and classic white border, for a total diagonal dimension of 15.7 inches.

At the rear, there's a recess to attach the metal triangular stand, or in which to rest the supplied wall mount hook. You can position the Walden in both landscape and portrait formats.

There are two touch bar panels, one on the top and the other on the side of the frame. You barely notice they're there, and they're super responsive for functions such as swipe to next image, plus press and hold to reveal image information such as who uploaded the picture – handy, if you have a lot of "members" with access to the frame.

Aura's free app is available for both iOS and Android devices, and is needed to set up the frame and upload images. It's also through the app that you can invite other "members" – such as family and friends – to upload their own images. 

You can add multiple Aura frames to the app and take control of all of them, plus Aura wants to tempt you to buy several frames through multi-purchase deals. For example, at the time of writing, if you buy two Walden frames then there's a $15 discount. 

Aura Walden: performance

  • Relatively low pixel density
  • Wide viewing angle in daylight and at night-time
  • 4:3 aspect ratio suitable for most smartphone cameras

I have a sideboard at home that's big enough to accommodate the Walden frame, and I've found its size far more preferable to the standard 10-inch displays of most other digital photo frames. 

It has an anti-glare finish that delivers a wide optimum viewing angle before reflections get in the way – or, indeed, before the luminosity of the backlit display is reduced when viewing the frame at night. Compared to the Aura Carver Mat, the viewing angle of the Walden is much wider. 

The display's 4:3 aspect ratio suits most phones that natively shoot in this ratio. However, if you're uploading photos from a proper camera that's more likely to shoot in 3:2 aspect ratio, you'll have to choose between losing part of your shot or having a black border on the top and bottom of the display – as is the case for 16:9 videos.

The resolution of the frame is 1600 x 1200 pixels, making for a modest 133 pixels per inch density. However, I found the display packed enough detail unless I was up close – which you don't need to be given the size of the display.

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Aura Walden digital photo frame on a wooden sideboard alongside the smaller Aura Carver Mat

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Aura Walden digital photo frame on a wooden sideboard alongside the smaller Aura Carver Mat

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Aura Walden digital photo frame on a wooden sideboard

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Aura Walden digital photo frame on a wooden sideboard alongside the smaller Aura Carver Mat

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Aura Walden digital photo frame on a wooden sideboard

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Night mode of the Aura Walden digital photo frame on a wooden sideboard

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Aura Walden digital photo frame on a wooden sideboard at nighttime

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Aura Walden digital photo frame on a wooden sideboard alongside the smaller Aura Carver Mat

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

As mentioned, it's possible to load videos to the Walden frame, too, although remember that the frame's aspect ratio is much narrower than the standard 16:9 format for video. There's a speaker on the back for audio, although don't hold any great expectation on audio quality – it's pretty basic. 

A nice touch with Aura frames is that you can purchase them as a personalized gift and preload images onto the frame ahead of time. 

Aura Walden: price and release date

  • Available in the US for $299 (currently on sale for $259)
  • Not directly available outside the US

The Aura Walden is available now, although do note that it's often sold out. It has a list price on the Aura website of $299; at the time of writing, it's reduced to $259. If you click onto other regions on the Aura website, such as the UK, then the Walden is unavailable. However, if you search the internet there are other retailers, such as Nordstrom, that will ship the Walden internationally. We'll update this review if and when the Aura Walden becomes available globally.

Aura Walden: should I buy?

Aura Walden digital photo frame on a wooden sideboard

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Aura Walden: How I tested

  • At least two months of regular use
  • Image uploads through the Aura Android app
  • Viewed in daylight and at night

The Aura Walden has been a fixture in my home for a couple of months, positioned on a window-lit sideboard. The mains-powered display is automatically active during the day, and can power off at night to conserve power. 

I’ve uploaded digital photos and videos through the Android version of Aura's app. I've scrolled through the gallery of images using the frame's touch panel and regularly updated the images in the gallery through the app. 

I’ve checked out the quality of the display in daylight and at night, close-up and far away, plus viewed it straight on and from the side to check the viewing angle of the anti-glare display. 

  • First reviewed May 2024
Aura Carver Mat review: a gorgeous but flawed digital photo frame
8:16 pm | May 8, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Smart Home | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Aura Carver Mat: Two-minute review

Aura is a well-known name in our best digital photo frames guide, regularly making an appearance. A leading name in home displays, the brand is responsible for the budget-friendly Aura Carver. The Aura Carver Mat on review here shares many similarities with the regular Carver, only it comes with a more classic finish.  

It's a tablet-sized 10.1-inch display designed to sit on a sideboard rather than being mounted to a wall, featuring an approximate half-inch border that takes the total diagonal dimension up to 10.5 inches.

I prefer the classic-frame look of the Carver Mat over the Carver – it's super-slick and looks the part positioned on anything from a desk to a bookshelf or a piano. The ridged frame of the Carver, on the other hand, looks cheaper in my opinion.

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Box of the Aura Carver Mat digital frame

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Aura Carver Mat digital frame

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Side of the Aura Carver Mat digital frame

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Rear of the Aura Carver Mat digital frame

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Power cord of the Aura Carver Mat digital frame

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Aura Carver Mat digital frame power cord

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Edge detail of the Aura Carver Mat digital frame

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

The quality of the Carver Mat's 16:10 aspect display is superb. Photos are punchy in dim light and natural in daylight, with the 1280 x 800-pixel display rendering crisp detail. However, there are two things that make other frames a more tempting proposition, including Aura's own Mason frame. First, the display is landscape format only, and second, the optimum viewing angle is narrow. 

I'll discuss those to limitations further down; but in every other regard, the Carver Mat is a gorgeous little frame that's super easy to use, and even allows you to share photos with loved ones, who can upload their own photos onto the frame remotely through Aura's slick app. 

The Carver Mat is a hit in the looks department and in terms of user experience; it's just a shame that it's limited to landscape format viewing.

Aura Carver Mat: design

  • Well built and a classic look to suit many a home
  • Landscape format only
  • Neat touch bar panel

The Aura Carver Mat frame is superbly crafted with its matte-black frame and white border, while its generous 10.1-inch display is of a size that many people will be familiar, given its dimensions are roughly the same as the classic iPad, if a little smaller.

It features a thicker underside so it can stand up independently, although therein lies its fundamental design flaw: the Carver Mat can only be positioned in landscape format. In 2024, when so many images are shot in portrait format, particularly on phones, the Carver Mat's design feels particularly limiting. 

You can display portrait format pictures on the Carver Mat, but they won't fill the frame. Other models, such as Aura's own Mason and Walden models, allow you to flip the frame between landscape and portrait format and use the whole display; the Mason is only a fraction pricier than the Carver Mat, which makes it the better choice.

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Aura's digital frame app

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Aura's digital frame app

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Aura's digital frame app

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Aura's digital frame app

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Aura's digital frame app

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Aura Carver Mat digital frame

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Closeup of the Aura Carver Mat digital frame display

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Touch panel of the Aura Carver Mat digital frame

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Touch panel of the Aura Carver Mat digital frame

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Aura frames feature a neat touch bar panel – here, on the top of the frame – that allows you to turn the frame on and off and includes functions such as swipe to next image, plus press and hold to reveal image information such as who uploaded the picture.

Elsewhere, I welcome the choice of power cable – it has a cream-colored fabric exterior that will easily blend into the background of many a home's decor. An ugly trailing cable along a wall or a side could have proved an eyesore. 

Getting started with the frame is fool-proof. You download the free Aura app, which is available for both iOS and Android devices, follow the pairing instructions to become a "member" and, once you're connected to the frame, you can start uploading images from your phone / tablet's gallery. 

Multiple Aura frames can be added to your Aura app, and you can invite family and friends as members to upload images to the frame, too. 

The whole image upload experience is seamless, and the collaborative aspect is superb, too, making Aura frames a brilliant gift. For example, as a member, I could upload the latest photos of my kids to my parent's Aura frame from anywhere with an internet connection. 

Aura Carver Mat: performance

  • Crisp and natural-looking display
  • Decent for daylight and night-time viewing
  • Narrow viewing angle

So how good is the display itself? Well, the 16:10 aspect display has a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels, which is roughly 150 pixels per inch. That's a decent enough display, rendering crisp detail when viewed from an optimum distance of around a few feet away. 

The display itself has a glossy finish and suffers from reflections, more so than the Aura Walden. If you look at the two images below, you can see the difference when viewing the Carver Mat straight on or to the side – position yourself at an angle and reflections can impede clear viewing. 

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Aura Carver Mat digital frame

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Reflections in the Aura Carver Mat digital frame's screen

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

In addition, at night when the backlit display is luminous, it loses its luminosity when viewed from an angle. Again, for the brightest and punchiest viewing experience, you'll need to be straight on to the frame. 

Otherwise, there's little else to say – the Carver Mat packs good detail with punchy and faithful colors, while it's simple to modify the images that are on display and for what length of time through the app, although you'll need to edit your images to taste before importing them. 

Aura Carver Mat: price and release date

  • Available in the US and UK for $179 / £179
  • Look out for deals 

The Aura Carver Mat is available now and costs $179 / £179 on the Aura website – although, at the time of writing, it's reduced to $149 in the US. 

US and UK shipping is free. The Carver Mat is also available in Canada, France and Germany, although it isn't currently available in Australia.

Aura Carver Mat: should I buy?

Aura Carver Mat digital frame

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Aura Carver Mat: How I tested

  • A long-term fixture at home
  • Image uploads through the Aura Android app
  • Viewed in daylight and at night

The Aura Carver Mat has been living in my home for a couple of months at the time of writing this review, positioned on a window-lit sideboard. The display is mains-powered and is automatically active during daylight hours, and automatically powers off when it's dark to conserve power. 

I’ve uploaded digital photos through the Android version of Aura's app – although, sadly, the frame is limited to landscape format orientation. I've scrolled through the gallery of images using the frame's touch panel and have regularly updated the images in the gallery through the app. 

I’ve checked out the quality of the display in daylight and at night, from close-up and from far away, straight on and from the side to check the viewing angles and also if the frame suffers from reflections. 

  • First reviewed May 2024
Nanoleaf Skylight starter kit review: Nanoleaf is looking up
4:00 pm | April 27, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Smart Home Smart Lights | Comments: Off

One-minute review

The Nanoleaf Skylight is an alternative indoor lighting solution that can provide everything from strong white lighting to subtle mood lighting in whatever brightness or color you desire, and easily sits among some of the best smart lights. The simple square panel design belies the true nature of the device, which reveals itself once it’s brought to life in brilliant technicolor via the app or PC/Mac software. 

It’s not all sweetness and light though. The installation is a bit more involved than the usual Nanoleaf ‘stick the LEDs onto something and plug them into a power outlet’ scenario. 

The main panel is the same as any other ceiling light, in that it’s hardwired into the lighting circuit. If you have experience installing traditional light fittings, you shouldn’t find it too challenging, but, as always, get a professional to install it if you’re at all unsure; this is dangerous work.

Once the lights are up and running, you can control them with the free Nanoleaf software for PC, Mac or phone app, and it soon becomes apparent just how flexible the system is. I put it through its paces for a couple of weeks and its performance impressed me. I can see a broad range of uses within my home, but the cost seems prohibitive and I did have a fair few teething issues. So, is it worth the asking price? Read on.

Nanoleaf Skylight mounted on the ceiling

(Image credit: Future)

Nanoleaf Skylight review: price and availability

  • List price: starts at $249 / £229 / AU$469 for a three-light starter kit. Other options include;
    • Expansion pack (1 panel): $69.99 / £69.99 / AU$139.99
    • Starter kit (6 pack): $459.96 / £418.61 / AU$609.90
    • Starter kit (9 pack): $669.93 / £623.64 / AU$889.90
    • Starter kit (12 pack): $879.90 / £828.66 / AU$1,309.90
  • Available in the US, UK and Australia 

The Nanoleaf Skylight was released in February 2024 and the starter kit is available for $249 / £229 / AU$469 directly from Nanoleaf’s US, UK and Australian websites and Amazon

The starter pack consists of one main unit, which is wired directly into the mains electricity, and two expansion panels. Larger kits are available from Nanoleaf consisting of six, nine, and twelve lights, and there’s also a single-panel expansion pack. 

Nanoleaf Skylight review: Specs

Nanoleaf Skylight components

(Image credit: Future)

Nanoleaf Skylight review: Design

  • Minimalist and unobtrusive (when they’re off)
  • Modular design allows for a multitude of configurations
  • Unique ceiling-mounted lighting system

Anyone who enjoyed playing on the Atari 2600 in the 70s will get a kick out of the look of these lights. I like the pixel-esque aesthetic and would love to create some huge ceiling icons with a 9x9 square - if only it were possible to control the color for each square individually. I mean, who wouldn’t want a 2.7-square-meter Space Invader or Pac-Man on their ceiling? Unfortunately, that would set me back approximately £5.5k and 1300 Watts, so this vision will forever be a dream.

The combined equal depths of the housing and diffuser are nicely proportioned to the 300 x 300 face but I’m not completely sold on its shiny surface. Maybe a matt finish wouldn’t diffuse the light so well or look any better, though.

The cable management inside the units is well-designed but a little fragile. Each side has two cable routing holes that allow for some more interesting offset configurations if you don’t just want a symmetrical layout. The rubber bungs for these holes can be left in situ as the cables can be passed through slits in them. 

Little features like this make it feel like Nanoleaf spent a great deal of time and effort getting the hardware design right, but then rushed the component selection and software testing. I’ll cover this in more detail in the performance section. 

As is the running theme with this review, the Nanoleaf Skylight’s design is akin to the troubled second album by your favorite band. You buy the record because you love what they do but feel they have let you down.

Nanoleaf Skylight review: Installation

If you skipped over the one-minute review, I will reiterate: if you have experience installing traditional light fittings, you shouldn’t find it challenging, but, as always, get a professional to install it if you are unsure.

Your existing wiring will likely be too inflexible to follow the path to the connectors in the Skylight and it only requires two wires. The rest of the wiring must be out of the way above the ceiling. I replicated the connections within the existing light fitting and increased the size of the hole in the ceiling to do this. 

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Nanoleaf Skylight wiring rework

(Image credit: Future)

This bundle of wires was never going to fit in the Nanoleaf Skylight.

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Nanoleaf Skylight wiring

(Image credit: Future)

 Up, up and away. 

The next hurdle is the rather poor installation instructions, which erroneously show the plasterboard self-drilling fittings as being screwed through the housing, for example. In reality, the fittings should screw directly into the ceiling and the screws should go through the housing and into those fittings. I say “should screw directly into the ceiling” as during my installation, two of the supplied fittings broke off in the ceiling before I gave up with them. 

Fortunately, I had some more robust metal fittings to hand, which saved the day. To be fair, my ceiling is ‘mature’, and perhaps drilling a 4mm guide hole first would have reduced the mortality rate of the plastic fittings. There are, however, plenty of other inaccuracies in the installation instructions, which add to the confusion. If these instructions were a cake, the missing ingredient would be “care”.   

A bit more wiggle room in the screw holes would also be of benefit as screwing or drilling into a ceiling is prone to error unless you are Spider-Man. Usually, fittings have a combination of horizontal and vertical slots that allow for errors made during drilling or screwing. I’d also recommend ensuring that someone is available during installation to provide placement directions, as it’s not easy to get things straight on a ladder facing upwards. 

Once the primary unit is up, the others are very straightforward. I found it much easier to install the data wires (the short wires with square connector blocks at the ends) between the light units first, and then push through the power wires. Alternatively, the rubber grommets can easily be removed but they may be needed at a later date, should you want to move or reconfigure the lights. Routing the cables between the lights is made easier by the numerous clips built into the unit for this purpose, but, as I learned when I managed to break one, they are a little fragile.

After restoring power at your dwelling’s fuse box and flicking on your light switch at the wall, the Skylight will initially come on at low brightness. It will then increase in brightness to signify that it’s ready to pair with the Nanoleaf app.

Nanoleaf Skylight review: Performance

The first thing that struck me about the Skylight was how much light it gives off. If you sometimes need a bright, even white light while assembling something or taking things to bits, this light is your friend. It’s reminiscent of old-school fluorescent lighting without the irradiation and mercury poisoning. 

The Skylight can, of course, emit any color you wish, but be warned that the color is not uniform across the surface of the diffuser. Inevitably, though, you will need to address the elephant in the room – the Nanoleaf app.  

In previous reviews of Nanoleaf products, I’ve described the Nanoleaf app as “wayward”. Perhaps I am just unlucky, but every time I add a new Nanoleaf product to my network there is a period of chaos. Some of the mayhem may be due to the many and varied devices that I have, and the synchronization between the home automation systems and their cloud accounts. Whatever the root cause, there will be a couple of days of rebooting, deleting, and adding devices until everything works again. The app will invariably have a different view of reality, which may or may not change depending on whether you look at it. Schrödinger’s app.

App issues shown in the Nanoleaf app

No, I do not have any Nanoleaf devices in the entrance or kitchen. No, I do not have three hall lights and no, I cannot delete them. An example of the app's version of the truth.  (Image credit: Future)

The sense of frustration was further compounded by the hardware itself misbehaving. I had a period where the light was flickering when set to white light at full power. Following this, the unit then point-blank refused to switch on even after I removed the face plate to press the reset button. Flash forward to the time of writing, I can’t replicate the flickering and it has behaved itself consistently for a few days. 

It’s like having a cat on your ceiling; you ask it to do something and it will ignore you, show you its backside, and walk away. Schrödinger’s app and cat… On the plus side, the supplied scenes are good, you can create your own or use scenes created by others, and these can all be synchronized and used in Apple Homekit. You could avoid using the Nanoleaf app altogether, but you would miss out on firmware and app updates. It’s a necessary evil. 

I have spent many hours with the Nanoleaf app thanks to one of my favorite bits of kit, the Nanoleaf 4D. I was looking forward to using Sync+ to extend the screen colors to the Skylight but, no, it does not work. So, I have two products that support Sync+ but do not support each other… right. 

Not to worry, as Nanoleaf should be applauded for developing a desktop app for both PC and Apple Mac (both Intel and Apple Silicon), which offers screen mirroring. The screen mirroring via the desktop app is a great idea and works well with the 3-pack starter kit laid out in a straight line, but I do wonder how the app would know if you have offset your units in a stepped layout. It also didn’t work with all of the games I tried. I wanted to watch a film via Apple TV+ while mirroring the screen to the Skylight, but the Mac was unhappy about sharing. Thank you, Apple. 

It’s a similar state of affairs with the rhythm feature – a great idea but it falls at the last fence. You can select which source the sound is coming from, but that doesn’t seem to work as well now as it did when I first received the device. Having said that, it is good enough and as I write the Skylight is gently pulsing color along to the music. Wonderful.

Unlike dumb lights, the best smart lights offer a host of control options but that’s not always a boon with wired lights like the Nanoleaf Skylight. When the Skylight has been powered off at the wall, it will take about a minute to appear online within your home automation system or the app when you flick the switch on again. 

Normally that’s not an issue with smart lights, but the problem with the Skylight then becomes the almost imperceptible little ticking noise that the skylight makes when it has power but is not on. It’s akin to Chinese water torture and drives you nuts after a while. I’d strongly recommend using one of the best smart switches for easier control and happier ears.

On top of all this is the lack of Matter support and no built-in thread border router as promised at CES 2023. I like Nanoleaf, I like its ideas and that it makes these feature-rich products happen, but a simple thing like testing could make them so much better. 

Nanoleaf Skylight: Should I buy?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Also consider

The Nanoleaf Skylight is, as far as I’m aware, a unique product, so it is difficult to find a direct equivalent. Here are some alternatives if you want to dip your toe into smart lighting, but don’t want to give it the full beans.  

Nanoleaf Skylight: How I tested

  • I used the Skylight for work and play for over a month.
  • I tested the PC/Mac application on both platforms where possible. 
  • I controlled the device from both the Nanoleaf iPhone app and Apple Homekit.

I installed the Skylight in the room where I spend the majority of my time during the dark winter months. I tried to understand what each feature within the application does and how reliable/repeatable they are. Any inconsistencies were investigated but I have yet to find any form of event logging to help me understand exactly what it thinks it is doing.

I powered down my whole house to simulate a power cut to see how it would recover and also rebooted the Wi-Fi router and other devices in my smart home setup at various points.

I kept a log of any updates to the versions of the applications and the device’s firmware. I avoided using Beta versions of the application.

For the majority of the time it performed as expected but it is not bulletproof.

Enabot Ebo SE pet robot review: the catsitter I didn’t know I needed but can’t live without
10:30 pm | April 15, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Home Security Smart Home | Comments: Off

Two-minute review

Being a cat owner is a joy like no other, but I miss my cat so, so much when I’m away even just for a day. That's why the Enabot Ebo SE pet robot is a literal must-have in my cat-crazy household.  This small and sweet little robot doesn’t have an adorable little ‘face’ like the Enabot Ebo X, but operates similarly, offering features like mobile phone compatibility and the ability to take photos and videos. 

It’s also not as stuffed with features as the Enabot Ebo X, which has built-in Alexa smart home functions and a 4K UHD camera, however, if you’re looking for a simple and much cheaper robot, the Enabot Ebo SE robot reigns supreme. This little orb is simple to set up right out of the box and is completely managed through the app. 

It's not quite got the chops to be one of the best home security cameras, but certainly gives peace of mind if you quickly want to check in at home. My testing of the Enabot Ebo SE coincided with my holiday, which was a huge blessing; this would be my first time traveling away for more than a day since I got Miso, and having the Enabot Ebo SE keeping an eye on my baby eased a lot of my anxieties. 

I set everything up a few days before my six-day trip, and I was relieved to see that the Enabot Ebo SE returned to its charging station all on its own without any prompting after checking in on my sweet boy, Miso, (don’t worry, pictures soon to come!), which makes things a lot easier when you're remotely checking in on your furry friends. 

Enabot EBO SE what's in the box

(Image credit: Enabot )

It was a complete stroke of luck that I started reviewing this robot when I did because as soon as I landed, I lost contact with friends and family in the UK – I couldn’t get a Facetime, WhatsApp, or even an IMO call to hold for more than two seconds. 

Since the Ebo SE has a two-way audio capability, I was able to keep in touch with Miso through the robot. It was incredibly useful to be able to open the app, turn the microphone on, and check in not just on my cat but on the people at home. It helped me stay connected, and I honestly don’t think I could travel without having this little guy set up and ready to be on guard duty. 

In terms of the bot's mobility, it’s pretty decent, but not groundbreaking. Through the app, you can steer it to go left, right, backward, and forward, and there are designated spin and sprint buttons. These proved to be useful as I had the Ebo SE set up in my bedroom, where there's an obstacle course made of socks and other various flotsam and jetsam that Miso likes to hoard, which was how I discovered that the Ebo SE struggles to get over smaller objects like the corner of a shirt, and also with sharper turns.  

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Miso the cat

(Image credit: Muskaan Saxena via Future)

Close ups of Miso the cat! Night Mode Miso has a lot to say... 

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Night mode with Miso

(Image credit: Muskaan Saxena via Future)
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Miso on night mode

(Image credit: Muskaan Saxena via Future)

It would be nice if the Ebo SE had some kind of crash detection feature that would alert me before I smack the robot into a bedpost – or better yet if it could reverse away from the hazard on its own. However, I suppose that level of intelligence would drive the price out from the moderately affordable $247 / £199 / AU$382 to a little on the expensive side. 

In addition to its decent 1080p HD camera, the Enabot Ebo SE's Night Mode was pretty impressive as well, and it was nice to be able to see Miso at any hour of the day or night while he was creating chaos and growing his pile of stolen artifacts. Thankfully, Night Mode is automatically enabled, so whenever you want to drive around your home and check in on your loved ones (both furry and otherwise) in the dark you can open the app and get straight to spying. 

It's worth noting that you need a pretty solid internet connection, as you may end up accidentally driving your robot off a cliff (or, more likely, down the stairs) like I did when I stepped outside of my hotel and lost connection. 

Enabot Ebo SE with Miso the cat

(Image credit: Muskaan Saxena via Future)

Enabot Ebo SE pet robot review: price and availability

  • How much does it cost? $247 / £199 / AU$382
  • When is it available? Available now
  • Where can I buy it? Amazon and Enabot official site

The Enabot Ebo SE is relatively cheap and pretty budget-friendly for most people, available for $247 / £199 / AU$382. It's well worth the splurge if you've been saving up for a pet robot, but of course, it's still a luxury purchase. 

It is a lot cheaper than the Enabot Ebo X which starts at just under $1,000. It's currently available on Amazon as well as through the Enabot website. Of course, you lose out on a fair few advanced features; but I didn't find myself needing these.

Value: 4/5

Miso and Enabot

Two best friends taking in the sights (Image credit: Muskaan Saxena via Future )

Should I buy?

Buy it if... 

Don't buy it if...

Miso and Enabot Ebo SE

(Image credit: Muskaan Saxena via Future)

How I tested the Enabot Ebo SE

  • I used the Enabot Ebo SE while away from home and abroad for three weeks 
  • I set up all the controls 
  • I took photos and videos with the bot
  • I tested the microphone speaking both to my cat and to my housemate

I used the Enabot Ebo SE for about three weeks as my only pet and indoor camera. Once out of the box I paired it with my Ebo account and placed it in a secure room to operate in where stairs or other big obstacles wouldn't impact it. I spent a few days familiarizing myself with the controls before I traveled, practicing the steering and controls, and trialing the app and its features. 

I took several photos and videos of my cat at different parts of the day under different levels of internet connectivity, as well as using the microphone and speakers to see how reliable both components are. It is still currently my only pet camera and I use it often when I'm away from home or just want to check up on my cat. 

I've been researching and reviewing technology for two years, and while Miso hasn't necessarily developed the same writing skills I have, he's a pretty good judge of pet toys and products. 

Eureka E10s review: a hybrid vacuum and mop system for everyday cleaning
4:00 pm | April 13, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Robot Vacuums Smart Home | Comments: Off

Eureka E10s: two-minute review

The E10s is Eureka's mid-range robot vacuum, offering every feature you need. Its vacuuming and mopping capability is complimented by a bagless self-emptying dust station, real-time mapping, and customizable cleaning schedules.

The vacuum strength can be adjusted to suit the debris that needs picking up, but even at the strongest 4,000Pa of suction, there was still litter left behind. Freshly dropped crumbs and dirt were generally fine, but more stubborn walked-in dirt couldn't be captured. The noise at this level of suction also becomes a problem, especially if you're trying to relax at the same time or make sure the children stay asleep. This lack of high-end performance means you'll still need one of the best vacuum cleaners for those deeper cleans, though generally speaking no robotic cleaner can ever live up the the best vacuum cleaners in terms of suction power.

The E10s took a while to map my house, but once it was finished, it was able to predictably find its way around each room without too much trouble. As with most vacuums of this type, getting into corners was a little tricky, although the rotating dual brushes helped extend the capture range.

At the end of a clean, the E10 found its way back to its charging station and emptied its contents. It did this reliably and without any mess spilling out onto the floor. Unfortunately, the vacuum was rarely able to deposit the full contents of its clean into the base station. This resulted in the need for fairly regular maintenance cleaning to keep everything running smoothly. The base station itself looks great, with a clear perspex front, enabling users to see whether it needs emptying without having to tamper with it, though some may prefer vacuum debris to be left unseen.

Eureka E10s in dock

(Image credit: Future)

The mop pad feels like a half-hearted attempt at providing a premium feature. In essence, all it is doing is running a wet cloth along the floor behind the vacuum. The app allows you to control how much water it uses, something you'll need to be conscious of with hardwood floors. The mop was able to clean up fresh spills but couldn't push through deeper stains. I don't particularly mind this, as any mop that excels at this is likely to risk damaging the top layer of the floor. 

The mop automatically lifts when it's working in a 'no mop zone' which means the vacuum can move between surfaces without the user having to remove or insert the mop pad. That being said, the pad does attract a lot of unwanted dirt when traveling across carpets, which substantially limits its effectiveness when it then moves on to a hard floor.

Despite these small setbacks, the E10s is still a fantastic mid-range robot vacuum that will keep your house clean and tidy. At only $699, you'll get a largely effective robot vacuum, which will only require you to get out a standard vacuum cleaner or mop when performing deep cleans. 

Eureka E10s robot vacuum review: price & availability

  • How much does it cost? $699.99 / AU$1,099
  • When is it available? Available now
  • Where is it available? Available in the US and Australia

The Eureka E10s costs $699.99 / AU$1,099, and you can buy it in the US at various retailers, including Amazon and Walmart. The E10 is also available in Australia. There are no plans at the moment for a UK release.

This price point puts it firmly in the middle of the market between the super-budget options and premium alternatives. For the price, you'll get a fantastic all-rounder robot vacuum cleaner that includes a mop pad for basic mopping capabilities. Its bagless technology means owners will also avoid the cost of replacement bags, making this an even more affordable option. 

The Eufy Clean X9 Pro is a little more expensive, but delivers better mopping performance. If mopping is important to you, then the Ecovacs DEEBOT T20 Omni is another great option. If you want one of the best robot vacuums that excel at everything, then check out the Roborock S8 Pro Ultra for $1,599 / AU$2,699.

  • Value score: 4.5 out of 5

Eureka E10s robot vacuum specs

Eureka E10 robot vacuum review: design & features

  • Bagless Self-Emptying Dust Station
  • 2-in-1 Vacuum and Mop System
  • Multi-Level Cleaning

The Eureka E10s vacuum and base station are fairly compact and were well packaged inside a relatively small box. Having unboxed everything, I proceeded to plug the device in, download the app, and connect the two, which took no more than 10 minutes. After leaving the device to charge for a few hours, it was ready to map my house.

The robot vacuum is a beautiful round shape made of premium-quality powder-coated dark grey plastic. The color and material will help to keep the case looking great and free from scuff marks compared to white plastic alternatives. 

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Eureka E10s Dock

(Image credit: Future)
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Eureka E10s Dock

(Image credit: Future)

At 13.8 x 13.8 x 3.8 inches, it is a little larger than I expected, but it really looks the part. However, it is on the taller side of the robot vacuum spectrum, so it's worth considering if there will be enough clearance room for the E10s to venture beneath lower furniture. The top of the robot includes three neat buttons for quickly turning it off, setting it to clean, or sending it back to the base station for charging. More specific and targeted cleaning tasks can be carried out through the app.

Two side brushes are easily inserted into the vacuum, which helps it cover a greater area of dust and dirt. This was particularly effective at the edges and corners of rooms. Without them, I think it would have struggled in these areas.

Eureka E10s brushes

(Image credit: Future)

The mop pad sits at the back of the device and is attached with velcro and a thin rod that you slide into the main unit. The pad can be easily removed for cleaning and re-applying. The dust box is easy to remove and clean out, something that is regularly necessary due to the middling performance of the self-emptying process.

Moving on to the base station, we find an identical design ethos with pleasing curved edges and the same powder-coated dark grey plastic. At a size of 9.87 x 7.1 x 17.4 inches, it sits next to the wall and, after a while, just blends into the background.

Eureka E10s Base station

(Image credit: Future)

The debris receptacle is easily removed by pulling on the top handle and is largely made of see-through plastic, so you know when it needs emptying. The presence of a small LED light on the front of the base station tells you that it is connected to a power source.

The robot vacuum includes two metal connection points, which, when connected to the base station, allow the device to be charged. I found that the robot had no problems finding its way back to its home.

Eureka E10s Charging connection

(Image credit: Future)

The vacuum is complemented by an easy-to-use, powerful app. This makes it possible to see the mapped area, specify rooms, and dictate the suction power and water level. You can also set up a cleaning schedule for automated cleaning at set times.

I found it funny that there was a 'Find My Robot' feature. I'm not sure whose house is so big that it might get lost, but maybe it could get stuck under a sofa or chair. I can't say I needed it, but the option is certainly nice to have.

  • Design score: 4 out of 5

Eureka E10 robot vacuum review: performance

  • Easy-to-use app
  • Vacuuming for everyday cleaning
  • Sub-par mopping

For the first test, I sprinkled a mix of crushed digestives and flour onto my carpet and hard floor before setting it to clean on its lowest suction power. At this level of power, the E10s was unable to pick up any of the debris. The flour and biscuits just got compacted into the carpet, meaning I needed to wipe the carpet afterward. 

It fared slightly better on a hard floor, although it still struggled to collect a meaningful amount of dirt. After changing the power modes all the way from gentle through to turbo, I found that at the highest power setting, it was able to collect most of the debris, although it needed two or three turns to do it adequately.

Eureka E10s Underside

(Image credit: Future)

The second test with oats was very much the same story. The dual brushes helped to direct the oats into the vacuum, but the lowest suction wasn't strong enough to draw them up. The highest suction power was able to get up most of the oats.

The mop pad cleaned fresh spills nicely, although its effectiveness in mopping up spills rather than just spreading them around was completely dependent upon how wet the pad already was. More stubborn stains weren't effectively removed, largely due to the lack of oscillating or rotating mops.

In terms of noise, the robot vacuum reached 55dB on its lowest suction and 70dB on its highest. The former noise level just blends into the background, whereas the latter ruins a nice, relaxing evening. Because you'll want to use the highest suction level most of the time, you'll need to run this vacuum when you're out and about, during the daytime, or when you're doing other jobs around the house and are less likely to be bothered by the volume. 

Eureka E10s Water chamber

(Image credit: Future)

The E10s boasts self-emptying technology that negates the need for bags. I was excited to use this feature but was disappointed by its performance. Dust, dirt, and debris became stuck along the route from capturing to emptying, and it quickly became clogged.

This made the vacuum largely ineffective, even at the highest suction power. This problem meant that I had to get in the habit of cleaning out the various parts of the robot vacuum before setting it going. I don't mind a certain amount of maintenance, but when you expect your robot vacuum to remove these tasks, it becomes a little annoying.

Eureka E10s Robot Vacuum

(Image credit: Future)

The performance of the mapping and navigation technology was second to none. The robot vacuum took a while to map out our house, taking a lot of wrong turns and stumbling over table legs, but after it was finished, the map was surprisingly accurate. The software did a good job of straightening out edges and producing a reliable map for the robot to follow. 

These types of vacuums can have a hard time navigating around the edges of rooms, constantly readjusting themselves to try and access all areas. The E10s was able to detect objects and brush up alongside them with a high level of accuracy. Rather than rotating and readjusting, it opted to push alongside these edges and therefore perform more efficient routes.

There are, of course, times when the robot became confused or tried to repeatedly travel in a set direction, but on the whole, it proved to be both reliable and predictable.

  • Performance score: 3.5 out of 5

Eureka E10 robot vacuum review: app

  • Easy-to-use app
  • Room and zone mapping
  • Cleaning scheduling

The Eureka app offers a high level of functionality while maintaining a relatively simple and intuitive interface. After performing the initial mapping, the app gives a full display of the scanned rooms and enables users to name rooms as well as set no-go or no-mop zones. The map also shows where the base station is to help you orient yourself.

Setting the robot to clean can be done in a number of ways. The easiest way is to select specific rooms on the map and hit the clean button. It is also possible to use the zones feature and create a cleaning area. For more stubborn dirt, it is possible to set the clean to be carried out up to three times. 

Eureka E10s App

(Image credit: Future)

The final way to set a clean going is to use the Scheduled Cleaning feature. This lets you specify a time, a repeat schedule, and a number of cleaning cycles. It also allows you to specify which rooms are to be cleaned on that particular schedule. Finally, multiple schedules can be created to create a highly customized schedule.

Another feature is multi-floor mapping and thankfully, the robot is clever enough to not throw itself down the stairs. The only downside, albeit an understandable one, is that the robot can't move between floors and so will require manual moving before a clean occurs. This gets tricky when partnering multi-floor cleaning with a cleaning schedule.

I found the mapping and customizing of the resulting maps pretty intuitive, but after showing my parents how it worked, I realized that the process is not as straightforward as it needs to be for less tech-savvy people. There were times when the app went wrong or the robot struggled, requiring a certain level of intervention and troubleshooting. 

  • App score: 4.5 out of 5

Eureka E10 robot vacuum review: battery life

  • Battery lasts up to three hours
  • Takes around 4 hours to recharge

The E10s is equipped with an internal lithium-ion battery that is advertised to last as long as 3 hours. The maximum battery life is only applicable when using the quiet setting for suction, and the life drops to 100 minutes when set to high suction power.

In practice, I found the battery lasted just over an hour when at its highest suction setting. Considering that the effectiveness of the vacuum requires it to be on this level, you shouldn't expect it to be able to clean much more than 600-800 square feet per charge.

It took around four hours to charge the battery from empty to full, an amount of time that is fine considering most people will only perform a maximum of one clean per day.

The robot will return to its base station whenever it needs a charge and will return to cleaning automatically when it has finished charging.

  • Battery life score: 3.5 out of 5

Should I buy the Eureka E10?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Eureka E10: Also consider

If the Eureka E10s isn't for you, have a look at these alternatives.

How I tested the Eureka E10s

  • Tested over several weeks
  • Used all vacuum and mopping settings
  • Tests included all floor types, including carpet and hardwood

I tested the Eureka E10s in my 600-foot home, which includes a mixture of carpet, hardwood materials, and a low-pile rug. Over several weeks, I set the robot out on several whole house cleans, and as much as possible, I tried to leave the vacuum to get on with the job itself. These cleans enabled me to see how the vacuum handled a wide variety of different debris and types of navigation situations.

I carried out some more defined tests, including a fine dust and larger debris test to check its vacuuming capabilities. The former was made up of crushed digestives and flour, with the latter consisting of oats. These helped me see how well the vacuum was able to handle different types of mess. 

We pride ourselves on our independence and our rigorous review-testing process, offering up long-term attention to the products we review and making sure our reviews are updated and maintained – regardless of when a device was released, if you can still buy it, it's on our radar.

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed: March 2024
Ring Battery Video Doorbell Pro review: Ring upgrades last year’s Battery Doorbell Plus
3:01 am | March 20, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Home Security Smart Home | Comments: Off

One-minute review

The Ring Battery Video Doorbell Pro (Ring Battery Pro) is a smart doorbell that gives you the ability to remotely monitor and talk to visitors outside your property via your phone or desktop using Wi-Fi. If it seems a bit familiar, that’s because it looks almost identical to many of the best video doorbells from Ring, but in particular it boasts many of the same features and functionality as the Ring Battery Video Doorbell Plus (Ring Battery Plus), which was released in April 2023. 

There are a lot of similarities with the Ring Battery Plus, given this is just a slightly improved iteration with a higher price tag. The Ring Battery Pro once again is a wireless device with head-to-toe visibility thanks to its 1536p camera, which also offers night vision with color. It’s got decent battery life, although Amazon doesn’t tend to commit to confirming just what that is; it’s all very dependent on how much motion occurs around your home and how it is configured. However, in my experience, it doesn’t need recharging more often than once every couple of months.

The Ring Battery Pro can detect motion within a user-defined zone to alert you to any movement or packages that have been delivered even if the doorbell button has not been pressed, as well as notify you when someone comes knocking so you can quickly speak with them - even if you’re away from home. 

Ring Dorrbell Pro app screenshots

(Image credit: Future)

I’ve been using the Ring Battery Plus for several months and was perfectly content with its performance and features, except for one thing this year’s Pro model addresses; notification fatigue. The detection zone that I set up for the Plus model included my parked car which is a much larger detection zone than just the path to my front door. Unfortunately, the camera-based motion detector initially detected everything that went past the house; cars, bicycles, deer, cats, and dogs, and after a while, I began to just filter out the notification sounds.

Although the Ring app provides a means of adjusting the detection sensitivity, it proved difficult to find a good compromise between detecting movement around my car that I might object to and detecting any other moving object. On the other hand, the radar-powered 3D motion detection of the Ring Battery Pro is a significant improvement in this respect, resulting in far fewer unnecessary alerts and notifications.

The feed from the camera also includes a moveable Bird’s eye view overlay window on which it plots markers to indicate where the motion was detected and what path was taken. A cool feature? Absolutely, but it feels a bit redundant when you can use the pre-roll feature instead to see what happened in the seconds before the motion was detected or the doorbell was pressed. It also remains to be seen if the feature is of any use at all once the free trial subscription period expires and there is no video to replay.

The only other differences between the Ring Battery Pro and its predecessor are that the Pro also features:

  • Audio+ (improved microphones and speakers for two-way communication - though I haven’t noticed much of a difference).  
  • Low-Light Sight, a feature presently exclusive to this model that offers low light compensation settings for color, glare and for situations where the camera is used through glass thanks to the enhanced imaging sensors. 

The Ring Battery Pro is a bit more expensive than the older Plus model, and while I do think it’s an improvement, in these cost-conscious times, it’s not enough to justify the price difference.  

Ring Battery Video Doorbell Pro fitted on a brick wall

(Image credit: Future)

Price and availability

  • List price: $229.99 / £199.99 

The Ring Battery Pro is available from Ring for $229.99 / £199.99 and is available directly from both Amazon and the Ring website. 

The best comparison is to the Ring Battery Plus, which was originally $179.99 / £159.99 but is now available for $149.99 / £129.99. Given that its hardware is only somewhat improved and I’m a little underwhelmed by the utility of some of the new features, that $70 / £70 price difference smarts a little.

There is a great range of accessories and parts for ring doorbells, too; the benefit of a product identity and design that has not changed in years is that there are ample options.

Ring Battery Video Doorbell Pro review: Specs

Ring Battery video Doorbell Pro on an outside wall

(Image credit: Future)

Ring Battery Video Doorbell Pro review: Design

  •  It’s a ring doorbell, and looks the part 
  •  Rechargable and removable battery 
  •  Easy installation 

There is nothing wrong with the design of the Ring doorbell. I like how the device is packaged, but I am ambivalent about how it looks, and I suppose that’s the point. Split into a black top section housing its 1536p camera and a matte silver bottom section with the doorbell button, it’s neither quasi-iconic nor Quasimodo; I wouldn’t say it’s ugly, but it doesn’t exactly set the pulse racing. Familiarity breeds contempt, and Ring’s design is a victim of its success.

As can be seen in the price and availability section above, there are benefits to keeping things consistent when it comes to accessories and spares. The problem here is that there is now a bewildering array of Ring doorbells available online that all look the same. 

It’s straightforward to install and I like the included angled mounting bracket and spare screws; these both make the Ring Battery Pro a far more configurable video doorbell to set up than older models. 

Like the Ring Battery Plus, the Pro features a removable battery. Do I often drop the little screw when I remove the battery to charge it? Yes, but is it annoying enough to warrant buying the power adapter and running the cable from inside my home to the doorbell? No. A small magnet on the case to stick the screw onto once you removed it would help. I do like that it comes with its own screwdriver and USB cable, though.

Ring Battery Video Doorbell Pro review: Performance

Ring Doorbell Pro different camera modes

(Image credit: Future)

Once the battery is charged and the doorbell has been attached to your home the next task is to download the Ring app, set up an account and add your new device to the app. This is as straightforward as all of the other steps so far, and Ring has sensibly put the pairing code on the box and the manual as well as on the back of the device itself.

From the app, you can easily check your Ring Battery Pro’s live feed, communicate using two-way audio and set up features like motion and privacy zones. These zones as a feature can be immensely useful, helping to maintain your and your neighbors’ privacy, but as I’ve found in my previous Ring testing experience, editing the motion zones is frustrating. Moving the markers to adjust the area is very hit-or-miss and would sometimes erroneously move the entire zone. I tested this on an iPad as well in the hope that a bigger screen would increase accuracy, but alas, it was just as frustrating. 

Much like the Ring Battery Plus, the Pro’s HD+ 1536p camera has HDR and night vision with color, which are switched off by default to increase battery life. It’s worth experimenting with these features to figure out if you need to use them in your home; the battery life could become a real issue if you have a lot of activity outside of your home and keep these features on. I, for one, didn’t find the color night vision particularly illuminating, which says more about where I live (grey and boring) than the usefulness of the color night vision feature.

The head-to-toe view, much like in the Ring Battery Plus, is an excellent evolution of the older Ring models’ aspect ratio, allowing you to see much more of your entryway and even spot any packages. As I suggested before, I really can’t tell much difference between the Ring Battery Plus and Pro in terms of audio, despite the newer model supposedly featuring enhanced microphones and speakers, meaning the audio can still be a little muffled when visitors aren’t facing the doorbell directly.

There is another similarity between the Ring Battery Plus and the Ring Battery Pro; reliability. I have many smart devices running on 2.5 GHz inside my house and some of them have random connection issues and buggy software. The Ring Battery Pro, however, is on the outside of my house and is relentless in its detection duties. 

All in all, the Ring Battery Pro offers excellent performance. As always, though, it’s worth highlighting its full potential is unlocked with an added Ring Protect subscription. As ever, it’s a shame to see some of the most useful features like smart home trigger responses, advanced motion detection, package detection, and recorded video events be so gated, but, unfortunately, that’s the nature of many video doorbells these days. 

Ring Battery Video Doorbell Pro fitted on a brick wall

(Image credit: Future)

Ring Battery Video Doorbell Pro review: Should I buy?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Also consider

We’ve got lots of tips on how to buy a video doorbell, but the best comparisons are below.  

Ring Battery Video Doorbell Pro review: How I tested

  • I have several other Ring devices and compared the settings within the app to find any new features and test them. 
  • I predominantly used the app on an iPhone for changing settings. I also investigated the app on an iPad as well as the Ring website. 
  • I connected the Ring Pro to Apple Homekit via Homebridge. 

I installed the Ring Pro next to my home’s front door on the angled bracket and adjusted the motion zone so that I could detect movement at the front of my house and around my car.

To compare what was going on outside with any notifications from the doorbell, I monitored the video output on an ongoing basis using Apple Homekit (via Homebridge) while working on the computer. It is possible to do that via the Ring website, but you won’t find the battery charge information.

I enabled all of the default disabled features to test if the impact on the battery life rendered the features impractical. The battery performed as expected; it drained faster with everything switched on but did not need to be re-charged incessantly.

I set off the default windchimes alert tone in the supermarket to test how many customers had Ring doorbells… I changed the Ring alert tone to something else shortly after. 

I’ve been using smart home devices for several years now, and have a whopping 30+ years (gulp) of tech enthusiasm and experience under my belt. 

Amazon Echo Hub review: Alexa finally puts smart home first
7:30 pm | February 27, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Smart Home Smart Home Hubs | Tags: | Comments: Off

Amazon Echo Hub: Two-minute review

I’m a huge Amazon fan when it comes to smart home products. 'The variety of devices, and their affordability, the way they seamlessly with one another, and their seriously impressive Alexa capabilities won me over as soon as I started getting into smart home technology, and there’s a reason why Echo devices feature prominently on our list of the best smart speakers.

Overall, Amazon’s smart home devices offer excellent performance across the board, except for one vital area: smart home control. Don’t get me wrong, Alexa is a strong contender for the best smart home ecosystem, but generally speaking, control functions are the most under-serviced aspect of Amazon’s entertainment-first smart speakers and displays – or at least it was until the release of the Amazon Echo Hub. 

It’s an interesting move from Amazon; the Echo Hub blends some great features and functionalities that are already found in other Echo devices but adds a more sophisticated and stripped-back UI and some quality-of-life adjustments that make it one of the most attractive products in Amazon’s range of smart home controllers, and certainly one of the best smart displays available now – and I think that’ll be especially true for people who aren’t already onboard with Alexa-enabled devices.

Amazon Echo Hub showing the main UI

(Image credit: Future)

In part, it’s due to the device’s design and UI, which feel distinctly more Google than Amazon. At a time when we’re potentially witnessing a slow and very quiet demise for Google’s smart home products, that’s a real boon for Amazon, and features like the soon-to-be-released Map View will also serve to delight smart home fans.

The product design sees Amazon leaning even further out of its comfort zone; it’s inoffensive but doesn’t look cheap, which is certainly more my speed compared to the Amazon Echo Pop I reviewed last year.

The whole purpose of the Echo Hub feels distinctly more techie, which will likely appeal more to smart home enthusiasts than the more entertainment-led Echo Show devices. Plus, with Matter, Thread, Zigbee, and Bluetooth support, and power-over-Ethernet possibilities, it’s got a lot to offer owners of homes with a large number of connected devices.

It’s a smart move from Amazon to create a true smart-home hub, and it’s also executed it pretty well. Despite some slightly laggy and glitchy interactions with the UI, which I hope will be resolved over time, overall I had a great experience with the Echo Hub. 

Amazon Echo Hub

(Image credit: Future)

Amazon Echo Hub: Price and availability

  • How much does it cost? $179.99 / £169.99 / AU$329.00
  • When is it available? Available now
  • Where can you get it? Available in the US, UK and Australia

The Amazon Echo Hub was released in February 2024, and costs $179.99 / £169.99 / AU$329.00. It’s available directly from Amazon; it’s not yet listed at third-party retailers.

Considering that it’s comparable to the Echo Show 8 in size and specs, I was a little surprised initially to discover that the Echo Hub is more expensive. The Show 8 comes in at $149.99 / £149.99 / AU$229, despite offering superior speakers to the Hub, a built-in camera, and great streaming chops; however, it’s just not capable of running a smart home as speedily and responsively as the Echo Hub is. 

That’s because while the Echo Hub uses the same baseline OS as the recent Show devices, it’s powered by a MediaTek MT 8169 A processor. Plus, it packs a lot of connectivity tech into its very small, wall-mountable frame, so it does make sense for the Hub to cost a bit more than the Echo Show 8. Both devices are a little overpriced for what they offer, but Amazon has the smart display market pretty much to itself, with Google having released no new Nest Hub products since 2021, so it’s unsurprising that it’s shooting for higher list prices – and generally speaking, Amazon’s own devices are very well discounted during sales events like Black Friday and Prime Day.

It’s worth noting that the Echo Hub is very much intended to be a wall-mounted screen, but if, like me, you’re a renter or otherwise don’t want to damage your walls you can also buy a separate stand from Sanus for $29.99 in the US, or Amazon’s own stand in the UK for £29.99; I’ve not been able to find an equivalent that’s available in Australia. 

  • Value: 4 / 5

Amazon Echo Hub: Specs

Amazon Echo Hub: Design and features

  • Slimline, simple design optimized for wall mounting
  • Neat inbuilt cable management
  • Side-mounted physical controls 

The Amazon Echo Hub isn’t much to write home about when it comes to design – and that’s exactly what I love about it. 

Designed to be tablet-like, the Echo Hub is 7.9 x 5.3 x 0.5 inches / 202 x 137 x 15mm (w x h x d), with a 14mm bezel. The bezel is white, which can easily look a bit tacky but actually rather suits the intended purpose of the device; it’s able to seamlessly blend in with most light-colored walls, and with the white UI.

There’s no camera, but that’s okay – the Echo Hub isn’t for video calls or home surveillance; it’s simply a control interface. There are three microphones on the front of the hub for voice activation, as well as two speakers on the top, and the physical volume and privacy controls are on the right-hand side of the screen.

Amazon Echo Hub with its added Sanus stand

(Image credit: Future)

On the back of the device is a nifty cable organizer for the singular USB-C input, and the Echo Hub also offers PoE (power-over-Ethernet) charging. The cable is as discreet as a cable can be, but some still may prefer to not see wires running down their walls; still, it’s not too hard to DIY a passthrough solution.

I’d have liked to see even just a small, flimsy Nintendo Switch-style kickstand included for those who don’t want to wall-mount the device, rather than them having to shell out for a  separate and pretty pricey stand, but I can understand Amazon’s efforts to keep the Echo Hub streamlined and secure. And to be fair, the separate stand is very robust.

  • Design: 5 / 5

Amazon Echo Hub showing the active media list

(Image credit: Future)

Amazon Echo Hub: Performance

  • New UI offers great smart home control…
  • …but it’s slightly buggy and slow at times
  • Value-adding features like Adaptive Content are nice additions

Considering that I live in a pokey one-bed apartment I have a fair number of smart home devices, and trying to control them all can sometimes be a frustrating experience. Using voice control can become downright irritating – the novelty, I’m afraid, has worn off for me – while the Alexa app just doesn’t offer the granularity of control I’d expect, nor is it particularly intuitive. So I’ve spent a fair amount of time yelling at Alexa to try to get my smart home in order.

The Echo Hub, however, removes that pain point almost entirely. Yes, Alexa is in there, but this touchscreen titan pretty much reinvents the Alexa smart home experience – though you will still need to use the Alexa app, much to my chagrin. Thankfully, the Echo Hub offers Matter, Thread, Zigbee, and Bluetooth support. 

While the Echo Hub runs the same OS, supports the same features, and has a near-identical 8-inch, 1280 x 800-pixel resolution screen as its Echo Show siblings, its interface is entirely different; it’s pared back, smart home-focused, and stuffed full of useful widgets. 

These widgets form the backbone of the Echo Hub experience, allowing you to quickly control your smart home devices and routines. On the left of the screen is the navigation menu, in which you can switch between the main dashboard, your routines, and whatever rooms you have set up in your Alexa app. 

Amazon Echo Hub showing the main UI

(Image credit: Future)

If you use security cameras in and around your home, you can also use the Echo Hub to check in on your live feeds, viewing up to four at once with the Multiview feature. Ring cameras, being Amazon devices, get a little added benefit in that you can also get snapshots of your feed from the camera widget.

I also appreciate some of the quality-of-life features offered by the Echo Hub. The Adaptive Content feature, which is also in the Echo Show 8, uses infrared sensors on the top of the device to detect your proximity to it, simplifying the display when you’re further away and adding more detail when you’re closer. I also love the fact that the UI is stripped back and free from clutter; it’s not filled with Amazon’s bloatware or invasive advertising, and I really hope it stays that way. 

Sounds great, right? And that’s what makes it all the more frustrating that Amazon wasn’t able to nail it on the software side. The Echo Hub is by no means an abject failure, but the one thing it needs to be as a smart home controller is fast, but due to some slight lag issues when using widgets (and one small bug I encountered which rendered the lighting widget unusable for a few minutes) it’s a little disappointing at times.

It mainly seems to struggle if you try to swipe or use any gestures other than tapping, which is a little counterintuitive if you’re used to the touchscreens of any of the best phones or best tablets. The disappointment is only intensified when you consider that early hands-on reviews from a variety of outlets in September 2023 reported lag issues, so there’s been enough time for Amazon to tweak the software – though there’s every chance that its MediaTek MT 8169 A processor just isn’t up to the job. 

There’s also some really simple stuff that we know, at the very least, Alexa can do, but which the widgets can’t. For example, I can ask Alexa to make the lights in my living room red, and despite those lights all being from different manufacturers, the smart speaker can unify the command. However, other than setting up a routine for a specific color, there’s no way to do this using manual controls on the Echo hub. 

Amazon Echo Hub showing the color changing options on a smart light

(Image credit: Future)

Its customizability isn’t quite as good as I’d hoped for either; you can only configure the home page, but not the ordering or layout of devices in your different rooms and routines, which default to alphabetic ordering. That’s fine if you’ve only got a few devices or you use most of them daily, but I’ve got some rogue devices that I use maybe once a month that are much more easily accessible than others that I’d need more often. You also can’t customize the favorites bar, so you’re stuck with Lights, Smart Plugs, Cameras, and Active Media as well as the Other menu, which for me brought up a really random array of devices and scenes.

I do appreciate the library of widgets available, though this feature isn't really utilized as well as it could be. The widgets operate mostly as shortcuts with little-to-no programmability, which leaves the Echo Hub a little vulnerable to being overtaken in the software department if Apple does come out with its rumored smart display.

Amazon Echo Hub showing the widget library

(Image credit: Future)

Still, I imagine that the OS is a work in progress – we know that Map View is yet to come, for example, so we might see future improvements in the speed and reliability of the Echo Hub. I really hope Amazon gives the Echo Hub even greater control; it’s still not a full replacement for the app, and certain settings and configurations can still only be done in the app. Plus, and predictably so, it still gives preference to Amazon devices.

Outside of its use as a smart home controller, there’s not much to say about the Echo Hub’s performance. While it does have two speakers, these are mostly so that Alexa can respond to you; they’re certainly not high-quality enough for music or entertainment, but once again, that’s not what the Echo Hub is for.

While I do have the above gripes with the OS, I’m nitpicking somewhat. Broadly speaking, the Echo Hub is an excellent device that, if nothing else, shows Amazon pushing out of its comfort zone; and I’m thrilled that it’s dropped some of the more irritating things about Echo devices, like the bloatware and incessant advertising. 

  • Performance: 4.5 / 5

Should you buy the Amazon Echo Hub?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Amazon Echo Hub: Also consider

If the Amazon Echo Show 8 (3rd gen) isn't for you, why not consider other smart displays?

How I tested Amazon Echo Hub

  • I tested it for a week
  • I used it as my main smart display at home
  • I tried all its different features and functionalities and stress tested the nw UI

I had a week to test the Amazon Echo Hub in my home, bringing it into my smart home ecosystem and using it as the main smart display to control my various smart home devices. In my home, I use everything from smart security cameras and air purifiers to smart lights and smart plugs, so there was plenty for the Echo Hub to play with. 

I opted to use the Echo Hub with a Sanus stand, however from looking at the provided installation kit I was able to assess how easy the wall-mounted installation process would be. I primarily used the device  to control my smart devices, but I also tried some of the widgets available in Amazon's fairly extensive library. 

I've been testing and reviewing smart home devices for several years, and come from a background of writing about IoT devices and network infrastructure. I'm also a massive smart home nerd outside of work, 

Read more about how we test

First reviewed February 2024

Simplisafe Home Security System review: easy, secure
3:28 pm | February 12, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Home Security Smart Home | Comments: Off

Simplisafe Home Security System: One-minute review

Simplisafe home security systems are pretty well known to be some of the best home security systems. Since its foundation in 2006, the brand has taken a buffet-type approach to home security that makes getting just the right system for you about as easy as pie, though the price can add up as a result.

Of course, there are specific bundles – something I’ll get into below. But, even with the bundles, you can add any peripheral later if you find an area of your home is not fully protected. The reality of adding a device is intuitive, not to mention mostly non-destructive as well. Really, what Simplisafe has to offer is great for most people, especially in apartments, thanks to that ease of installation and use. 

Just be aware that you do need to invest in a subscription with Simplisafe’s system, but the cheapest tier is less than a month of Netflix.

Simplisafe Home Security System: Specs

Simplisafe Home Security System: Price and availability

  •  How much does it cost? Starting at $249.96 / £284.96 (AU$378) 
  •  When is it available? Available now 
  •  Where can you get it? Available in the US and UK 

Simplisafe Security Systems included items

(Image credit: Future)

While Aussies will have to sit this one out unless they can access Simplisafe through a third-party vendor or the cargo hold of an inbound flight, those in the US and UK have quite a smorgasbord of options available, starting with the Foundation bundle, which goes for $249.96 / £284.96 (AU$378). This bundle includes a base station, keypad, entry sensor, motion sensor, and an indoor camera.

The next step up is the Essentials with a price tag of $279.95 / £349.93 (about AU$424). This bundle includes a base station, keypad, three entry sensors, a motion sensor, and an indoor camera. This is the closest to the review unit I received, which also includes a smoke & carbon monoxide (CO) detector (an additional $59.99 / not available in the UK).

From there, the bundles get more expansive with names unique to each territory. For instance, the Beacon is the top bundle in the US at $799 while the Edinburgh is the most expensive one in the UK at £664.87.

Simplisafe Security System keypad

(Image credit: Future)

Just remember that this doesn’t include the subscription packages, of which there are two. A more expensive one at $0.99 / £0.83 a day (about $30 / £25 a month) includes live guard monitoring and emergency service response while the cheaper one at $0.33 / £0.53 a day (or about $10 / £16 a month) just alerts you to any disturbances, leaving you with the duty of calling emergency services. On the bright side, there is no contract.

While the price can add up with additions, it’s pretty reasonable generally. For example, we took a look at Vivint a few years ago, which admittedly adds some smart home automation, and their packages started at $599 with a $39.99/mo subscription.

A better comparison might be Abode with their more a la carte offerings. They also have bundles with the closest one to what’s reviewed here being the iota, which costs $279.99 and doesn’t come with a CO detector. There are various bundles and add-ons so the price tag is not really that big of a difference. However, overall their plans are cheaper, with the self-monitoring plan going for $6.99 a month and a $22.99 per month pro plan similar to Simplisafe’s highest tier. And, you can use Abode’s devices without any plan if you want.

Value: 4.5 / 5

Simplisafe Home Security motion sensor installed

(Image credit: Future)

Simplisafe Home Security System: Design

  •  Sleek and discreet 
  •  Mostly tool-less installation 
  •  Entry sensors can’t be used on door frames with molding 

Simplisafe Security Systems CO detetcor

(Image credit: Future)

Unless you have a very unusual interior color scheme for your home, all the Simplisafe peripherals in their sleek and inoffensive white colorways discreetly fade into the background. The most imposing item is the required base station, which is 21 cm or 8.21 inches tall and needs to be placed somewhat centrally in the home for WiFi access.

The keypad is the next conspicuous item only since it needs to be placed on the wall in an easy-to-reach location. Whenever an alarm is triggered, you have to make it to the keypad within sixty seconds to disarm.

The entry sensors and motion sensor are pretty innocuous as is the indoor wireless camera. The smoke and CO detector looks like most smoke detectors and will need to be placed as such.

Simplisafe Security System entry sensor installed

(Image credit: Future)

Installation, outside of the smoke detector, is tool-less as every peripheral comes with adhesive tape so you can just place them wherever, hold them for thirty seconds, and move on to the next peripheral. The smoke detector is a bit more traditional in that you’ll have to use the included screws to install. Of course, that’s not a big deal and only leaves you with a few holes if you decide to move it.

The entry sensors and the wireless camera also come with screws in case you need them, but I found that I could skip. The only real hindrance with installation is the fact that I couldn’t use the entry sensors on door or window frames with molding as the two ends of the sensors wouldn’t sit flush with each other. While this certainly creates a weak spot, you can overcome this by placing the motion sensor in a way to pick up activity around that particular door or window.

Design: 4.5 / 5

Simplisafe Security System base station setup

(Image credit: Future)

Simplisafe Home Security System: Performance

  •  Using the app to set up is easy 
  •  System is quick to trigger 
  •  Can be used with some smart home ecosystems 

Simplisafe home security system app on an iPhone

(Image credit: Future)

Beyond the physical installation, using the app to connect everything to the base station, not to mention set up the base station, is the height of simplicity. In fact, I was stunned by how easy it was considering the amount of included pieces. I’m embarrassed to say that I procrastinated on this review trying to figure out where to place everything and the amount of work it would take to set up, yet once I actually set everything up, I was basically done in about 20 minutes.

The app gives very specific instructions on how to install each item physically, where to place them (especially placement-sensitive peripherals like the cameras and motion sensor), and how to connect them to the base station, which speaks up every time a new device is connected.

Simplisafe home security system app on an iPhone

(Image credit: Future)

In fact, the base station talks quite a bit. Any time a sensor is triggered or the security system is turned on, you’ll hear an Alexa-like voice. I spent most of the time during testing (once everything was installed or set up) trying to trigger the security system and it was quick to pick up any strange activity whether it’s me opening the door, walking by the motion sensor in the dark, or by the camera when the light is on.

Once triggered, you have to enter a PIN on the keypad or app to disarm, meaning intruders can’t do anything if they don’t know your PIN and either you’ll be notified and/or the police will depending on the subscription plan.

Simplisafe home security system app on an iPhone

(Image credit: Future)

If you’re smart home-savvy, you can also arm the system through Alexa, Google Assistant, or one of the best smartwatches.

A few other interesting tidbits to consider – everything except the base station runs off batteries and only the wireless camera can be recharged. If the base station loses physical power, it does have battery power to continue to keep your home safe until the power has been restored.

Performance: 4.5 / 5

Simplisafe home security system app on an iPhone showing the camera setup

(Image credit: Future)

Should I buy the Simplisafe Home Security System?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Also consider

If our Simplisafe Security System review has you considering other options, here are two home security systems to consider...  

How I tested the Simplisafe Security System

  •  I used the Simplisafe Security System for a week 
  •  I installed the whole system unassisted  
  •  I tested each device individually 

Simplisafe Security System indoor camera

(Image credit: Future)

Not only did I install the Simplisafe security system without help, physically and through the app, but tested each individual device to see how sensitive it was and whether it worked as advertised.

I found that the Simplisafe is perfect for anyone who doesn’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to home security and wants something that can scale with their place, whether it’s an apartment or house.

I’ve spent the last few years reviewing tech gear for the home, where I’ve gotten a feel for what to look for and how to put a piece of kit through its paces to see whether it’s worth the recommendation.

First reviewed January 2024

iRobot Roomba Combo J9 Plus review
9:00 pm | February 10, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Robot Vacuums Smart Home | Comments: Off

One-Minute Review

iRobot’s Roomba Combo J9 Plus (stylized as Roomba Combo j9+) is almost everything you could want from an autonomous cleaning companion, and one of the best robot vacuums if your budget allows for it.

It takes everything that made the Roomba Combo J7 Plus great (we awarded that model four-and-a-half stars in our review) – such as the first of its kind retractable mop pad that folds down from the top of the robot, ensuring zero risk of it wetting your carpet, unlike bottom-mounted mops – and elevates it with improved object detection, more powerful suction, and a smart scrubbing mop (a feature that's since been added to the J7 models).

The upshot is that this sleek cleaning machine will clear pretty much all the dirt you throw at it, with iRobot saying the vacuum delivers “100% more suction power” than its previous models. At the same time, the Combo J9 Plus avoids pet waste and any objects you’ve left lying around that might cause it issues. 

During my months of using the Combo J9 Plus, it has become stuck only once (on its first-ever clean), and a quick edit of the app’s map to label that area a Keep Out zone has meant in the dozens of cleans since it has managed to vacuum and mop my home and return to its self-emptying charging dock with zero issue.

Speaking of which, the Roomba Combo J9 Plus’ base is surprisingly stylish for a bin. A wood-effect top makes it look like (and it could be used as) a small table, meaning it would be fine to have it hiding in plain sight in your living room. That said, the noise of the vacuum emptying is a little loud, plus the base needs to be near an electrical outlet, and have a decent amount of space around.

The Roomba Combo J9 Plus Base in front of a sofa

The Roomba in its base (Image credit: Future)

The only slight disappointment for a robot vacuum at this top-tier level is that the base doesn’t clean its own mop pad. The upside is the base doesn’t store any dirty water, which can become smelly if it isn't changed regularly; and changing the mop yourself is hardly a hassle.

So, the only thing really holding back the Combo J9 Plus Roomba is its $1,399.99 / £1,249 price. As such, those on a budget would do well to keep their eyes peeled at sale time. 

Roomba Combo J9 Plus: Price and availability

  • List price: $1,399.99 / £1,249

The iRobot Roomba Combo J9 Plus is available to buy online, and you can pick it up from either the official iRobot store or Amazon for $1,399.99 / £1,249. The good news for those on a budget is that we have seen it discounted during Black Friday and the January sales, for example, so be on the lookout for a deal.

For the price, you get a vacuuming and mopping robot, a self-emptying base that can refill the robot’s water, too, two mop heads, two AllergenLock bags, a spare filter, and an extra side brush for the first time you need to replace them.

If you want the self-emptying base but no mop then you can buy the Roomba J9 Plus for $899.99 / £949; or, the regular Roomba J9 with no self-emptying base or mop will cost you £699 (only available in the UK).

My advice is to get one of the Plus models with a base. Not having to remember to empty the Roomba every time is a major convenience. The Combo’s mop is certainly handy, too; but no matter what type of home you have, the base is worth the extra expense. 

Whichever model you choose, be aware that there are ongoing costs with this robot vacuum. The self-emptying base station’s vacuum bags need to be replaced when they’re full; the rollers, brush and filter will need to be switched out every so often – the app will notify you when it's time – and if you want the mop to deliver a better clean then you’ll want to use iRobot’s approved cleaning solution instead of regular water.

Value: 4/5

The Roomba Combo J9 Plus cleaning a hard floor

(Image credit: Future)

Roomba Combo J9 Plus: Design

  • Stylish self-emptying and self-charging dock
  • Mop pad that won’t drag on carpet
  • 3.4-inch / 8.7cm tall

The iRobot Roomba Combo J9 Plus shares a lot of design features with its sibling, the Combo J7 Plus, with the best of these being mop placement.

Unlike most robot vacs that raise the mop down from underneath the base, bringing a risk that the mop will brush against your rug when your robot passes onto the raised surface, the Combo J9 Plus’ mop folds down from the top of the vacuum. As such, there's zero chance it will catch on surfaces it shouldn't mop.

The only downside is that the vacuum isn’t able to clean or replace its own mop as some other robot mops. I didn't find this a major inconvenience, though. 

The Roomba Combo J9 Plus mop revealed while it's in its charging base

The Roomba Combo J9 Plus mop (Image credit: Future)

Just like previous Roombas, the Combo J9 Plus is clad in an all-black plastic casing, with a gunmetal disc sitting at the center of the matte surface on the top side. Offset towards the front of the Roomba you’ll find the singular control – a button that can pause or start the robot when you press it mid-clean, or send it home on holding it down for a few seconds.

On the front side of the Roomba you’ll find its camera, and a protective plastic bumper that has some give so that both the robot and whatever it (gently) bumps don’t become damaged. Underneath you’ll find the brush that flicks dirt into the path of the vacuum rollers, as well as two bidirectional wheels and a swivel wheel that allow it to move in all directions.

At the back, you’ll find the robot’s dust bin and water container. The robot automatically empties its dirt and refills its water at the end of each clean  – or mid-clean, if necessary – so you’ll probably never need to deal with it. That is, except to change the filter when the app notifies you to do so.

Size-wise, the Room Combo J9 Plus measures 3.4-inch / 8.7cm tall, and 13.3 x 13.3 inches / 33.8 x 33.9cm in length and width. So before picking this robot up you might want to measure your furniture to see if the Roomba can get beneath it and navigate around it.

The Roomba Combo J9 Plus base with its door open, in front of a sofa

The Roomba base when it's open (Image credit: Future)

The base station is also a fairly sizeable 15.9 x 16.1 x 12.2 inches / 40.5 x 41 x 31cm (h x w x l), and iRobot recommends you have 1.5ft / 0.5m on each side and 4ft / 1.2m in front. It isn't massive, but neither is it the smallest; and it needs to be situated near a power socket, too.

If you do have to place the base in plain sight in your living room, for example, then you’ll appreciate its stylish design and wooden-effect top; it really doesn't look like a bin at all. Do note that the robot vacuum is quite loud when it empties itself, although the sound is no louder than a regular vacuum cleaner and the process is pretty speedy.

Opening up the base reveals the large water storage tank. Those who mop frequently, and have a lot of hard floors, should expect it to last a month. I have fewer hard floors, so that one tank should last a few months. There's also a drawer containing the AllergenLock bag into which dirt is deposited. This will usually require emptying around every 60 days of cleaning – the LED on the front of the base will light up red when it needs emptying. There are also two shelves on the back of the door for storing spare Roomba parts such as the extra dirtbag, filter and brush head that are supplied with the vacuum at purchase.

 Design: 4.5/5 

Roomba Combo J9 Plus: Performance

  • “100% more suction power” than previous Roomba models
  • Smart scrub tackles tougher messes
  • Brush can flick larger debris around a bit before it’s vacuumed

The Roomba Combo J9 Plus is a cleaning powerhouse that’s able to suck up dirt and debris across a range of floor types. 

iRobot hasn’t said how powerful its J9-series models are specifically, but does state that they have “100% more suction power” than its i-Series robots. Previously iRobot said the Roomba Combo J7 Plus came with merely “standard” cleaning power, so we’ve taken this to mean the J9 models are twice as powerful as that robo vac too. 

In our tests, this boost in power saw the Roomba pick up all dirt and debris in its path. The only issue we found was that the brush can flick larger bits around, which can extend the time the robot vacuum spends cleaning. In addition, depending on the shape of your room and furniture placement, it won’t be able to get into every nook and cranny (although it does a pretty great job overall).

In addition to more powerful suction, the Roomba Combo J9 Plus and its J9 siblings arrive with Dirt Detective – some smart software that allows the robot vacuum to learn the areas of your home that get the dirtiest. With this information the vacuum will then turn on its high suction settings or scrub the floors a little harder in those areas.

Speaking of scrubbing, the Combo J9 models with a mop offer a smart scrub feature – that was also added to the Combo J7 models. Rather than simply dragging its mop over your hard floors, when the J9 Combo Plus cleaner detects a tougher stain, it will move back and forth over the area to scrub it clean. 

The Roomba Combo J9 Plus smart scrubbing the bathroom

How smart scrub works on the Roomba Combo J9 Plus (Image credit: iRobot)

Those who want their robot to always deliver the most intense clean can even program the Roomba through the app to use its most powerful suction every time and / or do two passes of every room. Just note that this may mean the robo vac needs to recharge mid-clean, though.

You might also want to invest in some iRobot-approved cleaning solution if you want the mop to give your hard floors a deeper clean.

I'll add that this robot is also very reliable from the perspective that it’s able to clean with (almost) zero human assistance. In my months of testing the Roomba Combo J9 Plus, it has become stuck precisely once – it entered a small gap to go under a unit from which it then couldn’t escape. However, by adding a Keep Out zone in the app (more on that down below) it has never become stuck there again. The only other thing I had to do was remember to open the doors before sending it on a clean, and make sure my lights were turned on the light was low, since the Roomba can’t clean in the dark.

Performance: 5/5

Roomba Combo J9 Plus: App

  • Can program, schedule, and start cleans from anywhere
  • Analyze obstacles and adjust your map as necessary
  • Keep an eye on your vacuum’s health

The iRobot app is your one-stop shop for managing everything related to your Roomba Combo J9 Plus vacuum, and it’s super easy to use. 

Setting up your vacuum is simple via the app, which takes you through the process step by step covering everything from connecting your robot, naming it, and creating your first map. 

The iRobot app showing the robot vacuum's health, its cleaning stats and the main page

(Image credit: Future)

Once your map is complete, you’ll want to do a clean or two – and my advice is to make sure you’re at home while these initial cleans take place. The robot is pretty darn smart and able to avoid obstacles, but as I mentioned above, my cleaner did become stuck on the first clean. Once I'd rescued it, the Roomba completed its task, and adding the area to the Keep Out zone via the app has meant that this hasn't happened again.

Note that this robo vac can snap pics of obstacles it comes across, which you can either mark as another Keep Out zone, as a temporary obstacle that you can make sure isn’t in the way next time, or as an imaginary obstacle that the vacuum doesn’t need to worry about. After those first two test cleans, I’ve been happy to let the Roomba Combo J9 Plus clean while I’m out – and it has always does a great job.

You can also add No Mop and Clean Zones if you want the Roomba to only vacuum a hard surface in that area, and if you want the robot to take extra care cleaning that space respectively.

Lastly in the app, scroll down to the Product Health menu and you can inspect every detail of your robot vacuum’s components. Based on the number of cleaning hours your Roomba has performed, the iRobot app will estimate how long your components have left before they need to be replaced. This is super handy for keeping your Roomba in tip-top shape.

App: 5/5 

Roomba Combo J9 Plus: Battery

  • Cleverly recharges itself when needed
  • Charge remaining only viewable in the app

In all honesty, the battery is a bit of a mystery to me since this robot vacuum handles charging itself. 

Most of the time, the Roomba Combo J9 Plus cleaned my spaces without needing to recharge its battery mid-clean. However, the one time I had it clean every room twice on Max suction settings, it did need to return to base to top up the battery. Nevertheless, it did so without any intervention from me. 

The Roomba Combo J9 Plus emptying its dirt and refilling its water at its base

How the Roomba Combo J9 Plus empties and refills itself (Image credit: iRobot)

Roomba Combo J9 Plus: Score card

Should I buy the Roomba Combo J9 Plus?

Buy it if… 

Don’t buy it if… 

Nanoleaf 4D screen mirror and lightstrip Kit review: say “Halo” to a major smart home cinema upgrade
8:23 pm | January 23, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Home Smart Home Smart Lights | Comments: Off

Two-minute review

Nanoleaf’s 4D TV-syncing strip lights are a first for the brand, which is known best for making some of the best smart lights available. With Nanoleaf 4D, the brand has easily accomplished one of the best Ambilight alternatives and created some serious competition for established brands in the space such as Philips Hue and Govee. 

The set is available in two sizes, one for screens up to 65 inches and the other for models up to 85 inches, and come in at a fairly affordable price of $99 / £89 / AU$189 and $119 / £119 / AU$229 respectively. 

Out of the box, the Nanoleaf 4D kit consists of an LED light strip that is attached to the back of the screen and plugged into a control box, which in turn connects to a camera that detects the colors displayed on the screen. The kit illuminates the LEDs to match the picture on your screen, throwing the colors onto the wall behind the screen for a pleasing synchronized glow around the screen. 

The camera can either be mounted atop the TV with the included armature, or placed on your TV table using its built-in stand, and those concerned about prying digital eyes around their home will be pleased to learn that the camera also comes with a magnetic privacy cover.

The screen camera of the Nanoleaf 4D poinging at the. screen

(Image credit: Future)

One of the slight niggles I found when setting up the lights concerned how the cables that connect the lights and camera to the controls are positioned. The rather vague instructions in the handbook encourage you to begin your light strip placement in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen, meaning the wire for the lights trails from that corner, while the camera cable falls centrally. 

This leaves you with a choice of either bending and sticking the light strip wire or having the control sit somewhere near the right-hand side of your screen, lest you run out of wire length to play with. All in all, although not a major issue, I value a neat home entertainment setup and this doesn’t necessarily facilitate that.

Installation is otherwise very straightforward, although you will need to remove your television from the wall to fit the lightstrip, and potentially need a second pair of hands if you’re a real perfectionist. I cheated as my test screen is on a stand! The kit comes supplied with corner mounting blocks which allow the strip to curve around the corners (rather than creating a loop out of the strip which would create problems in accurately matching the colours to the screen.)

The Nanoleaf 4D LED strip fitted to the rear of a TV

(Image credit: Future)

There are 10 color zones per meter and 30 LEDs per meter, and the strip can be cut to length at specific 10-centimetre intervals. This does mean you might end up with a gap or excess of the strip when they meet at the end, but a little trial and error with placement before sticking anything on will minimize this. 

Once that’s done, simply peel off the tape backing and stick that strip down, and you’re all set. The strip does tend to peel away from the back of the screen where the two ends meet, but that’s easily resolved by applying some more double-sided sticky tape.

The Nanoleaf app is nicely laid out and works well most of the time, but can occasionally crash. Whilst I appreciate that all software has bugs, some sort of an error message would be nice. Having said that, the things that you can do with this software and the kit impressed me; the Nanoleaf 4D does all of the usual colored lighting tricks that LED strips do. But let’s face it, screen synchronization is what we’re here for. 

The Nanoleaf 4D camera calibration setup

(Image credit: Future)

The app guides you through mapping out your TV lights, and once you’re set up, you can create your own scenes, or you can use the Magic Scenes feature to create a palette based on a mood or keywords (although I found that the latter favored washed-out hues).

You can choose between four settings (or dimensions, between 1D and 4D), which range from an ambient white glow to the aforementioned screen-matching lights akin to the gold standard Ambilight-style experience. It’s a little tricky to find clear guidance on what each of the dimensions does, so here is my take on it.

1D: White light that’s well suited to documentaries and general viewing

2D: Block color that’s great for ambiance, representing an average of the color displayed on-screen 

3D: Splashes of color reflective of on-screen action, but not extending the screen 

4D: Colors extend from the edges of the screen for full immersion

You can change the color settings by cycling through the controls or via the app. 

Nanoleaf 4D features the same sound-reactive functionality boasted by its smart light siblings, and as a bonus, responds to sound far better than the Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights I reviewed last month.

Once I had finished playing with all of the settings I played a few games and films and noticed that one side of the screen was not displaying the screen colors correctly. Further investigation revealed the problem; I needed to close a white door that was being reflected on the screen. You have a choice: either be mindful of the lighting and reflective objects in the room or spend between 4 or 5 times as much on a Philips Hue system for its HDMI linking.  

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The Nanoleaf 4D

(Image credit: Future)
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The Nanoleaf 4D

(Image credit: Future)
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The Nanoleaf 4D

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The Nanoleaf 4D

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The Nanoleaf 4D

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The Nanoleaf 4D

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The Nanoleaf 4D

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The Nanoleaf 4D

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The only feature I found myself missing is a perennial issue for non-HDMI smart screen lights – automatic screen detection. Call me lazy, but I’d prefer my lights to come on when they detect on-screen activity, rather than requiring me to use the app or physical control.

Overall, I’d say the Nanoleaf 4D screen mirror and lightstrip kit is a great low-cost alternative to the Philips Hue system that just edges out the other low-cost alternatives in several areas; it’s easy to install, well-designed and the results can be spectacular. This thing is so versatile and colorful that it made me want to get some Nanoleaf wall tiles to test their claim of the 4D’s ability to “extend the screen sync effects across 50+ Nanoleaf RGB lights”. Look, somebody’s got to do it…

Nanoleaf 4D screen mirror and lightstrip kit: price and availability

List price:

  • TVs & monitors up to 65-inch: $99 / £89.99 / AU$189.99
  • TVs & monitors up to 85-inch: $119 / £119.99 / AU$229.99
  • Camera only kit: $79.99 / £69.99 / AU$149.99

The Nanoleaf 4D screen mirror and lightstrip Kit are available directly from the Nanoleaf website, starting at $79.99 / $69.99 / AU$149.99 for the camera-only kit. You can also buy the camera-only kit from Amazon in the UK but curiously, not the full kit - however in the US, you can buy all three packages on Amazon

The camera-only kit is a great cost-effective option which can be used with the Nanoleaf RGB LED light strip or any RGB light strip that has USB-C connection.

Value-wise, the Nanoleaf 4D is undoubtedly one of the best, if not the best value smart TV lights - the Philips Hue alternative for 75-inch and over TVs is nearly $100 / £100 / AU$300 more expensive at $249.99 / £209.99 / AU$509.95, and you'll need a Philips Hu bridge if you don't already have one. Govee's lights sit squarely in between but don't offer such consistency or smooth light performance as Nanoleaf. 

The Nanoleaf 4D in its box

(Image credit: Future)

Nanoleaf 4D screen mirror and lightstrip kit review: Specs

Nanoleaf 4D screen mirror and lightstrip kit: Should I buy?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Also consider

Nanoleaf 4D screen mirror and lightstrip kit review: How I tested

  • I installed the Nanoleaf application and added the Nanoleaf 4D screen mirror and lightstrip Kit to Apple HomeKit 
  • I tested all of the modes and scenes against different types of content (i.e. films, TV programs, Games) and resolutions 
  • I tested each claimed feature e.g. “Reacts to music” where possible 
  • I tested the kit under various lighting conditions. 

I had already tested a pre-release version of this kit last year which was unfortunately defective and a very frustrating experience. The days that I spent trying to get it to work reliably were not wasted though as it gave me a good understanding of how the thing works and how it has been improved.

I was pleased to be able to make use of scenes in Apple Homekit which I  could not get to work when I tested the Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights last month. I switched off Bluetooth on my phone and ran all of the tests again to find out if there was any function that used Bluetooth and everything behaved normally. 

The room I use to test things is the worst-case scenario for the Nanoleaf 4D screen mirror and lightstrip Kit as it is almost completely white. Everything gets reflected on the screen, especially in daylight which affects the colors that the camera detects. I was pleasantly surprised during testing to find that some of the reflection problems could be dialed out using a custom vibrancy set which allows you to change the values for Dynamic range, saturation, and white balance.

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