Brita's smart pitcher buys its own replacement filters from Amazon

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For $45, the Wi-Fi-equipped Brita Infinity pitcher promises to keep track of how much water is passing through the filter. Once the filter is about spent, it'll go ahead and automatically order a replacement from Amazon that'll arrive at your doorstep just when you need it.

Brita's smart pitcher is $20 more than an identical Brita pitcher with no smarts to speak of, so the question here is whether or not that Amazon Dash integration is worth the extra 20 bucks. In theory, it's a useful bit of automation -- especially if you already buy replacement filters on the regular. In practice, it isn't all that precise, and more than anything seems designed to get people to buy new filters more often than they would out of habit alone. It certainly isn't something that anyone needs, but it might make a decent gift for a friend who's picky about filtered water.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The Brita Infinity pitcher isn't the first smart pitcher we've seen. Though it doesn't have Wi-Fi, the "Autofill Pitcher" found inside the GE GAS18PSJSS top freezer refrigerator fills up on its own each time you put it back in the fridge.

That pitcher uses the refrigerator's filter, which you're supposed to change every six months. By comparison, the Brita Infinity pitcher will order a replacement filter after it thinks you've filtered 40 gallons of water. If you're drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, that means you'll need a new filter in less than three months. Make that more like a month if you're sharing this pitcher with the family.

That timeline is pretty typical of filtered water pitchers, but give Brita some credit here. By tying filter replacements to the amount of water consumed instead of an arbitrary timeline, you know that you'll be getting a new filter when you actually need it and not any earlier. That's the right approach, especially for people who typically drink less than those eight glasses a day.

You'll need to log on to Brita's website in order to pair the pitcher up with your Wi-Fi network, and with Amazon.

Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

To get started with the pitcher, you'll need to log on to the Brita Infinity website, where you'll receive instructions on pairing your pitcher with your home's Wi-Fi network. To do so, you'll hold down a button on the top of the pitcher until a light starts flashing blue, which tells you that the pitcher is broadcasting a Wi-Fi connection. Connect to it, then tell Brita's website your home Wi-Fi info, and everything will sync right up.

You'll find three little lights on the top of the pitcher that correspond to how much the filter has been used: green for 0 to 36 gallons, yellow for 36 to 40 gallons, and red for 40-plus gallons. The lights will come on for a few seconds each time you open and close the lid to give you a quick indication of how far you are into the filter's life cycle.

The opening of the lid is how this smart pitcher keeps track of usage. It doesn't measure how much water passes through the filter, nor does it measure how much you pour out. Instead, it tracks lid lifts to approximate the number of fill-ups and give it a rough sense of when it's time to order a new filter.

To test it, I set the counter to zero and then re-filled the Infinity over and over again by pouring water back and forth with another pitcher. A full Infinity Pitcher is eight cups of water, or half a gallon -- that means I'd need 80 pours back and forth in order to hit that 40-gallon benchmark.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Eighty pours and two tired wrists later, I still hadn't hit it. So, I pressed on. Eighty-five pours. Ninety pours. A hundred pours. Still no change, even at 50 gallons.

The problem seemed to be the sensors in the lid. The light would only come on about once every four or five times, and in sporadic fashion. Sometimes it would work three or four times in a row. Other times, it would go five or six refills without ever lighting up.

In the end, that meant that the Infinity Pitcher wasn't catching all of my refills. The lid sensor just isn't that sensitive, which explains why it thought I had poured less than 36 gallons. This might be by design, as an over-sensitive lid would just end up wasting people's money. Good for Brita in that case -- but I still wish it were more accurate.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

There's also a question of value. With the Amazon Dash replenishment turned on, the pitcher will automatically order a single filter when it thinks you need a new one. Those pitchers currently sell for five or six bucks a piece, but they're more affordable if you buy in bulk. That isn't an option with Infinity.

Another point of note: the batteries. Amazon says that they'll last five years, but they're sealed in place within the lid. That means that there's no way to replace them when the juice runs out (unless, of course, you're comfortable taking a box cutter to your smart pitcher.)

In the end, the Infinity seems to be designed for people who like having a pitcher of filtered water on hand, but who also might not care enough to order new filters when the time comes. The Infinity gets them on board with Brita's business model by doing the ordering for them.

For people who already order new filters every few months, the Infinity offers a bit of extra convenience -- but it's undercut by the inaccurate lid sensor. I'm not yet convinced that it's worth the extra 20 bucks, but we'll keep it on hand in the CNET Smart Home to see if it grows on us.

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