D-Link Wi-Fi Smart Plug review: This so-called smart plug should be held back

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2.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good D-Link's $50 Wi-Fi Smart Plug offers remote control of your small appliances, including scheduling and energy usage stats -- a better value than the $60 Belkin WeMo Insight Switch, which has similar features.

The Bad The Smart Plug isn't compatible with IFTTT, setup was surprisingly involved, performance was unreliable, and the app design could use some work.

The Bottom Line D-Link needs to partner with IFTTT and fix performance inconsistencies to match the versatility and convenience of Belkin's WeMo Switch and WeMo Insight Switch.

5.8 Overall
  • Features 6.0
  • Usability 5.0
  • Design 6.0
  • Performance 6.0

The $50 D-Link Wi-Fi Smart Plug is a decent option if you're interested in basic home automation. Pair the plug with a lamp or other small appliance and use D-Link's free Android or iOS app to turn it on and off, set custom schedules, and monitor its energy usage. It's very similar to the $60 Belkin WeMo Insight Switch and the $50 Belkin WeMo Switch, except for one key difference: D-Link's version isn't compatible with IFTTT.

On the performance side, D-Link's Wi-Fi Smart Plug and app were both periodically glitchy during testing. While D-Link's Wi-Fi Smart Plug is OK at performing its functions, it doesn't seem like it can compete with the thoughtful dependability of Belkin's WeMo switches. I'd stick with Belkin even if IFTTT compatibility isn't on the top of your connected-home wish list.

This white, single-outlet plug measures 3.5 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide by 1.4 inches deep. It weighs 4.4 ounces and has a rectangular shape with rounded-off edges. It's rated for 100 to 125 volts of alternating current (VAC). That means that the outlet should be used to power lamps or other small appliances (large appliances have higher VAC requirements).

The Mydlink Smart Plug app works with Android 4.0 or higher and iOS 6 or higher on tablets and smartphones, and on Wi-Fi and cellular connections. It operates on a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi frequency and you can control up to 10 different Wi-Fi Smart Plugs at the same time using the app.

The $50 D-Link Wi-Fi Smart Plug fits into any three-prong electrical outlet on a wall or a power strip. Like a standard outlet, D-Link's plug is more functional than it is aesthetically compelling -- it probably won't be winning design awards anytime soon. It does blend into a two-outlet wall unit fairly seamlessly, and I'm guessing that was the intention.

But just when I was about to blame the blandness of traditional outlets for the blandness of this smart outlet, I started thinking about Dyson's vacuum cleaners and Nest's thermostats. Both companies have managed to make household objects into design statements rather than something you try to hide in a dark corner. They weren't satisfied with the uninspired design that dominates their appliance categories, so why should D-Link's plug look so plain?

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The Belkin WeMo Insight Switch, the D-Link Wi-Fi Smart Plug, and the Belkin WeMo Switch. Colin West McDonald/CNET

D-Link isn't alone, though. Its Wi-Fi Smart Plug is similar in style to the $50 Belkin WeMo Switch, the $60 Belkin WeMo Insight Switch, and the $49 SAM plug. Still, Belkin definitely improved on its plug design between the WeMo Switch and its more recently introduced Insight Switch, so I'm not quite ready to let D-Link off the hook.

D-Link's Wi-Fi Smart Plug has a power on/off button with LED indicator underneath that lights up green when your connected appliance is on. There's also a status LED that will glow red when it's powering on, trying to reset, or broken. It will blink orange during its initial setup or if it isn't correctly connected to the Wi-Fi network. It will blink green when the Wi-Fi is connecting and it will display solid green when it's successfully connected.

You can press the power button manually on the switch if you want to power your connected device directly. There's also a Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) button. Pressing it and the WPS button on your router, if your router has one, will initiate a connection between the plug and the router. If your router doesn't have a WPS button, there's another set of steps you can follow during setup, but you might end up using the Smart Plug's WPS button anyway; pressing and holding the WPS button until the LED status light turns red will reset your plug to factory settings.

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