Lutron Smart Bridge review: This Wi-Fi hub bridges the smart-lighting gap

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.7
  • Features: 7.0
  • Usability: 9.0
  • Design: 7.0
  • Performance: 8.0
Review Date:

The Good The $150 Lutron Smart Bridge transforms Caseta Wireless plug-in lamp dimmers, Pico remote controls, and Serena battery-powered window shades into Wi-Fi-enabled home automation products. The app is intuitively designed and more product integrations are on the way.

The Bad $150 plus another $55 for a single dimmer is a lot to spend for smart mood lighting. Belkin's $50 WeMo Switch may not have a dimmer feature, but it also doesn't need a separate hub to control a lamp remotely.

The Bottom Line Lutron's Smart Bridge and related app work great, but the price is much too high for basic automated dimmer capabilities. If you plan to add other connected devices, its value will improve considerably.

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The $150 Lutron Smart Bridge turns Lutron's un-smart dimmer products into Wi-Fi-enabled home automation pros. While the Smart Bridge and corresponding app work incredibly well, $150 feels excessive for light-dimming capabilities. Tack on an additional $55 for a single, two-outlet dimmer plug and you've spent over $200 to control a maximum of two lamps.

Yes, $205 is a ridiculous sum to pay for a smart plug-in lamp dimmer, but Lutron is one of the only companies offering this functionality. Right now, the hub is only compatible with Caseta Wireless dimmers and Serena battery-powered window shades, but Lutron has plans to add Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostats, and a new line of GE LEDs to its cache of integrated products. As this list expands, it will be much easier to recommend the Lutron Smart Bridge.

The Lutron Smart Bridge is a small square gizmo that you connect directly to your router using the included Ethernet cable. There's also a power adapter that you plug into a regular two-prong outlet and into the micro-USB port on the Smart Bridge hub. A ring of LEDs around the perimeter of the hub will let you know when it's powered on. Press the button on the hub to add new devices to the app.

The app won't be available until June 30, so I used a beta version on an iPhone 5 and a first-generation Asus Nexus 7 tablet. Even in beta, the app was very thoughtfully designed. Download the app on your Android or iOS device and follow the instructions to connect your Lutron-enabled devices. Lutron sent me two Caseta Wireless plug-in lamp dimmers, one Pico remote, and the Smart Bridge for testing.

The plug-in dimmers have four buttons. The top button turns the lamp on, the bottom button turns it off, and the two arrow buttons in the middle allow you to set the level of light for dimming. The Pico remote has the same exact design, except for a "favorite" button in the middle that lets you program a frequently used light level.

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The app is available on Android and iOS devices. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

First, I had to install the lamp dimmer. This plug-in module has two outlets, one on either side, and works with LEDS, CFLs, incandescents, and halogens; I focused on LEDs and tested six different dimmable brands during the review. To install, simply switch the lamp you want to control to the "on" position and unplug it. Then plug the lamp or lamps into the dimmer and then into the wall outlet.

I connected two table lamps to one of the modules and one floor lamp to the other. Then, since I also had a Pico remote, I paired the dimmers with the remotes by holding the off button for 6 seconds until the LED started blinking. Then I pressed and held the same button on the remote control for 6 seconds until it flashed three times, meaning it was successfully paired. To adjust the favorite setting (its default is a 50 percent light level) you set the desired level of light on the dimmer and then hold down the favorite button for 6 seconds until it blinks twice.

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