We've seen several small-scale gadgets from the Quirky+GE partnership, but its first appliance, the Aros Smart Air Conditioner, might be its most appealing offering yet. That's not just me saying that -- with its Nest-like smarts, futuristic-looking design, and $300 price point, the Aros quickly shot up to the top of Amazon's pre-order charts soon after being announced in March.
After spending some time with the Aros, I'm convinced that the buzz was justified. As air conditioners go, it performs admirably, and the design looks better than just about anything else on the market. Throw in its smart features, which include remote scheduling, geofencing, and a handy budget tracking mode, and the Aros looks like a steal at $300 -- especially when comparable, non-connected AC units sell in roughly the same price range.
Designed to impress
Amid a field of bland-looking competitors, the Aros is certainly an air conditioner that stands out. With a glossy, white build and a vivid LED display that vanishes into the face plate when not in use, the Aros looks the part of a modern smart appliance. Still, the design isn't one that stands out too much. There's a fine line between eye-catching and ostentatious, and Quirky+GE's design team have landed on the correct side of it.
For the most part, the design is a practical one, too. The touch controls on the front are intuitive and easy to use, and the upward stream of air was effective, and preferable in my eyes to one that blows straight out.
It isn't a perfect build, though. The flaps on the sides of the unit which close the gap between the Aros and the window frame are essentially horizontal window shades that hook onto the unit. They look a little cleaner than the accordion-style flaps that do the job on most AC units, but unlike those other flaps, they don't create a snug, insulated fit. You'll definitely have a little bit of air leaking out (and I could even imagine bugs crawling in). If it bothers you, it's an easy fix with a bit of duct tape, but that's far from an ideal solution for such a design-centric appliance.
Another important facet of the Aros' design is the noise that it makes. Like most air conditioners, it's far from silent, with a fan that's especially audible on high settings. The compressor, on the other hand, ran incredibly quiet in my tests, with almost no audible vibrations or buzzing. I appreciated this, as the hum of the average AC unit typically bothers me a lot more than the whir of the fan.
Overall, the Aros didn't seem any noisier to my ear than other air conditioners I've lived with in the past, and the team at Quirky claims that it's benchmarked at or below the noise level of comparable 8,000 BTU units. Still, if you're especially noise-conscious, and hoping that Aros would feature a noticeably quieter design than what you're used to, you might come away disappointed.
Standout design aside, you'll use the Aros in much the same way you would any other air conditioner. There's a Cool mode for those especially hot days, a Fan mode for basic air circulation, and an Eco mode that alternates between the two. All three modes are capable of blasting air at low, medium, or high settings.
One basic difference between the Aros and most other modern air conditioners is that the Aros outsources all remote controls into your smartphone, with no physical remote control for the unit. That's an understandable omission, but I think I'd still prefer to have a dedicated remote for those times when my phone is charging in the other room.
LEDs on the face of the machine will let you know what settings you're currently running, along with the current room temperature. Those LEDs will change to display the target temperature as you adjust it up and down, then change back to the actual temperature after a few seconds. Leave the Aros running for a few minutes, and the LEDs will turn off for a more inconspicuous look.
Like the Pivot Power Genius, the Spotter, and the rest of the devices in the Quirky+GE family, Aros connects to your home's Wi-Fi network using the free Wink app for iOS and Android devices. I thought that Wink was one of the standout home automation apps of last year, with a playful, helpful design and easily understandable features, both of which apply to the new Aros controls.
The Aros bears the same house-shaped home sensor as its Quirky cousins. Using the Wink app, you'll flash an automatic light pattern at the sensor in order to connect the Aros to your 2.4 GHz home network. I tried this out multiple times with the Aros on two different networks, and it worked perfectly each and every time.
The Wink app offers basic remote controls over the Aros using a display that mimics the face of the machine itself. Each and every control located on the Aros is also located within the app, so whether you want to adjust the target temperature, change cooling modes, or just turn the machine on or off, you'll be able to do it from your phone.
You'll also find access to the Aros' smart features within the Wink app. Most notable among these is Smart Away, which uses geofencing-based presence detection to track when you're home and when you aren't -- and turn the Aros on and off accordingly.