Quirky+GE Aros Smart Air Conditioner review: Quirky's air conditioner is smart cooling at a smart price

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.

I liked that the Wink app offers full customization over what you want the Aros to do when you exit or enter the area. You can set it to turn off when you leave, or just set it to turn down, for instance. I only wish that it offered that same sort of customizability over the geofencing distance, which is locked to 100m by default. Other apps that use geofencing, like the Revolv app and the IFTTT app, will let you adjust the size of that circle on the map -- the area you call home. It's a nice feature that you don't appreciate until it's gone, as I learned with Aros.

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The Wink app offers basic remote controls for the Aros, along with advanced smart features. Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Aside from a smart scheduling feature that will let you program the Aros to turn on and off automatically at set times, the other key feature is Smart Budget. Using Smart Budget, you'll be able to tell the Wink app exactly how much you'd like to spend on your air conditioner each month. The app will use the usage rates for your specific area to track your consumption as the days go by. If you need to use Aros a little less in order to hit your target, the app will let you know.

All in all, I came away impressed by what the Aros has to offer. Smart Budget in particular seems like a feature that I'd use regularly, as I love my conditioned air, but hate big power bills. The fact that I'd be getting those kinds of smarts for a similar price to what I'd pay for a comparable non-smart unit only makes them all the more appealing.

Moving forward, Quirky expects Aros to get a dedicated IFTTT channel in the near future, just like the rest of the Quirky+GE lineup. That'll make for a nice IQ boost, as IFTTT integration means you'll be able to sync your Aros with popular Web services, as well as other smart devices like Belkin WeMo Switches, the Netatmo Weather Station, and the SmartThings network of sensors.

Additionally, a SmartThings rep has confirmed to us that, like the Quirky Pivot Power Genius, the Aros will soon be directly integrated into the SmartThings ecosystem via SmartThings Labs. To me, that seems like an especially smart place for it.

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You'll definitely want a friend to help you lift the Aros up into your windowsill. Colin West McDonald/CNET

Performance and usability

To test the Aros out, we lugged the thing out to one of our engineer's homes, then installed it in the window of his living room. I say "lugged" because the Aros weighs over 60 pounds, which is more or less on par with other 8,000 BTU air conditioners, if not 5 or 6 pounds above average. At any rate, you'll definitely want a friend to help you lift the thing into your window.

Installation was fairly straight-forward, especially if you've installed an AC unit before. The Aros comes with easy-to-follow instructions, although they seem to have left out the step where you attach the catches for those ventilation flaps onto the side of the machine. Whoops.

As for the unit's performance, we came away quite satisfied with the Aros' ability to cool a room (per Energy Star, an 8,000 BTU air conditioner is best suited to cool about 350 square feet). A decent air conditioner should be able to spit out air that's at least 20 degrees cooler than the air it sucks in, and with the Aros, the difference was 26 degrees. Even on the low setting, the Aros did a great job of making us all feel cold in May.

Despite the occasional crash, the Wink app is a cinch to use to use, with minimal lag between pressing a button and seeing a result. Smart scheduling worked perfectly with creating both one-time events and recurring automation schedules, and the Smart Budget feature was as simple as it gets.

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The Wink app crashed on occasion, and Smart Away often didn't work as planned, even from well outside the geofenced 100 meters. Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

The Aros didn't ace our tests though, particularly with regards to the Smart Away feature. We tested the feature out using both iOS and Android devices at two different locations and on two different wireless networks, and weren't able to get it to work reliably.

This was a clear disappointment, but not one that we've seen represented in other reviews, including the dozens of reviews already up on Amazon. We spoke to the engineers at Quirky, who worked with us to try and figure out what was going wrong, but they claimed the bug was one they hadn't seen before, and one they couldn't replicate in their lab.

We're continuing to play with the Aros, and will post an update if we're able to figure out why Smart Away was such a problem child for us. Still, given the experiences of other users, I'm inclined to believe Quirky when they say that this looks like an isolated failure.

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Colin West McDonald/CNET

Conclusion

Among air conditioners that put out 8,000 BTUs, the $300 Aros is a clear standout, and a major winner for the Quirky+GE brand. With solid cooling performance and a similar price point to dumb conditioners that look terrible, the intelligent Aros looks like a bit of a no-brainer.

While the Aros isn't the first Wi-Fi-enabled air conditioner -- there are some obscure models like the Friedrich Kuhl line -- it's arguably the first one with mainstream appeal. That said, it isn't the only way to smarten up your AC. Plugging an existing unit into a Belkin WeMo Insight Switch would provide you with a basic level of remote smart phone control, along with the ability to cool according to energy usage. New crowd-funded options like Tado Cooling go a step further, offering controls even more precise than simple on/off functionality. Options like these also offer a high degree of flexibility, since, for the most part, you can use whatever air conditioner you like.

That said, the Aros is an undeniably appealing appliance in its own right, and a smart buy for anyone looking for smarter performance from their air conditioner this summer.

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