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CNET First Look
Insteon Starter KitWe're not sure that Insteon's entry-level automation package stands up to the competion.
Hi, Ry Crist for CNET here with the Insteon Starter Kit. For $119, it promises to automate your whole house, except this is not the Insteon Starter Kit. This is the Insteon Starter Kit. The Insteon Starter Kit will give you the three items you see here. This is the Insteon Hub and it's sort of the control center. We've seen this with pretty much every home automation network with a few exceptions. You get a device like this that plugs into your router and then talk to your devices to help automate them. You also get these two which are LampLinc dimming modules, and what these do is they plug into your wall and then you plug a lamp in down here and that lamp will then be automatable. You can turn it on and off remotely. You can set it to turn on and off automatically at a certain time. You can even have it turn on and off at the sunrise or sunset. But what you can't do with this entire system is conditional automation and that, to me, is a huge drawback. Conditional automation is what we've seen from services like IFTTT and networks like the Belkin WeMo and the Nexia Home Intelligence system. And what conditional automation means is they're just two different devices triggering each other. So, if you walk into a room and the motion detector sees you, it will turn the lights on or something to that effect. This system can't do that. You can only automate items in an isolated fashion. You can tell the lights when to turn on. You can tell the motion detector when to alert you. But you can't have those items worked together to perform complex automations, and to me, that's a colossal drawback to this entire system. As for the app itself, it is free for both iOS and Android devices, but it does leave a lot to be desired. As I said before, it doesn't do that conditional automation that we're looking for and it misses out a lot of little things too. It feels more like a beta. It's not quite polished the way it should be. Now, all that stuff that I just swept away a second ago, those are all upgrades you can get to the system and if you decide to go that route, there's some cool stuff that's very, very useful. There's this leak sensor. You put this on the floor in your bathroom, and if there's a leak, it will alert you to it. That's great. The Belkin WeMo can't do that. Another feature about the Insteon that we like is that it is backwards compatible with a great deal of existing X10 devices. Another great perk, no monthly fees. So, if you're looking at a system like the Nexia and you're not [unk] at $9 a month fee to use it, take a look at the Insteon because it doesn't have that and it still offers you some pretty decent home automation options. So, if you have a specific need for the very specific devices that Insteon offers, it might actually be a great fit for you. But if you have any wider aspirations towards an elaborate network of automations and systems and rules and items working together in tandem to make your life easier, this probably isn't the best system. You can look at Belkin's WeMo line of home automation products. They have the WeMo Switch, the WeMo Light Switch, and the Motion Detector. All of which we thought were very nice and you can get the Switch and Motion package for $79. That's $40 cheaper than what you get here. It gives you IFTTT functionality and you can plug more than just a lamp into it. You can plug toasters and coffee makers, whatever you want. So, we think that's probably a smarter starter kit. For CNET, I'm Ry Crist.