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Belkin WeMo Dimmer review: Features shine with Belkin WeMo's dimmable smart switch

With a new design, new features, and support for almost every major smart home platform, there's a lot to like about Belkin's new WeMo Dimmer.

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Ry Crist
Ryan_Crist2.jpg
Ry Crist Senior Editor / Reviews - Appliances

Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, and home networking.

7 min read

EDITORS' NOTE, 7/19/18: WeMo has begun to implement Apple HomeKit's new software authentication, which lets WeMo devices connect to Apple HomeKit on their own without needing the WeMo Bridge plugged into your router. So far, the only WeMo gadget to get the upgrade is the WeMo Mini smart switch, though WeMo tells us that the WeMo Dimmer light switch reviewed here should also take advantage by the end of 2018. It isn't clear yet if other WeMo gadgets will follow suit or not, but for now, you'll still need the WeMo Bridge to connect them with HomeKit. Our original review of the WeMo Dimmer follows below:    

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7.8

Belkin WeMo Dimmer

The Good

The WeMo Dimmer is Belkin's best-designed smart switch yet, and it comes with a wide range of new, thoughtful features. The upcoming addition of Apple HomeKit support cements WeMo's place as one of the most well-connected smart home platforms on the market.

The Bad

Like the original WeMo Light Switch, the WeMo Dimmer won't work in three-way switch setups where more than one switch is wired to the same light. The app is also a bit laggy.

The Bottom Line

The fully-featured WeMo Dimmer is an attractive and worthwhile smart lighting entry point.

The WeMo Dimmer is the latest gadget in Belkin's likable lineup of smart plugs and switches. At $80, it's essentially a fancier version of the original Belkin WeMo Light Switch that adds in a few new features — namely, the ability to dim your lights up and down as you see fit.

Like other WeMo gadgets, the WeMo Dimmer uses Wi-Fi to connect directly with your home network, which means you won't need to plug a special hub into your router. For some, that'll make it a more appealing option than Z-Wave switches from names like GE, or even Lutron's very strong Caseta switches. At $80, it's also very likely to be less expensive than the soon-to-be-released iDevices Dimmer Switch (the non-dimmable version of that switch already sells for $100). And, with new support for Apple HomeKit coming soon, it can claim compatibility with just about all of the major smart home platforms, as well as the top three voice controllers: Siri, Alexa, and the Google Assistant.

All of that positions the WeMo Dimmer pretty nicely here, and after testing it out in the CNET Smart Home, I'm convinced that there are plenty of reasons for WeMo loyalists and smart home newbies alike to give Belkin's new smart switch a shot.

Light as bright as you like with Belkin's WeMo Dimmer

See all photos

Lots of little things

The WeMo Dimmer is the best-looking WeMo gadget to date, with a premium feel unlike the bargain-bin basic design of the switches that came before it. Much of this is thanks to the new touch-sensitive dimming controls. Along with the on/off button at the bottom of the switch, you can glide your finger up and down the groove in the center of the dimmer to adjust the brightness, with tiny LED lights illuminating as you go. It looks modern, and feels fancy.

Belkin did a nice job with those indicator lights, too — they're great for checking the approximate brightness level at a glance, but they aren't bright enough on their own to be annoying. When you turn the switch off, a single light will remain lit to show you where you left the brightness. Turn the switch back on, and the lights will return to that same level. You can also use the dimmer's touch slider to adjust that preset dimming point while the switch is off — another thoughtful touch.

Still, the touch-centric design might take some getting used to. While the groove and the LED indicator lights definitely help, fumbling around for touch-sensitive dimming controls in a dark room will never be as comfortable as flipping a switch. To that end, I wish that the on/off button was a bit more pronounced.

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The WeMo Dimmer's four wires (line, load, ground and neutral) are color-coded and clearly labeled on the back of the switch.

Ry Crist/CNET

Before you begin using the WeMo Dimmer, you've got to install the thing. Belkin made the setup about as easy as hard-wiring a light switch can get. The Dimmer's four wires — line, load, ground and neutral — are clearly labeled on the back of the switch, and the in-the-box instructions are a lot of help, too.

However, one of the clearly illustrated caveats in those instructions reveals what is arguably the WeMo Dimmer's biggest flaw: It doesn't work in three-way switch setups, where you've got more than one light switch wired to the same light or bank of lights. Multi-switch setups like that are fairly common in today's homes, and while competitors like Lutron, iDevices and GE all offer smart switches that work with them, WeMo doesn't. That's a big, puzzling misstep.

I asked Belkin's team about it, and a representative told me that they're "actively looking for a way to support three-way switches," but added that they have no details to offer at this time.

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Enlarge Image
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The WeMo app makes it easy to set a quick fade timer.

Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

New features galore

Since the arrival of the original WeMo Light Switch back in 2013, users have been clamoring for a version that can dim the lights. Belkin could have released exactly that with no other changes and people probably would have been happy. Instead, Belkin has released a dimmer packed with additional features. Here's a quick rundown of what's new:

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Turn on "Night Mode" to keep the lights from blinding you late in the evening.

Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET
  • Lightbar — A multi-color LED at the bottom of the dimmer illuminates whenever the light changes to let you know why the light is changing (i.e. white for manual adjustments, green for third-party automations, etc.)
  • Night Mode — You can customize the dimmer's maximum brightness during late evening hours to ensure that the light isn't too blinding if you turn it on during a midnight bathroom run.
  • Fade timers — With a few quick taps in the WeMo app, you can tell the dimmer to gradually fade the lights out for a custom length of up to thirty minutes.
  • Away Mode — Put the dimmer (or any other WeMo device) into Away Mode and it'll randomly turn on and off to make it look like you're home when you really aren't.
  • Native long press controls — You can now program custom actions that you trigger by holding the dimmer's on/off button for more than two seconds directly in the WeMo app. These include turning other WeMo devices on and off and putting the dimmer into Away Mode. Previously, you needed to use IFTTT to program long presses.

Coupled with the dimming controls, that's a lot of new utility for WeMo users, and all of it worked really well throughout my tests. I appreciated the quick and easy fade timer function, and the fact that the app even includes a countdown after you start one. It's an especially nice feature if you want a gradual fade to help lull you to sleep (and if you want to schedule recurring fades at specific times, the app will let you do that, too).

Those native long press controls are a nice touch, too. Long presses were originally a feature of the first WeMo Light Switch's IFTTT channel, letting you trigger a recipe on the online automation service with a single tap. It's one of the WeMo Light Switch's top selling points, and I'm happy to see Belkin double down on it by bringing it directly into the WeMo app, though you'll still need to use IFTTT if you want to trigger third-party services or devices.

All in all, the app feels well-designed and fully featured — enough so to hang tough with strong competition from the likes of Lutron. My only app-related complaint is that it still crashes on occasion, and feels a little bit laggy at times. The app timed out on me while I waited for it to finish pairing with the dimmer during the setup process, an issue I've encountered with multiple WeMo devices on multiple Wi-Fi networks. All was well after force-closing the app and restarting it, but it's still less than ideal as far as first impressions go.

One other tiny app quibble: the lights don't change in real-time as you dial the brightness up and down in the app. You'll only see a change when you lift your finger off of the slider bar. That might seem insignificant, but it forces you to use a trial-and-error approach as you try to hit a specific level of brightness. Here's hoping Belkin can fix that with a firmware update sometime soon.

Security and integrations (here comes HomeKit)

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WeMo devices, including the Dimmer, will soon work with Apple HomeKit, though you'll need to buy the soon-to-be-released WeMo Bridge.

Belkin

Along with the bevy of new features, Belkin's other key strength is its wide slate of third-party integrations. WeMo gear now works with Amazon's Alexa, the Google Assistant, the Nest Learning Thermostat, and a whole host of other gadgets and platforms thanks to robust support for IFTTT (the WeMo Dimmer's IFTTT channel isn't live just yet, but it might be by the time you're reading this — Belkin tells me it'll be up and running by the end of this week).

Soon, the new kid on the block will be Apple HomeKit, the iOS-based smart home platform that brings Siri controls into play. Users will need to buy Belkin's soon-to-be-released WeMo Bridge in order to sync up with HomeKit, but it's still a welcome addition to the roster.

As for security concerns, here's how Belkin describes its efforts at protecting WeMo users from getting hacked:

"Our devices are not discoverable from anywhere on the internet outside the home's Local Area Network and we do not modify the home router's external firewall settings or leave any ports open to allow exploitation. We also have a mature and robust security response process that allows us to respond quickly and decisively to push out critical firmware updates in the event of a vulnerability or attack."

Belkin deserves credit on this last point — in the rare instances where someone exposed a vulnerability with the WeMo platform, Belkin's engineers have acted quickly to inform users and push out firmware updates within a matter of days.

The verdict

At $80, the WeMo Dimmer isn't as outstanding a value as the $35 WeMo Mini, but it's still a very good product that gets most of the little things right. Still, it misses a big thing with its lack of three-way switch support, an omission that may stop a wide number of potential customers from buying in. That said, if you can forgive that shortcoming (or if your home doesn't have any three-way switches that need smartening), then there's a lot to like here, and plenty of reasons to consider trying it out for yourself.

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7.8

Belkin WeMo Dimmer

Score Breakdown

Features 9Usability 7Design 7Performance 8
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