Belkin WeMo Insight Switch review: An even smarter smart-home power plug

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The Good A smaller plastic housing and new power usage tracking on Belkin's WeMo Insight Switch bring greater visual appeal and usefulness to Belkin's already winning entry-level smart-home power plug line.

The Bad Setup remains a hassle, it's still large enough to block adjacent outlets, and reliance on IFTTT for advanced programming functions means you'll need to bounce between two different apps to get the most out of the Switch.

The Bottom Line Despite a few usability quirks, Belkin's WeMo Insight Switch only improves on the simple, low-risk formula that made Belkin's original programmable WeMo Switch so appealing as a home automation starting point.

8.1 Overall
  • Features 8
  • Usability 8
  • Design 8
  • Performance 9

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 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 Insight Switch follows below:    

Belkin's WeMo Switch smart power plug is one of our favorite smart-home devices because it provides such a low-risk home automation entry point. The new model, the $59.99 Belkin WeMo Insight Switch, has the same capabilities as the $49.99 original -- remote device power control, programmability, IFTTT support -- along with a more compact design, and the surprisingly deep ability to track the energy consumption of any gadget you plug into it.

Are those extras worth the $10 price premium? The smaller housing is more visually appealing than the original. For many people that alone will be enough. The energy consumption tracking won't be useful for everyone, but thanks to IFTTT, I can see certain use cases, particularly for tech-savvy parents and roommates. Taken together, the updates in the Belkin WeMo Insight Switch justify the higher cost, but Belkin still has plenty of room to improve the WeMo user experience. I would recommend this product, even if it's not quite polished enough for mainstream adoption.

Design and features
The most obvious draw for the WeMo Insight Switch is its improved plastic housing. About half the size of the original WeMo Switch, and with a cleaner-looking, whiter shell, the Insight version looks like a more modern piece of hardware. An ideal version of this product probably would look more like Apple's iPhone USB plug adapter. At the very least, it would be nice if it one day became small enough that it wouldn't block off an adjacent plug. Even though it's smaller, the new design doesn't offer any improvement in that respect.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Along with the new housing, Belkin also tweaked some of the external features on the Insight Switch. The power-on indicator is much larger than on the original, making it easier to see. The indicator light also shines green now, instead of blue.

Another interesting external change comes by way of the Micro-USB port. Belkin says the port currently has no function, but that eventually it might offer sensors or other accessories to plug into it. For now, the Switch powers on when you plug it in via USB, but that's all it does.

The power consumption tracking seems to be the only major difference between the WeMo Insight Switch and the vanilla model on the software side. The core functions remain the same. At its most basic, the WeMo Insight Switch lets you remotely power devices on or off via an Android or iOS app. The app also lets you set rules that trigger the power according to a preset time, by local sunrise and sunset, or through motion detection via Belkin's WeMo Motion detector (a $59.99 extra). You can also use the rules to notify you when the switch senses that a connected device has turned on, or when it detects movement via the motion sensor.

For the power usage tracking, I will say that it's thorough. Through the app, Belkin presents you with quick-glance real-time and average data for power draw, usage time, and operating cost for whatever device you've plugged into the Switch. Dig deeper into the app settings and you can adjust the energy billing rate and the power draw threshold it uses to determine whether a device is on or in standby mode. Those who really want to track power usage over time can output the data from the app to a smartly organized CSV file.

Screenshots by Rich Brown/CNET

The WeMo Insight Switch really shines when you integrate its programmability with that energy tracking, though. For that, you'll need to familiarize yourself with IFTTT ("if this then that").

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