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Elgato Eve Room review: Elgato Eve's Room feels unfinished

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The Good Get accurate readings on temperature, humidity and the amount of volatile organic compounds you might be breathing with the Elgato Eve Room. It also has HomeKit compatibility built in, so you can use Siri to check on its temperature or humidity readings.

The Bad Without push notifications or rules systems, and limited in range by Bluetooth, you can't actually do anything with those readings other than look at them. It also takes days to properly calibrate to a new location.

The Bottom Line Temperature and humidity readings are easy to come by, but the Eve Room is an apt sensor that can work for you especially if you have a specific need for its unique VOC readings. For now, though, it's severely limited in ways to use that info and barely qualifies as a smart device.

6.6 Overall
  • Features 5
  • Usability 7
  • Design 7
  • Performance 8

As one of the first smart-home products to take advantage of Apple's HomeKit, I wish the Elgato Eve Room was a better communicator. In concept, it's cool, and I noted when I saw it at CES that it can give Siri a sense of smell. In practice, it's a little white box that has one unique trick among its otherwise mundane skill set.

If you want an air quality sensor that can determine the number of volatile organic compounds in the air, while also measuring temperature and humidity, the Elgato Eve Room will do it, chart the numbers for all three criteria, and send the data to your Bluetooth enabled iOS device. Because it's accurate, I can see this device being useful for allergy sufferers, or those painting or doing construction to their home, trying to figure out if the room they've aired out is now safe to inhabit.

You'll pay $80 for this device to get those readings, but that actually isn't exorbitant for a VOC meter. Amongst the three criteria it measures, air quality is the one that helps the Eve Room stand out, but because the device doesn't have push notifications and because it only works with Bluetooth, none of its readings are as useful as they could be. Some of the Elgato Eve Room's limitations might work themselves out as HomeKit gains maturity as a platform. In the meantime, don't let me stop you if you have a specific use in mind for the Elgato Eve Room, but don't waste your money if you're just looking for a broadly applicable HomeKit sensor.

Setting up Apple's smart home

The name Elgato Eve encompasses a family of newly released sensors. Eve Room is the indoor module that measures temp, humidity, and air quality based on its measurements of volatile organic compounds (VOC) in particles per million (ppm). Room costs $80 and is available now from Elgato Eve's website, Amazon, Best Buy and other online electronics dealers.

It's available overseas as well, and priced at €80 in Europe and £70 in the UK specifically. Readers in the UK can purchase the Elgato Eve Room from either the company's site or Amazon.co.uk. For Australia, the price is given in Euros, and converts to roughly AU$118.

The Eve sensors hit the market this summer and were one of the first products available to be specifically designed for Apple's HomeKit -- a smart-home platform built in to iOS 8 and designed to unify the functionality of a variety of third-party sensors under a single rule system. We've already tested the Lutron Lighting Kit , but the rest of Siri's smart-home friends are rolling out slowly.

The Eve Room detects temperature, humidity, and air quality. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Once you get the Eve Room set up, you can use Siri to check on the temperature and humidity readings, though unfortunately not the air quality readings. The other members of the Eve family -- the Eve Weather, the Eve Door and Window and the Eve Energy -- also respond to Siri, though each function and device is sold separately. Elgato's goal was to allow customers to pick the smarts they needed without forcing them into paying for a package of devices. It's a nice thought, but I'm guessing more than a few customers would have appreciated a discount bundle in addition to the a la carte offerings.

A closer look at the sensor

If it weren't for Siri functionality, Elgato's system would be mostly mundane, as you can find almost the exact same functionality as its fleet of devices in a dozen other smart home products. The only ability that stands above the crowd on its own merits is that VOC sensor in the Elgato Eve Room.

The Eve Room itself is a small white box, measuring about 3 inches by 3 inches on its front squared face with an inch of depth. It's white save for a green Eve logo on the bottom side of the front, and the Elgato name on the back panel that slides away to reveal the battery compartment. The Eve Room takes three AA batteries.

The Eve Weather has a slot on the back so you can stick it on a nail in the wall. It's a small add on and the only way to tell the two sensors apart. Aside from visual clarity, I'm not sure why Elgato left that hook off of the Eve Room, as it would have added to your placement options. As it stands, you'll need to find a solid surface for it.

A spot for the batteries, but I wish the Eve Room had a hook on the back as well. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

You'll also find stickers with an eight-digit numerical code, both on the back panel, and the bottom of the device. You'll use that code for the simple setup process. You can download the Eve app on your iPhone or iPad. Make sure Bluetooth is turned on on your Apple device, then open the app and it'll start to look for Eve devices in range.

For me, the app found my device within moments. I entered the code, then picked the room where I wanted to place my sensor. This is part of HomeKit's organizational system. You can set up multiple homes, so you'll specify a name for your home as a whole, then pick a room as a separate bucket within your home. I placed the Eve Room in the Media Room (you have to select from a list) in the Land of Geb (as in Gebhart, since I got to name that one myself).

Find your device, enter your code, and pick your room. Screenshots by Andrew Gebhart/CNET

At that point, the Eve Room starts collecting data. You'll see info on temperature and humidity right away. Air Quality takes a few minutes before you'll get your first reading, and according to a company representative, it takes a few days to properly calibrate to a specific location for the reading to be accurate.

It's a bit of a disappointment that it's so slow, but I found it had a pretty good idea of the air quality within a few minutes -- the readings matched our expectations as we moved it from open air environments to smoke filled areas. So if you set the Eve Room down in a newly painted room, it might not know the exact ppm right away, but its estimate of whether or not the air quality is generally Excellent, Fair or Poor will be trustworthy.

Underwhelming communication

More of a disappointment is the lack of options as far as actually doing something with the info it gives you. Right now, you can see the data when your device is in Bluetooth range. You can expand any of the three criteria to see the info charted over the course of hours, days, weeks or months.

Yet, you can't set warning thresholds to receive alerts or trigger any kind of push notification. The Elgato Eve Room certainly cannot be used as an emergency device. It can't even really be used as a hands-free way to automate your home based on the environment, since you can only get up-to-date readings when standing next to the device with the app open. It'll only run in the foreground.

Take a quick look at all measurements, each of which drops down into a small chart. Screenshot by Andrew Gebhart

By contrast, the Netatmo Urban Weather Station has an IFTTT channel with 14 triggers for each of its measured criteria. The $180 package includes an outdoor and indoor sensor. The indoor module measures temp and humidity, like Elgato. It also measures the ppm of carbon dioxide, though not all VOCs. In addition to all that, Netatmo packed a noise sensor into the module as well.

Thanks to IFTTT, you can set up all manner of automation and notifications with Netatmo. If you want the thermostat to turn on when your kid's room gets too cold or a smart light bulb to flash red if the air quality gets past a warning threshold, you can set that up with Netatmo and IFTTT. Netatmo's also on the list of upcoming HomeKit compatible products, though Elgato has an advantage here since Netatmo's HomeKit specific model isn't available yet.

You can't even view the Eve Room's data remotely unless you have an Apple TV . Without it, you need to be within Bluetooth range of your device to do anything. The Eve Room can store data for up to two weeks when you're not near it, then will update your readings and graphs when you get close again. Without an Apple TV, you'll need to pull up the Elgato app and let it refresh its reading for Siri to be helpful.

Again, you can ask Siri for temp and humidity readings, and by specifying the room name you picked when setting up your sensor, your iOS device will know to check those readings instead of looking up the local weather. For example, I asked, "What's the temperature in the Media Room?" If I'd updated my info recently by having the app open when close to the device, I'd get an answer specified to the tenth of a degree. If I hadn't updated the data recently, Siri would tell me she wasn't getting a response from my device.

With an Apple TV, your range of access extends exponentially, but the setup can be a pain and for now, you might not be able to use your existing iCloud account. I tried to use my personal iCloud account attached to my personal gmail and it didn't work. According to an Elgato representative, this is a known and common issue. Once we created a brand-new iCloud account linked to an iCloud.com email, we started to make progress. Even then, it took some troubleshooting and could require that you tinker with your iCloud Keychain and privacy settings.

With all the hoops you have to jump through -- buying an Apple TV if you don't have one, getting a new iCloud account, changing your settings -- accessing Elgato Eve remotely barely felt worth it, since you still can't do anything with the info. That said, it's a nice perk if you already have the necessary extras.

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