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

You can use Siri to get readings from the Eve Room, but only if you've checked the app recently. Screenshots by Andrew Gebhart/CNET

The data Elgato Eve collects is actually linked to your iCloud account, and that means Apple's team is helping to keep it secure and properly encrypted. It's a big benefit Elgato gains from jumping on board with HomeKit, but it also means more than one person won't be able to access the readings from your Eve Room, even if you want them to.

You won't be able to sync up the same data with Eve Room to multiple users and multiple devices. Even when we switched iCloud accounts on the same device to get remote access, we had to fully reset the Eve Room to get it to connect and lost the historical data.

Supposedly, a lot of the Elgato Eve's limitations could be fixed as HomeKit grows and expands in functionality. iOS 9 will supposedly add both notifications and triggers as options for devices in its ecosystem. It should also allow easier remote access to HomeKit requiring only the iCloud. Elgato has even promised to enable guest access to your devices. The future holds a lot of promise for the Eve Room. Without all these upgrades, the present situation for the Elgato Eve Room is pretty disappointing.

Accurate senses

As it stands, this smart device isn't very smart since it can't do anything with the info it gathers, but at least the info it gathers is accurate. The Elgato Eve Room is a capable multimeter even if I hesitate to call it a capable smart device.

The temp stayed within an acceptable margin of error of our calibrated meter. Andrew Gebhart/CNET

To test the temperature and humidity readings of the Elgato Eve Room, we let it sit on a table in our office for a couple of days, so it could properly calibrate to the environment. Then, we took three readings a day for two weeks and compared them to readings from a calibrated Hanna Conductivity Meter for temperature, and a multimeter for humidity.

As you can see in the graph above, the ebbs and flows of Elgato Eve's temperature readings match those of the Hanna Meter. The numbers sit between 1 and 3 degrees apart, but that's within an acceptable margin of error, allowing for a small deviation in both devices.

The humidity readings look largely the same.

The humidity readings also looked good. Andrew Gebhart/CNET

Again, the ebbs and flows match and the devices stayed within an acceptable range of deviation. You can trust the readings of the Elgato Eve Room.

I have a few nitpicks when it comes to navigating the charts themselves. The main page of the app shows all three current readings together. Press a stat, and a small chart drops down. To get to the full page chart for any given parameter, you'll need to double tap this small chart or press the ellipsis in its lower right corner. I thought it was a little counterintuitive. I would have liked a clearer way to get to this full chart, as I guessed a few different options before I found the right answer.

At the top left corner of the main app, you'll find a button taking you to a menu with your room and a list of the three parameters. Hitting "Humidity" from this menu should take you to the chart itself, but it's again just the single-line stat that drops down to the mini chart, leaving a lot of wasted screen room until you double-tap to unveil the full thing.

The full-size chart works well once you find it. Buttons at the bottom let you select hour, day, week or month to squeeze or expand your data as you see fit. You can scroll left to view older data on any chart, assuming your device has been running long enough to have this historical info. You can't pinch to zoom as you can on the Netatmo app, but I didn't miss that functionality often.

The full sized charts are mostly helpful, but can be confusing. Screenshots by Andrew Gebhart/CNET

On the week and month views, Elgato makes the data a little confusing by splitting the readings into red and green lines, neither of which are labeled. I assume those lines are highs and lows over the compacted periods of time but some sort of key would have been nice.

The only significant knock I have on the performance -- on two occasions the data simply refused to update. Both times, I spent more than an hour trying to get a current reading. The app will tell you when the device is unreachable, and this wasn't the case. It just wouldn't refresh, and the Elgato app lacks a means for a manual refresh. Most of the time, going to the home screen and reopening the app, or closing it all the way and reopening it would force it to collect new data. On those two occasions, nothing I tried worked.

When I came back the next morning, both times, the Eve Room got right back on track as though nothing had happened. The update blips are probably another sign of a young app that hasn't reached its full potential yet, but it's something to be aware of if you do want to purchase this as a multimeter.

One of these freezes happened when we were putting the device through a bit of torture for the sake of testing the air quality sensor, but we kept it within the specified operational ranges at all times.

We built a box for the Elgato Eve Room and filled it with smoke. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

We built a box for the Elgato Eve Room so we could fill it with smoke and paint fumes and not cause our own lungs any harm. The Eve Room showed itself decently nimble at picking up the approximate air quality of a new location, right away. Again, according to the company, you'll want to leave it in one spot for a few days for super-accurate readings.

But when we put it in a box and lit a smoke candle, the ppm count on the Eve app climbed quite high, as you would expect, even without letting it sit in the box for days before we started. Elgato noted poor air quality during each smoke test and showed VOC readings with multiple thousands of ppm. For reference, the usual office environment had excellent air quality readings of 450 ppm, so these were appropriately way above the norm.

Interestingly, it didn't store these extremes in the long-term charts. The smoke cleared quickly and the Eve Room kept right up with it, showing excellent air again after just a few minutes. On the charts, Eve averaged the time around the smoke as the permanently stored data point. So even though I saw the air quality reach poor status and 2,000+ ppm, the history in the charts only shows it getting as bad as moderate air quality at 1,698 ppm.

The chart's data points didn't match what I saw during the smoke test. Screenshots by Andrew Gebhart/CNET

It's odd that the Eve Room smooths the data like that. Again, don't use this as an emergency alert device. Not only will you not get any push notifications, but if you're not looking at the readings while the event is happening, you probably will never see how bad the air quality was at its peak. For longer term readings like determining the paint fumes in a room under construction, this data smoothing shouldn't be an issue.

The Verdict

My idea of a smart home is one that acts on your behalf. It should automate processes based on your preferences to make your life more convenient. In this sense, the Elgato Eve Room doesn't qualify as a smart home device. It doesn't automate anything on its own, and without push notifications or triggers enabled, it doesn't contribute its sensory data to automating anything else. It takes environmental readings accurately, but so do most standard multimeters.

$80 isn't a bad price for a multimeter, so if you have need of a VOC sensor that packs in temp and humidity readings and like the idea of it transmitting data to your iPad, go ahead and purchase the Elgato Eve Room. It works, and it should get significantly smarter over time as the Homekit smart home platform gets upgraded by Apple. For everyone else, I'd wait for those improvements to make sure they're implemented properly before making the investment in the Elgato Eve smart home ecosystem. The Elgato Eve Room will understand your environment, but lacks any means to apply that knowledge.

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