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Ivee Sleek review: Stay informed with this voice-activated helper

This $200 Wi-Fi alarm clock is fairly bright, but its voice tech doesn't always get it right.

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Megan Wollerton
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Megan Wollerton

Senior Writer/Editor

Megan Wollerton has covered technology for CNET since 2013. Before that, she wrote for NBC's Dvice.com (now SyFy). Megan has a master's degree from the University of Louisville and a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College, both in international relations. She is a board member of the Louisville chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. When Megan isn't writing, she's planning far-flung adventures.

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Ivee Sleek is a $200 Wi-Fi voice-activated alarm clock by Interactive Voice. This Kickstarter-funded gadget, now on sale in stores such as Staples, makes setting an alarm, changing an alarm sound, and turning an alarm on or off completely hands-free. Its features don't stop there -- Ivee Sleek has a list of other possible voice commands ranging from the current date and time to uncategorizable inquiries like, "What's the stock price of (insert company of interest here)."

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5.8

Ivee Sleek

The Good

Interactive Voice's $200 Ivee Sleek responds to basic commands and questions and can even control third-party devices like the Nest Learning Thermostat hands-free.

The Bad

It's expensive and the voice control technology regularly struggled to understand me.

The Bottom Line

Ivee Sleek is great when it works and extremely annoying when it doesn't, which was often enough to negate its overall convenience and value.

This clever device can also connect to third-party products, like the Nest Learning Thermostat to act as a home automation hub of sorts. These options take Ivee Sleek from a pricy alarm clock to a whole-home assistant that can provide basic information and control other Wi-Fi devices in your home with minimal effort -- at least in theory. In practice, the voice control technology was hit-or-miss and turned into quite a hassle when I couldn't successfully turn off the alarm clock using Interactive Voice's pre-programmed command list as my reference. Simply put: this product doesn't perform well enough to justify its $200 price.

Unlock your smart home with Ivee Sleek (pictures)

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First impressions

Ivee Sleek looks a lot like a traditional alarm clock. It measures 5.55 inches wide by 3.40 inches tall by 2.16 inches deep and has a black plastic finish. The device does have an 8-hour rechargeable backup battery in case there's a power outage, but it relies on the included power cord for regular operation.

To get started, plug the power cord into the AC adapter port on the back of the device. It also has a USB port and an auxiliary input port for charging USB-compatible devices and playing music from an MP3 player on Ivee's rear audio speaker. You'll also find a reset pin hole and an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) on/off switch on the back.

When IVR is switched on, you can simply say, "Hello Ivee" to initiate a command. When IVR is switched off, you have to press the center button to "tell" Ivee to listen to any upcoming commands.

With IVR either on or off, say "Wi-Fi Setup" and use the buttons on the top of your Ivee Sleek to select your home Wi-Fi network and enter your password. This step was a bit fiddly because the volume control buttons, the center "command" button, and the brightness control buttons double as Wi-Fi setup buttons, making for an unnecessarily complex combination of button presses.

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The brightness control buttons, command button, and volume buttons. Colin West McDonald/CNET

Next, sign up for an account on Ivee Sleek's web portal -- there's no app for this product, but you do have to sign up online to complete the initial setup and connect third-party products. After you have created an account say "Ivee Account" or "Account Setup" and your Ivee unit will display a unique two-word identifier on its LCD screen. Enter this two-word passcode online and your Ivee Sleek will be linked to your web account. While the setup process felt a bit disjointed, I had it working in about 15 minutes.

Performance

To test my review unit, I used it both at the office and at home. I tried out nearly every command, used it as my alarm clock at home, and connected it to a Belkin WeMo Switch and a Nest Learning Thermostat.

I used voice commands to set up the Wi-Fi, reset the unit, and cancel commands. I got information on the date and time (both here in Louisville, Ky., and in other cities), current indoor temperature, weather forecast, and stock prices. These generally worked well, although it periodically and inexplicably responded with something either related but inaccurate, or completely unrelated to the question I had asked.

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Say "Hello Ivee" to start a voice command. Colin West McDonald/CNET

The question, "What time is it in London?" returned the answer, "It is now 4:12 p.m. in London." It was 5:12 p.m. in Louisville, Ky., so the unit either defaulted to a small town in the Central Time zone, or it was completely wrong about the current time in London.

I also created two different alarms, sampled various sleep sounds, and experimented with turning the radio on, changing the channel, and turning it off again -- this is where things took a turn for the worse. First, the quality of the radio was surprisingly bad. I couldn't find any local channels that played even remotely well on this device. As a result of the excessive static, Ivee was unable to hear my requests to change the station or turn the radio off. So, radio functions -- aside from turning it on initially -- had to be controlled manually on the device.

I ran into the same problem with the alarm. I'm not particularly lively in the morning, but trying -- and failing -- to turn off my alarm using voice control really didn't help. I never did manage to get it to turn off using voice commands. On the plus side, I was fully awake after doing battle with it.

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Ivee Sleek has partnerships with Belkin, Nest, Smart Things, Iris, and Philips. Colin West McDonald/CNET

The Belkin WeMo and Nest integrations worked very well, on the other hand. They were extremely easy to connect on my Ivee Sleek web account and commands like, "Set the thermostat to 75 degrees," or "Turn on WeMo Switch" worked every time. In addition to Nest and Belkin, Ivee Sleek is compatible with Smart Things , Philips , and Lowe's Iris and more potential partnerships are in the works.

As a one-off home automation device that got its start on crowdsourcing site Kickstarter, Ivee Sleek doesn't have a lot of competition. The Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat with Voice Control responds to voice commands, but it doesn't hijack the overall experience, since you can still use the mobile app or access the thermostat directly. Athom's Homey is another Kickstarter-funded voice control gadget, but it's a home automation hub with multiple protocols and isn't expected to ship to backers until April 2015.

Conclusion

While I really like Ivee Sleek's hands-free no-app philosophy, the voice-control technology is still a bit too finicky to recommend readily. You're supposed to be 3 to 10 feet away from it for it to work optimally, and even when you're within the correct range and reading directly from the command list, it may or may not respond as expected. It just isn't worth $200 -- not yet at least.

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5.8

Ivee Sleek

Score Breakdown

Features 6Usability 6Design 7Performance 4