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Leeo Smart Alert Nightlight review: Poor value and sound issues take the shine off this colorful nightlight

A sound-sensitive, connected nightlight seems like a bright idea, but it can't outshine the competition.

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Andrew Gebhart
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Andrew Gebhart

Senior Producer

Andrew loves writing about cool, futuristic technology. He's reviewed everything from vacuum cleaners to beer brewing robots in pursuit of the perfect smart home. He wants the smart home to make him feel powerful, and it's getting there.

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9 min read

The first product from Leeo, the $100 Leeo Smart Alert Nightlight, starts with the cornerstone of meaningful connected tech: safety. In addition to providing color-changing light to illuminate darkened hallways, Leeo's device connects to your Wi-Fi network and listens for the specific frequencies of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms. When it picks up an alarm, it will send an alert to your smartphone.

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6.0

Leeo Smart Alert Nightlight

The Good

The Leeo Smart Alert Nightlight is cleverly designed and easy to use. The tiered alert system can reach out to an emergency contact if it can't reach you.

The Bad

The short recorded clip that accompanies the alerts isn't helpful, and you'll be left wondering what's going on in a potential moment of crisis.

The Bottom Line

Since it costs as much as the more capable Nest Protect, this device needs a price drop or a software upgrade before it can fully earn its keep.

There's something earnest and charming about this product. Not the least of which is the fact that while its nightlight keeps your children safe from the imagined fears of the night, its alerts can help protect them from real-world dangers. It's a smart combination. The app suffers from a few bugs, however, and in the event of an emergency, the alerts won't do much to help you figure out what's actually going on. Thus, despite its well-intentioned charm, for $100 you're better off with the Nest Protect .

Brighten up your old smoke detector with the Leeo Smart Alert Nightlight (pictures)

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Simple setup

Plug in the Leeo Smart Alert Nightlight and you'll immediately be greeted by a soft white glow. Pull up the app with your iOS device and connect the light to your Wi-Fi router via your phone's Bluetooth. Leeo recommends an iPhone instead of an iPad so you can contact emergency services directly from an alert, but you can access the app from either. An Android app is planned, but no release date has yet been confirmed.

The nightlight itself has a white circular front with an outer ring you can use to adjust the brightness. The light forms another ring just behind the front circle, and the back juts out mildly to the plug, which fits into a single outlet without blocking the other. The illumination kicks off the wall, providing a reflected illumination that won't hurt your eyes in the darkness.

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Simple and small, it won't obstruct the adjacent plug. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Once connected, you'll enter your address into the app, then be prompted to test your smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector to make sure the nightlight is within range to hear them. Leeo recommends positioning their device in the hallway for the widest coverage disrupted by the least amount of walls and doors. They also recommend staying within 75 feet of your alarms.

The light will blink white during the process, then blue once it connects to keep you apprised of your progress. In all, the setup was as simple as I've experienced with a smart home product. Download the app, plug in the light, enter your Wi-Fi info and your address. I stated earlier that part of Leeo's mission is to make technology accessible. Mission accomplished.

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The setup couldn't be easier. Screenshot by Andrew Gebhart/CNET

My grandma could get this nightlight working, as long as I showed her how to unlock my iPhone. You can even unplug it and move it to a different outlet with no additional steps, as long as the new location is in range of the same router.

From the app, you can see the temperature and humidity of the nightlight's location, play with its color and brightness, and customize alerts for its sound sensors as well as its temperature and humidity sensors. The Smart Alert Nightlight can also detect ambient light, so you can have it turn on only when it's dark.

The Leeo Smart Alert Nightlight is available now on Leeo's website. It costs $100. The iOS app is free and the only way to interact with the nightlight for the time being. For now, it's only available in the US, but a Leeo representative assured me the company is working with distributors to get it to other countries.

Color-changing nightlight

The light itself can be tuned to a wide-variety of colors. Leeo claims there are over 16 million options. Functionally, it certainly doesn't feel like that, but the mechanic lets you pick your specific shade placing your finger on a color spectrum. Given the color changing smart LEDs out there, the mechanic isn't ground-breaking, but it works well enough.

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Move the circle to change the color of the light. Screenshot by Andrew Gebhart/CNET

The size of the icon controlled by your finger makes it hard to land on an exact color temperature, so the estimate of 16 million certainly seems like an exaggeration, but anyone other than lighting experts would be hard pressed to care. I enjoyed the feature overall, and can imagine it would be a hit with a child counting on his or her favorite color to help keep the boogeyman away. Picking the color at bedtime could make a fun tradition. And because this nightlight is connected, it'd be a tradition you could keep even when away on business.

The occasional lag might put a damper on the activity, though. Sometimes, the Leeo Smart Alert Nightlight sleeps on the job. You'll pull up the app and change the color to no effect. Continuing to send it signals by shifting the icon usually pulls it out of its reverie within 15 to 30 seconds, then it'll be pretty responsive, with no more than a second or two delay between your input and its response.

Still, the initial wake up call annoyed me, and the one time I changed a setting without first making sure the nightlight was ready to respond, it didn't take, despite the app confirming the change. Even when it's running, you'll occasionally encounter a longer hiccup in color changing, especially when fine-tuning colors.

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Changing the color with the app was fun, if occasionally slow. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Having to coax an occasionally grumpy, occasionally sleepy app to do what I want showed me the software needs a bit of work. The dimming also proved a bit limited, as small shifts didn't produce any discernible results. I had to move a significant distance on the brightness scale to see any difference, though I liked the fact that you can control the brightness manually by twisting the outer ring of the light.

The light itself illuminates the room effectively and pleasantly, and you can always get the color you want, eventually. The app issues dampen it, but the nightlight itself has plenty of charm.

Watchful sensors

Fortunately, the sensors used for the smart alert system don't suffer from the same sleepiness as the nightlight. Leeo's device proved consistently responsive when I sounded the smoke alarm.

I had some trouble when first testing the system. I plugged the nightlight into our climate-controlled washing machine test room to test temperature and humidity fluctuations. Temperature proved accurate to a degree, but the humidity reading disappointed me. It was consistently 5-10 percent higher than my calibrated readings.

It also continually failed to recognize the smoke detector I triggered when it was in the test chamber. I moved around, trying various distances, and despite sounding the alarm long enough to cause my eardrums to request a leave of absence, I couldn't get a response from the nightlight.

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Make sure your alarms are within range during setup. Screenshot by Andrew Gebhart/CNET

When I moved it to our more home-like, less echo-inducing kitchen, the alarm detection started working like a charm. After establishing what the smoke detector sounded like via the setup menu, I even moved it back to the lab space and got it to work there.

The Leeo Smart Alert Nightlight is programmed to recognize specific frequencies. Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors have industry regulated pitches that set their sirens apart. This nightlight looks for that specific sound, a feature I like since it's not just listening for high-pitched screeching or loud noises.

Our echoing warehouse probably distorted that frequency. It eventually picked up the sound once it heard it under normal circumstances, despite any distortion in the warehouse.

Alerts

Once the alarm sounds, the nightlight will start flashing red and you'll get a push notification sent to your iOS device. If you don't respond to that, you'll get an automated call to your iPhone or another phone of your choosing. If you still don't respond, after two tries, the system will call a designated emergency contact.

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If an alarm sounds, you'll get this push notification. Screenshot by Andrew Gebhart/CNET

Respond at any point, and you'll hear a 5-second recorded clip. The system will ask you if this is a false alarm, or if it warrants a 911 call. The system won't reach out for you, but can prompt you with the number for emergency services in the location of your home instead of your location if you're somewhere remote.

It's not professional monitoring by any means, but these alerts and phone calls all come free of any sort of monthly service charge. Since it's not a smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detector itself, it also reveals its usefulness as a smart device. If you're home, you'll inevitably hear the alarm. The Leeo Smart Alert Nightlight is designed to listen for you when you're not home, so you can smarten up ordinary smoke detectors.

You'll also get push notifications if the temperature or humidity falls outside of the threshold you've set. The unique multi-tier alert system doesn't apply, which seems fair, since those readings function as warnings more than alarms.

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You can set alerts for temperature and humidity as well. Screenshot by Andrew Gebhart/CNET

I like the fact that you can designate an emergency contact, and the fact that the system gives you the right locale for your 911 call. That said, these alerts also reveal Leeo's biggest drawback.

The device's sensor picks up the frequency of the alarm well, but it isn't great at recording sound. I thought the 5-second playback provided by the system would be useful. In practice, unfortunately, it really wasn't. The idea is to simply determine you are indeed hearing an alarm, or if the system was misled by a stray noise that happened to have a similar pitch. On the app, you can hear just enough to verify this, but it's distinctly quiet and impossible to discern anything more subtle.

Over the phone, the sound came across completely garbled. I couldn't tell what I was hearing. If you miss the push notification and end up with a phone call, you'll be left in the dark regarding what's actually happening in your home.

Even if you respond via the app, 5 seconds of beeping won't be much more illuminating. At a time when I would be imagining the worst, I may have enough information to reach out for help, but I'd want nothing more than to find out for sure what was wrong. Meaning, at the moment of safety that this device was designed for, I'd want nothing more than a device with greater capability.

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When the light turns red, something's up. Andrew Gebhart/CNET

To top it off, the Leeo Smart Alert Nightlight doesn't have a battery backup. If the power goes out before the alarm goes off, you'll be left completely in the dark. A longer, higher quality recording or an ability to listen to what's happening via a live feed would go a long way toward cementing this as a worthwhile product.

If you do get an alert before the power fails, it's certainly preferable to know something could be wrong than to not realize something's up when you might have helped mitigate the damage in the case of an actual emergency. Thus, if there were no other options, I could recommend this product as a limited but useful smart device.

However, it's outdone in almost every way by the Nest Protect, which detects smoke and carbon monoxide on its own, and can give you detailed descriptions of what's wrong via its app. The Nest Protect also has a battery backup and a motion-sensing nightlight. It can work in conjunction with the Nest Learning Thermostat and other smart home devices too, acting as an extended sensor, among other things. The kicker: it also costs $100.

Conclusion

I liked the Leeo Smart Alert Nightlight, and look forward to seeing more advanced versions in the future. Leeo's first product already has a strong base from which to build. The design is simple and pleasant. Changing the colors was fun, if occasionally glitchy. And I was charmed by the combination of the simple reassurance provided by a light in the darkness with the advanced technology needed to watch for something more serious.

Even the frequency-specific sensors and tiers of alerts seem well thought-out. But without a more refined app and more capability to investigate when something does go wrong, the $100 price tag makes little sense. Especially given that you can get the much more capable Nest Protect for the same amount. So yes, I liked it, but until it gets a price drop or some significant upgrades, I can't recommend it.

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6.0

Leeo Smart Alert Nightlight

Score Breakdown

Features 5Usability 7Design 7Performance 5
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