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Leviton Decora Smart Dimmer review: A smart switch that may have a little too much missing

The Leviton Decora DH6HD Dimmer Switch, Leviton's newest, looks and works just like a regular light switch, but it also works with Apple HomeKit, letting you control it remotely from Apple's Home app on your iPhone or by using a Siri command. At $50 (roughly converted to £38 or AU$63), it's also one of the more affordable options on the smart switch market.

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6.1

Leviton Decora Smart Dimmer

The Good

The switch is really easy to use and the simple design makes it hard to get confused with the controls. It also flows well with the Leviton Decora app and HomeKit, which give you greater control over brightness settings and, for $50 (roughly converted to £38 or AU$63), it's fairly cheap compared to most smart switches.

The Bad

The physical controls are stiff and awkward and it can only work with HomeKit. Sorry, Android, Google Home and Alexa users. The design is also plain.

The Bottom Line

The switch works well and it's easy to get running, but the clunky physical controls, lack of compatibility outside Apple and plain design prevent it from being a really great product.

It isn't perfect, though. The physical controls feel stiff, and only let you change between seven dimming settings. It also doesn't offer as many features as you'll find with other competing dimmers. Unlike those competitors, the DH6HD won't work with Alexa, Google Home, IFTTT or anything else besides HomeKit. Plus, it really isn't much to look at compared with those other smart switches.

If you're in the market for a simple smart switch -- or just a relatively cheap option that works with HomeKit -- then the DH6HD is worth a look. Just don't expect it to look or feel any fancier than it actually is.

Hands on with a smart switch

Installing a smart switch usually isn't that much more complicated than installing a regular light switch -- just flip the breaker off, connect the wires (load, line, ground and neutral in Leviton's case), screw everything into place and turn the breaker back on. 

In our case, the Leviton switch was too big to fit inside the wall at the CNET Smart Home, so I had to install a bigger gang box in order to get it to fit. I also had a hard time finding the neutral wire, which made installation take a little longer. These kinds of issues aren't specific to Leviton, and they will vary from home to home, but Leviton at least does a decent job of walking you through the install process with the included instructions, and with helpful video tutorials online.

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Leviton's light switch is too stiff.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Once the hardware is installed, you can use the Decora switch just like any other light switch, although it didn't make a great first impression. The button feels stiff and extra-clicky when you press it, there's a slight delay whenever you turn it on and off and the fades are a little choppy as you dim it up and down. Lighting purists especially will prefer a fancier smart switch that turns the lights on immediately, or at least one that has a smoother fade effect. 

The dimmer is by far the worst part of the physical workings of the switch. Like the main switch, it also works like a button so there's not a whole lot of fine control when you're trying to dim the light. It should be noted that there is a Leviton Smart Switch that comes without a dimmer, but still has the same HomeKit capabilities. It's a few dollars cheaper and eliminates the stiff dimmer switch altogether.

How smart is this switch?

While other switches have multicolored light bars or touchpad interfaces, the Leviton smart switch has only the on/off button with a dimmer on the side. While some may see this as too simple for a smart switch, it actually provides a lot of advantages.

With Leviton's traditional switch design, it's easy to know right out of the box which button does what. With HomeKit support built into the Leviton switch, you also don't need any additional hardware beyond your iOS device. The switch also works in three-way setups, so you can connect more than one switch to the same light. This is a feature that the more expensive WeMo switch doesn't have.

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It may not have many fancy features, but its simple design makes Leviton's switch easy to use out of the box.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The Leviton switch uses Wi-Fi to connect directly with your router, so you don't need to connect it to a hub to control it with your phone. It won't work with Android devices, though -- and it won't work with Alexa, either. Leviton does sell other Decora switches that are compatible with Android and Alexa, but at that point you may as well pay the extra money for a smart switch like the Lutron Caseta that's compatible with everything.  

Light at the flick of a digital switch

Beyond those somewhat clunky physical controls, you can also control this light switch using the Leviton app on your phone. And, thanks to the HomeKit compatibility, you can control it using Apple's Home app for iOS devices, or by using a spoken Siri command.

To connect it to HomeKit, all you have to do is enter the eight digit number at the bottom-right corner of the switch in the Home app. Syncing the switch with HomeKit also allows you to use it alongside any other HomeKit-compatible gadget under your roof.

To connect it to the Leviton app, you have to scan for the device in the app until it connects. Leviton has multiple apps for its various products, which makes it hard to find the right one for this switch. Once I found and installed the correct one, the switch connected almost instantly. The app offers similar perks to HomeKit, such as controlling the dimness and turning on the light remotely, but it also allows you to control fade speed and adjust the switch's minimum or max brightness. You can also look at the specifics of each switch, such as the assigned name and the model number. 

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HomeKit and the Leviton Decora app provide a smoother user experience than the physical controls.

Chris Monroe/CNET

In both the Home app and the Leviton app, the software dimmer is smooth and allows for far better control than when you dim the lights by hand. When compared to Belkin WeMo and Lutron Caseta, the Decora smart switch's response time to voice commands was virtually identical, and the three apps offer similar slide controls and grouping mechanisms. They're all pretty similar, at least as far as basic smartphone controls go.

The verdict

If you're looking for a modern-looking smart switch with plenty of connected features and third-party integrations, then you'll want to skip Leviton's Decora DH6HD in favor of a more fully-featured switch from a name like Belkin or Lutron. Unlike the DH6HD, both of those competitors will work with Alexa, as will the HS200 smart switch from TP-Link, which only costs $40.

Some might prefer Leviton's simplicity, as well as the focus on Apple HomeKit. The easy-to-use design and responsive app make up for the plain look and clunky physical controls. Connecting the switch to your phone and using the app is useful and intuitive, but the lack of compatibility with any other service outside of HomeKit puts some of that usefulness into question. As a baseline smart switch for HomeKit households, it does the job, but at $50, it'd be nice if it did a little more.

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6.1

Leviton Decora Smart Dimmer

Score Breakdown

Features 4Usability 8Design 5Performance 8