Lutron Caséta Wireless Lighting Starter Kit review: This Siri-enabled hub makes a lasting impression

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The Good The $230 Lutron Caséta Wireless Lighting Starter Kit is an elegant smart home solution that works extremely well, whether you're using the mobile app, your Apple Watch or Siri.

The Bad You have to use the Handoff feature if you want Siri to work on your Apple Watch. It has limited value for non-iOS users.

The Bottom Line As the first retail-ready HomeKit product, Lutron's kit is just the beginning of Siri-integrated smart home control, but it works so well that I can easily recommend it today for any iOS users interested in plug-in lighting and dimmer products.

8.0 Overall
  • Features 9
  • Usability 8
  • Design 7
  • Performance 8

Lutron hasn't been a very vocal partner of Apple's HomeKit home automation system, but all that changed with this week's retail launch of the $230 Caséta Wireless Lighting Starter Kit. It comes complete with a Siri-enabled Smart Bridge hub, two plug-in light dimmer modules, two remote controls and an iOS app for your phone, tablet and Apple Watch. (UK and Australian availability has yet to be announced, but the US price converts to around £150 or AU$295.)

Although this is just the first piece of HomeKit hardware to see the light of day, it's surprisingly full-featured, responsive and simple to use. I was able to control plug-in lamps with dimmable LEDs using Siri, the mobile app and the Apple Watch with only a couple of minor setbacks. From setting up the hardware to telling Siri to "Turn on the lights," the entire experience was a true pleasure.

$230 is a lot to spend for a couple of dimmers, but Lutron's streamlined HomeKit solution is recommended if you're an iOS adherent looking to dive into home automation.

One hub to rule them all

Lutron's hardware works exceptionally well, but it's the least interesting thing about this kit. We already reviewed the original Lutron Smart Bridge last year with the same two-outlet plug-in dimmers and remotes.

This new HomeKit-exclusive hub looks pretty much the same as, if not identical to, the original. It's a slab of white plastic that connects to your router and helps translate Clear Connect to lighting accessories, so you can dim your LED, halogen and incandescent bulbs, set schedules and more via the companion Lutron Android or iOS app. That's where things start to get interesting.

You can still find the original Smart Bridge hub on Amazon for $120 as a standalone device (although it will be phased out soon) and plug-in dimmer and remote kits for 60 bucks each. That's $240 for the original hub and the same accessories -- $10 more than this new kit with the HomeKit-specific hub, two dimmers and two remotes. I really liked the original hub, but this second generation one offers a lot more features (but only if you're an iOS devotee).

Lutron told us that this kit would be in Apple Stores throughout North and South America (with the exception of Brazil) as well as on Amazon starting June 2, but we were unable to find them in our local store in Louisville, KY. It wasn't available in any other stores in the surrounding area, nor even in the NY Apple stores as of this writing. The company ended up sending us a kit directly instead. That means that you may not be able to find this kit right away, but it should be en route to an Apple Store near you soon.

Ready, steady, go

Although Lutron has updated its app to account for Siri integration since I reviewed the original hub and accessories, setting everything up works roughly the same as it did before. Connect the Smart Bridge to the router and follow the instructions on the app to pair any accessories. Since this kit comes with two plug-in dimmers and two remotes, I followed the instructions to pair those specific products.

The button setup was fiddly, but everything else went smoothly. Screenshot by Megan Wollerton/CNET

This was really straightforward, with one small exception. To pair the dimmers and the remotes, you have to press and hold their "off" buttons until the LED indicator starts blinking rapidly (as pictured above). If you don't press it in exactly the right spot and in exactly the right way, it won't work. And if you want to reset one of the accessories, you have to follow a series of overly complicated rhythmic button presses that border on ridiculous. Setup was simple otherwise, though.

There are a lot of ways to approach this system, but it's very basic at its core. You can plug up to two lamps into a single module and each module has its own built-in controls. So where you can only control a Belkin WeMo Insight Switch from the WeMo app (or through another software platform, like IFTTT), you can actually turn your lamps on or off and even dim them from the Lutron plug itself. The paired remotes act as an extension of that functionality too.

Then, you have the Lutron app. Forgetting any of the HomeKit features for the moment, the app is very comprehensive, allowing for a whole host of custom schedules and scenes as well as standard on, off and dimmer capabilities. This gives you the opportunity to interact with your lighting whether you're connected to your home network or on a distant cellular or Wi-Fi network.

I particularly liked its geofencing feature; it worked flawlessly. You can set it to automatically turn your lights off when you leave and on when you return and even adjust the distance threshold. There's also an option you can set that will only turn your lights on if you return home after sunset. In general, though, accessing the lights from the plugs, the remotes and the app all work remarkably well. They are reliable, responsive and straightforward, even when I tested with a handful of different dimmable LED brands and models.

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