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

Lutron also has a Caséta Wireless IFTTT channel so you can connect third-party devices like the Nest Learning Thermostat , Nest Protect and others.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

A HomeKit close-up

The new hub diverges from the original because of its HomeKit exclusivity. It offers Siri integration as well as additional remote access via the Apple Watch.

Depending on your smart home interests, that could seem limiting, but voice control and wearables integration add a lot of functionality that you just can't get with the original -- or really with any other smart home product that we've reviewed. Still, these are bonus features that wouldn't matter nearly as much if the Lutron hardware and app weren't already so solid.

Using Siri on a phone network only worked sometimes. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Beyond Lutron's general impressiveness, Siri was similarly responsive when I queried her to turn on, off or dim one or both of the lights, which I was able to customize by room (bedroom, living room) and zone (upstairs, downstairs). Unfortunately, that didn't extend to remote Siri access. You can access the Lutron app outside of your home network, but you need a third-generation Apple TV for Siri to communicate with the devices remotely. So, while you could turn a light on from a cellular network using the app, you must have the Apple TV for Siri to turn a light on via your iPhone.

An Apple support page confirms all of this: "If you have an Apple TV (third generation or later) with software version 7.0 or later, you can control your HomeKit-enabled accessories when you're away from home using your iOS device. Sign in with the same Apple ID on your iOS device and Apple TV, and you'll be able to use Siri commands to remotely control your accessories."

I grabbed a $69 (£59, AU$109) third-gen Apple TV and tried it out. After logging in with the same Apple ID, it worked flawlessly. At first. Then, it stopped abruptly. I checked that there was nothing wonky with the Wi-Fi network and that all of the firmware was up-to-date, but saw no obvious issues. Interestingly, logging out and signing back in caused the functionality to return sometimes, but not consistently enough for it to be a legitimate fix.

Using Siri with the Lutron app on the Apple Watch requires the Handoff feature. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The Apple Watch version of the Lutron app has fewer features, but you can still access various lighting settings with ease. You can also use Siri on the Apple Watch, although this process was a little more involved than I would like.

The Siri that lives on the Apple Watch can promptly reply to weather inquiries and handle basic commands, but certain questions are too complicated and must be "handed off" to an iPhone; the feature is literally called "Handoff." Lutron-related commands fall under this category, so asking Siri to "Turn off the bedroom light" returns a little text block that reads, "I can help you control your home when you use Handoff on your iPhone."

In this case, Handoff manifests as a tiny Siri icon on the bottom left of the iPhone lock screen. Simply swipe up from the icon and Siri will complete the command. Since the iPhone and the Apple Watch need to be within close proximity of one another for most watch features to work, this isn't a huge complication. But it's still way more complicated than it should be.

Conclusion

We have reviewed several plug-in modules (some of which can control more than lights, like Belkin's WeMo switches), but none of them have had dimming capabilities or Lutron's level of responsiveness. Add on the Siri voice control and Apple Watch integration of Lutron's new HomeKit-compatible Smart Bridge and this $230 kit's superiority becomes apparent.

The entire $230 kit. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Even so, I still have some questions about using the Apple TV for remote Siri access and really wish the Handoff feature wasn't an Apple Watch necessity. But, that's only a small part of Lutron's HomeKit functionality and HomeKit itself is only a small part of the dimmer kit's overall value. I highly recommend this product if you're an iOS user in search of a solid smart lighting solution.

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