Monster Central Power Control Kit review: Monstrous prices take the power from this plug

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The Good The Monster Central Power Control Kit works as advertised. It's pretty responsive and includes surge protection.

The Bad It looks blocky and outdated, it's not as interoperable as the competition and the energy readings aren't as detailed as they are on the Belkin WeMo Insight Switch.

The Bottom Line The Monster Central Power Control Kit sits behind the competition on features, making its $140 price point completely outlandish.

5.9 Overall
  • Features 4
  • Usability 7
  • Design 6
  • Performance 8

Connected plugs are a great way to get started with the smart home. Plug anything you want into one and you can control that formerly dumb device remotely. That's the idea behind the Monster Central Power Control Kit. As opposed to fiddling with the dials of those old fashioned lamp timers, plug your light into this device and set up a schedule with Monster's app. The Monster plug will even tell you how much energy your device is using, and let you customize the readings to your local utility pricing.

Beyond that, you can set up more complex rules via the compatible Presence Pro Energy app, and Monster's plug offers surge protection. It's a neat, useful trick to add simple smarts where you want it most, and Monster pulls everything off competently. Except, it's not a new trick. In fact, the connected plug is one of the most common smart home devices you can find, with models available from Belkin , D-Link , iDevices , Quirky , iHome , Insteon , and more. Monster stands out from this crowd solely because of its $140 price. Comparatively, its features fall short of the competition and since the best of the rest cost between $50 and $60, the price makes the Monster Central Power Control Kit a terrible value.

The concept

I was disconcerted by the Monster Plug from the get go. It's big and black and bulky. The front has three lights that turn green when it's connected. It feels like something out of a sci-fi movie from the '80s.

It's long, but the prongs sit at the top of its backside. Plug it into a bottom outlet, and you'll still be able to access the top one. To use it, you'll need to plug the electronic you want to automate into Monster's own outlet, which sits on the bottom of the device.

Plug in a dumb device to get a smart one. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Included in the package with the plug is a base unit you'll need to hook to your router. Monster's plug is the only one we've encountered that needs a separate hub to establish a connection. It's an outdated appendage, especially since it won't help any third-party accessory reach the cloud. You'll be using up space on your router for a hub that only talks to Monster plugs.

That said, it does make setup simple. The Belkin WeMo Switch is a great $50 smart outlet that remotely links to your Wi-Fi without needing a separate hub, but getting it connected the first time can be tricky. With Monster, plug the hub into the wall and your router. A light on the front will blink a few times as it gets set up, then turn solid green after a few seconds to show it has a signal.

Then you can download the free Monster app and scan the QR code on the plug to add it to your account. It's a quick and painless process that should let you start automating soon after you open the package.

Scan the QR code on the plug to complete the easy setup. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

You can buy the Monster Power Control Kit from Monster's website. It's also available via People Power, the makers of the free Presence app. Finally, you can find it via typical online retailers such as Amazon and Walmart. The $140 kit includes the plug and the hub. You can buy additional plugs for $70 a piece.

A lot of retailers selling the switch have discounted it heavily. On Amazon, it's currently $65 total. Walmart sells it for $71. Even Monster's own site has discounted the kit down to $120. Those discounts seems like great deals, but really they just make the kit reasonable.

Monster also sells a kit with three plugs for $170. Additional three plug units cost $110. On this model -- the 300MC as opposed to the 100MC -- only one plug allows app control, but all three get the benefit of energy-monitoring and surge protection.

At this time, all models of the Monster Power Control Kit are only available in the US.

The kit includes the plug, the hub, and the cords necessary to get everything connected. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The execution

Once you're setup, plug the electronic you'd like to automate into the Monster device, and manually switch it on. Then the app, available for both iOS and Android, can take the reigns.

Here are the readings I got from the lamp I plugged in. If you get why I called it Timothy Stack, you win the prize. Screenshots by Andrew Gebhart/CNET

You can name the device to keep things distinct should you add more plugs to your system. You can flip the device on or off from near or far with your phone or tablet. You'll also see an energy reading made to look like your car's speedometer.

The extra buttons on the home screen don't add much. Screenshot by Andrew Gebhart/CNET

Via the devices "Analyze" screen, you can see charts showing the power usage over the day, week and month. You can see the cost of that power usage over the same time periods as well, and you can customize what units it shows and how much they cost via the settings.

Finally, the device has a "Programs" screen to let you set basic schedules. You won't be able to turn things on or off at sunset, or on a regular looping schedule -- like switching it on and off every 45 minutes -- but you can say you want it to turn on or off at a certain time, and specify days of the week for that command.

Outside of the device page of the app, on the Monster app home screen, you can access a couple of other simple functions. Again, the settings let you customize your energy readings, but it also lets you instruct a "Home and Away" command. You'll find both buttons at the bottom of the home screen, and you can program what you want the plug to do when you come home or go away.

Unfortunately, because the app won't link to anything besides the Monster plug, your options are pretty much limited to having the device turn on or off when you come home or leave, and it doesn't have geofencing, so you'll have to pull up the app and hit the button when you want to execute one command or the other. In other words, its just a way of putting an extra power button on the home screen that can sync multiple plugs at once.