Nexia Bridge review: Monthly fees make the Nexia Bridge a tough sell

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The Good The Nexia Bridge offers easy setup and a low maintenance entry point to offer comprehensive home automation controls.

The Bad Nexia charges $9.99 a month to use its automation services, which is a little tricky to justify given the subscription-free alternatives available.

The Bottom Line As home automation systems go, the Nexia Bridge offers a great mix of simplicity and functionality, but the monthly fee is a tough sell, especially for casual users.

7.5 Overall
  • Features 8
  • Usability 8
  • Design 6
  • Performance 8

If you're just getting started with home automation, chances are that you might feel a little overwhelmed. Whether you want to automate your lights, your appliances, your thermostat, or even an elaborate homemade security system, your options are immense. It's easy not to feel confident that the system you're building will work well together, piece for piece.

That's where Nexia Home Intelligence and its centerpiece, the Bridge, come into play. At a price of $59, the Nexia Bridge will serve as your home automation mothership. It looks like a router and works like one, too. Just plug it into your network, tell it which devices you want it to communicate with over the wireless Z-Wave network, then use Nexia's Web site and smartphone app to control them however you see fit. With over 200 Nexia-compatible devices currently available for purchase, that's a lot of functionality to play with.

Here's the rub -- Nexia charges $9.99 a month to use its automation services. That might not sound like a bad deal at first, but given the abundance of subscription-free home automation options from other manufacturers, it's definitely a reason to think twice before buying. Still, it isn't a disqualifier, either, especially since there are no contracts and you can terminate service at any time, penalty-free.

For homeowners prepared to dive deeply into the world automation, I say the simplicity of the Nexia Bridge and the functionality of its Web site are worth nine bucks a month, especially if you've got lots of automatable gadgets ready to go, and until something better comes along without a fee (SmartThings, I'm looking at you). As for folks who just want to automate a porch light, the subscription fee isn't worth it, making a simple product like Belkin's WeMo Switch a better, more affordable fit.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Design and features
The Nexia Bridge is a simple enough device, with just two buttons, one to enroll devices into your home automation system, and one to unenroll them. Outside of those two functions, the only other time you'll actually interact with the thing is when you first plug it in and tuck it away on a shelf.

If you want to find the true functionality of the Nexia Bridge, you're going to need to log on to Nexia's Web site, where you'll uncover plenty of additional features. The site showcases a great interface and gives you complete control over all of the automation options you could ever want. Not only can you control each device hooked up to your network, but you can fiddle with their specific usage settings, too. If you have a punch-code lock on your front door, you can use the Nexia Web site to update the code, or to turn off the beeps whenever you press a button.

Best of all, the Nexia Web site gives you the power to create automated relationships between your devices. For instance, you can set the lights to come on whenever you unlock the front door - perfect for coming home from work. I was initially disappointed that the Nexia Bridge wasn't compatible with IFTTT, the way the WeMo is, but Nexia's Web site turned out to be a fairly worthy consolation. It gives you a great deal of customizable controls for each relationship that you set up, and it makes the whole process fast and intuitive.

The app, however, was a little less impressive. Yes, it's easy to use, and yes, you can turn your gizmos on and off without any trouble. You cannot, however, create new automated relationships, nor can you tweak existing ones. Both of these functions can only be done through the Web site. It's a significant limitation, and an odd oversight for an otherwise flawlessly designed piece of software.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Nexia makes home automation simple, and accessible even to less tech-minded consumers. Setting your account up is fast and painless, and once you do, you'll just need to plug the Bridge into your router and start enrolling your devices. As soon as you've built your system and populated your corner of the Z-Wave network, you'll be ready to begin automating.

All of the devices that I enrolled with the Nexia Bridge showed up on the first try, and without any confusion. You simply hit the add button on the Bridge, then follow your device's instructions for joining networks. For some Nexia accessories, like the light dimmer I tested, enrollment is as easy as pressing a button. For others, like the Schlage Touchscreen Deadbolt, you'll have to enter a code.