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Quirky Pivot Power Genius review: Expect a little more from this Genius

How does this creative power strip stack up against the Belkin WeMo Switch?

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Ry Crist
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Ry Crist

Senior Editor / Reviews - Appliances

Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, and home networking.

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6 min read

One of the most affordable ways to add a bit of brainpower to your lights and appliances is to smarten up the sockets you're plugging them into. We've already seen products like the Belkin WeMo Switch do exactly this, providing you with remote control over device power, along with a few other functions. I suppose it was only a matter of time before we saw this approach applied to the common household power strip.

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7.4

Quirky Pivot Power Genius

The Good

The <b>Quirky Pivot Power Genius</b> power strip features a fun, useful design. The free Wink app that you'll use to control it is wonderfully well thought out, making automation a breeze.

The Bad

The Genius only has four total outlets -- fewer than the average power strip. Also, aside from basic scheduling, your only triggering option is the Quirky Spotter, which was an inconsistent performer in our tests.

The Bottom Line

This power strip is smart, but "Genius" might be pushing it. Even though it has only one socket, for now we still prefer the Belkin WeMo Switch.

That's exactly what Quirky and GE have done with the Pivot Power Genius. An updated version of the company's original flexible, bendable power strip, Quirky's Pivot Power Genius adds Wi-Fi smarts into the mix, with two outlets that you can power on and off from your smartphone using the free Wink app. Or, if you'd rather let Quirky do the work for you, you can program your devices to power on and off automatically at certain times. And, if you're willing to spend an extra $50 on Quirky's Spotter Multipurpose Sensor, you'll be able to power your devices on and off according to triggers like motion, sound, or temperature changes.

Plug in with the Quirky Pivot Power Genius (pictures)

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Quirky's $79.99 price tag for the Pivot Power Genius is definitely high compared with prices for standard power strips, but it isn't terribly unreasonable given that you're getting two smart outlets. A single WeMo Switch with its lone smart outlet, for instance, will cost you $49.99. The WeMo Switch, however, is compatible with IFTTT, which opens the doors to a whole multitude of triggers -- everything from rising stock prices and football kickoffs to Foursquare check-ins and Twitter mentions. For my money, I'd rather have one outlet that's really smart than two outlets that are kind of smart, and if I really needed two smart outlets, I'd probably just pony up the extra 20 bucks for a pair of WeMo Switches.

If Quirky can expand the smart functionality of its Pivot Power Strip to include IFTTT compatibility or something equally interesting, then I think it'll have a very compelling product on its hands, but as of now it isn't there yet. Additionally, the Spotter shows a lot of promise as a triggering device, but it also might need some additional development, as our tests have shown the reliability of some of the sensors to be a bit, well, spotty. Unless you have a specific need for a bendable smart power strip, and all you need is basic automated scheduling, I'd recommend waiting to see if Quirky can jack the Pivot Power Genius' IQ up a few points.

With a pair of Wi-Fi-ready outlets, this power strip has a lot of promise. Colin West McDonald/CNET

From a design standpoint, there's a lot to like about this power strip. The fact that you can flex it to fit your needs (and fit your plugs) has a lot of obvious, why-didn't-anyone-think-of-this-before appeal, and on looks alone, it scores points for coolness. I enjoyed the multicolored appearance of the original Pivot Power, though, and wish they had kept that design instead of opting for a conservative, all-white finish.

It's also a bit disappointing that the Pivot Power Genius has only four outlets in total. The original Pivot Power had six, and some common power strips have even more than that. We're also seeing more and more power strips and surge protectors incorporating USB ports into their designs, but you won't find any on the Pivot Power Genius.

There's more to that house-shaped light than meets the eye. Colin West McDonald/CNET

Each of the two smart sockets on the Pivot Power Genius features a helpful blue light that shines whenever the outlet is powered on. There are also buttons on the side of the strip beside both smart outlets that will allow you to turn each one on and off manually. I have a hard time imagining scenarios where these would prove to be all that useful, but still, it's nice to have them there if you need them. If you want to turn all four outlets on or off simultaneously, there's a button built into the base of the power strip's plug.

Connecting the Pivot Power Strip to your home's Wi-Fi network is a pretty interesting process. Rather than having you follow a multistep scan-and-connect process, the Pivot Power Genius simply asks you to hold your phone up to its house-shaped indicator light. With the Wink app running, your phone's screen will flash a rapid sequence of lights and communicate your Wi-Fi info to the power strip. Within seconds, you'll be up and running. In all of our tests, we found that this process worked quite well, making setup a lot more painless than you'll see with other home automation systems.

The free Wink app will walk you through the setup process, complete with handy illustrations. Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Much of this is also thanks to the free Wink app, available for iOS 6 and above, iPhone 4 and above, and Android phones/tablets with OS 2.2 or higher. The app is beautifully designed, with helpful illustrations and an easy-to-navigate interface. Unlike a lot of home automation apps, which look dated and unattractive, the Wink app is rich, modern, and perfectly pleasant to use. I really can't think of much of anything to complain about with the Wink app's usability, unless I really start to nitpick (here's one quibble: when you're done creating a new automation, there's a Delete button, but no Save or OK button -- you have to give the back button a counterintuitive tap).

Using the Wink app to control your Pivot Power Genius is just as simple as setting the thing up. You'll see an image of your power strip with sliding on/off buttons over the two smart outlets. If you want to schedule an automation, simply tap the clock icon to the side of each outlet and tell the app when you want your device to turn on or off. From then on, it will automatically repeat every day at that same time. This means that there's no option for a one-time automation, or for an automation that only occurs on certain days, and I would have liked more controls in this regard. Fortunately, it's the sort of thing that Quirky can (and should) address with a simple app update.

Overall, the Wink app's controls are helpful, simple, and well-designed. Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

If you're also using a Quirky Spotter, you'll be able to quickly switch over to the Wink app's Spotter controls, where you'll be able to tell the Spotter to trigger the Pivot Power Genius if changes in light, sound, motion, temperature, or humidity occur. In our tests, the last three of these all worked fine, but when we set the Spotter to trigger the Pivot Power Genius when the lights came on or when there was a sudden spike in noise, our test lamp wouldn't always turn on. I'll have a full review of the Quirky Spotter up in the coming days that will dig a little deeper into its performance.

These triggering issues highlight one of the main challenges facing the Pivot Power Genius. With any smart device that relies on condition-based, if-then-statement automation, the trigger -- the "if" -- is the really important part. The Pivot Power Genius has no trouble powering your devices on and off (the "then"), but its usefulness is directly tied to what's capable of reliably triggering it (the "if"). Unlike the WeMo Switch, which has dozens and dozens of unique "ifs" through IFTTT alone, all the Pivot Power Genius has are the schedules you set and the five types of changes that the Spotter is capable of detecting. And unlike WeMo, which is ready to take advantage of IFTTT's free automation right out of the box, the Pivot Power Genius requires you to spend an additional $50 on the Spotter in order to have access to those additional triggers.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

With multiple automatable outlets and a very strong app, the Pivot Power Genius shows a great deal of potential, and is already a smart, useful product in its own right. But I can't say that I find it nearly as useful as the WeMo Switch, which costs just $49.99 on its own, or $79.99 packaged with Belkin's motion detector. Until Quirky finds a way to make its Genius a bit smarter, I can't recommend it to anyone looking for anything more than basic home automation. Quirky had better think fast -- there's nothing stopping Belkin from putting out a WeMo Power Strip.

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7.4

Quirky Pivot Power Genius

Score Breakdown

Features 6Usability 8Design 8Performance 8