Editors' note: This review has been updated to include more information for those who already own Somfy Motorized Shades, and are primarily interested in the MyLink hub.
You know that scene from "Iron Man" when the alarm goes off in Tony Stark's room, the opaque windows miraculously turn transparent, and suddenly revealed is a cliffside view of the Pacific Ocean? Who wouldn't want to get out of bed with a routine like that? That level of "cool" is what I hoped Somfy's smart window shades would achieve. But I was disappointed.
After getting the Somfy Motorized Shades set up, and the Somfy MyLink hub, which enables iOS or Android app control, I spent a few days testing out what they could do. Using a remote, you can command the shades to go up or down, or somewhere in between, and you can use your phone to schedule their behavior and create more complex scenes. But that's it. They don't integrate with many smart-home gadgets, they don't monitor or respond to sun location -- these blinds just don't feel that smart. And I wouldn't feel very smart either, paying between $300 and $400 per window shade, plus $200 for the MyLink hub.
For customers who already have Somfy Motorized Shades, though, the MyLink could be a decent purchase. Somfy allows many other shade and blind designers to incorporate the proprietary motors into their designs. So if you already have a few Somfy motors around the house, $200 isn't too steep a price to pay for app control. The problem is, for anyone trying to decide which smart shade company to buy into for the future, Somfy just isn't showing enough potential right now to justify the price.
I spent a day installing Somfy's Motorized Blinds, pairing them with channels on the remote, and setting up the MyLink hub, and didn't run into too many problems. Of course, as with any blinds, there's the process of removing the previous installations and positioning the new ones -- all the while fumbling with measuring tape, a hammer, a power drill, a level and dozens of tiny screws. But that's par for the course.
The only difficulty beyond the usual woes of home installation was finding room for the newly necessary battery tube (a wired version is also available). The battery tube, which houses eight AA batteries, connects with a short wire to the Somfy motor and powers it. If you are installing the shades in a recessed window, the inside casing is usually deep enough to install the shade. But at the Smart Home there wasn't room for the battery tube's moorings without screwing into the window sash.
I ended up using double-sided tape, which worked well. But I was disappointed in the need for a separate battery device rather than a slot for batteries in the shade itself.
Once I installed the shades themselves, I had to program the Telis RTS (Radio Technology Somfy) Remote to communicate with the shades properly. Though this should've been relatively simple, it actually ended up feeling like a complicated math problem.
The remote features five channels, each of which can connect to a single shade or group of shades. The shade(s) on a given channel can then be told to go "Up," "Down" or to a personalized "My" location. The problem is, when you're setting up the channels, you can only copy and paste the content of one channel to another. If channel 1 connects to two shades, for instance, you can only copy both shades to channel 2 at the same time. The only way to copy and paste individual shades is by unplugging all the other shades while performing the task, and then going back and individually clearing the original channels (unplugging more shades).
If you had a hard time following all that, then you're starting to understand the mental exercise setting up the channels turned out to be. While Somfy recommends professional installation (which would bypass some of these frustrations), many shade and blind companies will not offer such services fee-free. It would be nice to see a setup process that's a little more accessible for customers who elect to install their window dressings themselves.