Tri Cascade i-Bright7x review: The i-Bright Surge Protector earns its high price

The Surge Protector's software is also bursting at the seams, and it's probably the main reason for the price hike. You can monitor the device on your laptop through the website, but you can also download the mobile app to monitor it remotely. The energy-tracking displays are accessible and helpful, and the scheduling works.

The surge protector can be monitored using an online dashboard.

Screenshot by David Priest/CNET

You can also download the mobile app to monitor the surge protector remotely.

Screenshot by David Priest/CNET

I was a little disappointed by the lack of in-depth energy usage analysis. The only data you can access is in the past 24 hours, and unlike other apps like iDevices, no conversions from amps to estimated costs are available. That means you'll have to do a Web search to find out how much you're actually spending on the electronics plugged into the protector -- an annoying extra step.

The scheduling feature is also weirdly confusing. Selecting particular times, like you might do in other apps like Piper or SmartThings, is supplanted with tapping or clicking on orange or gray bars to select blocks of time during which electronics will be powered on or off. It's an odd decision, and the app screen for scheduling is completely unwieldy. Most of the time it couldn't tell whether I was selecting a block of time, scrolling up and down or swiping to other days of the week.

A learning curve ... for a power strip?

I like how jam-packed this device is with design elements and software features, but I don't like how long it takes to set up and use. The Protector comes with not one, but two giant fold-out direction sheets. Between updating Java, setting up a new account on the website, downloading the app, discovering the device and syncing it to the Smart Home Wi-Fi, it took 45 minutes to get it up and running.

The i-Bright is a really solid product that meets currently-unmet consumer needs.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Not only is it difficult to set up, it's difficult to know when to use it. Surge protectors, as I mentioned before, are mostly used for electronics like TVs, game consoles and computers -- you know, expensive hardware that burns energy. The problem is, game consoles and computers both need to be shut down properly before cutting power to them, and I would never schedule them using the i-Bright for fear that I'd forget to power them down properly beforehand, perhaps resulting in data corruption. Scheduling might be useful for lights, but then you can't use the remote access outlets for those big energy-burners at all.

The problems of remote scheduling could have been solved if individual outlets had individual schedules, but the i-Bright Protector doesn't offer that level of personalization. Of course, not many have (with the exception of the otherwise middling Quirky Pivot Power Genius).

Should you buy it?

For many people, a $110 (or more) power surge protector just seems like a waste of money. But the i-Bright is a really solid product that meets currently-unmet consumer needs. Ambitious DIYers rigging up custom devices could really benefit from a surge protector like this, because they could monitor complex electronics setups. Users with older houses that have limited wall outlets could take advantage of the basic power strip features, but also the remote control for lights.

This Surge Protector isn't cheap, and it's not worth the price if you're buying it for any single feature. But altogether it is a unique and useful package of goodies, making it a solid buy for the price.