U by Moen Smart Shower review: A warm welcome to the world of luxury smart showers

If you're remodeling anyway, the U by Moen might make sense.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Essentially, you're buying professional quality lab equipment for your home -- the multi-thousand dollar intellifaucets we use for testing laundry machines and dishwashers calibrate the temp 60 times a second. Moen's valve impressively keeps up by calibrating 50 times a second. That's much more precision than you'd ever be able to feel while showering, but it's nice to know Moen didn't skimp on the quality of its equipment.

Precise controls

Once you do get everything installed, the control panel is simple to use -- complete with buttons to control the temp, activate presets, and turn the various nozzles on or off. I had no idea what my ideal shower temp was before using this smart shower, so the in-shower temp controls came in handy. I found my sweet spot at 105 degrees Fahrenheit, which then allowed me to build a detailed preset in the app.

With each preset, you can customize the temp, a greeting that will show up on the control panel, which nozzles you'd like active, and what happens when the shower is ready. With mine, I have the shower pause the water and send me a push notification. You can also set a timer for each preset. Once the timer runs out, you can have the shower alert you or even turn off completely.

Button No. 1 turns on my preset.

Chris Monroe/CNET

These functions have implications beyond simply luxury. By warming up and pausing your shower, Moen helps you conserve water in the meantime. By shutting off the water after you've decided your teenage children have had enough time to get clean, you can help encourage them to take shorter showers. That said, there's nothing to stop your teen from just turning the water right back on once the timer expires.

The app allows you to customize two presets that you activate with the buttons on the shower's control panel. You can also build up to 10 other presets that you can activate from the app.

Weirdly, the app stumbles over the process if you don't close it out entirely between your showers. Repeatedly during testing, I'd hit the button to start my preset. The shower would turn on for a moment, then pause and tell me that my shower was ready, even though it had been hours since I'd used it and Moen hadn't cycled out the cold water.

Even when the preset works as intended, the shower only stays paused for five minutes. If you start your shower and forget about it, it won't try to keep the water warm by running briefly every now and then, it'll just cancel your shower. I appreciated that feature, as it might stop the shower from wasting lots of water if you forget about it for a day, but a keep-warm option might be nice if you're pulled away for 15 or 20 minutes.

You can start the shower or one of the presets from the main page of the app. The presets allow lots of customization. Once the shower is running, you can control it remotely with the app.

Screenshots by David Priest/CNET

Besides the presets, you can also control all of the basic shower functions via the app, so you're free to mess with your spouse by turning on body spray nozzles from afar while he or she tries to shower in peace.

In the future, Moen hopes to make the system even smarter, and a rep mentioned both Amazon's Alexa and Apple's HomeKit as possible integrations -- though she wouldn't confirm that the shower has the MFi chip HomeKit requires. I'd certainly like to be able to turn on my shower with a voice command to my Amazon Echo. She noted that nothing is official right now. She assured me, though, that Moen will send any updates over the air to existing smart showers. That's possible for Alexa, but not for HomeKit if it doesn't have that MFi chip. Moen will do its best to make sure your fancy purchase doesn't quickly become obsolete, but tread carefully if you're a HomeKit user.

The Verdict

The U by Moen Smart Shower charmed me without quite winning me over. Moen's app walks the line between tech and simplicity well. It adds genuinely useful connectivity to a device that we all know works fine without bells and whistles, but Moen kept the additions simple, intuitive and effective. If I could easily and cheaply add just its smarts to my existing shower setup, I'd do it without hesitation and recommend this system broadly.

Unfortunately, for those of us that just want connected convenience, the barrier to entry for this setup is too steep. This isn't a connected DIY gadget, it's an investment in a luxury shower setup. In that light, at $2,200 for the four-outlet version we tested, and $1,160 for a two-outlet smart shower, the U by Moen is actually reasonably priced. If you're remodeling and want a control panel in your new, fancy shower, the U by Moen provides convenient extras with its app for not much more than you'd pay for an ordinary control panel and precision valve. The app isn't perfect and the system isn't magic, but it adds enough innovation to the basics to be worth your consideration as a high-end upgrade.

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