Wazombi Smart Shades review: These Smart Shades need to develop, but show potential

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MSRP: $90.00

The Good Wazombi's Smart Shades have a clever base mechanism. The coming interchangeable wheels will make the device more flexible, and the developing firmware has exciting possibilities.

The Bad Right now, the device is too limited to appeal to anyone without continuous-loop, beaded-chain shades. Plus, the sluggish speed makes remote control unappealing.

The Bottom Line Despite its limitations, Wazombi's device shows some potential -- especially as the hardware and firmware continue to develop. Keep your eye on it, because in a few months, this could be a great buy.

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5.0 Overall
  • Features 4
  • Usability 6
  • Design 5
  • Performance 5

Review Sections

Wazombi's Smart Shades are a simple product. The body of the device sticks to the wall beside your window, you feed the line from your shade into the wheel of the device, and it turns to crank your shade open or closed. The device alone costs $80 (about £56 or AU$104), but another $20 (£14 or AU$26) will buy a solar panel to power it -- as opposed to the included Mini-USB charger. A free iOS- and Android-compatible app sets schedules and, in the near future, automations.

Right now, Wazombi's device has some serious limitations -- in particular a reliance on continuous-loop, beaded chain shades. The base technology is inelegant. But it's also clever, and has potential. Wazombi is aware of many of the limitations it has, and plans fixes for most of them over the next few months. Though I would pass on the product right now, Smart Shades is worth keeping an eye on as it develops.

The design of Wazombi's Smart Shades is simple, but that simplicity introduces three problems:

  • The device only works with hard-to-find and often-expensive continuous-loop, beaded-chain shades. If you don't have these already, Wazombi's gadget isn't worth it.
  • The wheel only turns so quickly, so opening or closing a shade can take from 2 to 4 minutes, depending on the weight of the shade. Though that isn't much of an issue for automation, it makes remote control annoying and inconvenient.
  • The price is higher than $90 competitor FlipFlic, which includes a solar panel (out next January).
Chris Monroe/CNET

Wazombi plans to fix the first two issues within the next three months -- the first with affordable wheels personalized for different shade-types, the second with an adjustable turn speed. When those changes come, the device will be much improved.

Other exciting possibilities for Wazombi will come with further updates. The ability to automate shades based on the intensity of the sunlight entering the window -- as measured by the solar panel -- will be a big addition. And it should be active through a firmware update within the next few months.

After working with Smart Shades for a couple days, though, it seems like a clever product that lacks polish and flexibility. Hopefully, those will come as more features develop. But for now, unless you have continuous-loop, beaded-chain shades, I recommend waiting.

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