By Todd Bernhard on Sat, 12/03/2016
I've been using Wink products to make my home smarter for over a year. My favorite use case is opening and closing my garage, from my Apple Watch. This comes in handy when walking my dog. I can close the door if I end up going farther than I planned to, and I can open it just before I get to my house, all without digging my iPhone out. But Wink products do so much more. You can monitor your propane tank level, and access your thermostat, security system, and lighting. I also have a door lock and Ring video doorbell that are Wink compatible.
While the Apple Watch interface is fine given the size constraints, the iOS app is my preferred interface. In fact, sometimes I wish I could just stick my iPhone on the wall and have a high-end smart home controller. In fact, that's pretty much what the Wink Relay ($99) is. The Relay replaces your light switch and provides an always-on smart interface right where you need it.
One concern I had was that the always-on nature might be a problem. I really didn't want a brightly illuminated 4.3-inch screen in my bedroom. Fortunately, the screen turns off by itself, and turns on when the proximity sensor detects motion within a short distance; so it's not a problem and quite convenient, after all. And the Relay is better than an iPhone on your wall because you don't have to find and launch an app. It's strictly for Wink purposes, so it's always ready and you can control what scenes and devices appear in what order.
There's more than the touchscreen interface, though. The Relay has two large touchpad buttons that can be configured to either control the lights that the light switch used to control or they can be used as smart buttons that can control other Wink devices. In my case, the top button acts as a toggle for my bedroom lights, using a Wink light bulb. The bottom button controls my A/C outlet which raises or lowers my window blinds. It was important for me that my family could use the Relay without training or frustration, so those buttons really help.
The Wink Relay is an elegant, high-end looking device that is reasonably priced. In fact, while it sells for $99, you can buy two for $149, which makes them $75 each. It would be a lot more expensive to Velcro an iPhone or iPod touch on the wall and wire it to be always on. I also like that the Wink system is smart but getting smarter as Wink releases new software and hardware. The company just announced a new Wink Hub 2 that adds some improvements, such as an Ethernet port in addition to Wi-Fi, so it's more reliable. However, it doesn't (yet?) support Apple's HomeKit, which is a glaring oversight. Still, Wink is compatible with Amazon's Alexa, which I also use, and I expect, over time, all of these platforms should become interoperable.
The other downside is that you might need a handyman to install the Relay. I am a computer engineer, so I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty, but even I ran into some issues because my light switch's wires were not color coded using the right standards. Still, it took about a half an hour to install the Relay and I might even add more throughout the house, as a future upgrade should add intercom capabilities.
- Elegant, high-end look
- Reasonably priced
- Smart, and getting smarter
- Nice user interface on Relay, iOS app, and Apple Watch
- Growing array of compatible products
- Not HomeKit based
- Requires Wink Hub and accessories
- Might need a handyman to install
If you want to make your home smarter, the Wink Relay and other accessories from Wink are a smart choice.