When it comes to smart homes, the only thing more difficult than building one is making them easy to control. Many DIY smarthomes are littered with features that only the person who built it can control easily. The Brilliant Home Control aims to change that.
Editor’s note: I received the Brilliant Home Control for free in exchange for a review. This in no way affects the contents of my review. I tell it as I see it! See my disclosures for more information.
Brilliant Home Control Overview
The Brilliant Home Control is a light switch that doubles as a smart home hub. Think of it as the combination of an Echo Show or Google Nest Hub and a smart light switch. It can work as a regular light switch (or dimmer), but it also has a brilliant (pardon the pun) touch screen that can control many smarthome products, such as:
- LIFX (just added August 13th)
- Philips Hue
- Honeywell Home
Brilliant integrates with Alexa, Google Assistant (Apple HomeKit support is in the works). The Google Assistant integration allows control of Brilliant light switches via voice.
Alexa integration is taken a step further. In addition to allowing voice control of Brilliant switches, it functions as an Alexa interface as well. It can do almost everything an Echo can do with a couple of differences. In some ways, it’s closer to the Echo Show. Ask it about the weather and the Brilliant will answer as well and show the current weather and forecast on the display. Ask who Albert Einstein is the display shows his picture and biography.
Unlike the Echo Dots and Shows of the world, this unit does not play music, despite having a speaker. I also found no way to change the wake word to Echo, Amazon or computer as you can with Echo devices.
Brilliant Home Control Options
The Brilliant has a few options and prices. They have controllers that can control anywhere from 1-4 different light switches.
They also come in multiple colors. Anything other than the basic white, however, will cost you a premium of $19 to $29 dollars depending on the number of switches.
If you install multiple Brilliant switches in your home, you can use them as an audio or video intercom! More on that later.
Brilliant has a few great videos that show you how to install their switches. I’m not going to repeat the details of these videos, but I have them below. I strongly suggest you look at the appropriate one for your install (single pole vs multi-way, and one switch vs multi-switch).
The basic steps for installation are the same as installing most smart switches:
- Turn off the power at the breaker (I always suggest you test the lines just in case you turned off the wrong circuit, or they are mislabeled. It has happened to me).
- Make sure you have a neutral wire, as these switches require them.
- Disconnect the existing light switch(es).
- Connect the load, line, ground, and neutral wires (and also the travelers if doing a multi-way switch) according to the instructions.
- Turn the breaker back on and test the lights. If all works well slide on the front panel and start enjoying!
Seems simple, right? Well, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
- If you are installing a 2 switch panel you only need to connect 1 ground and one neutral, even though there are two places to connect them. This isn’t crystal clear from the instructions.
- Make sure you tighten the screws that hold wires in place. It’s easy for the wires to slip out if you don’t. Tug on the wires a bit to make sure they’ll stay in place.
- The instructions for the 2 switch plate have scenarios for single pole and 3-way switch hookup, but no instructions for one of each in the box, which is what I have. You really just combine the instructions for each to get it right.
- You’re probably going to have to work to get the Brilliant Home Control to fit in your light switch box. It’s pretty big compared to regular light switches.
Special considerations for my setup
I had additional complications for the light switches where I installed Brilliant. Each of them already had a Z-wave microcontroller installed between the light switch and the light. These allow me to control my lights with a Z-Wave USB stick and Home Assistant. I wasn’t sure if Briliant would play nice with these, or if there would be enough space in the box. Turns out neither was an issue. I am able to control the lights with my Z-wave controller and the Brilliant, independently.
Update: I can now remove the microcontrollers and control the Brilliant light switches via Home Assistant’s HomeKit Controller integration.
Brilliant Home Control Setup
Set up was pretty straight forward. Most smart switches go into an access point (AP) mode and have you connect directly to them for configuration. With Brilliant, you enter the wifi credentials (2.4Ghz only) via the touch screen and then you are off and running (you’ll need to set up a Brilliant account and receive an access code). Immediately I configured the lights connected to the switch (the touch screen walks you through options/configuration) and Alexa. Later I added LIFX and Ecobee integrations.
Using the Brilliant
Using the Brilliant to control lights is intuitive. The two switch model has touch-sensitive sliders for each light. You can tap them to turn the lights on and off, and if they are dimmable you can slide your finger up and down the slider. Additionally, you can interact with the touch screen to control lights connected physically to the switch, as well as lights you have integrated with it (in my case, the LIFX lights). You can also control other lights controlled by the Brilliant.
If you have the single switch variant, the touch screen is the only way to control the lights. You don’t have to navigate to the light screen to control the light the Brilliant is connected to, however. A simple flick on the touch screen turns the light on or off.
Works with Brilliant
Controlling most everything else is done via the touch screen, exclusively, including configurations and integrations. Navigate to the “Works with Brilliant” screen to easily set up integrations. In addition to the LIFX integration I also set up Ecobee, and controlling my Ecobee thermostats via Brilliant was intuitive.
Video and Audio Intercom
I mentioned the intercom functionality earlier and it is pretty cool. If you have more than one Brilliant in your home they can connect to each other using video or audio-only. When in intercom mode you have to push a button on a screen to transmit audio, in push-to-talk fashion. The video looks pretty good.
I’ve got one in my kitchen and one in the room where the kids do homework, so I expect the intercom to be used often to request parental assistance with homework.
The only downside is the height of the light switch. I’m 5’9″ and the camera ends up being at my chest. I have to bend down if I want my face to transmit. Wish you could adjust the angle. Works great for my kids though!
You can disable this feature if you don’t feel comfortable with it. There is also a physical slider to completely block the camera for those who want the extra assurance.
There’s also an app for control of the Brilliant lights, but I honestly rarely have a need for it. It’s basic. I primarily use it to add and customize the images that show up on the Brilliant screen.
But, for me, the point of this control is to not have to pull out my phone. I already have phone controls (apps) for everything the Brilliant controls.
The future of Brilliant
I had the fortune of speaking with Brilliant co-founder and CEO Aaron Emigh. He painted an exciting future for Brilliant that includes new integrations and new products. He said they are always looking to respond to consumer interest when it comes to new integrations. When I asked him how the new LIFX native integration came about, he stressed that it was because it was one of the most requested integrations by Brilliant users.
Mr. Emigh said they are looking into new integrations with popular smarthome products, including additional smarthome hubs (Brilliant already integrates with Samsung SmartThings). Another key fact I learned from speaking with Mr. Emigh was that updates are continuously released to the Brilliant Control, at the pace of about every two weeks.
Here is how I would summarize my experience with the Brilliant Home Control:
- Beautiful screen. In fact, the product is beautiful in general. It really adds to the ambiance of a room and seems sturdy and well made
- Popular smarthome integrations
- Ease of set up and use
- Frequent updates
- Intercom feature
- Installation can be a bit tricky due to size (but not significantly worse than other smarthome light switches
- Need more native integrations and/or more smarthome hub integrations
- Camera height/angle for intercom feature.
- Cost. Honestly, this is the only significant con. For many people, the price will be hard to swallow. But other than DIY tablet setups, there really isn’t another product quite like this that I’m aware of
Overall it’s a good product with great potential. I am looking forward to the expanding features, additional integrations, and new products from Brilliant.
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