The home is getting smarter, and while appliances, TVs, and more are all getting internet connectivity built right in, some things that are built into your home require adapters to gain a bit more intelligence. Like, for example, power outlets.
There are a ton of smart power outlets out there, but to date Belkin’s WeMo range has often been considered among the best. Now, the company is back with a new addition to the Belkin WeMo lineup - the revamped Belkin WeMo Insight.
But what makes the $45 (£49, AU$69) Insight different from Belkin’s other switches? Well, for starters, it’s aimed at offering much better power consumption tracking. But does that make it worth the cash? We put it to the test.
Design and setup
The first thing you’ll notice about the device is its design. For starters, it’s a little bigger than it looks in the pictures - and that may be an issue for some. We found that in a vertically-aligned dual power outlet it covered the top outlet if placed on the bottom, though it doesn’t cover the bottom if placed on the top. That could be issue, especially for those that want to add smarts to all the outlets in their home.
That doesn’t mean it’s a badly designed device - it looks quite good for what it is.
On the top, you’ll find a touch-sensitive power button, along with a small reset button, and a MicroUSB port. We have absolutely no idea what the MicroUSB port is for. The instructions don’t reference it, and searching online seems to suggest that Belkin put it there in hopes of finding a use for it later. Hopefully they’ll find a use for it before MicroUSB as a standard gets completely replaced with USB-C.
Apart from that and the WeMo logo on the front, it’s a pretty plain, and subtle device. We like that. While you might want to draw attention to devices like your smart TV, we doubt there are many people out there that plan on showing off their smart power outlet.
Setting up the switch is pretty easy, though the app itself isn’t great at helping you figure out how to do it. Using the instruction card in the box, you’ll figure out that you need to plug the switch in and connect to its own Wi-Fi network before even opening the app - after which the app will ask for your home network and password. We wish the app in general were a little better designed - but we’ll get into that later.
In general, the Belkin WeMo Insight switch is decently designed. We’re looking forward to the day that smart switches are smaller, and when it’s easier to wire them in to an outlet but, until then, the Insight isn’t a bad option.
App and everyday use
After setting up the device, you probably won’t need to use the device itself all that much. It’s from the app that you’ll do the majority of the work here. Unfortunately, the app needs a lot of work.
Sure, it’s good enough at allowing you to turn on or off devices from the home screen, and if that’s all you want to do then the badly designed app may not matter to you. It’s the deeper features that are lacking here.
For starters, it’s near impossible to remove a device from the app. We’ve reviewed a few WeMo switches in our time, and one of them we're not currently using - but there’s simply no option to remove it from the app. Searching online, we found that it was apparently possible to have a device removed if you disable then re-enable remote access, but that didn’t work for us. That would be bad enough, but it’s impossible to set up automation, or rules, without the latest firmware updates on all devices. In other words, to set up rules with the Insight, we needed to find that old WeMo Mini, plug it in and update its firmware - when you don’t even want to use it.
Still, there are some redeeming features. For example, being able to track your energy usage through the app is a pretty cool feature, and the fact that it estimates how much you’ve spend in energy on that device is cool too.
Automation in the Belkin WeMo app isn’t bad, but it’s a little basic. You’ll be able to do things like schedule your switches to turn on or off, and that can work based on your Nest thermostats home or away modes, the time of day, and so on.
Perhaps the best thing about the app, is that it allows you to integrate with other services. Out of the box, you’ll be able to connect your WeMo Insight to IFTTT, Alexa, and Google Assistant. While the Insight doesn’t officially work with Samsung SmartThings, it still connected just fine. The only service missing here is Apple HomeKit, though it’ll connect to HomeKit if you buy the WeMo Bridge.
Safe to say, the WeMo app isn’t a total pleasure to use. If you’re planning on connecting your WeMo devices to other services, then you may never have to use the app except to set up the device ... though, it doesn’t seem possible to see energy usage information without the app.
The Belkin WeMo Insight is a neat little device. We like that it shows energy use, and the design isn’t all that bad either. On top of that, the device connects with a pretty substantial range of smart home services, which is crucial. Unfortunately, though, the app is the real missing link in the whole setup. We hope to see Belkin put some serious work into revamping its app.
Belkin does have some competition in the space. Namely, the Elgato Eve Energy switch, though it’s a little more expensive. We think the Belkin WeMo Insight is perhaps the best energy-monitoring switch out there for the price - especially considering the fact that it connects with so many smart home systems.