Just spent the better part of the afternoon setting up my Brilliant.
TLDR; fantastic polished hardware, super clean and professional feel to the GUI, the software and mobile app still have some oddities and significant room for improvement, and setup is somewhat arduous and non-intuitive. They can control ST devices, but ST CANNOT control loads attached to them. Hopefully @gaurav_brilliant is listening and we can see some refinements sooner rather than later. I have high hopes for the future of this device and hope they flourish (or get acquired by a company that furthers their development). With a few improvements, I could see myself buying 4 or more of these. Now the details…
I purchased a 1-gang unit (screen only) to replace an aging Enerwave 7-button scene controller, that I have been using since the 2015 heyday of ST. In this application I do NOT have an on/off load at this gangbox, so the limitation of not being able to be controlled by ST was not a deal breaker for me. For every other application, the fact that it can’t be controlled by ST is the one deal breaker that the device has for most ST users. Hopefully they publish a device driver soon, as without being able to be controlled by ST, I can’t see adoption by this or any other HA community. What they should have done is also include a Z-Wave radio, so it could simply present itself as a Z-Wave dimmer to any controller. With the current hardware an API based device driver will need to be written (not hard).
Hardware: Like they say, hardware is hard, and this device exceeded my expectations. Installation is a cinch, and it is less deep than most Z-Wave dimmers, fitting easily into a tiny gangbox in my 1940s house. It looks clean, and polished, and fit perfectly flush against my wall. If you do have a load attached, there is a manual button behind the screen to test or turn off the load for servicing. If your load is a Hue or other smart bulbs, you can set the load to be ‘always on’ and still preserve the ability to manually turn the load off for servicing. Without the ability to control the load via ST, I would say it is a must to either have no load or only smart bulbs attached for now. What is great, is that even if you don’t have a load directly attached, you can set the on/off/dim gesture to control any integrated device. So just as I had the Enerwave control a Z-Wave light switch, I can swipe up and down on the Brilliant to control the same light switch. Areas of hardware improvement:
- A screw to lock the faceplate to the base.
- An adapter to install a 1-gang (screen only) unit into a 2-or-3-gangbox. The use case here is rooms with ceiling fans. I’d buy one tomorrow for my living room and bedroom, but both have 2-gang gangboxes, with a dimmer for the lights and a 3-speed fan controller. Since it can’t control a fan, there needs to be a way to install it into a gangbox with an existing switch.
- Ambient light sensor. I hope this is just a software issue, as there appears to be multiple sensors next to the camera, but as of now the screen will not dim with ambient light.
- In addition to the “always on” setting for a smart bulb load connected, there should be a “no load” setting for people that don’t have a load attached to the switch, to remove the phantom light from the GUI.
- Digitizer. While not bad, and not expecting iPhone responsiveness, I feel my ecobee tracks my finger significantly better, especially when having to use the keyboard.
Setup and the Mobile App: Setup is somewhat painful, and is completely done through the wall panel, which is why this is a critique of the mobile app as well. The only setup activity done through the app is uploading wallpaper photos. The rest of the mobile app is just for control of whatever devices you setup on the wall panel. Totally useless, as anyone that has a smart home already has multiple ways to control their devices. I would scrap the mobile app and rebuild it from the ground up with a focus on managing the wall panels…
In my application I connected the unit to ST, Sonos, ecobee, and Ring. I’ll get into each of those integrations later. Setup is done totally though the wall panel. For a small screen, the keyboard is clean and functional. The digitizer could be better, hopefully this is just a driver fix and not cheap/poor hardware. That being said, all of the setup and authentication to other services has to be done on the wall unit. Get ready to type your email and password onto a tiny screen a million times. I hope that adding new units isn’t this painful, and hopefully you can copy the settings of an existing device. I also hope all settings are backedup in their cloud in case a device needs to be replaced. After you get past the basic setup, other setup activities are all over the place and disjointed. It’s so disjointed and non-intuitive, it is hard to explain. You connect to Alexa under Settings. You connect to ST under Home. You can only add/edit Rooms in some screens, but not in others, etc. I think a large part of this is setting up a device like this in a home with a lot of HA devices is complex and should be done through a web or mobile app with more GUI flexibility.
- Remove and transfer all setup activities from the wall panel to the mobile app or a web app. It’s too hard to have a clean setup workflow in a wall panel. Take a look at how Amazon does smart home management in the Alexa app,
- Barring that;
- “Partner Integrations” in setup should include all integrations, not just Alexa
- Setup should have sections to manage Rooms and Devices
- Rooms and Devices need to be able to be sorted and/or arranged
- Set up lock. All setup activities should be able to be locked. It is much too easy for a non-admin to accidentally screw things up. Ideally there would be a setup mode that you shutoff, then PIN lock all setup functions, so they don’t even show up. Or, as suggested above, move all setup functions to the mobile app.
General Software / GUI: Very clean and professional looking. Really just some minor improvements:
- Ability to pin and arrange devices or scenes to the wallpaper screen. Also would be a great place to put a weather applet.
- Ability to pin and arrange additional devices (with on/off status shown) or scenes to the home screen. Multiple swipe through home screens would be useful as well.
- Auto-brightness based on ambient light is a must
- Additional timeouts for the screen (i.e. 1 and 2 minutes)
- More control over gestures. Allow the two-finger gesture to be defined to control specific devices, not just the room the device is in. Add a three-finger gesture!
- Allow the all on / all off scenes to be deleted. If you have fully equipped smart home, these scenes are liabilities and easily triggered. Pissed off the GF by accidentally turning all the lights on after bedtime.
- Allow the bottom tool bar to be customized.
SmartThings - Can only control lights and locks. Can’t be controlled by ST. Please allow fans to be controlled. As mentioned above, you can still set the on/off/dim gesture to control any integrated light, it doesn’t have to be a directly connected load.
Ring - Camera view pops up on doorbell ring, but no way to manually view. Please add a way to activate the camera from the unit.
ecobee - Works. Nuff said. Would be nice to be able to show temp or pin a thermostat to the wallpaper screen.
Sonos - Works great. Artwork looks amazing. Would be nice to be able to control groupings. And an option to stay on the music screen if playing instead of returning to the wallpaper screen and timing out.
Alexa - Works. Nuff said.
Built-in Intercom - Only have one unit, so couldn’t test. Should hide from the tool bar in this application.
That’s all for now. Let me know if you guys have any questions. @gaurav_brilliant if there is a channel to beta test new features (improvements mentioned above), sign me up.
I should also say for the power tinkerers amongst us, you can enable an SSH shell to the device in Sertings. Depending on the architecture this should allow a lot of customizing! I haven’t played with it yet, but hopefully it has a clean architecture that just pulls from XML or JSON configuration files, and many of the customizations I’m looking for could be home brewed if needed.