SmartThings vs. Hue+ST vs. C4/Crestron/RTI for All-RGBWW Home

I am moving from a 1250 sq ft townhome to a 2500 sq ft 6-bedroom home. The townhome is put together with a combination of Samsung SmartThings (v2 hub), Lutron Caséta Wireless, and LIFX bulbs/LIFX-Z strips. The exterior has Sengled multicolor bulbs controlled via SmartThings. Pretty much all other sensors, plugs, etc. run through SmartThings. Nearly all lights are now “smart” in some way, with significant RGBWW action in the main living spaces. All in all, it’s over 100 items and over 50 custom automations.

I have decided for my new home to avoid LIFX partially due to Wi-Fi connectivity issues, but mainly because I want to ditch the old E26 lightbulb socket in favor of integrated RGBWW LEDs (mostly embedded architectural extrusion strips) for primary lighting in the home. Having looked at these videos from Hi-Line Lighting:



I am fairly confident that what I want can be done with Zigbee LED RGBWW controllers connected to high-CRI RGBWW strips, plus compatible Zigbee smart switches and dimmers/color control devices. I did not go with Philips Hue in 2016 because they did not make bright 90+ CRI bulbs; LIFX was brighter and higher CRI. However, if I ditch bulbs entirely and use third-party RGBWW strips, that is no longer a factor.

This brings me to my question: what advantages and disadvantages are there with connecting lights to Hue, with the Hue Bridge connected to SmartThings, versus connecting everything to the SmartThings Hub (v3), versus a fancy and expensive control system like Control4/Crestron/RTI/etc.?

“Fancy and expensive” control systems are just that: fancy and expensive. They can do everything I want and more, for an equally limitless budget. But the main thing is to control RGBWW lights with a slick app and with (relatively reasonably priced) switches, dimmers, and color wheels mounted to walls, not $2000 touch panels in every room.

Having used the SmartThings apps for many years, SmartThings is great for home automation in general but light control is extremely cumbersome. I do not attempt to manipulate my exterior lights (Sengled Zigbee bulbs) beyond setting dusk/dawn automations and mostly forgetting about them.

The LIFX app does a much better job. I have seen the Hue app and it seems just as good as the LIFX app, if not better. Moreover, Hue seems to have the most well-developed ecosystem of third-party apps and integrations, not to mention a bunch of self-powered switches (and more than a few dimmers) for on-wall control.

The main downside that I can see is that the Hue Bridge has a 50-device soft limit, and performance suffers beyond that. If I do multiple light strip controllers per room and also have two control devices, we will definitely get up to the limit. I am confident that we will be within the SmartThings hub limit of 200 devices per location, though.

Can Hue+SmartThings do what I want? How should I approach this design?

Crestron/Control4 are an entirely different category than smartthings. You have to pay a professional to install them and maintain them. They work very well, they are very reliable, everything runs locally except for out of building access, They can tie together home theater, home security, and home automation, but, yes, they will probably cost you $8000 plus an annual contract. Maybe more. I don’t know anybody who would compare them head to head to SmartThings.

If all you want is lighting, then Crestron and control4 just cost too much. That’s not their value proposition unless you start synching them up with home theater controls.

Don’t connect hue bulbs directly to a smartthings hub: they will mess up your Zigbee network. The only brands of zigbee bulbs I would look at to connect directly to a smartthings network would be Sengled, Ikea
Tradfri, or Innr.

FAQ: Do I need the Hue Bridge/Hub to Use a Hue Bulb with SmartThings?

You used to be able to use multiple hue bridges with a smartthings account: I don’t know if that still true.

A hue bridge with smartthings works OK, not perfectly. There can be a popcorn effect, but that’s true of smartthings and pretty much any bulbs however they’re connected. And you can get more effects and much better group and scene controls through the native hue app. Also a wider selection of accessory switches.

So I guess my first question is what would you expect smartthings to bring to the project that you couldn’t get from Hue on its own or, say, Hue plus HomeKit?

I was (and still am) seriously considering professional installation. However, home theater is just no longer an organizing principle for me or my family. It’s nice to have, but everybody is moving to small screens. Lighting, however, works for everyone, and we are fairly accustomed now to the benefits (or just the fun) of being able to set the lights to whatever colors we want.

With SmartThings in my current home, I have a number of sensors to do useful things like notify when mail arrives (and set custom light patterns when the mail arrives) and notify when the smoke or CO detector goes off (Ecolink Z-Wave FF-ZWAVE5-ECO).

In our new home we got a Samsung gas range that specifically connects with SmartThings for monitoring and (limited) control. The cost of the range greatly exceeds the cost of a SmartThings v3 hub, so adding the hub is a no-brianer. I am not aware of any existing integration where you can control your oven from a Crestron control panel. :grin:

I have no experience with Apple TV so HomeKit is a bit of an outlier. I have set up HomeKit with iOS devices, but without a hub (i.e., Apple TV) it does not have the same integration benefits. Maybe an Apple TV will make an appearance in this new home. I’m also starting to consider whole home audio integration, but in that field it seems like “there’s Sonos, and then there’s everything else,” and Sonos works with pretty much everything including SmartThings, because everybody wants to work with Sonos in some way.

There are definitely Crestron and Control4 integrations with subzero or Wolf appliances, including ovens. I’m not sure about other brands, there are probably some as long as they are very high end. :wink:

https://www.subzero-wolf.com/assistance/answers/connect-appliances-to-third-party-systems

You can use an Apple TV just as a HomeKit hub if you want, we did that for a couple of years. Or you can use an iPad or HomePod as a hub for remote access.

If you already have HomeKit, then hue is sort of a no brainer. It works great with HomeKit, including multiple Hue bridges. And if you need advanced automations, you can use Shortcuts.

The Gledopto RGBW controllers have decent safety certifications and work well either through Hue bridge or connected to a smartthings hub. Again, though, you get better group and scene controls through the Hue or HomeKit app.

ST-compatible RGBW LED Strip Controller Reviews (2020)

Those ovens look pretty awesome! But also pretty expensive…one could buy 3-5 Samsung ranges for just one of those. I am sure they are “better” but at the end of the day, it’s a box that you put heat into and get crispy things out. And the Samsung ranges work with SmartThings, no additional integration needed. :grin:

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Thanks for the links. So from that, I see that in the field of smart Zigbee RGBWW controllers for BYOS (Bring Your Own Strips) (which notably eliminates LIFX-Z, even though I love my LIFX-Z in my current/old place), there are three documented options. Gledopto is the proven leader, with RGBgenie ZB-1005 being a backup (although apparently some color accuracy defects) and Zemismart 3A12S-15 being a possible contender for something a step up from random Chinese knockoffs.

I would ask that you check out the Hi-Line HL-ZIG5-RGBCCT. It looks like it is in the same vein as the aforementioned products; it’s not clear if they share a common ODM or if it’s Hi-Line’s own design & implementation.

Can folks describe what the current control experience is like for a home with the Philips Hue Bridge and Philips Hue Bridge-compatible lighting, versus the experience where all the lights are controlled and managed in Samsung SmartThings (new app)? (This includes what the control experience is like with third party apps like iConnectHue, and with switches, dimmers, touch panels, etc., not just phone apps.)

My experience with SmartThings (both old and new apps) is that the mobile experience is functional and utilitarian, but it is to manage and automate things in general, not lights specifically. Therefore, it is missing a lot of useful interfaces to manipulate groups of lights or to set scenes and schedules. In contrast, the LIFX app has been quite good. I am guessing that the Hue Bridge (and app) provide an experience a lot closer to the LIFX app.

Yes, exactly. :sunglasses:

And in addition to the native hue app, there are specialty apps like iConnectHue which let you do a bunch of special effects work if you like, which is very popular. This is especially nice if you want to do fade ins or sync your lights with your music or TV or things like that. You do have to pay extra for a lot of the special features, though, so you can easily end up spending $25 or so on IconnectHue features if you’re into all of that.

Personally, I am more into practical stuff, and I like the free Hue labs “formulas“ Which have a lot of advanced features. For example, there’s a formula that lets you pair two hue motion sensors so The motion on either one turns on the same lights, but there has to be no motion on both of them before the lights turn off. There are also gentle wake up formulas, “stay in bed“ formulas for kids, and lots more. This is the kind of library of pre-built automation ideas that I wish smartthings would offer.

To be honest, though, 90% of what I do with my hue lights I do through HomeKit. :sunglasses: I use the Hue app or one of the third-party hue apps to create scenes, then I’ll import those scenes into HomeKit and automate their execution there.

Here’s a good video that walks you through an example of this. You can see how scene creation is very well-suited to RGBW lights. (You can also just set your lights however you want them to be and then capture that as a scene, which is nice.)

As far as switches, we’ve tried a lot of different things, but at this point have settled on the Lutron Aurora Dimmer, which fits over the top of an existing switch. This is not part of the Lutron Caseta line, it’s specifically designed for use with the hue bridge. It’s very simple and very intuitive for guests. It works just like a regular Rotary dimmer except it sends a command to the Hue bridge which is then sending the command to the lights.

image

As I’ve mentioned before, we have five of these now and have been very happy with them. (We also have the regular Lutron Caseta dimmer switches throughout the house for control of dumb ceiling fixtures.) The aurora devices are battery operated and don’t require any wiring.

But there are many different options for switches now depending on exactly how you want to use them. This one works well for us because we have many different people coming through the house and it’s just a very intuitive wall switch for visitors.

That is a good recommendation and endorsement; I appreciate that. Getting a reliable physical dimmer is something I have been trying to figure out for a long time.

In my current home, I have resigned myself to using Brilliant Smart Home Controls to control LIFX bulbs and strips. They work reliably, but at $300-$450 apiece, they are seriously overkill for the problem (of course, they do many other things) and changing colors requires numerous taps. I just got a Sengled Smart Light Switch which is very similar to Sylvania’s switch/dimmer, and to Philips Hue’s switch/dimmer. The Sengled Smart Light Switch works with SmartThings, but there are significant delays.

It sounds like the wide variety of Hue switches and dimmers, including the Lutron Aurora, will provide much more responsive integration when everything goes through the Hue Bridge.

To follow up on Lutron Aurora specifically, I am planning on changing all of the wallplates and outlets to screwless Leviton Decora Plus Gray (for example, this 80312-GY 4-gang one). Is there a standard switch screwless wallplate to pair the Lutron Aurora with? I wonder if Lutron could be troubled to make different colors for the Aurora itself.

Note: to partially but not completely answer my question, Lutron makes Fassada traditional wallplates. FG-1-XX, where XX is the color code. The catalog does not list gray. :frowning: It does list Stainless Steel (SS), which is sort of a substitute, but not really.

There apparently is a Lutron Aurora Wallplate adapter advertised for Decora-sized openings, as well as at least one YouTube video:

…but no evidence that it has actually made it to market yet.

The requirement for gray stems from the Leviton T5635 and T5835 USB-C Power Delivery outlets, which come in gray.

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Most of the switches will also run locally with the Hue Bridge, which is nice. So they will work even if your Internet is out. But most of them are invisible to smartthings, they just serve as a parallel means of control.

As far as colors for the Lutron Aurora, I haven’t heard of anything. You could check with them, Lutron does normally do multiple colors. They may be waiting to see how popular it is.

The Friends of Hue batteryfree switches typically come in lots of colors, including gray. These work by capturing the kinetic energy from when you press the switch, so you can put them anywhere. You dim by holding them down, which works fine but isn’t intuitive to guests until you explain it to them. The device has two optional front plates, one which turns it into four buttons and one which leaves it as two buttons (top and bottom). I have quite a few friends using these as scene controllers with Hue devices.

Unfortunately, these cannot be connected directly to a smart things hub because so far the smart things Zigbee 3.0 implementation does not include the “green power” energy harvesting profile which these use. So again, they just serve as a parallel means of control.

Aesthetically I personally prefer some of the European designs for these switches, but then you have to figure out how to get them in the US. The other advantage for my household is that they are easier for my service dog to use because the paddles are broader. I had a friend from Europe send me a couple and I really like them.

image image

There are other options as well, including any HomeKit switch as long as you are using HomeKit. So lots of choices. :sunglasses:

Update

A friend of mine told me they were able to buy some of the “friends of Hue” batteryfree switches from Amazon in the UK for delivery to the US at about an additional $15 fee. It just varies by model. These may also be available from gearbest , I haven’t checked them yet.

A couple of other solutions:

Lutron Claro decorator wallplate, gray CW-1-GR plus Lutron Claro Blank Insert - Gray DV-BI-GR.

Leviton decora plastic adapter plate blank, no holes, gray 80414-GY plus 1-Gang Decora Plus Screwless Wallplate, Gray 80301-SGY.

Leviton QuickPort Wallplate with ID Windows, Single Gang, 2-Port, Grey 42080-2GS. One would have to stick the Lutron Aurora directly on top of it and see if the port holes are obscured. This also has an advantage that you can label your Aurora switches/dimmers. Unfortunately the 1-port version has one screw visible on the bottom so it does not meet the screwless requirement.

“Leviton Screwless wallplate blank, gray” does not exist.

Oh, I was unaware that the energy harvesting switches worked to dim! That is an unadvertised (and apparently unintuitive) feature, but if it works then the energy harvesting Zigbee 3.0 switches may be an excellent option.

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i agree with @JDRoberts about keeping your hue lights separate and not directly connected to your ST hub.

also, i’m seeing a decent amount of control4 devices being dumped/sold on ebay.

“Unintuitive” is definitely the right description. These devices can work in one of two different ways.

  1. use only with the Hue Bridge, do not include in HomeKit. In that case a long press will dim on the bottom half of the paddle or Brighten on the top half of the paddle. A short press will be off/on or scene control. Long press cannot be used for scene control in this configuration. and you have to press quite hard during the long press to get it to work.

  2. use with the Hue Bridge and expose to HomeKit. In that case, the long press no longer works for Brighten/dim, but it will work for scene control.

Pretty much everybody I know uses the second option. But the first option is doable. You’ll notice that some of the EU switches have icons on a four button switch for on/off/bright/dim. These are intended for scene controls where bright is typically 75% brightness and Dim is typically 25% brightness. That’s because the long hold is just too much physical work for most people.

So the feature exists, but it’s not very popular.

I stand corrected about the Lutron Aurora Wallplate. It’s out!

Best Buy has the kit for $47.99, and it appears to be available locally at many stores. It’s a combination of a Claro white wallplate, plus a 1-gang Decora adapter insert with a fake plastic stub in lieu of a real traditional switch. I only found white, but since Lutron manufactures it, other colors are in the same vein of requests as changing the color of the Aurora itself. Z-1BRL-PKGD-WH; Best Buy SKU 6416451.

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I am also searching for RGBW Zigbee 3.0 wall controls–basically what Lutron Aurora does, but with color.

Any experience with these products either with SmartThings Hub v3 directly, or paired to the Philips Hue Bridge v2? I basically searched around the web for a few hours to compile this list:

Trust International - ZigBee Remote Control ZYCT-202


RGBgenie products:
3 Scene Color Touch Panel and Dimmer, White (Zigbee)
ZB-3009
ZB-3008
ZB-3007
ZB-5122

Hi-lineLighting.co.uk
RGBW-4Z-ZIGBEE
HL-ZIGP-TW-4Z
HL-ZIGP-SC-4Z

see HL-ZIGTW-RX

HL-ZIGR-RGBCCT
<- “perfect match for HL-ZIG5-RGBCCT” (but not an actual wall control)

Sunricher
SRZG9001T4DIMWH
SR-ZG9001T-RGBW-US
SR-2820B
SR-ZG9001K2-DIM
SR-ZG9001K4-DIM
SR-ZG9001K4-RGB

I also found this Reddit thread:

All of this speaks to RGBW, but not RGBWW. :frowning:

I also found these offbeat ones:
Owon Technology, Inc.
SLC603 (allegedly has a color version too)


Zigbee Remote Switch
SLC602
HA 1.2 compliant
Zigbee ZLL compliant

To be honest, most people have just gone to dashboard tablets for that kind of color control in high end homes now. Phillips used to make a wallmount color controller and they don’t anymore. (It looked a lot like the sunricher)

In the past, people have been successful with the sunricher Z wave button press device, but not the RGB controller.

The RGBgenie wall controller is supposed to work with the hue bridge, but I don’t know anyone who’s tried one. If it does, that would probably be the simplest.

Can you give me an example of a dashboard tablet that one would implement now? (An example from Q4 2020–much older examples abound from a few years ago.)