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Home automation control is a rapidly developing area with new technologies popping up all the time. It’s been a bit overwhelming to keep track of all the new developments, but All Home Robotics has jumped into the fray.
I’ve already test out the VeraLite home controller, so I was eager to take the Nexia Home Intelligence Bridge for a spin as well.
Like the VeraLite and a few other popular controllers, the Nexia uses the Z-Wave network. This has a number of critical advantages, the first and foremost being that it enables access to hundreds of compatible devices.
Z-Wave is quickly becoming the most widespread protocol on the market. While some of pointed to the Nexia as a more “security focused” home controller, it really functions just like any other hub on the market.
The device itself has the appearance of a small router and functions in a similar way. It’s about 5″ x 4.8″ x 1.4″ and has display lights to signify the current status of connectivity (like a router). There are also simple “plus” and “minus” buttons to use when enrolling new smart devices onto the network.
The following is a full review of the Nexia, after I tested it out and tried to break it a few times with complicated configurations.
Contents (Jump to)
Core Features of the Nexia Home Bridge
A Z-Wave Compatible Device: Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner! The Z-Wave network protocol is easily the most popular system on the market. The fact that Nexia uses it to communicate to third party devices instantly makes it a step above those that don’t.
This means that you’ll have access to at least 200 of the more popular devices. I’ve compiled a recommend list of “the best” Z-Wave compatible devices further down this page.
App or Web Browser Controlled: They key selling point for this – and most – home automation controllers is that you can control your home remotely via an app (on you smart phone, tablet, computer).
Nexia offers a fully integrated app. When they initially released their app, it was not quite up to par when compared to their competition.
However, they have recently redesigned their apps (complete interface overhaul) which has made them very functional and intuitive. Thankfully, I was able to get my hands on the new app (not the old one).
I tried it out on my iPad and iPhone and it worked very smoothly. The app is also available for Android and Windows devices.
Scheduling and Automating Tasks: You can receive important alerts remotely (see next point), create schedules or “vacation” or “away” modes, as well as just specifically managing certain devices whenever you want.
Probably the two main reasons people want a home controller is to 1) access their systems remotely for immediate changes and 2) automate repeatable tasks and create schedules that mesh with the human patterns of life.
Nexia does all of this, like any good automation hub should.
Customized Alerts: Nexia has a pretty good full-featured alert system, managed through your app.
You can track activity/motion from your motion detectors, door access (when some locks/unlocks… or attempts to), when the power goes out or internet goes down, when batteries are running low on your smart devices, and HVAC monitoring and service alerts.
Scalability: Nexia has marketed their hub as the best “scalable” system on the market. In short, you can start with a few devices and work your way up from their, depending on your comfort level, budget, and need.
Subscription Fee (“Optional”): Nexia offers a low subscription based fee (usually less than $10 per month depending on your data storage “plan” and number of properties, etc…) which includes personal on-demand support as needed, automatic updates, and the full integration of your smart devices in one easy interface.
While I’m sure you could technically make the stand-alone system work, Nexia is built around the subscription model. To get anywhere near full value, you really have to use the subscription service. I cover this more in my “Cons” section further down.
Better Support: Part of what the subscription service “buys” you is a little bit higher touch customer service. While I was content to muck around with the system on my own, I’ve heard good things about their support.
This is probably a nice feature if you have concerns about your personal technical aptitude for this kind of work.
Video Demonstration of the Nexia
The following video does a good job explaining the basic premise behind the Nexia and how it communicates throughout your home network:
Pros and Cons of the Nexia Home Intelligence Bridge
After using the Nexia system for a few weeks, I wanted to summarize my overall thoughts on the system. It’s not perfect. There are advantages and disadvantages. Some of these are general problems with home automation technology, but some are also specific to this system. First, the “Pros”:
Pros of the Nexia
Effective and Intuitive Apps: With the redesigned apps, Nexia easily offers one of the best interfaces to manage your devices remotely.
A few months ago, their apps would have been in the “cons” category – judging by feedback from previous users – but not anymore! Nexia has done a good job stepping up their game here.
Z-Wave Is Awesome: I’m sure that you can find advocates of “closed circuit” systems, but I’m quickly become a Z-Wave fan-boy! In all the controllers I’ve tested so far, those that use Z-Wave really stand out because of the wide array of compatible devices.
It’s a bit more mature than other wireless systems as well, meaning they’ve had a chance to work out some of the bad kinks, even though it’s still a work in progress at some level.
Works Well with Schlage Locks: It’s not a major “pro” but might be for some users. Nexia is particularly easy to make work with Schlage smart locks. If you are primarily looking for this aspect of home control and this is your first controller, this might be enough of a reason alone to go with Nexia.
While technically all “Z-Wave” products will work with any hub that recognizes the protocol, some hubs have recognized that certain popular products can be neatly paired for easy install and configuration.
Each Z-Wave hub is still slightly different, so you can occasionally find special brand partnerships like Schlage/Nexia which are almost guaranteed to work.
Affordable Base Cost: Less than $70 for a home controller is pretty good. In fact, it’s the best I’ve seen. They do have a monthly subscription cost for the full featured service (more on that it the “Cons” section). You can find the Nexia for an excellent price at this listing.
Cons of the Nexia
Monthly Subscription Fee: Nobody likes fees. The monthly fee of $9.99 is an annoyance for sure, although you can customize it a bit depending on your usage.
Many other home controllers do not require this at all. I guess if you think about it like an addition to your home security bill (if you have it) then it’s not bad.
There is a “glass half full” argument to be made in favor of the subscription model that I cover at the end of this article in my “final thoughts” section.
Not the Best for 1 or 2 Devices: This is in part related to the subscription issue, but the Nexia is probably not a worthwhile investment if you just want to – for example – control your smart lock on your house (even though Nexia works very well with Schlage locks).
The Nexia platform is built for multi-device integration and the subscription fee kind of forces you in this direction as well.
If you don’t really intend to built out your home network right away, I’d recommend going with another system like the VeraLite (full article here) or Smartthings Hub (full analysis here).
Security Vulnerabilities: Do not use port forwarding. I repeat. Do NOT use part forwarding.
It seems like a simple work around to just get the system to work, but it can create huge security vulnerabilities if you take this shortcut. Basically, anyone with half a brain and the bad intent, could remotely hijack your home system to devastating effect.
The Best Nexia Compatible Smart Devices
Part of what makes a home automation controller functional is the compatibility it offers with various smart home devices. By using the Z-Wave network, Nexia instantly is compatible with literally hundreds of devices for a wide variety of applications in your home.
It can be a bit hard to research the best products to pair with the Nexia, but I’ve collected a list below (updated frequently) with the best – most intriguing and functional – smart home devices that use Z-Wave:
|Z-Wave Product||Usage||Brand||Price Range|
|GE On/Off Switch||GE||$$|
|Smart Energy Switch||Aeon Labs||$|
|Touch Screen Deadbolt||Yale Security||$$$$|
Final Thoughts: Is it worth it?
I definitely have mixed feelings about the Nexia. On the one hand, it is a significant step forward and they are constantly pushing out updates to improve their software. However, I still feel like the original product shipped in a somewhat “beta state”.
A lot of the home controller manufacturers are in a tight competition to be the first to market, so I’m pretty sure corners were cut. I will caveat this by saying I don’t think Nexia is the only company in this category. Basically all of the home automation controllers are.
Still, the 75% solution is still functional, just with some minor annoyances that you wouldn’t expect from – say – Apple.
While the monthly subscription is a bit annoying to have to pay, it does give me peace of mind knowing that they are invested in ongoing support and improvement. With a subscription, there is a higher expectation of service. This is the positive side of it.
It shows that Nexia almost recognizes that their product is never really “finished” and always evolving. Very few home controllers fall into the “100% recommend” category.
As cliche as it is to say, it really comes down to your personal preference and the nuances of your home network. Any of these devices can be made to work as long as you have the patience and some minor technical know-how to work with the system.
None of them are quite at the stage of “plug and play” or “set and forget” just yet. For Nexia, the lower initial cost is an attractive selling point. If you do want to explore further, I’d recommend reviewing this listing further for the best pricing options.
Patrick Sinclair is a geek; make no mistake about that. He runs All Home Robotics in his spare time so he doesn’t have to think about his depressing cubicle and it gives him an excuse to buy expensive gadgets to review!