There are a lot of cool things out there that make us wonder — do they really work? In our I Tried It series, we set out to use them in the real world and have determined that, in fact, they really do.
On Trial: Brilliant Smart Home Control Panel
The Tester: Brandon Carte, gadget-obsessed editor who is overwhelmed with smart home apps.
The Brief: Although smart homes are designed to make your life easier, they come with their fair share of headaches, especially when it comes to setting new devices up and managing them all with your smartphone. Whether you have a full-blown smart home or you just started dabbling in home automation, chances are, you have a cluttered folder on your smartphone with several apps from all of the past smart home devices you’ve installed.
A company called Brilliant hopes to end all of your smart home woes with its Brilliant Control, a smart home control panel that aims to make interacting with all of your smart home devices simpler and more streamlined.
After being targeted by Brilliant’s flashy Instagram ads for weeks, I set out to test its smart home system to see if it was — ahem — as brilliant as it seemed.
The Brilliant Control Panel, which looks like a tiny smartphone display, replaces your existing light switch to give users touch and voice control over their smart home, without the need to juggle dozens of apps on a smartphone or tablet. The control panel is available in six colors to seamlessly blend with your home decor.
For now, Brilliant integrates with smart cameras, doorbells, lights, locks, thermostats, switches, and streaming music services, but the platform continues to evolve as more smart home gear is released. Most recently, Brilliant added support to control an internet-connected garage door opener, but you can find a full list of compatible products on their website.
I don’t consider myself an electrician by any means, and I was able to install the Brilliant Control without a hitch. All you need is access to a circuit box and a neutral wire. Depending on whether you have one, two, three or four switches, installation time will vary. It took me about 20 minutes to remove my existing single switch and replace it with the 5-inch Brilliant touch screen. I found Brilliant’s included instructions (and the app) to be clear and easy to follow. I appreciated the many diagrams and pictures that I could reference, too.
Although the physical installation was a breeze, setting up the Brilliant Control Panel didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped. The reason being, Brilliant doesn’t integrate directly with Lutron Caséta smart switches, which I use at home to control my living room lights.
It does, however, integrate with SmartThings, so once I linked my Lutron lights to SmartThings, I was finally able to control and dim all of my lights using the switch. I also have smart lightbulbs in my bedroom lamps, meaning that if I accidentally left the lights on, I could turn them off from the hallway using the Brilliant switch.
I didn’t have any issues linking my Sonos speakers to the Brilliant ecosystem. You’re able to control music playback and adjust volume from the panel, but Brilliant unfortunately, does not let you browse music that’s uploaded on streaming music apps like Spotify. Even though the Brilliant looks like a smartphone, there aren’t any apps, so I couldn’t type in “The Rolling Stones” from its touchscreen to play the Stones. It can only play playlists or albums that you save as favorites in your Sonos library.
If you have multiple Brilliant Control Panels installed throughout your home, you can use them as a video intercom system, which would be convenient for owners of large homes. Brilliant even integrates with Amazon’s Ring platform so you can see who’s at the door after someone rings your doorbell. There is an integrated privacy shutter that keeps the camera blocked when the camera is not in use.
Brilliant also has Amazon Alexa built in, which is good if you don’t have Alexa in your home already. I chose not to set up the Alexa functionality since I have an Alexa speaker in my office. But that means that anytime I say “Alexa” the Brilliant would cheekily respond “You are not logged into Amazon,” which got annoying quickly. What I liked most about the Brilliant, though, was using it as a digital photo frame. The app lets you upload photo albums so you can always have a miniature slideshow playing on your wall.
My biggest complaint about Brilliant is its expensive asking price. The gadget starts at a whopping $300. As much as I loved having a one-stop shop for adjusting my Nest thermostat, turning off lights in specific rooms, and being able to skip songs without fishing my phone out of my pocket, as convenient as it is, the Brilliant control panel doesn’t seem all that revolutionary given its steep price point.
Closing argument: The Brilliant Smart Home Control Panel was created for folks like me who are buried in dozens of smartphone apps and who are looking for a better, more streamlined, all-in-one solution for managing and controlling their smart home devices.
Does it make things easier? Absolutely! Although the Brilliant control panel does what it says it does, $300 is an expensive cost of entry for such a specific use.
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