Our new Wink Relay
We recently installed the new addition to the Wink family, the Relay. This device allows control of all the same devices as the Wink app, using a touchscreen panel mounted to the wall that replaces two standard single pole light switches. In addition to the touchscreen, the Wink Relay includes two physical buttons to allow control of lights or shortcuts directly. We are excited about the potential of this new device since it lets us control our home without always opening up our phones or tablets.
The install was easy for someone with experience installing wall switches and took about 45 minutes. The hardest part was finding a wall switch that wasn’t 3-way in our house. If you can find a double box like we did, you should use that for room for the wires, though the Relay power box doesn’t require much space as it is one of the shallowest we’ve seen. Wink includes almost everything needed to install, except for a length of white 14 gauge wire to connect to the white wires in the wall box. The rest of the kit is great, and even includes a screwdriver with both types of heads, though the handle could be a bit more ergonomic. The ability to install the cover plate left or right on the wall is also handy.
Since we had already been using Wink and have the app programmed, the Relay picked up the information from that and set up was a snap. Relay lets you assign to the two physical switches either a shortcut or the physical device originally controlled by the light switches. We can now not only control our Z-wave switches in the house but also our Hue, Nest and Chamberlain MyQ devices. Now that it is set up we are moving more of our Z-Wave controlled devices to the Wink Hub, and creating shortcuts on the Relay screen for easy control. Wink makes it easier to move the Z-Waves over to the Wink Hub with an “Exclude” utility in the Wink Hub settings.
Suggestions for Improvement
Are there any bugs in the system? Yes, we found a couple, but nothing serious, and nothing that can’t be fixed in a future release. Frankly they were Wink app bugs and not really related to the Relay. For example, Relay thinks the lights are on if you shut them off manually. and can’t turn them back on. Turning off with a shortcut restores status. There was also an issue with the Nest connections, but that appears to have been fixed without an app/Relay update. Outside of the technical glitches, the touchscreen itself gets a lot of fingerprints and looks pretty dirty right away.
Some other suggestions: there is no “button” click or other sounds either on the Relay physical switches nor the shortcuts on the screen. The ability to inform you by providing feedback to the success of the command would be useful. We would like to rearrange the product icons on Relay, like Nest, MyQ, etc. This would be for convenience of having the most accessed products on the first page of the display without having to make extra swipes. We would also like to see the indoor temps and thermostat information on the home screen.
One of the big issues with home automation is the penchant of these manufactures to rely on a server to control (see appmyhome article) . Server requirements not only fail if the internet is down where you can’t control your house, but the time from button push to action is delayed, sometimes an unreasonable amount. Wink isn’t immune to this, but not everything stops working. For example, Philips Hue still works on the Relay and the Relay physical switches work, however, Nest and things connected to the Wink hub do not.
The Wink Relay packaging is very good, the product solid and the fit and finish appropriate for the living room. The Wink Relay would be a great choice as a gift for someone who does not have a smartphone and/or does not want to use a phone every time they want to turn on the lights. Plus it is possible to have multiple Wink Relays throughout the house to control from different areas. If you do plan to buy it for someone who is not smartphone savvy, be prepared to spend some time with them to get everything installed and working. If it is for you, it is an elegant way for you and your family to control your smart home without always reaching for your phone.