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Insteon Smart Hub Pro review: An old pro turns its attention to HomeKit

Michael Brown | July 14, 2015
The Insteon Smart Hub Pro looks gargantuan compared to the diminutive Lutron Caseta Wireless Smart Bridge Pro. That's partly because Insteon's hub has an integrated power supply, and partly because the Insteon has two USB 2.0 ports (reserved for future use; they serve no function for the time being). Lutron's much smaller bridge depends on a wall wart for power.

After a number of attempts to pair the second dimmer with the hub failed, the tech had me perform full hardware resets on the dimmer and the hub--undoing everything I'd done before and during the call up to that point. "There are still some communication issues with the Hub Pro," the tech said. "So there's no guarantee that resetting it will solve the problem." It did solve the problem, fortunately, but it also meant I had to start the installation over from scratch.

Installation

Insteon's dearth of printed documentation is somewhat ameliorated by its solid online documentation. Once you've installed the app and are ready to start enrolling devices for the hub to control, you'll see a help button. Click on it and the app will provide some very useful information about how to proceed, but it would better if this information was available in some other form, so you didn't have to toggle back and forth between in and the installation software, especially when you're using a screen as small as a smartphone.

Installing the Hub Pro is a simple matter of plugging it into a power outlet and hard-wiring it to your router. Insteon calls its technology "dual band" because it sends data both wirelessly (using unlicensed radio spectrum at 915MHz, not Wi-Fi) and over power lines (using a proprietary protocol, not HomePlug nor G.hn). Because of the powerline aspect, Insteon doesn't recommend plugging the hub or any devices into surge protectors or power strips, because those devices often treat data traveling over the line as noise that should be filtered out.

Each Insteon module can relay data to other Insteon devices to increase the network's overall range. Once you've plugged in the hub, the next step is to enroll it into the Insteon+ smartphone app. Click "add device" and a radar animation plays on your screen while the phone searches for operating devices. When the app finds the hub, click on its name to add it as the first device on the Insteon network.

With the hub installed, you use the same process to enroll the rest of your Insteon devices, one at a time, using the six-character identifier printed on the back of the device (suggestion: Jot it down a piece of paper before you plug it into the wall, unless you have a good memory for character strings). The dimmer and on/off modules Insteon provided deliver helpful audible and visual feedback to let you know when they've been added to the network: The module toggles to its off state and chirps to confirm enrollment. Despite the reassuring feedback from the device and from the app, there was a long delay before the dimmer began to respond to commands from the app, leaving me to wonder if it really was successful or not.

 

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