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Iris by Lowe's (second generation) review: Good features, diverse ecosystem

Ed Oswald | Jan. 4, 2016
Lowe's is building a second level on its solid connected-home foundation, and making intriguing promises for future expansion.

The new hub

Iris Smart Button 
Iris’ smart devices can be linked together: here the Smart Button is linked to the Smart Plug that turns on the lamp. Credit: Ed Oswald

Lowe’s new hub is a significant improvement over its predecessor. It’s much smaller, and it has two USB ports that can be used to add support for expansion possibilities. As with Samsung’s Smart Things system, the Iris hub must be hard-wired to your router for Internet connectivity. Since ZigBee and Z-Wave are both capable of forming mesh networks, where every node on the network is also a repeater, this shouldn’t present too much of a problem. 

Setting the system up wasn’t a flawless experience for me. The app warns that this process can take up to five minutes to complete, it took two tries to finally get it to connect. I also encountered an issue where the hub failed to re-establish its connection to the Internet after my broadband service failed and then returned.I received no notification from within the app, so my first realization that something was wrong came when I couldn’t figure out why the smart plug was no longer operational.

Lowe’s offers 3G Internet backup in the form of a $50 USB dongle from Novatel, with Verizon service, which I did not review.

The components

As I mentioned earlier, the $50 hub is no longer included in the Iris bundles, of which there are now two: The $99 Security Pack includes two contact (door/window) sensors, one motion sensor, and a numeric keypad (for arming and disarming the system). The $129 Automation Pack includes the same set of sensors plus a smart plug and a smart button in place of the keypad.

Iris Keypad 
You can program the new Iris smart keypad with a unique PIN code for each person in the family. Credit: Ed Oswald

While these bundles do provide significant discounts over buying the components a la carte, they provide only a taste of what the connected home can be. With the Security Pack, for instance, you’ll be able to monitor only two entry points (doors or windows) and one room. You can add more sensors, but it will cost you. And if you want a siren to sound off if an intruder breaks in, you’ll need to spend another $35 for a third-party siren. Want a light to turn on when the door opens, you’ll need either a smart bulb ($20), a plug-in module $35, or an in-wall switch ($35 to $45).

But Lowe’s has wisely incorporated support for third-party hardware where it doesn’t offer private-label solutions. In addition to the aforementioned siren, you’ll find Iris-compatible entry locks and deadbolts from Kwikset and Schlage, smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors from First Alert, in-wall lighting controls from GE, thermostats from GoControl and Honeywell, garage-door openers from Genie, and much more. There’s even a water-leak sensor with an integrated motorized shut-off valve. You’ll find everything, including prices, on Lowe’s Iris website.

 

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