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This Brilliant smart home controller makes managing multiple devices easier than ever

A smart home with varying ecosystems and brands can get chaotic. Brilliant's new control panel sorts everything out.
Written by Artie Beaty, Contributing Writer
Brilliant Smart Home
Artie Beaty/ZDNET

I've been an Amazon Echo user since day one in 2014, and in the past nine years, I've acquired a multitude of smart home products from different manufacturers -- a door lock, a doorbell, security cameras, multiple Echo devices, a thermostat, a weather station, a super-fancy ice maker, and more.

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While it's nice to try to keep things in the same ecosystem so they play well together, that's just not possible sometimes. And having all of my devices in different ecosystems means it's usually a struggle if I want to control multiple things at once.  

My Amazon Echo devices can handle most smart home tasks, but not all. And there are times I'd rather push a button or not deal with Alexa misunderstanding me, so that's not a perfect option. Of course, switching from app to app isn't a great answer either. 

That's where the Brilliant Smart Home Control Panel comes in. 

View at Amazon

The Brilliant control panel, a small touchscreen you either mount on your wall or install in place of a light switch depending on the version you buy, works with around 30 different smart home systems, including Alexa and Apple HomeKit, Arlo, Ecobee, Nest, August, Hue, Ring, SmartThings, Schlage and Yale. One noticeable absence though, is Blink, who I have my doorbell camera and security cameras with. 

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Four models are available, each replacing a certain number of existing switches -- a one-switch, two-switch, three-switch, and four-switch (and each is available in six colors). All of them require hardwiring the control panel, but clear instructions are available and most homeowners should be able to handle it.

The newest model -- the one I tested -- is completely plug-in and doesn't require any wiring. It has a five-inch tall screen, two sliders on the side with a camera on top of those, and it's roughly the size of a two-lightswitch plate. The power cord is low enough voltage that you can run it behind the wall and bring it out at the outlet if you want a cleaner look. While the plug-in version won't control any traditional light switches like the other models, it will handle most smart switches.

The setup process was rather simple. Once I logged in to all my accounts on the app, Brilliant automatically found all of my smart devices, and I was able to assign them to rooms.

Brilliant Smart Home
Artie Beaty/ZDNET

When first setting up the system, I was greeted with four customizable shortcuts on the main panel. These can be used to control individual devices or to set up scenes where devices are grouped together. 

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A "Bedtime" scene, for example, could lock your door, turn off all lights, and bump the thermostat up a little, while a "Morning" scene starts your playlist and coffee maker and turns on the lights.

Two sliders on the side give you control over volume, raising or lowering shades, and dimming lights. There's a camera above them that can be used for video chatting with another Brilliant device in the home, as sort of a security camera you can view through the app, or as a motion sensor to trigger certain actions like turning on lights. There's also a small, physical slider to cover it up if you'd like privacy.

Brilliant Smart Home
Artie Beaty/ZDNET

A row of icons on the bottom gives direct access to scenes, adding a device, the intercom function, an alarm, and access to door locks. There's also a "Rooms" icon which lets you control anything you've assigned to a specific room, like the kitchen, living room, or bedroom.

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Along with the current time, temperature, and weather (displayed simply with an icon), the Brilliant display scrolls preselected images from categories you choose when not in use, including nature, still art, and animals. You can upload your own photos if you'd like, but you do have to manually select them; there's no way to automatically display photos from, say, your Google Photos account like some televisions (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). 

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I'll be honest -- at first, I wasn't entirely sold on using the Brilliant screen. My Echo handles most things I need to do, and I enjoy the voice control, so I wasn't sure if I'd be a fan of a physical device. That notion quickly went away when I learned just what this control system can do.

Setting up a bedtime scene has made my nighttime routine easier, and the live look-in from the camera is nice to make sure my dog hasn't decided to destroy the house. The Brilliant doesn't replace my one-off smart home commands like turning on a ceiling fan, but it has made handling multiple things at once drastically easier. 

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If you're looking for an all-in-one (well, most-in-one) answer for controlling your smart home devices, you'll want to put the Brilliant Smart Home Control at the top of your list. It's a little pricey at around $400 (more if you choose an option with more switches), but I feel like the value is there, especially if you have a large number of devices and you're comfortable setting up scenes. It certainly won't replace my Echo devices completely, but it is a nice complement. 

And it just looks pretty cool, too.

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