The Future of Smart Shades – Review Geek

Rating:
7/10
?

  • 1 – Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 – Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 – Strongly Flared Design
  • 4 – Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 – Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 – Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $800+

Josh Hendrickson

Smart shades (or smart blinds) are one of my favorite smart home accessories I own. But they tend to be very expensive, very slow, loud, and often require yet another smart home hub. Eve’s new MotionBlinds solve most of those problems in one excellent package.

Here’s What We Like

  • HomeKit compatible
  • Futureproof
  • Quiet and reasonably fast

And What We Don’t

  • Expensive
  • Apple only (for now)

Before we get into the full review, though, I want to cover a moment of transparency. This is the second review unit Eve sent me. The first didn’t work on arrival, every attempt to set up the blinds failed. During confirmation, the roller would move up and down a few inches, then stop, and I’d get a failure message. Upon closer inspection, I discovered the antennae wires had wrapped around the motor and one ripped away from the unit. Eve tells me this is a design flaw and will be corrected in the final retail unit.

The First Thread-Enabled Smart Blinds

Eve is far from the first company to offer smart motorized roller shades, but what makes this particular set unique is Thread capability. If you aren’t familiar with Thread, it’s a smart home protocol that communicates over Wi-Fi to form a mesh network. Thread works very quickly under the right circumstances and avoids cloud communications. Given the number of cloud-based smart home companies that have closed shop in the past few years, that’s comforting.

Eve also promises that, thanks in part to Thread, the MotionBlinds will support the Matter smart home protocol when it arrives later this year. That should allow it to eventually work with Google, Alexa, and just about any other company that promised to work with Matter (which is the most smart home companies). But for now, it’s limited to HomeKit and Siri. Sorry Android, Google Assistant, and Alexa fans.

Setup Is a Breeze

I want to commend Eve for making the setup process so easy. I can’t speak to every aspect, however. Eve sent me a review kit that included a specialized mount so I could test without installing the shades on my home. After this review, I have to send these back, so I appreciate that opportunity to avoid drilling holes in my walls needlessly.

But that means I didn’t get to experience the hardware installation process. From what I can see in the instructions and the hardware itself, it shouldn’t be too difficult. Just find good mounting points and drive a few screws. Without actually trying it, though, I can’t say there isn’t an unexpected difficulty that’s not obvious.

As for actually getting the MotionBlinds going, that couldn’t be easier. You’ll plug the smart shades in with a USB-C cable for the first setup. Once charged, download the optional Eve app and open it, aim your iPhone (or iPad if you’re so inclined) camera at a QR code, and follow the prompts. If you want to skip the Eve app, you can, just launch the HomeKit app instead. I recommend the Eve app, though, because it makes customizing your shades easier. During setup, it will prompt you to set the fully closed and open positions and a favorite preset.

A closeup of a string on the right of the Eve MotionBlinds
Josh Hendrickson

If you do all that, it’ll automatically show up in the HomeKit app, so I see no reason not to use the Eve app; other than having one more app on your device you’ll just hide away in a folder. The favorite position is a nice touch, as I do tend to keep my existing smart shades open at a specific point every day that provides light but prevents glare.

You’ll find the QR code attached to a drawstring, and after setup, you can hide it in the plastic end. If you ever need it again, it’s easy to slide back out. That’s a great touch compared to other companies that rely on inconsistent NFC or printed QR codes you’ll just lose (lookin’ at you, Nanoleaf). The drawstring isn’t a waste either! It acts as a physical controller. Pull once to open or close, or pull and hold for five seconds to open to your favorite saved position.

Best of all, you don’t need a hub. IKEA and Lutron both require hubs, which is just one more thing to set up and plugin somewhere. What you may want, for best performance, is a Thread Border router. A HomePod or Nanoleaf Shapes lights will do.

Somewhat Fast and Quiet

A closeup of the Eve MotionBlinds on a countertop
Josh Hendrickson

So how well do the smart shades work? Pretty darn good, if you ask me. I currently have IKEA’s FYRTUR smart shades in my home, which makes for a decent comparison. I had hoped that Thread would contribute to faster speeds, but that hasn’t quite worked out. While I was hoping for an instant “I press the button and it goes” response, as is often seen with Thread, it tended to be slower than that. Barely any different than my IKEA curtains.

I don’t have an Apple HomePod to act as a Thread border router, but I do have Nanoleaf lights that serve the same function. It’s pretty instant when the Nanoleaf lights interact with each other (such as the Hexagons controlling the LED strips). But that doesn’t happen with the EVE blinds. Nanoleaf lights are unreliable and often show as offline moments after they respond to my controls.

So I can’t say for sure that slower speed is wholly from Eve’s end of things or due to Nanoleaf acting as my border routers. But I do suspect that they enter a “resting” state to preserve battery life, and that keeps it from hitting the “high-speed response.” Thread smart home devices are known for. But, like my IKEA curtains, it usually only takes about five to ten seconds for my commands to take, which is good enough.

What it does significantly improve on is the noise level. My IKEA smart blinds are, frankly, loud. You can hear them from another room when my scheduling opens or closes them. The Eve blinds, however, are much quieter and less disruptive. It just sounds like a higher-quality motor. The speed seems just right too, not so fast I fear the blinds will tear themselves to shred and not so slow I’d lose patience and just want to do it myself.

My one complaint is the charging situation. Eve says the blinds should last about 12 months on a single charge, and obviously, I can’t test that. I can say that after spending a few weeks rolling them up and down daily, the battery still shows as “full in the app, so that may be possible. I hope so because actually charging them will be a pain.

Instead of removing a battery, as found with most other smart blinds, Eve stuck a USB-C port in the frame of its smart blinds. Now look at the closest window in your home and imagine trying to plug in the top of your existing curtains to the nearest outlet. That’s not a pretty thought at all. You could use a portable battery pack, but even that isn’t super convenient. I can’t understand the decision at all beyond that it likely made the electrical components thinner. I’d rather have a removable battery.

Perfect For Apple Homes—And Maybe Everyone Else In the Future

A closeup of Eve MotionBlind's charging port
I’ll never understand this USB-C decision Josh Hendrickson

So should you get an Eve blind system? Well, I hesitate to recommend anything that will cost tons of money, and make no mistake you’ll spend a butt tonne of money outfitting your home with these. But you could consider this the middle ground of smart blinds when it comes to price.

IKEA’s Fytur is the cheapest, coming in as low as $160 for a 72×76 inch blind. But with IKEA, you can’t customize the size of the blinds—either it fits, or it doesn’t. And if you want smart home features, you’ll need to buy a hub. Head over to Eve or Lutron and you can specify width and height. A similarly sized Lutron set of smart blinds with the add-on remote (included with IKEA) will cost you $860.

Then there’s EVE. How much it will cost depends in part on where you live: EVE partnered with several companies to serve different parts of the world. In the US, that means going through SelectBlinds, where a similarly-sized smart blind set, plus the add-on remote and charging cable (yes, it’s not included), will set you back $729. But unlike the others, you don’t need to purchase a separate smart home hub. You also might find sales that reduce the price, and during my review period, I saw the above example-sized shade on sale for $300.

But that’s just for one window. You’ll pay that again (or more for larger windows) for every window you want to make smart. But just because you theoretically could put a smart blind in every window doesn’t mean you have to—I haven’t. Instead, I’ve only placed them in rooms I spend a lot of time in, like my home office.

If you’re in an Apple-driven home and you want smart blinds made for your windows, then Eve’s solution is a no-brainer. It’s HomeKit-compatible and that’s everything you need to know. It seems like a small thing, but automated blinds are the next “best thing for your smart home needs.” The features are just that great.

If you’re not in an Apple-drive home it’s probably best to wait for now. Wait until Matter full rolls out and we see how it all shakes out. But keep an eye on Eve MotionBlinds for when that happens, because they could belong in your home too.

Rating: 7/10

Price: $800+

Here’s What We Like

  • HomeKit compatible
  • Futureproof
  • Quiet and reasonably fast

And What We Don’t

  • Expensive
  • Apple only (for now)

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