The Future of Smart Blinds – Review Geek
Smart blinds (or smart shades) are one of my favorite smart home accessories I own. But they tend to be very expensive, very slow, noisy and often require another smart home hub. Eve’s new MotionBlinds solve most of these problems in one great package.
Here’s what we like
- Quiet and reasonably fast
And what we don’t do
- Apple only (for now)
Before I 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 did not work on arrival, all attempts to set up the blinds failed. Upon confirmation, the roller would go up and down a few inches, then stop and I would get a failure message. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that the antenna wires had wrapped around the motor and one had been ripped from the unit. Eve tells me this is a design flaw and will be fixed in the final selling unit.
The first wire-enabled smart shades
Eve is far from the first company to offer smart motorized roller shades, but what makes this particular set unique is the Thread capability. If you’re unfamiliar with Thread, it’s a smart home protocol that communicates over Wi-Fi to form a mesh network. Thread runs very fast under the right circumstances and avoids cloud communications. Considering how many cloud-based smart home companies have gone out of business over the past few years, that’s heartening.
Eve also promises that, thanks in part to Thread, 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 has promised to work with Matter (which is most smart home companies out there). But for now, it’s limited to HomeKit and Siri. Sorry Android, Google Assistant and Alexa fans.
Installation is a snap
I want to commend Eve for making the setup process so easy. However, I cannot speak to all aspects. Eve sent me a review kit that included a specialist bracket so I could test without installing the blinds at home. After this review, I have to send them back, so I appreciate this opportunity to avoid unnecessary drilling holes in my walls.
But that means I couldn’t 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 screw in some screws. Without actually trying it, though, I can’t say there isn’t any unexpected difficulty that isn’t obvious.
As for getting the MotionBlinds up and running, it couldn’t be easier. You will plug in the Smart Shades with a USB-C cable for the first time setup. Once charged, download the optional Eve app and open it, point your iPhone (or iPad if you want) camera at a QR code and follow the instructions. If you want to skip the Eve app, you can just launch the HomeKit app instead. I recommend the Eve app though, as it makes it easy to customize your shades. During setup, it will prompt you to set fully closed and open positions and a favorite preset.
If you do all of this it will automatically appear 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 will just be hiding in a folder. The preferred position is a nice touch, as I tend to keep my existing smart blinds open at a specific point each day that provides light but prevents glare.
You will find the QR code attached to a drawstring, and after installation you can hide it in the plastic end. If you ever need it again, it’s easy to remove. It’s a good idea compared to other companies that rely on inconsistent NFC or printed QR codes that you’ll lose (looking 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 saved favorite position.
Best of all, you don’t need a hub. Both IKEA and Lutron require hubs, which is just one more thing to set up and plug in somewhere. What you might want, for better performance, is a Thread Border router. HomePod lights or Nanoleaf Shapes will do.
A little fast and quiet
So how do smart shades work? Pretty good, if you ask me. I currently have IKEA’s FYRTUR smart blinds in my house, which makes for a decent comparison. I had hoped that Thread would contribute to faster speeds, but it didn’t quite work. While I was hoping for an instant “I press the button and it goes away” response, as you often see with Thread, it tended to be slower than that. Hardly different from my IKEA curtains.
I don’t have an Apple HomePod to act as a Thread edge router, but I have Nanoleaf lights that perform the same function. It’s pretty instantaneous when the Nanoleaf lights interact with each other (like the hexagons controlling the LED strips). But that doesn’t happen with EVE blinds. Nanoleaf lights are unreliable and often show offline after responding to my commands.
So I can’t say for sure that the slower speed is entirely due to Eve ending things or Nanoleaf acting as my border routers. But I suspect they go into a “idle” state to preserve battery life, which prevents it from achieving the “high-speed response” that Thread smart home devices are known for. But, like my IKEA curtains, it usually only takes five to ten seconds for my orders to be taken, which is enough.
What it drastically improves is the noise level. My IKEA smart blinds are downright noisy. You can hear them from another room when my programming opens or closes them. Eve shades, however, are much quieter and less disruptive. Sounds like a higher quality motor. The speed seems right too, not so fast I’m afraid the blinds will tear and not so slow I’d lose patience and just want to do it myself.
My only complaint is the charging situation. Eve says the blinds should last around 12 months on a single charge, and obviously I can’t test that. I can say that after spending a few weeks riding them daily, the battery still shows as “full in the app, which may be possible”. I hope so, because loading them will be a pain.
Instead of removing a battery, as is the case with most other smart blinds, Eve has stuck a USB-C port into the frame of its smart blinds. Now look at the window closest to your house and imagine trying to plug the top of your existing curtains into the nearest outlet. It’s not a pretty thought at all. You can use a portable battery, but even that isn’t very practical. I don’t understand the decision at all beyond the fact that it probably thinned the electrical components. I would have preferred a removable battery.
Perfect for Apple homes and maybe everyone in the future
So should you get an Eve blind system? Well, I’m hesitant to recommend anything that will cost tons of money, and make no mistake, you’ll spend a ton of money outfitting your home with these. But you might consider this the middle ground of smart blinds when it comes to price.
IKEA’s Fytur is the cheapest, starting at $160 for a 72×76-inch shade. But with IKEA, you can’t customize the size of the blinds, they either fit or they don’t. And if you want smart home functionality, you’ll have to buy a hub. Head to Eve or Lutron and you can specify the width and height. A set of similarly sized Lutron smart blinds with the extra remote control (supplied with IKEA) will set you back $860.
Then there is EVE. The cost partly depends on where you live: EVE has partnered with several companies to serve different parts of the world. In the US, that means going through SelectBlinds, where a set of similarly sized smart blinds, plus the extra remote and charging cable (yes, that’s not included), will set you back $729. But unlike others, you don’t need to buy a separate smart home hub. You might also find sales that undercut the price, and during my review period I saw a shadow-sized example above on sale for $300.
But it’s just for one window. You’ll pay that again (or more for larger windows) for each window you want to make smart. But just because you could theoretically put a smart blind in every window doesn’t mean you have to – I didn’t. Instead, I’ve only placed them in rooms where I spend a lot of time, like my home office.
If you’re in an Apple-run home and want smart blinds for your windows, Eve’s solution is a no-brainer. It’s HomeKit compatible and that’s all you need to know. It seems like a small thing, but automated blinds are the next “best thing your smart home needs”. The features are just awesome.
If you’re not in an Apple Drive home, it’s probably best to wait now. Wait for the matter to completely unfold and we will see how everything shakes. But keep an eye on Eve MotionBlinds for when it happens, because they might belong in your house too.
Here’s what we like
- Quiet and reasonably fast
And what we don’t do
- Apple only (for now)