Review: VOCOlinc SmartBar is best deal for a HomeKit smart plug

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 21
Smart plugs are a staple of any smart home, whether just starting out or continuing to expand. VOCOlinc SmartBar is a shockingly affordable option that keeps things simple.

VOCOlinc HomeKit SmartBar
VOCOlinc HomeKit SmartBar


By design, a HomeKit smart plug doesn't have a lot going on. It should be compact, offer backup physical control, and reliable. VOCOlinc largely succeeds in following these through.

The SmartBar is small and compact enough that two can be plugged into a standard set of wall outlets. There is a small button on the side which can be used to turn the outlet on or off manually, sans your phone. Otherwise, it is unassuming.

The benefits of a HomeKit smart plug

Smart plugs can be very useful in a home. Depending on where installed, they can be more convenient than light bulbs, especially with a physical lamp that has several bulbs installed in it.

Physical button on the side of the SmartBar
Physical button on the side of the VOCOlinc SmartBar


Getting creative with your smart home devices is best, but there are several staples of how these can be used. Obviously, it is a just a simple measure to take a lamp and make it smart, but there is much more you can do.

For example, in a living room, there may be built-in light fixtures as well as standalone floor lamps. A good setup is to put a HomeKit switch on the wall and a smart plug on the lamps.

Then, you create a rule that says when the light switch is turned on, turn on the smart plug, as well as the inverse of that rule.

HomeKit pairing code on the rear of the SmartBar
HomeKit pairing code on the rear of the SmartBar


Another great application is using a motion sensor. By tying it to the sensor, the smart plug can turn on whenever motion is detected, such as a human or a pet.

Using your location, the lights can turn off when you leave and come on when you get home, even based around the time of day.

These lights can also be programmed to come on if a smoke detector detects anything to make it easier to see or wake you up in the case of an emergency.

Update problems

Not everything regarding the VOCOlinc SmartBar is all rainbows and sunshine. It has its flaws that make it frustrating at times.

For a start, the SmartBar posed problems for us when we attempted to install firmware updates. While in the VOCOlinc app, we'd select the smart plug and it would alert us to the availability of said update.

It asked us to do the update and to not leave the app during the process, but it would frequently fail. No other information was provided as to why it failed, leaving us to repeatedly try again without any guidance to help assist the process. Eventually, the update did manage to go through.

For what it's worth, perhaps this update in part fixed this process, making updates more reliable. No other updates have been available during our testing so it isn't known for sure if we will run into this issue the next time.

An outstanding deal

The VOCOlinc SmartBar is rather unextraordinary. It doesn't have a nightlight as the iDevices model does. It doesn't track energy consumption as the Eve Energy does. But what it does bring to the table is incredible value.

It is a Wi-Fi-connected HomeKit smart plug for a great price. Four of them can be purchased for $46.99, but VOCOlinc is further discounting with a $7 off coupon that can be clipped on its Amazon page. That brings them to less than $10 each.

VOCOlinc SmartBar
VOCOlinc SmartBar


In the world of HomeKit where prices can easily be above the Amazon Alexa counterpart, it is great to see this affordable option. WeMo, Eve, iDevices, iHome, et cetera are all more expensive.

There are certainly reasons why one would buy those other brands. Their design, unique features, or improved reliability with updates. But for many, this low-cost Wi-Fi option is preferred, even if just a way to tiptoe into the platform or expand an existing setup.

Pros
  • Wi-Fi rather than Bluetooth

  • Slim enough to fit two into a standard outlet

  • Physical button on the side for control

  • Easy setup

  • Good reliability

  • Affordable cost
Cons
  • Issues performing updates

  • Occasionally went unresponsive

  • No energy consumption monitoring

Rating: 4 out of 5

Where to buy

VOCOlinc SmartBars are available on Amazon from solo packs to a four-pack. As mentioned, they are currently running a deal that takes $7 off the four-pack, bringing the price down to $39.99, or less than $10 apiece.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    It’s a great price, perhaps too good — I’m made very wary by those one-star reviews on Amazon. Sounds like this product can be highly problematic with HomeKit. Hard pass for me.
    coolfactormike1watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 12
    iOS_Guy80iOS_Guy80 Posts: 527member
    Phillips Hue Lighting system has its own smart plug which integrates with their mesh system. The plug works with the Hue hub. This system is not the least expensive smart lighting system but it is the most versatile, reliable system in my opinion with a multitude of lights and accessories.to choose from. Beien using the system for 3 years and recently added exterior flood lights to the system.
    coolfactor
  • Reply 3 of 12
    flydogflydog Posts: 1,005member
    “Issues performing updates” and “Occasionally went unresponsive,” and it’s rated 4 out of 5?

    That’s a head scratcher. For most people that would be a hard pass.
    coolfactorwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 12
    flydog said:
    “Issues performing updates” and “Occasionally went unresponsive,” and it’s rated 4 out of 5?

    That’s a head scratcher. For most people that would be a hard pass.
    A sponsored post can’t be rated *too* badly ;)
    toysandmecoolfactorwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 12
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 1,833member

    I would think when "advertising" these devices, providing some actual technical specs would be pretty obvious. Did I miss them in this article?
    I had to go dig deep into the Amazon listing to find these details:

    • Output Power: 1800W max
    • Rated Current: 15A max

    Pretty standard ratings. Don't go plugging several appliances into this beast!

    edited June 2020 watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 12

    I would think when "advertising" these devices, providing some actual technical specs would be pretty obvious. Did I miss them in this article?
    I had to go dig deep into the Amazon listing to find these details:

    • Output Power: 1800W max
    • Rated Current: 15A max

    Pretty standard ratings. Don't go plugging several appliances into this beast!

    If you exceed that load on an outlet, even without the Smart Plug, you’ll trip the breaker. This Smart Plug is not limiting the power available from the outlet. 
    edited June 2020
  • Reply 7 of 12
    mike1mike1 Posts: 2,748member
    Wemo Smart Plugs are now regularly $20. Been pretty trouble free for me.
  • Reply 8 of 12
    igorskyigorsky Posts: 581member
    I had their first-gen smart bulb and was having frequent HomeKit connectivity issues.  They replaced with their latest bulb (at a discount, not free), and it seems better so far.  To me they're a second tier HomeKit manufacturer and only worth it if the product is super cheap, but seems like you get what you pay for.  Sticking with Wemo.
    edited June 2020 watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 12
    vmarksvmarks Posts: 760editor
    cecil4444 said:
    flydog said:
    “Issues performing updates” and “Occasionally went unresponsive,” and it’s rated 4 out of 5?

    That’s a head scratcher. For most people that would be a hard pass.
    A sponsored post can’t be rated *too* badly ;)
    mike1 said:
    Wemo Smart Plugs are now regularly $20. Been pretty trouble free for me.

    1) AppleInsider doesn't accept or do sponsored posts.

    2) I have had the worst experience with Wemo Mini. The thing requires re-pairing to get it to work, and frequently goes unresponsive... while my others (iDevices, Puregear, Belkin) work like champs. I just bought 4x of the VOCOlinc to see if they work better for me than the Wemo disaster.
  • Reply 10 of 12
    vmarksvmarks Posts: 760editor
    flydog said:
    “Issues performing updates” and “Occasionally went unresponsive,” and it’s rated 4 out of 5?

    That’s a head scratcher. For most people that would be a hard pass.
    FWIW, I just unboxed my 4x I bought, and they all updated without a problem.

    If you had a problem setting them up initially, hold down the on/off button on the side for 10 seconds until it resets, and then it adds to HomeKit smoothly.

    It's going to take some time to see if they're occasionally unresponsive, but I know for a fact the Wemo has been here.
    I keep the HomeKit devices on their own 2.4Ghz SSID, separate from my client devices (phones, computers, appletv)
    edited July 2020
  • Reply 11 of 12
    darkvaderdarkvader Posts: 594member
    cecil4444 said:
    It’s a great price, perhaps too good — I’m made very wary by those one-star reviews on Amazon. Sounds like this product can be highly problematic with HomeKit. Hard pass for me.

    They're fine.  I actually bought some of them almost a year ago when I finally got too frustrated with the X-10 stuff I'd been using for a few decades.  They've worked flawlessly.
  • Reply 12 of 12
    darkvaderdarkvader Posts: 594member

    I would think when "advertising" these devices, providing some actual technical specs would be pretty obvious. Did I miss them in this article?
    I had to go dig deep into the Amazon listing to find these details:

    • Output Power: 1800W max
    • Rated Current: 15A max

    Pretty standard ratings. Don't go plugging several appliances into this beast!


    Yeah, they're only rated for the standard current that a typical household outlet can supply.  I mean, I install 20A outlets when I put in a new circuit, but the vast majority of houses have 15A.  They're easy to identify, see this product sheet:  https://www.lowellmfg.com/wp-content/uploads/LowellPlugs.pdf


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