Review

Leviton's second-generation Decora Dimmer review: Wi-Fi connected HomeKit switches

5.0
article thumbnail

Any smart home can benefit from great physical controls. The second-generation Leviton devices are just that, with reliable Wi-Fi connectivity, easy setup, and native support for Apple HomeKit.

Leviton's new line of HomeKit-compatible devices was launched in March and included several different devices. There are in-wall switches, in-wall dimmers, smart plugs, smart plug dimmers, and the unique Anywhere Switch or Dimmer Companion.

In our home, we've been testing the in-wall dimmer switch and the Anywhere Dimmer Companion. All of these devices support IFTTT, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant — but we stuck exclusively with testing HomeKit.

Leviton in-wall dimmer switch

In-wall smart plugs are a staple of any smart home. They can sometimes be a little intimidating because they do require a bit of wiring, but it takes a physical control already in your home and adds smart home control.

They're one of our most highly recommended upgrades for your home for this reason.

For the average person, they don't look that different than any other wall switch, but they can be scheduled, tied to motion, automated as you come and go, controlled via Siri, and more.

Painless installation

Once we killed the power to our room at the breaker, we removed our existing wall switch. Installation of the Leviton smart switch didn't differ at all from a standard light switch, as you connect the matching wire with the requisite wire nuts that are included in the box.

We do want to note that this does require a neutral wire. Older homes may not have this wire, so if you are unsure, check your existing switches before ordering.

Leviton's smart dimmer
Leviton's smart dimmer

With all the wires connected, we screwed the plate into the receptacle box and snapped on the included Decora wall plate. As these are standard Decora plates, you can pick and choose any other color or design from your local hardware store to match the rest in your home.

You aren't stuck with what's in the box, but the simple white option will be most common.

Design and appearance

The dimmer switch itself is a simple paddle-style switch where you can press at the top or bottom to turn the lights on or off. As this is a dimmer switch, there is a secondary smaller rocker sitting along the right edge, to incrementally adjust the brightness up or down in the room.

Leviton Dimmer
Leviton's new smart dimmer

Corresponding green LEDs stack up along the left side, representing how bright or dark the setting is.

A great little touch is that when you're turning the lights on or off, the lights don't harshly switch from on or off quickly. Instead, they take merely a second or so to brighten to 100 percent, or dim to off smoothly.

It is smooth and feels like a polished, more premium lighting experience.

The Anywhere Dimmer Companion

The hands-down best feature of the second-generation Wi-Fi Leviton Decora is the Anywhere Dimmer Companion. This is a second device that can be mounted in a secondary location to provide multiple control points in a room.

Perhaps a large living room with multiple entry or exit points, an open-concept kitchen, or maybe a long hallway could all benefit from at least two wall switches.

The Anywhere Dimmer Companion can be paired with the Decora Smart Wi-Fi second-gen primary dimmer, switch, mini plug-in dimmer, or mini plug-in outlet.

Leviton Anywhere Companion dimmer runs on batteries
Leviton Anywhere Companion dimmer runs on batteries

It runs off a pair of cell batteries that are accessed by pivoting out the face of the device. They have plastic covers to prevent them from discharging before use, with a quick pull enabling you to get started setting it up.

Leviton Anywhere Companion
Leviton Anywhere Companion

We mounted ours on a secondary location in the room that consisted of a solid brick wall, one where no switch previously existed. You can screw the plate right into the wall or cap off an unused switch, and even snap on a Decora plate.

Leviton Anywhere Companion
Leviton Companion mounted on a blank wall

You'd never know it was a fake switch. It looks just like the standard dimmer switch and is just as fast and responsive as the real deal. You can turn the lights on and off as well as dim them, just without all the wiring for a secondary switch.

The alternative here would be using a HomeKit button that would control the lights in the room when pressed. This is a terrible compromise, however, and not close to a passable option.

HomeKit buttons can control any other switches or devices, but they are slower, less reliable, and don't look like a traditional in-wall switch, as the Leviton does.

App and HomeKit control

Setting the products up with the app was easy. Once the switch had power and was blinking, we scanned the HomeKit pairing code printed on the product and walked through the standardized onboarding process, including connecting it to our home Wi-Fi.

Leviton dimmer in the Home app
Leviton dimmer in the Home app

Once the product appeared in the Home app, it also showed in the Leviton app. Third-party apps aren't essential for HomeKit, but in our case, we still downloaded it, though there's no need if you're sticking to the basic functionality HomeKit provides.

In the Leviton app, you can perform the occasional firmware update. We had at least one update in our time with the device, and it is annoying you need to go through the Leviton app, but this is something Apple only recently changed.

In the future, Leviton could perform updates through the Home app, but there are no promises here.

Other options in the Leviton app include toggling the auto-shutoff feature, where you can specify any from five minutes to 12 hours. You can also change the LED behavior, how long the LEDs stay on, how long the fade off/on rates are, and more.

In our case, we needed the Leviton app to set up our Dimmer Companion, since this isn't a specific HomeKit product but rather a secondary control for your primary control. We assigned our Dimmer Companion to our dimmer switch, though it could control a smart plug, too, if you have one of those.

The smart plug is a direct way to control a lamp or other appliance that doesn't currently have a switch.

Settings in the Home app
Settings in the Home app

As far as HomeKit, switches are simple devices that can be turned on, off, or dimmed anywhere between the two states. You can even use Siri to set how bright the lights are. "Siri set the living room lights to 50 percent" is a very common request in our home.

Since this is HomeKit, it can intermix with any other HomeKit gear you may have. It would be futile to create an exhaustive list of what the possibilities are, but we can give a few starting points.

If you have other lights in the room, such as Hue bulbs or light strips, you can have them set to toggle on or off whenever the Leviton light comes on or off. That way, the room as a whole can be controlled at once.

Motion sensors can also be used, so when you enter the room at night, your kitchen lights illuminate at 20 percent, but at 100 percent during the day. Lights can be controlled based on your location, so the porch lights turn on as you arrive, but turn off as you leave.

Our favorite and most commonly used automation is our goodnight scene. We tell Siri goodnight, and all of our lights turn off, our window shades close, our front door locks, our garage closes, and we get a summary notification letting us know if we left any windows open before we turn in for the night.

Should you buy Leviton's new second-gen Wi-Fi switches or plugs?

We can't overstate enough how important physical controls are for a smart home. Guests, older family members, and kids all don't play well if the sole way to control your home is via voice or other tech-based means.

By integrating the smart home technology into your existing wall switches, you open so many possibilities while still retaining a physical way to control your home.

Leviton's 2nd-gen Wi-Fi dimmer
Leviton's 2nd-gen Wi-Fi dimmer

Leviton's new Wi-Fi connected devices have been fully responsive, are easy to set up, and offer flawless control via Apple's HomeKit. We also love the secondary Anywhere Companion switches to control almost any other Leviton device. It's a benefit on top of HomeKit control.

Compared to other HomeKit switches, Leviton offers more flexibility and more features than almost anyone else. All at a reasonable price. No matter how far along your smart home is, Leviton can make it better.

Pros

  • Easy to install
  • Innocuous look
  • Simple controls
  • Dimmer has a nice fade on/off effect
  • Affordable
  • Wi-Fi connectivity and HomeKit support
  • Anywhere Companion is an amazing add-on
  • Rare HomeKit dimmer smart plug available
  • Various settings in the Leviton app
  • In-wall switches are a great way to update your home
  • Uses standard Decora plates

Cons

  • Neutral wire required for in-wall switches
  • Updates forced to run in Leviton app

Rating: 5 out of 5

Where to buy

You can view all of Leviton's HomeKit-capable second-generation Wi-Fi switches, plugs, and dimmer on Amazon where the standard smart plug starts at $24.99, the smart plug dimmer runs $29.99, the switch is $39.99, the dimmer switch hits at $47.99, and the Anywhere Companion starts at $18.50.