unrecognizable woman demonstrating light bulb in hands

Of S-Video TVs, Homekit Smart Plugs, Extensions cords, etc.

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Wow, it is really raining Homekit Smart Plugs and Extension cords. Really, I’m wondering, why given the relatively low cost, you wouldn’t just get all your new extension cords and multiple outlet adapters as HomeKit devices now, so some things to think about:

Upgrading an old S-Video TV with an Apple TV is not crazy

If you do have an old S-Video or composite TV, don’t despair, yes, it will only display at 480i, but this really isn’t that bad for smaller televisions (less than 40″). If you use a distance calculator, it basically says you need to sit at least. As an example with a 1080p television, if it is 50 inch diagonal, if you sit farther than five feet (which isn’t far), you can’t actually see the Pixels or resolve it. And most folks sit farther than 5 feet away naturally. You can use the Inch Calculator to see for yourself, but if you are sitting six feet away, any smaller than 50″ won’t show any increase resolution. If you have an AppleTV, you can actually add that old TV to the collection entertainment happiness with an S-Video to HDMI convertor for $20

The net is that if you have an old Apple TV Version 3, this is a pretty reasonable way to extend the life of existing television that are used in non-critical environments. Like a kids playroom.

Getting Smart Power Extensions and Plugs

OK, there are a few things to think about when getting these, the first is that the price is falling so it makes sense not to get the $15 power extension cords and invest in these things as they let you monitor power and turn things on remotely.

In getting these are there are a few things to think about:

  1. What connectivity do you want? I’ve used both WiFi and Zigbee connections and have to report that while WiFi cameras seem pretty good, it’s been very hit and miss with the lower power and smaller (eg less antenna), WiFi devices. Specifically, with all the WiFi devices I’ve tried, WeMo plugs, Satechi dual plugs and VOCOlinc light bulbs, I’ve had connectivity issues even with a dedicated 2.4GHz network. And when they go off line, the only solution is to reset them and start all over which isn’t great. So ideally you either want Zigbee or you can try the new Thread protocol. The new AppleTV 4K and the HomePod mini are border routers (so they can connect to the internet) and if you shop carefully, certain plugs act as mesh points. This is how Zigbee works with the Philips Hue and it is remarkable good at maintaining and keeping connection.
  2. Two ports per outlet. While most of these have a single outlet, the Satechi for instance has two, so it acts as an outlet multiplier which is really nice (when it stays connected).
  3. Power monitoring. While it doesn’t matter much and HomeKit doesn’t support it right now, being able to power monitor everything seems like a great odea.

So with all that, what can we recommend for the future-proofing of a house, so iMore, Macworld, Tom’s Guide and iGeeksBlog folks like:

  1. Satechi is more expensive at $60, but you get two ports and it has power monitoring too although it is a WiFi plug and I’ve had some trouble with it, it has definitely been better than the Wemo which has been way better than the VOCOlinc for WiFi connectivity.
  2. Meross WiFi Plug Dual is the low-cost leader, so I worry a little bit about whether it will be reliable but it has two ports and is just $30 for two (so you get four outlets for $15 each! It doesn’t have power monitoring but is half the cost of the Satechi. However, MacRumors did have lots of trouble with setup, so maybe you get what you pay for. The main issues are that it needs a dedicated 2.4GHz network (as did the WeMo I found) and that, worse, you have to disable the firewall.

Now for the single outlet plugs which are more common if a little less useful that dual plugs:

  1. Eve Smart Plug is also a single plug but it does act as a Thread mesh point which probably makes it a great long-term choice although it is just one plug. It’s not quite available yet, so if you can hang on, I would wait for it. It normally works just with Bluetooth, so if you are too far from your hub, you will need Bluetooth extenders to make it work, but with thread, you have a mesh network that is low power which is really nice.
  2. WeMo mini Smart Plug the most but it only has a single outlet which I have and it works as long as the WiFi is up and running. I found that many times, just unplugging and replugging will re-establish the connection, but it is both a single plug and does not have power monitoring.
  3. Home iSP6 is a single outlet and WiFi and also does power monitoring for $30
  4. Philips Hue Smart Plug is also a single outlet and also acts as a Zigbee mesh point for Philips devices. Right now with Thread coming on, you could go with this as it’s reliable or bridge to the new thread system.

The other choice is a smart extension cord, these are more expensive, but have more outlets:

  1. Eve Smart extension cord is $85 and uses Wifi and you can monitor the power across six outlets. They also have a version with USB outlets and three outlets. This sounds expensive but does include surge suppression as well if that makes you feel a little better.
  2. Meross Smart Power Strip. It’s half the cost at $40, but hard to set up according to MacRumors and wouldn’t setup properly, so you get what you pay for I guess. They had the same problem with the Meross smart plugs.
  3. VOCOlinc PM2e extension. I hesitate to recommend this because the light bulbs have not been great, but $40 so half the price of the Eve, but maybe you get what you pay for.

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