While there are some occasional hiccups, the SmartWings motorized shades deliver a long-lasting custom option for lighting and privacy.
The SmartWings line of woven wood shades shows that smart technology can be made uniquely yours. Rather than limiting your customization to its application, a unique design awaits with every order. While there are some occasional hiccups in execution, the SmartWings motorized shades deliver a long-lasting convenient control option for both lighting and privacy.
If you're tired of the matte plastic look to control light levels and privacy, SmartWings woven wood shades offer a marriage of natural home design with modern technology. However, will it integrate neatly into your smart home set-up? Let's find out just how "smart" the SmartWings automated blinds are.
With SmartWings' line of woven wood products, there’s an abundance of natural colors to choose from. Furthermore, they cover a wide range of color temperatures to further compliment your room's aesthetic and desired ambiance.
Beyond color, a major distinguishing factor is that these shades are custom products. Woven wood is made of mostly knotted jute and bamboo. So you’re going to get a unique pattern regardless of what design you pick.
Presently, you can choose from either a 50% or 100% blackout option for your ideal light control and privacy preference.
Beyond aesthetic and lining, you'll need to decide how SmartWings' shades will integrate with your windows. For this, you'll first need to decide if you're going with an inside or outside mount. To help make this decision a little easier and otherwise prepare you, SmartWings has included both a measurement guide and an installation guide in their FAQs.
But in short, you’re going to be measuring the width, height, and depth of your window. For the width, measure at the very top of the window. For your height, measure from the left, center, and right, and then take the tallest measurement. With the depth, you're measuring from the front of your window to the glass.
Once you have the exact measurements, SmartWings will deduct around 0.2” of the width during the shade’s production.
Once you've figured out the aesthetics and sizing, you need to decide how you'll want to operate the SmartWings shades. To ensure these shades integrate easily into a wide array of smart homes, SmartWings offers no less than four different motor types.
There’s the standard smart motor that works with just the multichannel remote control. For the major smart home brands, there's an Amazon Alexa or Apple HomeKit specific smart motor. Whereas if you’re working with Google Home, you'll connect via a Zigbee Hub.
For testing, I opted to go with the Alexa motor, but unfortunately, my Echo Show wasn’t the appropriate generation and thus didn’t have a built-in smart home hub. While you can always upgrade your Amazon devices via their trade-in option, I opted to go with the Amazon Echo 4th Generation as an alternative. So before ordering you’ll want to make sure you have one of the newer, supported Amazon devices.
SmartWings provides all the mounting hardware needed. So you'll get screws, mounting brackets, and wing nuts. But you'll still need some tools: a 1/8" drill bit, a Phillips screwdriver, tape measure, and a pencil.
If you have everything available, installation is much as you'd expect. For an inside mount, simply measure one inch from each side of the window frame and mark your bracket locations with a pencil. From here, you’ll pre-drill the holes then screw the brackets into the mounting surface.
Once everything is secured, position the shade such that the screws from the mounting bracket can fit through the slots in the headrail. Then re-attach the wingnuts and screw everything into place to get the shade fully secured. Then ensure the shade is level.
With the SmartWings motorized woven wood shades attached, it’s time to wake them up. When shipped, the shades are sent in sleep mode to avoid accidental operation. To wake the shades, press and hold the button on the motor head until it jogs once to enter pairing mode.
From here, you can add your remote by pressing the stop button for two seconds. The motor will then jog twice to confirm everything is set up.
Once your remote is paired, there are a few things to consider.
While all of SmartWings remotes are multichannel, you'll only be dealing with two channels if you purchase one shade. Specifically, a single-shade purchaser will be working only channel zero and one. By default, channel zero will control all motors at once if you’ve purchased multiple shades.
If you purchase more shades, you can customize your channel groups more in-depth. For instance, you can pair all shades in a particular room to one channel to simultaneously control them. So if you're looking to upgrade a single room or multiple rooms in the future with these smart shades, you can prevent them from all opening or closing at once.
Beyond basic operation, the remote controls the majority of your settings. For instance, you can set the upper and lower limit of how far you want the shade to go, you can set a favorite position, and you can adjust the actual speed of your motors. If you don't notice a response from the motor of the SmartWings shade when setting a specific shade setting, make sure you're on the right channel (versus channel zero).
To tweak these settings, you’ll need to be accustomed to opening up the back of your remote to access a hidden button. Above the batteries is a similar button in design to what is on the motor head of the shades. A quick tap of this button will flash P on the remote's display; you can proceed with the chain of inputs to customize your settings afterward with the shade's motor providing visual feedback.
In terms of design, the button's placement seems like it wants to keep you from accidentally changing your settings; it felt a little weird to use in practice. In most cases, you won’t be drastically changing these settings, so the design here may or may not bother you.
My only complaint was sometimes the SmartWing's motor would not respond to the remote as if it were asleep. Typically, pairing the remote anew or tapping the motor button on the shades would allow for quick reintegration.
When first connecting the SmartWings woven shades, you can use either the Alexa app or use a voice command. For my purposes, I just did it by voice by asking Alexa to discover my devices. Similarly, you can go into the Alexa app and go into adding a device there, select Other, and then select to discover devices.
Regardless of what you pick, you'll need to press and hold the button on the motor head for six seconds until the motor jogs twice, and the red light LED is on to show you’re in pairing mode. Once pairing is successful, the motor will jog twice again and the green LED will flash 3 times.
Once paired, it's best to rename the shade to allow for easier voice integration. However, if you're using the Amazon Echo (4th Generation), you'll find it doesn't respond well to most voice commands. This, however, doesn't seem to be an issue with the other more recent Alexa devices.
For instance, if you use the command words open or close for the shade, Alexa will say it doesn’t support that. If you tell Alexa instead to raise or lower the shade, it’ll perform the opposite command while moving the shade only a little. Rather, the key way to work around the poor voice command response with the Amazon Echo is to be more precise.
Specifically, you'll want to tell the SmartWings shade to set itself to a specific percentage.
If you ask the SmartWings shade to set itself to zero percent, it'll fully open. Meanwhile, it'll fully close when it's asked to be set to one hundred percent. For any size in-between, it's just a matter of visually figuring out what works best in intervals of five percent.
With this in mind, you can still set routines by voice or by schedule within the Alexa app. As I primarily wanted the shades to work by time, I scheduled a time-specific opening and evening close. When testing either method, I didn’t run into any issues when specifying the action via the set percentages; I would sometimes get an extra “Null isn’t responding” alert while Alexa executed the action such as closing or opening the shade.
One of the great things about the SmartWings' operation is that it isn't taxing on the battery life. After charging the device for 6 hours, you should get around 600 times (or around half a year) of operation. Now to charge to this extent, you can either use the included USB-C cable with your USB plug or a power bank.
As an alternative, you can purchase the solar panel accessory.
However, if you go this route, the actual USB plug location on the motor doesn't necessarily account for the rising of the shades to the best degree. While you can attempt to weave the solar panel cable to the side, it still can end up slightly obstructing the shades. Based on how many shades you’re working with, you’re going to need to go with what provides the most value for you.
If you’re just dealing with one shade, two charges a year isn't the worst time investment. However, the solar panel can keep you charged up throughout the year or for even heavier use cases.
Now how do you know about its battery life? If the LED flashes red during operation, there’s low power. If it’s flashing green, your battery is charging and a constant green light indicates the battery is fully charged.
For testing, I opted to go with a 100% blackout shade to fully test the lighting control and privacy potential. First off, it is woven, you may get a few pinhole amounts of light poking through—but this is fairly normal for how it was created. But the minute light difference doesn't overpower the darkness it brings.
Overall, the immediate option to blackout a room via voice or remote command is quite appealing. If you need to go out or want some privacy from the outside world, it takes a few seconds to fully descend at the max motor speed. Similarly, if you’re considering a very controlled space for the likes of photography or video making, it's an effective time-saver.
When using the SmartWings motorized shades, it was a very smooth and convenient process overall. However, I experienced two minor frustrations alongside the largely flawless operation.
Sometimes the shade would catch on the way down because of the lip of my window design and how flush it is to the window. To rectify this, I would typically have the shade raise a bit then begin its ascent anew. This would clear out any odd off-angle dropping of the shade.
Secondly, the drape curtain line alongside the back would catch on a plastic piece alongside the top motor bar. So I’d have to gently remove the string from the plastic catch to allow the shade to fully descend.
If you do want an inviting natural shade that operates when you need it to, it delivers there. There are some potential hiccups in operation, but they’re at worst an inconvenience.
Since it’s a custom, hand-made product, however, it’s going to cost you more. I opted for 31 inches wide with a 52-inch drop; the total was around $420 for the 100% blackout option. So if you’re wanting to theme a room around a specific shade aesthetic, the cost will quickly add up.
Ultimately, the SmartWings woven wood shades offer a custom home aesthetic that provides added privacy and light control on demand. If it's in your budget and design aesthetic, it's a great option to explore.
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James is a Staff Writer for MakeUseOf and lover of words. After finishing off his B.A. in English, he has chosen to pursue his passions in all matters of tech, entertainment, and the gaming sphere. He hopes to reach, educate, and discuss with others via the written word.
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