Previously, I’ve talked about using SQ Blaster Plus to automate your home entertainment system. However, SQ Blaster Plus seems to be perpetually out of stock and not replying to a ny email queries anymore. Except for occasional disconnection from the wifi network, it was a good product consumer, with extensive remote database to get users up and running quickly. In the search for an alternative, I came across Broadlink RM2 which is an IR blaster but also able to remote control simple RF (proprietary 315/433Mhz) based switches.
The cost for the IR blaster is amazingly low, at 179RMB (36 SGD) compared to SQ Blaster Plus at 199USD. So I ordered a RM2 and TC1 (a capacitive touch RF light switch) at around 60SGD (really wanted to shout cheeeeaaap as I type).
Below are some of the unboxing pictures for the 2 devices. The packaging tries a little hard to be like those of an Apple product but missed the mark by a lot due to the quality of the boxes and compartment (not that I care but can’t help to comment on this).
Here are also some screenshot of the setup of the RM2 on my android phone.
Setup – IR Blaster
The setup process is very simple. In fact, it almost feels like setting up a chromecast where you simply provide the wifi SSID and password and the rest takes care of itself. Within 5 minutes from unboxing, I’m able to control the air conditioning in my study. It seems to have a database of air conditioning IR codes where you simply point your air conditioning remote, press the on button and the device matches and loads the rest of the controller such as temperature, mode and fan speed etc. This device also comes with a temperature sensor!
Unfortunately, for setting up the remote controls for my home entertainment system, there isn’t any IR database to load from. You will need to make RM2 learn every single buttons on your remote controls. The good thing is that the learning process is rather quick and straightforward.
Setup – Capacitive Touch RF Switch
Out of curiosity, to see how the RF Switches stand against Z-Wave switches, I also setup the capacitive touch RF light switch. The switch is one of the most aesthetically pleasing switch I’ve seen at such a price (less than 30 SGD). It is sensitive to touch and does feel cheap (can’t help but have to use this word again). The switch does not require a neutral wire, so it is excellent for a retrofit. Ok, a video speaks more than a thousand words, so here goes.
The communication for the switch is one way as expected. If you turn the switch on in the app and turn off the switch by touching the switch, unlike z-wave, it does not update the status in the app. Also, occasionally, when you turn the switch on in the app and the command fails to turn on the switch, the app will just show that the switch is on.
The next test I did was the range of the RF switch. Unfortunately, when I place the RM2 in the living, it couldn’t turn on the switch in the living. I don’t stay in a mansion, so the distance between the RM2 and the switch is only around 10 metres. Even when I open the door so that there is a clear line of sight between them, I’m still not able to turn on the light switch.
- Value for money IR Blaster
- Better build quality than expected, especially for the switch
- Easy to setup
- Remote learning is straightforward
- Communication with switch is only 1 way, so it is simply a remote control switch to me
- Range of the switch fails at 10 metres, a huge no no for practical use
- Basic control on app, a little confusing
- A product with great potential if they include a database for remotes, put in 2 way communication for the RF switches and improve the operation range in their next version
For technical readers who are also Tasker fans
I wasn’t able to use Tasker to control the RM2 unlike SQ Blaster Plus. It seems like the content of the http packets is being checksum-ed. No response from the RM2 when I tried to replicate the command to be sent from Tasker. So until the day the API is released (supposed to be Q1 2014), you will need a separate app to control the IR blaster and another for your Z-Wave devices.