Orro Light Switch review: This savvy smart switch bristles with sensors Credit: OrroSupplied Art
Business Management

Orro Light Switch review: This savvy smart switch bristles with sensors

With options like Noon and Brilliant now available, high-end lighting has landed squarely not just in the fixture but on the wall: Ultra-luxe switches promise to dramatically upgrade the way you interact with your lighting—without having to fish a phone out of your pocket. Orro’s big sell: It is full of sensors that, among other features, learn your lighting preferences and automatically adjust the lights without you having to touch anything.

Before we get to all that, it’s crucial to know that Orro is currently available only as a single-pole switch. If two or more switches control a given light, you either won’t be able to install an Orro switch at that location, or you’ll need to disable those other switches. Orro says multi-way support is “coming soon,” but based on our experience with every other smart switch we’ve tested, that will likely entail purchasing companion switches that will add an incremental cost to an Orro installation. That cost won’t be a competitive disadvantage for Orro if the companion switches are reasonably priced, but the current lack of support for multi-way installations most definitely is.

Now let’s look at the hardware, which offers one of the more unusual connector schemes I’ve seen in a smart switch. Rather than using screw posts or pigtails, Orro has a row of four stab-in style connectors on the back of the switch. You just jab the four bare wall wires into this receiver to make the connection, no screwing required. If you have multiple wires per line (which will invariably be the case with the required neutral power line) you can use the included nuts and mini-pigtails to complete the connection.

Orro Switch Christopher Null / IDG

Orro’s stab-in wiring block saves a lot of room inside the junction box, although you still might need to use a pigtail depending on how many wires you need to deal with.

It’s also worth noting that Orro includes a selection of clip-on lever nuts instead of traditional wire nuts if you need them. Unfortunately, I have three neutral wires in my receptacle, and Orro only includes a single three-wire lever nut, so I had to use my own wire nut to bring together the four wires (including the one leading to the switch).

For a smart switch veteran like myself, I first thought this was a little strange, but I quickly learned that not only was wiring the switch much faster and simpler, the design also saves a ton of room inside the junction box—a perennial smart switch problem—and makes finagling the switch back into the box much easier.

Orro Switch Christopher Null

Not everyone is a fan of stab-in connections on switches and receptacles, but Orro doesn’t provide an alternative.

With the hardware installed, setup progressed fairly easily. The app walks you through the remaining configuration, which includes connecting to a temporary Wi-Fi network, connecting the switch to your own home network, and finishing up with a few final steps. I encountered no trouble with any of this, though I will advise users to be patient during the network configuration, which took a bit longer than expected.

With the Orro fully configured, you’ll find the switch itself largely intuitive. The touchscreen on its face features a vertical slider that looks much like the Wemo Smart Dimmer. While the screen is blank by default, when you approach the switch, the built-in motion sensor lights it up and indicates where the current brightness is on its spectrum. You can slide this up and down to control the light level, or fully depress the bottom of the switch to turn the lights off. Clicking the top of the switch turns it on (to the most recent brightness setting). A double click gets you to maximum brightness.

Orro Switch Christopher Null / IDG

Initial setup takes place largely on the switch’s touchscreen.

The big selling point with Orro is, as noted above, its automations, and there are plenty of them in the kit. Presence detection (via motion sensor, light sensor, and a microphone) turn lights on and off when you enter and exit the room, and after a few days of training the Orro can adjust brightness over the course of the day in tune with your preferences. Each of these features, including auto-dimming, can be turned off.

You can also set various motion and sound sensitivity levels as well as configure the base light level at which you want automatic lighting to kick in. That said, a lot of this requires some trial and error (with the included sensitivity levels, ranging from “very high” to “very low,” not being entirely intuitive). Certain features—such as how long Orro should wait before turning the lights off in an empty room (it defaults to about 5 minutes)—aren’t in the mix.

Orro’s automatic light adjustment system takes a few days to learn your environment and preferences, but once it did I was surprised to see how good a job it did at keeping my lights at an appropriate brightness. If my office was bright, as it is in the morning, the lights stayed off even if motion was detected. Later in the day, they would come on, though I found in the evening I would often need to kick the brightness up a notch. Again, tweaking things so they’re just right takes a bit of effort and thought, but it’s arguably worth it.

Orro Switch Christopher Null

A collaboration with August Home enables the August Doorbell to display an alert on the Orro Switch when a visitor rings the bell.

The Orro requires Wi-Fi to setup but it doesn’t need wireless for its sensors nor for the learning system to work. You will, however, need a live Wi-Fi connection to access the Orro via your phone or to connect it to Alexa or Google Assistant. Orro also integrates with other devices, which also requires Wi-Fi, though at present the only actual working integration is with the August doorbell. (Eight more integrations are in the works, ranging from smart locks to home security systems.) Orro’s Alexa connection worked fine in my testing, and I was easily able to control the light switch via voice once I installed the relevant skill.

Orro also sent an August doorbell unit to test with the switch, and it worked as advertised, which is to say if someone pressed the button to ring the August doorbell, a visual alert would pop up on the Orro’s touchscreen notifying me that someone was at the door. Whether this is more convenient than having that information on your phone largely depends on what kind of room the Orro switch is installed in, but it’s interesting at least as a proof of concept. (It’s also worth noting that the switch does nothing if the August camera merely detects motion.)

Orro Switch Orro

You can use any plastic Decora style plate with the Orro Switch, but the company recommends you avoid using a metal plate because it could interfere with the switch’s onboard radio.

I had only minimal trouble with Orro during my time with the product. Tweaking the motion sensitivity settings took some effort—especially the automatic-off setting, which sometimes didn’t kick in at all. A bigger issue: On one day, the switch lost Wi-Fi connectivity and had to be reset; interestingly, when problems arise, you can tell Orro about the trouble by talking into the switch directly. Another key point worth noting is that, for now, Orro is iOS only.

Orro is a nice switch that works well, and though its integration system (for now) doesn’t add much to the product, its other features are thoughtful, useful, and well-designed. $199 isn’t cheap for a light switch, but it’s less than the $249 a single Noon Room Director switch will cost you. Both are solid products, and while Orro is a bit less capable than Noon, it does offer some unique features, the best of which is its auto on/off functionality. If that’s something that particularly appeals to you—or if you have a child in the house who can’t seem to shut off the lights—Orro makes for a compelling option.

PREVIOUS ARTICLE

« How to create, edit, and format images in Excel

NEXT ARTICLE

AMD upends GPU tradition by launching 'Navi' as a lower-end part »
author_image
IDG News Service

The IDG News Service is the world's leading daily source of global IT news, commentary and editorial resources. The News Service distributes content to IDG's more than 300 IT publications in more than 60 countries.

  • Mail