Iris Smart Hub (2017) review: Lowe’s offers an affordable smart-home system for the hacker mindset

Four years into its existence, the Iris by Lowe’s smart home system has been dogged by poor reviews and, judging by Lowe’s own comments site, general customer apathy toward the product. But Lowe’s says it has heard the complaints and has completely overhauled the system in the last couple of years, “rebuilding it from the ground up.”

Update, August 7, 2018: Lowe’s has added support for Lutron’s Caséta smart lighting products. There are some caveats, however; first, you’ll need a Lutron Caséta bridge in addition to one or more of Lutron’s in-wall and plug-in devices. Second, the Iris by Lowe’s system does not support Lutron’s Serena line of smart window shades. You’ll find more information in this Lowe’s blog post

Update, August 16, 2017: Lowe’s has added support for the third-generation Nest Learning Thermostat to its Iris by Lowe’s smart-home platform. You’ll find more details on the company’s blog, here.

While the original Iris was meant to be a bit of a hub-for-everything, today it is heavily geared toward security, offering both DIY and professional monitoring services on a relative budget. Technically, this is still the same second-generation hardware that TechHive reviewed last year, but dozens of software and service upgrades since then merit giving it a second look.

As noted, nothing significant related to the hardware has changed since last year’s release. The Iris hub itself still looks like an oversized bar of soap, with setup requiring a hardwired ethernet line to your router. Initial setup is simple, but a bit slow, so plan to devote some time to getting things going. Once the hub is online, it’s time to start adding sensors to the network. While Iris is designed to work with numerous devices (as any good smart home hub should be), Lowe’s unabashedly pushes Iris-branded gear the hardest—and you won’t have a choice if you’re outfitting your home with security sensors.

I paired an assortment of sensors and switches with the hub and, most of the time, the system worked seamlessly. The only exception was when I attempted to pair the Iris motion sensor. It didn’t pair successfully, showing up as an “unknown device” in the Iris app. In the absence of any actual instructions, I eventually muddled my way through figuring out how to delete the device and re-pair it, after which it worked fine.

Iris Security Pack Lowe’s

The Iris Security Pack bundles two door/window sensors, a motion sensor, and a security keypad for $109.

Figure on spending $20 to $35 for each component, depending on function. More complex devices cost more: Smart thermostats start at about $60 and security cameras at $99. You can also buy Security, Automation, and Lighting packs that bundle relevant products at a discount over purchasing them individually.

Iris is designed with simplicity in mind—or, at least, for someone who would buy their security system at a hardware store—but once you have your sensors installed, that’s where things get a little tough. Until you set up IFTTT-like rules for the sensors, none of these products actually do anything.