After the terrible launch of the Sonoff Cam Slim, I hoped ITEAD would take time, and make sure that each device launched brings a satisfying experience. It certainly looked this way, as in my first look, Sonoff NSPanel Pro offered an interesting take on house/room controls. With the imminent promise of consumer-ready firmware, I was asked to wait until the 8th of August before casting my final judgment. I’m on the latest firmware now and…
What went wrong so far with Sonoff NSPanel Pro
I’m genuinely disappointed at this point. Why? Cause I already know the answers to my questions and I don’t like the sound of it. I really wanted to like this panel, but ITEAD is making this extremely hard. What went wrong? Let’s start from the beginning. To assure my honest critique, I updated Sonoff NSPanel Pro to the latest version today:
- App Version: 1.2.2
- ROM/OS version: 1.2.3
- Zigbee Firmware: 1.0.0
ITEAD asked me to share my Sonoff NSPanel Pro experience on the launch date ( Monday, 8th August 2022) assuring that the launch-day firmware will bring new options and stability improvements. I had no issues with that. After all, I want to break the first impressions as soon as possible, they want all the marketing they can get, and you, my dear reader, want to know if it is worth your money.
The problem I’m facing is that all the bugs I’ll encounter may/may not be addressed by the time you get to lay your hands on the device. I confirmed with my source that the next patch will land on the 30th of August and this is when the units will be available for direct order. What’s even more problematic, most of Sonoff NSPanel Pro features are not available until October.
SONOFF NSPanel Pro – it’s not a smart relay
Sonoff NSPanel Pro has visually so much in common with Sonoff NSPanel (review), that is reasonable to assume that both devices will share the most common functions. That’s not the case. Sonoff NSPanel Pro is not a smart relay. I specifically asked about this, as my unit had been sent to me without the ability to toggle anything.
Anyone looking to mount Sonoff NSPanel Pro on their wall, will either give up the existing wall switch socket or will need to add an additional space for their panel. It’s a rather confusing choice. If Sonoff NSPanel Pro serves just as a smart display, why not make it more universal? You can purchase a desk stand for about $8-9 to turn this wall “switch” into a stand-alone smart display, but if Sonoff NSPanel Pro never going to switch anything directly, why make it look like a wall switch, to begin with?
At the moment, ITEAD has no plans for the US form factor of the device, but they may release a more compatible housing for American friends given the interest.
It turns out that setting a timezone and weather locale breaks the synchronisation between Sonoff NSPanel Pro and the eWeLink account. The panel stops receiving weather updates, and doesn’t synchronise the scenes and visible device selection – in other words, becomes useless. The only way of fixing it (for now) is to re-set the device and live with the default device settings.
You would think that having Android as the operating system would guide ITEAD engineers in the right direction when it comes to UX design and yet Sonoff NSPanel Pro brings the “Subject” option – which hides an unexpected option: setting your wallpaper. Couldn’t they just add the “Set Wallpaper” menu in the Display settings? What’s worse, you are limited to a handful of choices without the ability to add your own. What happened to famous Android customisation? Ah… it will come later with 1.4.0 (October)- so why am I not reviewing a finished device?
Oh, if you set the weather locale and timezone, the dynamic weather-based wallpaper won’t work either. The fact that the android device is not synchronising these automatically with data from your eWeLink account is simply ridiculous.
I covered some functions of Sonoff NSPanel Pro in my initial looks, but the latest update brings a couple of small changes.
Slide down: Options had been expanded from 3 to 6 menus that include ZigBee device management, notifications, alarms (named as “clock” for some reason) & timers, Subject (aka Wallpapers), add a camera and device settings.
Settings feature the basic controls and access to options like screen brightness (including auto brightness), volume, locale, and wireless network management. Swiping left and right toggles between eWeLink Scenes and Devices.
The main screen has been redesigned a little but retains the same options to look up a default camera or arm/disarm house security with a single tap.
ZigBee, Matter, eWeLink Remote
Sonoff NSPanel Pro isn’t just a smart panel but doubles as a smart hub too. While ZigBee 3.0 is supported out of the box, eWeLink Remote should follow soon. What’s great is the promise of Matter support in 2023.
The idea of having a ZigBee 3.0 coordinator inside is great, especially since ITEAD outlined the compatibility with IKEA and Hue products. Unfortunately, you have to take the 3.0 with the pinch of salt as well. The product page suggests offline scene support, a function available on Sonoff Zigbee Bridge Pro – which is nice, but in my experiments, the list of supported devices is usually limited to eWeLink released products.
I often test Zigbee 3.0 end devices for cross-system compatibility, and I often find these supported by a generic Tuya Zigbee hub, but not by Sonoff Zigbee Hubs. The bottom line is – if a similar ZigBee 3.0 device can be found already in the eWeLink ecosystem – it may work, but there are no guarantees.
I had no problems pairing the Sonoff T&H Zigbee sensor with Sonoff NSPanel Pro, however, Aqara/Xiaomi T&H Zigbee 3.0 sensor wouldn’t pair as it also supplies atmospheric pressure – an endpoint currently not supported by any eWeLink sensors.
I also tried IKEA colour and CT Zigbee bulbs – without luck, but Livarno Zigbee Bulb – worked like a charm the first time. Your experience with adding 3rd party Zigbee devices may vary.
You can add up to 32 devices. I have added a couple of switches from the ZigBee series and Sonoff Sensors to test it out. Each device would have an individual card with an extra notification appearing on the panel for each activated event.
Range-wise, Sonoff NSPanel Pro covers an entire two-story house with enough range to extend about 2-5m beyond external walls (in the furthest area). That’s enough to cover the average smart home and the performance is on par with Sonoff ZigBee Bridge and ZigBee Bridge Pro.
Changes are responsive with controls for the lights feeling smooth and quick. End devices report back promptly too. If you have a lot of ZigBee sensors, you won’t be disappointed.
I’m genuinely surprised to see the option to add RTSP-based cameras. Apart from eWeLink cameras (S-CAM, GK-200MP2-B), you can enter the RTSP stream from another camera and receive the stream on the NSPanel Pro screen.
I tested my IMOU Cell 2 – wireless IP camera and everything worked nicely. If only I could configure all this via the eWeLink app to save myself from typing the long URL manually.
Thermostat & Power Monitor and more
I’m still disappointed that my unit isn’t equipped with an internal sensor despite having a dedicated ribbon connector. All these flashy product pictures showcasing display capabilities – are just that – flashy marketing.
At the moment most of the new Sonoff devices (Elite, Origin, ZigBee hubs and more) are simply not supported. It leaves me with very little to try, test and get excited for. I can’t resist the temptation that I have been given a toy that has 3 swipe actions and a lot of features that are simply not there. I wish, I could answer your questions and tell you if Sonoff NSPanel Pro is as cool as on product pictures – but the truth is – I don’t know!
Finally, a detailed hardware specification had been released and I can share the actual hardware spec:
|CPU||Cortex A35 4 cores|
|Sensors||Microphone, Light Sensor, Speaker,|
Shop with Sonoff
Take a look at the ZigBee and WiFi range of the devices compatible with eWeLink:
I know that ITEAD will fix most of these things at some point. I’m just annoyed that once again, I really would like to recommend Sonoff NSPanel Pro (and get all that sweet affiliate money) and I can’t. Not right now. Not until it’s fixed. Not until October, when all the cool features are actually added! What makes it worse, is that I could take an Android device, install Tasker, take advantage of eWeLink API and come up with a working Android smart panel that you could start using now, not 30 days later. Are you going to trust ITEAD and buy (pre-order) Sonoff NSPanel Pro at a discounted price (starting from $69.90) – let me know in this Reddit thread.
🆓📈 – See the transparency note for details.