HomeHome AutomationSonoff TX Ultimate: more than a smart switch?

Sonoff TX Ultimate: more than a smart switch?

More than a switch

It’s such a simple concept, and yet it brings so many possibilities if done right. Sonoff TX Ultimate brings RGB LED lights to change how you interact with wall switches. The ambient light is not the only trick the smart switch has up its sleeve – let’s take a close look at the new generation of the TX series.

Sonoff TX Ultimate

A new product just landed in the Itead Store – Sonoff TX Ultimate – a 2.4GHz WiFi wall switch available in 1-3 gang versions starting from $24.90. I have been playing with one for a couple of weeks now, and I’m ready to share my thoughts about the wall switch.

Sonoff has sent me the 3-gang Sonoff TX Ultimate switch with an extra cover (I picked the dark-themed “star” but you can select “cartoon” for a more kid-friendly aesthetic). These covers are easy to pop and replace on the go – a fun little idea, which could win more hearts if other design options become available.

It’s a design that requires live and neutral to be present and it’s compatible with wall boxes which can accommodate the size of 45x45x25mm. Straight away, I identified 2 issues that I’m not sure how this iteration of the product missed. As Sonoff TX Ultimate looks very similar to the M5 series I covered a couple of months ago, I decided to dig one out to confirm that I’m not mistaken.

I’m not sure what happened between the release of the M5 series (or Sonoff NS Panel and NSPanel Pro) but unlike the other devices, Sonoff TX Ultimate has terminals exposed to the touch! What happened to a tiny plastic flap preventing accidental touches? Sonoff could also include the extra neutral terminal so you don’t have to split your wiring. Each gang can handle up to 5A for a total of 15A between all three. I suspect 1 and 2 gang configurations will have their current rating reduced significantly.

RGB isn’t everything

Product pictures make the presence of the individually addressable RGB LEDs placed around the switch obvious, but that’s not the only feature Sonoff TX Ultimate brings to the table. Apart from 28 LEDs that set the mood and play animations, the switch is equipped with a small speaker and a vibration motor.

Motor?

Despite looking like a button-based switch, Sonoff TX Ultimate has a capacitive touch interface. Unlike other (often made of glass) touch panels, a small vibration motor gives you haptic feedback on each touch. It works just like a mobile keyboard and each switch activation requires no pressure. The switch is very responsive to the touch across the entire front plate.

What’s very exciting is the switch’s ability to detect basic gestures. At the moment only swipes to left/right are available in the Automation panel in the eWeLink app, but I’ll take extra controls any time of the day. Additionally, touching all 3 buttons at once acts as a quick toggle for the RGB ambient illumination.

Peeking inside Sonoff TX Ultimate

I think you know what’s next – time to peek inside and see what’s what. That will give us a glimpse of how flashable it is. To open Sonoff TX Ultimate, I just needed to remove 4 corner screws to reveal the same modular design of the relay modules from the Sonoff TX series or NS Panel. It makes me even more disappointed about the exposed terminals as previous models came with a plastic hatch to prevent accidental touches.

At the centre of the PCB, we have an ESP32-DOWD-R2-V3 board surrounded with a generous number of dev pads and a complete header for flashing (win!). Looks like flashing tasmota on it, won’t be hard at all.

To provide RGB illumination, 28 RGB LEDs are scattered around the edges of the board. Haptic feedback is provided thanks to a small vibration motor and a cleverly positioned speaker is hidden behind the PCB for the best sound performance. What deserves praise is the positioning of the WiFi antenna. Extended by a short wire, the antenna is glued directly under the bezel. You will have a great WiFi signal.

Pairing and operation

It’s ESP32 based, so Sonoff TX Ultimate pairs via Bluetooth (touch panel for 5 sec to turn on Bluetooth). After a moment, the device is ready to use in the eWeLink app. By default, the device vibrates, flashes light and makes custom sounds when the relays inside are toggled on and off.

I understand that without modifications, this would get old very quickly – especially if you want to turn on/off the light discreetly. Thankfully, there is an impressive level of customisation to each aspect of the device.

Make it yours

I’m a firm believer in the N+1 policy when it comes to wall switches. Always get more gangs than you need, so you can add smart controls to your wall switch.

When a relay is turned on, the animation is played and lights surrounding the area of the gang selected indicate if the relay is engaged or not. A separate animation and sound are played when light is disabled. All feels good.

There are separate settings to use the same RGB LEDs as ambient light. Set with a toggle, it can illuminate the area around the light without toggling the associated relay – a really powerful function for anyone trying to sneak out to the bathroom at night or embark on a fridge raid. The brightness of the highlight can be adjusted or simply turned off. The same goes for vibration and sounds.

Thanks to LAN control, the switch actuates almost instantly and instantly touches the register in your eWeLink app. In addition to that, eWeLink Remote – their proprietary protocol also allow you to add up to 8 devices for direct, internet-free controls.

Light and sound

The switch comes with 8 ambient light effects including night light which can be utilised as a guiding light at night without turning the main lights on. It also brings 5 sounds and 5 light effects that you can enable for each light activation.

Not every effect is available via the automation panel. Right now only 2 sounds can be played through triggers (alarm, doorbell) and the currently selected ambient mode can be toggled. I hope to see some changes in this field, as users would definitely welcome playing different sounds and effects to create their own automation.

Because iHost comes with a security suite built in, this could be the start of the product line which has security in mind. We don’t have a dedicated doorbell from Sonoff yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see one soon.

iHost

I received Sonoff TX Ultimate at the same time as iHost – and in my initial article I pointed out that iHost is likely to work with all devices supporting Local LAN controls via the eWeLink app – at the time of the writing, this switch isn’t supported, but my contact at Sonoff confirms that Sonoff TX Ultimate is part of the roadmap and we will see it added eventually.

Tasmota?

Flashing Tasmota shouldn’t be an issue considering the PCB design and the header available on the board. I will however back the original firmware, as considering the fact I own iHost – it could be tempting to restore the firmware and see what kind of customisation you could achieve with it.

Final thoughts

Despite some shortcomings, Sonoff TX Ultimate is a step in a good direction. It’s proof that something as simple as RGB LED light can change how we can interact with smart products. I’d love to see a ZigBee version of this switch. For now, you can grab one on the Itead store with prices starting from $24.90. Let me know what you think about it in this Reddit thread.

🆓📈 – See the transparency note for details.

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