review

SwitchBot Curtain Rod Review Robot Curtain Opener

Friday, February 05, 2021

Some people absolutely love IoT and, it can be incredibly useful when you find a use for it like being able to open and close your curtains from the sofa. If you are into everything automated, "it's robot curtains for ya, Rocky... robot curtains!
SwitchBot Curtain is setup via the SwitchBot app and requires an account sign up, as well as Bluetooth and Location to be enabled on your device in order to connect. After doing that, you can start adding Curtain. If you have split curtains, you will need to use two Curtains. A physical user guide is included, as well as an illustrated guide and a video guide from the app, all of which are very detailed. SwitchBot Curtain can also be calibrated to allow you to set the parameters for how far you want Curtain to roll and when to stop.
The calibration of Curtain is important to prevent the motor straining unnecessarily and burning out prematurely like power window motor. You also have to make sure Curtain is able to freely move without the curtains getting caught since there is no safety cut-off built-in, which would be a good feature to have to automatically power off Curtain when its under strain and you're not around.
SwitchBot Curtain is also bidirectional so, you can instruct it to open from left to right or viceversa. The SwitchBot Curtain DC motor encoder has been programmed to travel a maximum distance of 3 meters along a curtain rail. Each SwitchBot Curtain works independently and can be adjusted individually from the app by selecting it. 
The SwitchBot app user interface is simple and easy to understand, showing battery level indication for each Curtain, as well as two ways to control each SwitchBot Curtain by tapping on the screen via three buttons (open, close and pause). There is also a slider control, which lets you open and close Curtain by swiping left or right on the screen.

SwitchBot Curtain can also be set to open and close via the Light Sensing option, which works by using the sunlight sensor inside Curtain. The Light Sensing option can be enabled from the app but this feature is at Beta stage, which means it isn't yet fully working. The Light Sensing idea is a clever way to allow SwitchBot Curtain to harness the sun's rays. Speaking of rays, SwitchBot Curtain also comes with add-ons sold separately, namely SwitchBot Solar and SwitchBot Remote.
SwitchBot Solar is a solar panel designed to top up/maintain Curtain's 3350mAh battery, which takes 10 hours to recharge (via 5V/1A input) and can last up to 8 months when using Curtain twice a day. The length of the curtain rail and weight of the curtains also play a role in how much battery Curtain will consume.
SwitchBot Solar can be plugged directly and clipped securely onto Curtain via the extension arms on the back of SwitchBot Solar. SwitchBot Solar mounts on to Curtain differently depending on the Curtain style you have (i.e. rod, U-rail, I-rail or rail). If you have a SwitchBot Curtain rod model, SwitchBot Solar will fit beneath Curtain's ratchet posts, which lift up as you pull down Curtain.
SwitchBot Solar can also be fixed to a wall via the included hook and loop velcro tape and directly connect to Curtain via the USB-C charging cable built inside SwitchBot Solar. To access the cable, you have to detach the rear fascia by unclipping it, which can be done with your fingers, although it is easier when using a plastic tool to pry it open. The charging cable measures 2ft long and, it is neatly routed around and secured in place via plastic clips. Re-routing the cable is easy without hassle. SwitchBot Solar can output 5V/250mA so, it can technically be used to charge a phone but it seems to only work with Curtain.
SwitchBot Solar weighs 107 grams and measures 16.5cm high, 7cm wide and 2.5cm deep (with the protruding USB-C connector on the back). SwitchBot Curtain weighs 260 grams and measures 15cm high (including plastic ratchet posts), 6.5cm wide and 7cm deep (including the ratchet posts). SwitchBot Curtain comes with a 1.8 meter long charging cable and several plastic pegs to use with tab top curtains.
SwitchBot Curtain also supports smart scenes, which are conditional-based instructions (similar to IFTTT) that you can create to make Curtain work how you exactly want it (i.e. link two Curtains together so, they work in unison). These "smart scenes" can also be controlled via a voice assistant (Alexa or Google) and are setup via the SwitchBot app. In order to voice control Curtain though, you have to have a SwitchBot Hub (sold separately), as well as an Alexa or Google Home smart speaker.
A few other things you can do with SwitchBot Curtain is to delay, schedule and change the performance to "silent mode", which should be probably relabeled "slow mode" since silent mode does not quiet down Curtain other than reduce the motor speed. In silent mode, Curtain operates at a slower pace with less pushing power (torque), which in turn makes the motor screech when Curtain isn't able to push the curtains along the rail track. This maybe more an issue with tab top curtains and rod grommet curtains than ring top curtains. Overall, the whine noise generated by the SwitchBot Curtain motor isn't overly loud or annoying.
SwitchBot Curtain disassembles into two parts - the main body and the head which is the top section that slides onto the plastic ratchet posts. These ratchet posts are designed to create a snug fit against the curtain rod, which is important so the rolling wheels can get good traction. There is one motorized wheel, which is made of rubber and, it is designed to move along the bottom section of the curtain rod, while the non-motorized plastic wheels move along the top of the rod.
Another SwitchBot add-on sold separately, it's SwitchBot Remote, which weighs 20 grams and measures 4cm high, 3.5cm wide and 1.3cm thick. The Remote comes with velcro adhesive and a prying tool to access the remote's battery compartment, which houses a CR2450 coin cell battery. 
SwitchBot Remote is designed as a physical 2-button remote control for operating various SwitchBot products including the SwitchBot light switch actuator and Curtain. SwitchBot Remote can only be paired to one Curtain so, if you have a pair of Curtains you cannot control them at the same time using SwitchBot Remote. Also, there is a slight delay when operating two Curtains together so, one Curtain will open/close before the second one.
On a final note, SwitchBot Curtain is a neat addition to the home automation arsenal. Curtain can be controlled three ways: via the app, button remote and voice assistant. Curtain, Solar Panel and Remote have been constructed to a high quality and feature a UV resistant coat so, the plastic outershell won't fade away in direct sunlight. 
Like with all app-operated gadgets though, the software is the real potential weakness especially if the app is not being updated or supported. The SwitchBot mobile app has mixed reviews but the app is beig supported via regular updates. The SwitchBot app also enables you to attach screenshots and an on-screen recording to send directly to SwitchBot for help. You can buy SwitchBot Curtain, as well as the Solar Panel and Remote from amazon.

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