In the early days of the smart home, few could have predicted that one of its biggest battlegrounds would take place at the light switch. Smart switches were originally concocted to simply dim and turn lights on and off, perhaps with a scheduling system built in. Today they’re able to replace or augment a whole host of gadgets, as evidenced by wildly advanced switches from the likes of Noon and Ecobee.

The latest entrant into this fray is from Brilliant, a venture capital-backed startup that is launching with a single product line: the eponymous Brilliant Control smart switch panel. Available in one-, two-, three-, and four-switch versions, the Brilliant Control is designed to be far more than a mere lighting controller, thanks to a large touchscreen that replaces a conventional dimmer switch. I’ll get into the specifics of everything the panel can do in a bit.

I tested two models of the Brilliant Control: a single-switch panel and a double-switch panel, both used in a three-way lighting configuration (unlike most smart switches, Brilliant will work with another manufacturer’s switch at the other end of the circuit, provided that other switch is not a dimmer). While the single-switch controller is 100-percent touchscreen, controllers with two or more switches incorporate touch-sensitive sliders on the side. You use the touchscreen for smart home and lighting control, and the sliders work as dimmers for each of the other circuits you have connected, giving you a quick shortcut that becomes increasingly convenient the more switches you have.

brilliant control b5 Christopher Null

A Ring Video Doorbell can stream a view of your visitor to the Brilliant’s 5-inch display.

Problematic installation

I found installing the Brilliant switches to be a bit more difficult than most of its competition, in part because of the uncommon support for three-way circuits, and in part because of the physical design of its wiring connectors. Brilliant’s backside features a number of stab-in holes into which wiring must be inserted to just the right depth (11mm, to be exact). Wires must then be screwed in (tightly), with minimal exposed metal showing.

Brilliant is very particular about this, but it can be difficult to accomplish because those screws are placed on three different faces of the device. Dealing with a stubborn screwhead on nearly every side of the box can be very difficult, particularly if you’re working in a tight space, and it’s made more complex because none of these connectors are color-coded or clearly labeled. The printed manual is well-written, but some of the language feels geared more toward electrical pros than novices, so newcomers should keep that in mind.

I installed both Brilliant switches on the same circuit in one room, after which I had what can only be described as an epic experience getting everything to work, spanning five days of troubleshooting. For two days things seemed fine, then suddenly my two-switch began spontaneously rebooting. This culminated in a multi-day tech support marathon that spanned holidays and evenings, pulling in everyone up to the CEO as we tried to figure out what was going wrong via conference call.

brilliant control b6 Christopher Null

All Brilliant switches require the presence of load, line, ground, and neutral wires in the box. 

The short version of that story is that having the two switches on a single circuit was ultimately problematic, perhaps due to some funky wiring in my walls. After replacing one of the switches and undertaking some clever diagnostic work—using tools that only Brilliant’s technicians have access to—everything eventually got up and running without further complaint. I think it’s fair to say that, outside of those working at the company, my house features the most heavily studied installation of Brilliant’s switches to date.

With everything working, I was able to really tuck into Brilliant’s features. It is rather amazing on one hand, a bit frustrating on the other. But let’s start with what works.

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