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Outfitting a home with smart window shades can be an expensive proposition, with each window potentially costing $500 or more, not including professional installation. ThirdReality aims to dramatically cut the expense of installing smart shades, and it succeeds—albeit with significant practical and aesthetic limitations.
ThirdReality’s smart blinds are room-darkening cellular shades: fabric on the outside with an aluminum foil lining to aid with insulation. The company’s shades are premade and available in widths ranging from 20 to 39 inches, in one-inch increments. They extend down to a maximum of 72 inches and are available in just one color: a sort of innocuous beige.
ThirdReality’s blinds are powered by four AA batteries (plus two for the infrared remote control), and all the electronics is interestingly contained at the bottom of the shade. Batteries slide into a screw-secured panel on the right-hand size. Manual controls (up, down, stop) can be found on the left-hand side.
This design has some advantages, in that you won’t need to climb on a stepstool to change batteries periodically, but it can also present some control challenges when the shade is lowered, should it dip behind a piece of furniture where the remote’s IR beam can’t reach it. The bottom rail also includes a mechanical limiter that will stop the shade from lowering further if it hits something; namely, the windowsill. If something is in the way elsewhere, however—like a cat sitting off to the right—the mechanism won’t trip.
Blinds can be mounted using an inside or outside mount on the windowsill. Hardware for either option is included—although neither is particularly attractive. Physical installation isn’t difficult, but you will need to be careful with measurements to ensure you don’t hang things askew.
In attempting to test ThirdReality’s blinds, I ran into trouble before I ever received the product. My test window is just over 42 inches wide, and the company doesn’t make blinds that large. A rep suggested sending two blinds, one 20-inch version and a second 21-inch version, which could be installed side by side. This worked fine, but it did leave gaps on both sides and a gap in the middle. It was clear after installation that there would have been room for two 21-inch blinds, so if you’re considering this option, be sure to measure very carefully. The blinds run exactly true to their width specification.
After I completed the install, I was immediately disappointed to see that the blinds simply don’t hang straight, and there’s no way to adjust them. Both blinds droop just a bit on the left side, and while you wouldn’t notice this much if there was a single blind in the window, it’s very evident when there are two side by side. The blind also doesn’t sit flush with the windowsill when it is completely closed, leaving a gap of nearly half an inch on the right-hand side of the blind. Sure, these are budget window shades, but I presume most purchasers will have higher aesthetic expectations.
ThirdReality includes an infrared remote with each shade. These remotes are interchangeable and will work on all your blinds. This can get a bit tricky if you have two blinds side by side—or many blinds in one room. Depending on where you aim the remote, you might be able to control all your blinds simultaneously—or just one. A significant amount of trial and error is likely to be required in practical use.
Being Zigbee-powered smart blinds, you have quite a few options when it comes to controlling the blinds through another device. You’ll need ThirdReality’s $30 smart hub if you want to use the ThirdReality mobile app; but even without it, the blinds can connect natively to various devices, including Amazon Echo speakers with integrated Zigbee smart home hubs (the Echo 4th Generation, Echo Plus, Echo Show 10—except the first generation—and the Echo Studio); Amazon’s Eero 6 and Eero Pro mesh Wi-Fi routers; and the Ezlo Plus, Hubitat, and Samsung SmartThings smart home hubs. I registered the blinds with Alexa and was able to control them via both voice and the Alexa app with no issues.
You can purchase ThirdReality Smart Blinds from the manufacturer (click the preceding link to arrive at the company’s online store) or from Amazon. Direct-sale prices range from $139.99 (20 inches wide) to $158.99 (39 inches wide), plus shipping. You’ll find other budget-priced motorized shades in this price band, but they typically lack smart features.
That said, those blinds do tend to come in colors other than beige as well as larger sizes. Consider your priorities when shopping.