When my husband and I settle in to watch our latest show (currently Mr. & Mrs. Smith), a quick “Hey Siri, Movie Time” turns off the lights in our open-plan living / kitchen space, lowers the shades, adjusts the thermostat, and turns on the TV.
Then, the dog inevitably gets out of his bed and triggers the hallway motion sensor, and the lights turn back on, or my daughter comes downstairs for a snack, and the kitchen motion sensor turns those lights on. I don’t want to shout “Hey Siri” mid-show or get out my phone and be pulled down a notification rabbit hole. I just want to press a button from the comfort of the couch and descend back into darkness.
Enter the Linxura Smart Controller (link-sure-ah), a souped-up $100 smart button shaped like a hockey puck, with an iPod-like four-button click wheel surrounding an e-paper display. It can scroll through up to 13 screens, each showing four icons (one for each button), and gives me control over multiple gadgets in my home with just one device.
I can turn off all the living room lights with the press of a button. If the robot vacuum resumes its job mid-action sequence, I can stop it with a click. If my son comes home late, I can lock the door behind him.
It’s a smart solution to a common problem in the smart home: reliable, intuitive physical controls. It also doesn’t require a proprietary bridge or hub, something most of its competition does. Instead, it works over Wi-Fi.
Unfortunately, the Linxura, launched in late 2023, has a way to go before it’s indispensable. During my testing, it only worked with Amazon Alexa, IFTTT, Philips Hue, Lifx, and Sonos. (Google Home integration was added after I finished my testing.) These integrations are all cloud-based, and some were seriously laggy.
The company promises support for more platforms, including Matter, integrations with more manufacturers, and local control for Sonos and Hue (more on that in a bit). But today, while the hardware feels like a win, the software integrations are not there yet.
Smart buttons allow you to control your smart home devices without pulling out your phone or shouting at a voice assistant and hoping it gets it right. Unlike a phone, they’re not tied to one person, making it easier for everyone in your home to control things like lights, locks, fans, shades, and thermostats. And while you can create complex automations so your lights never accidentally turn on during movie time, it’s still a lot of work to set up, and there are always scenarios you didn’t anticipate. That’s where a button comes in handy.
Linxura has promised support for more platforms, including Matter
Smart buttons are generally wireless and battery-operated, so you can put them where you need them or use them like remote controls. Most require you to remember what you programmed them to do, making them useless for anyone else unless you put dozens in strategic spots (like light switches). To get around this conundrum, some come with little icon stickers or have raised dots on the surface to let you distinguish them by touch.
The Linxura’s e-paper screen fixes this problem in an ingenious way. Each of the Linxura’s four buttons get its own icon and can perform three actions: click, double click, or click and hold then rotate the wheel (clockwise or counterclockwise).
The e-paper display isn’t the sharpest, and the three-to-four-character text descriptions are tiny, but there are lots of icons to choose from — including light, lock, vacuum, and fan — so it’s easy enough to see what you’re controlling. There’s an attempt at backlighting, which turns on when you pick up the device using a built-in light and capacitive sensor. This helps at night, although it illuminates the screen unevenly.
An e-paper screen instead of LCD means a longer battery life (up to three months on a single charge, according to the company — I was down to 80 percent after a week of testing). The built-in battery is charged via an included USB-A to USB-C cable. The controller is small and easy to lose, but a magnetic mount accessory ($14.99) gives it a home on a wall or coffee table. The app has a “find me” feature that will beep the button to help you find it, but it’s very quiet.
I’d love it if the Linxura were smart enough to know which room you were in, so if you carried it to another room, the screen would adapt when you were in the bedroom versus the kitchen. As it is, it’s very much designed to be used in one space.
Setting up and connecting my smart home devices to the Linxura was straightforward (if a bit tedious) thanks to its well-laid-out app and clear instructions. I started with Alexa, as all the lights in my house work with the platform. In fact, I could link almost every Alexa-connected device to a button, although some had limited functions. (I couldn’t open my garage door, only close it, and only one of my many cameras could be connected — a Blink Floodlight — and that was just to control the light.)
The hardware feels like a win; the software integrations are not up to scratch
I set one button to toggle on / off a group of lights with a press and rotate clockwise to dim and counterclockwise to brighten. This took a while since it requires setting up each button action as a separate routine in the Alexa app. Setting up 52 devices or scenes (a button can control a scene or group in Alexa) to this controller would mean creating over 200 Alexa Routines. It can be done, but if you’ve spent much time with the Alexa app, you know you’ll need the patience of a saint to accomplish this. Of course, you might only need it to do four things for you, which should take about 15 minutes.
Once through setup, the buttons worked every time to trigger a device, scene, or group — but with noticeable lag, probably due to the cloud-to-cloud communication. One connection to a Bond controller through Alexa took a full 45 seconds to turn on the fan. But I achieved my initial goal and could turn off all the lights downstairs when settled on the couch with just a click of a button. Smart home harmony for the win.
The problem with the lag, though, is I often thought it hadn’t worked and clicked again, which meant lights would turn on and then back off a few seconds later. I also found scrolling through the screens was a bit too easy — occasionally thinking I was dialing to adjust brightness only to find I was now closing my garage door.
The cloud connections directly to Hue and Sonos were easier to set up, more responsive, and offered a glimpse of the Linxura’s potential. Once I linked accounts, I could set up and edit control for each button action in the Linxura app — no need to go into the Sonos or Hue apps or mess around with Alexa Routines. I paired a button with a Hue light and had it dim, brighten, toggle on or off, and even change color. But a bug in the Linxura app wouldn’t let me scroll through my Hue lights — meaning I could only choose from the five lights at the top of the page.
To be truly useful, the Linxura needs local control and more integrations
The Sonos integration was smoother, and I could set the single press to start / stop music from my Sonos Arc, rotate to control volume, and double-click to play the next track on my current playlist. The volume control was laggy, and it was easy to accidentally blast the sound or dial it down to mute — I now know how loud a Sonos Arc can get.
I also had to choose a single speaker; it didn’t let me control a group (Linxura says this feature is coming). A hundred bucks is a lot to pay for that feature, though, when this $18 Ikea remote has more functionality with Sonos (although you do need a $70 Ikea hub to use it).
Overall, I love the idea here — it’s a simple, intuitive controller. Its app is well laid out and easy to use. But at $100, it’s pricey, and while it’s nice that it doesn’t require a proprietary hub or bridge, that’s part of why it’s not super responsive. To be truly useful, it needs local control and more integrations.
Support for Google Home was added recently. (I haven’t been able to fully test it yet, but the setup process is similar to using Alexa.) Linxura tells me it has support for SmartThings and Wiz coming next, with Matter, SwitchBot, Homey, and local control for Sonos and Lifx slated for Q2. Apple Home, Ecobee, Nest thermostats, Wemo, and August are scheduled for Q3 and Home Assistant, Nanoleaf, Resideo, Yale, and Rachio for Q4. Linxura says the hardware is fully compatible with all its future integrations, so you shouldn’t need to buy a new device when or if they’re launched.
That’s an ambitious plan. And as every Verge reader knows, never buy a product on the promise of future features. I’ll monitor its progress and update this review if and when it reaches critical mass. For now, if you use Amazon Alexa or Google Home, you might find this device useful (if you can handle a bit of lag and a lot of setup).
Getting a smart home control device to work with every platform and manufacturer — and to work well — is not a problem unique to Linxura. Flic — arguably the leader in smart buttons — works with Apple HomeKit, SmartThings, and Amazon Alexa but not Google Home. But its Flic Twist controller, which has a dial similar to the Linxura’s, is limited in certain platforms. Similarly, the Hue Tap Dial works in Apple Home and Alexa and supports Matter, but its dial control only works with Hue lights. Both of these also require a proprietary bridge, adding to the cost.
The Onvis five-button controller and the Wemo Stage Scene Controller only work with HomeKit, despite using Thread. The Tuo Smart Button uses Matter-over-Thread, but only Apple Home and Samsung SmartThings have adopted Matter button support. This type of confusing interoperability is precisely what Matter was designed to fix. The smart home standard is supposed to make it so that companies don’t have to set up and maintain individual integrations with everyone. But it’s not there yet — at least not for buttons.
It’s hard to ding this device for not solving a problem nobody else has. But it hasn’t. It has done a decent job of fixing the “How am I supposed to know what this button does?” issue. And for that, I say, good job, Linxura.
As much as I enjoy the e-paper screen and the satisfying rotating click wheel, based on Linxura’s limited integrations and cloud dependency, it’s too hard to recommend today. If it delivers on its future integrations, and if Matter sorts out support for smart buttons, well, then it gets a lot more interesting.
Photos by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge