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Rating system

When I review a product, you’ll see a star rating system with several categories. Here’s an example:

Performance: (5.0 / 5)
Design: (3.0 / 5)
Compatibility: (5.0 / 5)
Value: (4.0 / 5)
Average: (4.3 / 5)

Below is an explanation of what those ratings mean.

Performance

This is an assessment of the product’s level of performance for its intended purpose. The exact criteria will vary depending on what I’m evaluating, but generally it will take into account things like responsiveness to commands, signal strength/connectivity, and the ability to configure the product to meet a user’s needs.

Design

This accounts for both the physical attributes of the product (how it looks, size, weight, etc as pertains to its intended use) as well as the user experience design of the product. For example, a product could be physically gorgeous, but if an often-used control is tucked out of easy reach, it will get only a middling score for Design. If a product includes a software component (e.g. an app for configuring a piece of hardware), the overall design of that software will be considered here as well.

Compatibility

Compatibility measures how easily this product is able to plug into major ecosystems, primarily the “big four” of consumer home automation: Amazon Alexa, Google Home, SmartThings, and Apple HomeKit. This score is an aggregate of compatibility with systems in general; if a product only integrates with one ecosystem and it’s the one you happen to use, even a 1-star rating in this category could still be OK.

Value

This attempts to measure the product against competitors and assess its usefulness relative to its cost. The important caveat here is that value, like beauty, is very much in the eye of the beholder. After all, a product’s value to you will depend on how you intend to use it and how critical the problem is that you’re using it to solve.