It's Been a Week - My Thoughts and Impressions - UPDATE 27/01
*Warning - this has turned into a long review...*
After 2.5 years, I finally picked up my NEEO here in Iceland on the 15th November. Some of you may remember I have been quite an active voice in the comments section and I have had a variety of interactions with the team over the years - some good, some bad. It was therefore great to finally have the product, but as I've mentioned in other posts, my circumstances have changed a lot in the years since backing it, so my excitement levels weren't as high as they had once been. This is purely because my plans for an IOT connected house are on the back burner following an international relocation. That said, I did want the NEEO to replace the current 5 remote set up in our family living room. There are 4 of us using the set up - me, my wife and my parents. In order for this to be a success we all have to feel comfortable using the NEEO in favour of the 5 remotes. We are controlling a TV, soundbar, Roku, IPTV box and blu-ray player - nothing complicated.
As others have said, the initial impressions are very good. The packaging and hardware certainly indicate an extremely high quality device. The un-boxing experience is good. I didn't really need the quiet room and a favourite song to get enjoyment out of it...(those who have received their NEEO will understand this) but all the same it was a nice un-boxing.
I'm fairly technically minded when it comes to setting new things up. Setting up NEEO was fine. I plugged in the brain to my router and followed the instructions on the app to pair the brain and remote. I also updated the firmware without any issues.
Adding devices is relatively straightforward. I have posted some of the issues I have found with my devices in other posts. I was impressed that my obscure IPTV was added very quickly by the team. Unfortunately, my pretty new and certainly not "stupid" LG OLED TV is classed as stupid. The team is looking into this so hopefully they'll have a fix.
Using the iOS app to get things working is pretty easy. There are some extra taps and steps required for some parts of recipes which I wouldn't describe as intuitive. For instance I cannot find how to add a "Show Controls" function for some of my devices when editing a recipe. I'm sure someone will tell me on here but this will lead to a point later on in this post.
Once the recipes and devices were added I picked up the remote. Pressing "TV" to use the TV starts the recipe and brings me to the "Stupid Devices" messages. I have posted my thoughts on this already but I'll say again - I do not like this implementation at all. It provides false flags in my system and encourages you to toggle devices that do not need to be toggled. For me, I can tell if the soundbar is on/off. For my parents, they don't necessarily know and follow blindly what NEEO suggests. This results in inadvertent power toggling or input switching which is confusing for them. Sure they can learn this but it is far from intuitive. I get why it was done and I appreciate Raphael has said this is being looked at and potentially changed, but it isn't one of the things that "just works".
I actually find the recipe screens not very useful on the remote itself. The first 2-3 swipes are usually "Stupid Device" messages and then it may be another 2-3 default page swipes (e.g. favourites, coloured buttons) before you reach the area where you can add your own shortcuts. There is no way to edit the order of these pages and unfortunately I haven't found any of the default selected pages useful for my use cases. I'm sure some might but I haven't.
I have therefore been mainly using just the hard buttons. They work as they are supposed to but I will echo others who have said that they would like back-lighting and customisable hard buttons. I know NEEO have claimed in the past that they feel the design on these would have failed if you had to have lighting to show you the buttons (i.e. it should be natural). Well I'm sorry it's not. I'm sure in time new muscle memory will form but in a dark room (it's winter in Iceland so always dark) I need to look at what the buttons are. As do others who are learning the remote for the first time. My parents are not just going to pick up the remote and know what the buttons feel like and start pressing. They are going to put on their reading glasses, spend an age squinting at the buttons and then slowly press them all to see what happens. It would therefore help if they were lit!
We all also need to know that in my Roku recipe for example, pressing the "menu" button takes us to the Roku homescreen and pressing "home" takes me to the NEEO remote homescreen. This is the opposite of the Roku remote system - not a big deal but something that needs to be learned. Unfortunately I have watched first hand the confusion this can cause with my parents navigating Roku, pressing home on the NEEO and then finding themselves in a different menu on the remote. They then press "Roku" to get back in and it runs the recipe from scratch, often toggling my "stupid devices" on or off or changing inputs.
To try and counter this I have edited a number of the recipes to remove some of the unnecessary "Stupid Device" commands being sent but it's still not solved all of them.
Similarly, switching recipes is currently a chore. I have outlined this in my issues post but in short, the "Smart Delay" feature, and known bug, means that switching from watching something on Roku to IPTV takes an absolute age because I have had to add a 15 second delay to the recipes to allow for the time it takes to TV smart features to load when it is switched on. It isn't a big deal when switching everything on for the first time but when trying to swap between different devices when things are on, the delay is confusing and you are left wondering if things are working correctly. I know this will get fixed but right now it makes the remote very frustrating to use. My family all moan how slow it is.
I will say that navigating around is decent when everything is set correctly for each device. I would say 90% of the use has been via the hard buttons on the remote. The currently state of the software design has rendered the touchscreen as something I'm reluctant to use, other than to choose the recipe/device.
Other impressions. The battery life is not going to last the months that were claimed. I had fully charged it the other day, took it out of the cradle and left it on the side for the day, without using it. The charge was at 89% when I picked it up. 11% a day is fine but it's not the months long claims we had. It doesn't matter because it can just sit in its cradle.
The support on Planet NEEO is good. It does however bring me back to a point I made above and that is that using NEEO requires a lot of learning and troubleshooting in these forums. Someone will no doubt tell me how to get the "show controls" command into the recipe which is great. However, it should be obvious already, without having to place a post here. Looking at posts here it is clear that people are having a multitude of issues or questions that need answering. It is almost exclusively all software related too. This is good, because it means it can likely be fixed. But it is also not what we all believed we were getting when the NEEOs were delivered.
This leads me to a point which may not be very popular. I feel that unfortunately NEEO have over-promised and under-delivered and right now we are beta testers for the remote. Hear me out before you jump on me here.
Throughout the campaign and the many monthly updates we were given, we were constantly reassured, in some form or another, that this was a "game changer" or that it "just works". A huge number of superlatives were used throughout every post to describe how great everything was. Award shows were featured prominently as were NEEO's many appearances at trade shows. Everything was painted as amazing and ground breaking, despite the delays. In private emails and conversations with me, it was the same story. I would be amazed by this device and the potential and if only I could see it for myself I would understand how great it all was. This message was repeated over and over to backers over the 2.5 years and therefore the expectations were set very high by Raphael and the team. Having now had the remote for a week I am sorry but it is not what I was promised. NEEO, you set the expectations at a level that were almost impossible to meet and unfortunately I feel they've been missed by quite a long way.
This product is not intuitive to use out of the box. If an average person bought this from a store and wanted it to "just work" I think they would be disappointed. I have actually tested this with my family and can see how hard it is for them to use. It feels like a beta product and that we are acting as beta testers for NEEO right now. I don't personally mind this too much - I would prefer to have had a choice in the matter but I am willing to provide input to improve things for my benefit. I'm pretty convinced however that people would have been expecting things to be a lot further on than where they are and there would be plenty who do not want to have to troubleshoot through things. Someone else posted for example that it felt like we were being used to populate the IR database and I can understand this sentiment too.
I understand and applaud that improvements are being made and Raphael posted an update himself regarding the issues I was having. However, if you read through, it's a lot of the similar superlatives. The "awesomes", the "powerful", the "better than the competition" comments - I'm sorry Raphael, I don't mean to nit pick like this but it just feels a bit empty now. You promised so much to me personally and to all the backers and I just don't think you've hit the marks you set for us. I get that you believe in this and want to develop things successfully but it may be time to pause with the "we are the best" type comments and focus on what needs to be done to ensure this doesn't fail. I am really impressed with the service so far on Planet NEEO but it makes me very nervous for the company that so much has to be fixed on a product which is now technically available to customers. Similarly so many of the promised features (hand recognition and other product integrations) are not available. This doesn't affect me but I'm sure others would be annoyed by this greatly.
Look, I don't underestimate the huge undertaking required to match hardware and software seamlessly either. But I would point out that my expectations for how well NEEO would seamlessly work were set by you during the campaign. I think it was a big mistake because my genuine first week impressions are of slight disappointment. Even though I didn't necessarily think things would be perfect, it was hard not to expect more based on how you sold it all to us.
Perhaps NEEO offers some solid competition to the likes of Logitech in its current state. If so, that is not to be sniffed at and it is a great achievement. It is not the replacement wonder product that was promised for the last 2.5 years. As things stand, my NEEO is sat charging next to me in my computer room as it isn't ready to replace the 5 remotes in my very normal/average set up. I look forward to the updates that will surely come but I feel strongly that I need to post this today in the hope that it provides some benefit to the team. I would urge everyone at NEEO to reconsider the communication strategy that markets everything with a superlative. I would also encourage a little introspection - the confidence that Raphael has in NEEO is certainly necessary but I think has sometimes bordered on, dare I say, arrogance, that we would all be amazed by our NEEO's. It's great to have a leader who has genuine belief in their product but this would have been better off being somewhat undersold at launch giving us a much more realistic expectation of the status of the software in particular.
I write this (now very long) review with the best of intentions: To describe an average user's first experiences and impressions on the remote based on 2.5 years as an active backer of the project on Kickstarter and regular communicator with the team. My criticisms are supposed to be constructive and I hope are taken in this way. I appreciate I have laid blame here on Raphael in particular but I hope you can understand where I am coming from. You asked us and me personally to believe in you and NEEO and therefore I think it is fair for me to say if I feel let down and why I do.
Please NEEO address both the software and communication issues before one of the big tech blogs gets hold of a remote for review. I don't think the review would be good at this stage and this is not what NEEO needs right now. I wish you all the best and will continue to look forward to being able to use my remote in the (hopefully) near future.
Many thanks @Niels de Klerk, will take you up on that if you don’t mind as having played with the recipes for so long I don’t know what more I can do to get it working smoothly. I will initially use the limited time I have to see how successful I get with the Logitech though which should be arriving later today. There’s pressure to deliver a working solution fast at home. By the way you’ve been amazing throughout the whole KS campaign and now. Thank you and Merry Christmas.
My Logitech experience was surprisingly easy. Everything works in a way which truly rid me of 3 dedicated remotes so far after a quick, reliable and intuitive setup procedure over their app. Additional bonuses are better Hue controls and actual Nest support both of which will hopefully come to Neeo. Importantly I have high confidence that I can easily and reliably add more devices, run cross-functional recipes without spending too much time to do so. Not sure why my Neeo setup for my 3 key devices didn’t yield similarly good results but I suspect it might be largely due to lack of power on, power off, toggle power etc functions for some of the devices (most importantly Virgin Media TiVo box (UK)) which Logitech has uses in their custom-made recipes to good effect. Separately having hard buttons help with user experience but i’m hoping Neeo’s more limited button offering will still be sufficient for at least 80% of the time. Even though my needs are now solved to my and more importantly family’s satisfaction in terms of desired functionality, I certainly haven’t given up on my Neeo. I also think like some others that its software has room for improvement still but Neeo’s hardware looks so much better and the screen on Logitech is useable but it is a bit of an eye sore frankly. Likely for the sophisticated user there are/will be many other capabilities that the Neeo offers which probably Logitech don’t but I’m quite far yet from a Niels de Klerk level of sophistication to know and appreciate these. I must admit with the Logitech working as desired there’s less incentive to invest valuable scarce free time in Neeo but it’s a project worth persevering for thanks to the superior hardware. Also I prefer start-ups over big corps and appreciate the caring, attentive service that Neeo owners appear to be getting from the Neeo team re adding missing devices, features.
I’d say the unboxing and the look and feel of the remote are impressive. Then the experience is a bit underwhelming. The setup was straightforward (I have no dumb devices).
Two things : by nowadays standards (apps and stuff) the remote interface lacks bells and whistles. I mean the main screen with the tiny zone icons looks shy.
Another thing and that’s a biggie : I could not get it to control my sonos.
So... I got mixed feelings about the remote. The setup is seamless. The remote looks and feels good. It just works. But the Sonos.
CES has been and gone and despite my best attempts, I cannot see any mention of NEEO in any press or on any news sites - has anyone found any? Where is the buzz and anticipation of this supposed game changing home automation device now that it is in backers hands? Is the team disappointed by the lack of coverage or is this deliberate whilst issues are being ironed out? i.e. you don't want reviews of the current state of the NEEO system?
I only ask this as I have now had the remote for 2 months with no update (I know one is coming but still) and I'm wondering when NEEO thinks the device will be ready for the general public to use? How long are we, as early adopters (and I believe beta testers), supposed to wait patiently?
The following user experience posted on the Kickstarter page today echoes many of the sentiments in this topic and demonstrates the level of frustration some users have with the product as it currently stands.
Dave H said:
One last thing, you can put whatever spin on the change from pre-order to order now, the only change is that the remotes are available to ship immediately.
Dave H Not the only change. The main difference is the pre-order price was $339 (excluding taxes and shipping), and the price when ordering now is $369 (excluding shipping and taxes). Another difference is that when pre-ordering, credit card details were taken but payments were not processed; when ordering, payment is taken using the supplied credit card details. Ordering also changes the buying experience, as the company do not have to refund a payment when a customer cancels a pre-order; when a customer cancels an order, depending on the timing, this might involve having to return the item to qualify for a refund. There could well be consumer rights implications too. No spin there. 😉
I thought I would just update my thread - in particular I'm mindful that I am deemed negative by some so I wanted to post some positives...followed unfortunately by something that undoes all the good work that the team have put in this week. This is supposed to be constructive, as I have always tried to be.
So for the positives: I have been communicating with Patrick privately regarding Sonos issues. Even though I don't plan to use NEEO for controlling Sonos at this time, I was happy to help Patrick and the team with my input as I was able to replicate an issue that was posted. It seems that through accessing my logs they were able to identify the problem and will work on a fix. This is impressive service and whilst it won't necessarily impact me, it showed me that when it's working well, the support is strong.
As an aside to Sonos I also explained my own issues with Patrick and he was really communicative, helpful and responsive with ideas. In particular we are currently looking at a work around for the Smart Delay issues. I have noticed an improvement in timings related to switching recipes and inputs as a result of a TV driver upgrade that they did - thank you for that guys! Whilst it isn't as snappy as it was when Smart Delay was enabled it's much better than the 30-45 seconds it was taking to switch recipes before.
For the other issues I have we have agreed to see how things are following the update that is coming.
I have been deliberately troubleshooting and playing more with NEEO this week as I still want it to work for me and my family. I have been trying to set up things like favourites and even get the Icelandic TV icons included so the parents can pretty much figure things out!
It's still not there though and my wife had issues yesterday with the UI and confusion when she tried to use NEEO again. As there are UI improvements coming in the update I wasn't too bothered as I've always been thinking it's something I'll revisit more seriously after the next update. But it does still mean I couldn't recommend NEEO right now because it remains confusing for the end users I want it to work for.
This is what I posted on another thread in response to whether I would buy a NEEO again. I said no based on the current situation. There was nothing in what I posted that broke NEEO posting rules. Yet today the post and follow up comments were removed. This happened at the same time that Raphael was online posting replies in other threads so it becomes easy to assume he has been involved in doing this. I have already explained that my experience with Raphael has been poor - I would say that the majority of my negativity towards NEEO actually comes from the interaction we had early on in this thread and personally at that time. I'm not going to go over and rehash things though.
What I would say about this specifically is that it seems to be another example of abusing moderator privileges. There was absolutely no need for it to happen. Moreover, I have had an almost enjoyable experience with NEEO this week and was ready to say as much. The team deserves to receive credit in light of facing a lot of criticism recently. Yet all their hard work is undone in one action by someone behaving like this. I want NEEO to succeed but if their CEO is in fact acting this way, how can I be asked to continue to believe in NEEO? It's just ridiculous behaviour regardless of who did it and it just taints the whole NEEO brand again. It shows me that someone at least at NEEO is still not prepared to listen to feedback that they don't like and whilst that remains the case, I find it very hard to feel positive about NEEO as a company. Perhaps it's time for a change within NEEO before it's too late?
Dave H said:
63 user posts in the last 24 hours
Dave H Many thanks for keeping count and pointing that out, but I’m not referring to the last 24 hours. Have you deducted posts by NEEO staff when calculating? I’d suggest the last 24 hours or 48 hours have probably been atypical due to the subject matter being discussed. Of course, this is just based on what I’ve observed when visiting rather than actual metrics.