Savant Pro 7 was an interesting proposition when it launched – an elegant-looking interface held back by a number of minor irritations that resulted in an occasionally jarring user experience. With the release of its Pro 8.0 software, Savant promises a ‘luxury, whole-home’ system that brings every element of the connected home under its control.
An improved interface
While there are many similarities to v7 – the image-led menus, the Apple-like simplicity to its layout – it is definitely an upgrade from its predecessor. The various elements are spaced more effectively and the overall navigation is, by and large, a smooth process. Parts of the app have been moved into more convenient spaces – notably the scenes section, which is much easier to access than before. Whereas before all scenes were hidden away in a long list for the whole house, now only scenes relevant to the room you are inspecting will be shown when you swipe right.
Being able to see the status of certain services from the home page – such as which track is playing currently – allows the user to quickly see what is active and access it with a single tap. Holding down one of the system buttons also displays a sub-menu, which allows you to quickly alter settings or turn them off without having to drill down into the app.
While the Savant Pro 8.0 app looks beautiful, with plenty of transparency and clear lines, it cannot be given a customised skin in the way that some of its competitors can be. The stylish look and feel of the out-of-the box interface means that this limitation isn’t as much of a problem as it perhaps should be, but those demanding a highly personalised interface might be left slightly frustrated.
Neither heating or door entry was possible to control with the app during our demonstration: the former was unavailable as temperature in °C will not be supported until v8.0.2 (which comes out in July), while the latter isn’t expected to be available until later on this year.
The promised integration with Sonos has been done well – it feels like an integral part of the system across both the app and the companion Pro remote. Using Sonos feels no different from the rest of the app, removing the friction that can sometimes occur when controlling a third-party interface. The ability to quickly alter all output volume across the house or manipulate various audio zones individually is another simple yet neat touch.
The introduction of the Pro remote is one of the significant upgrades with Savant Pro 8.0. Devised by design studio Ammunition Group, the remote feels like a logical extension of the app, employing an interface that is both distinct from, yet behaves like, the rest of the software platform. It is comfortable to hold and and easy to use single-handedly, which is not always the case in the iPhone app when using larger phones.
The touchscreen interface is instantly understandable, with scenes easier than expected to set up. While you cannot edit or remove scenes on the remote – instead it requires you to access the scene you want to change through the app – the ability to tap the off button and instantly turn off any audio or video playing in the background is a clever addition (to turn the remote itself off you simply hold the button down for a few seconds). When the room is off, you can tap the power button to reactivate the last used service.
Instead of connecting via WiFi, the Pro remote instead connects to the Savant Host via its charging base, which it interacts with over Bluetooth. This saves the remote having its battery power frequently drained, but brings in the added complication that it is only useful within 8m or 9m of its docking station. This limits your remote to a single room, rather than the whole house; so if you want to remote control across the house, you’ll need to buy multiple units.
While Savant has made much of its integrated voice control, those expecting an Alexa-esque experience will be disappointed. Based on the open-source speech recognition engine from Carnegie Mellon, it understands simple one-word commands for pre-made scenes and opening services, but that’s it. As an entry into voice recognition, it’s perfectly acceptable, but with more extensive voice control platforms such as Google Home on the way, it might need to become more sophisticated in future upgrades.
The scene creation process is one of v8.0’s strengths. The creation process is intuitive and easy; the ‘fast capture’ tool which allows you to register and use the room’s existing settings is a massive time-saver. While there are plenty of configuration options, including recurring or celestial-timed scenes that begin at dawn or dusk, the app handles it in such a way that it doesn’t feel like you are overloaded with information.
The downside is that all scenes are personalised to the user so, if you want to set up a universal scene, it has to be done across all user accounts individually. Additionally, there is no way to quickly turn off all systems unless it is done through a scene – another minor irritation that brings the app in conflict with the natural inclination of a user.
User control is relatively simple, with the admin able to organise roles and set permissions for the entire family – meaning you can limit the activities of the children so that they can only access certain systems. The ability for guest users to add themselves to the network, giving them the ability to control a pre-determined set of functions, is another well-thought out feature.
A step up in class
Savant Pro 8.0 is undoubtedly superior to its predecessor. The interface is much improved and the remote is an excellent addition to create a more unified user experience in the home. That said, a number of minor irritants have yet to be resolved on the platform which, coupled with a slight lack of customisability, could be the source of frustration for some homeowners.
For those already using Savant, upgrading to v8.0 is a no-brainer, even if a couple of key upgrades are still on the way. For those still undecided on which platform to entrust their house with, it is definitely a platform worthy of consideration.
This review was conducted using an iPhone 6S and the Savant Pro Remote.