HomeKit Hero

Insignia Wi-Fi Garage Door Controller Review

An Affordable Alternative?

Released during the 2018 holiday season, the Insignia Wi-Fi Garage Door Controller essentially came out of "left field". The controller was never listed as a product on Apple's HomeKit device list, and as far as I can tell, there was never an "announcement" at all from the Best Buy brand. Once the device was discovered, it quickly became a hot topic on the HomeKit subreddit, as the device was affordably priced, listed at $69, and because of the hit or miss experiences that people have had with the lone HomeKit garage door controller on the market, the Chamberlain/Liftmaster MyQ Smart Garage kit. The Insignia controller also went on sale shortly after becoming available, and could be found for just $49.99. Even though I currently have the aforementioned Chamberlain garage door controller, and have had relatively no issues with it, I was curious to see what the competition brought to the table.

The Insignia Wi-Fi Garage Door Controller box is compact and neatly packed.

The Insignia Wi-Fi Garage Door Controller box is compact and neatly packed.

Inside the Insignia Wi-Fi Garage Door Controller box was as you would expect, the main garage door controller unit, a door/tilt sensor with the associated CR2450 battery, manual, wiring, hardware, and a screwdriver. The addition of the screwdriver was certainly unexpected, but was a really nice touch as the company seemingly wants the customer to have everything that they would need at their disposal. The controller unit is your standard white rectangular box, with a LED indicator light (which also acts as a button), and speaker on the "face", HomeKit code, and a clear portion to allow the indicator lights to be seen when the unit is remotely operated. The controller unit also features a barrel connector port for the wiring (yes there is wiring involved, more on that later), and has the power supply built in, meaning the whole controller will plug directly into your power outlet. Personally, I like this design as it is compact and tidy, but the tidiness is lost when running the actual wiring. This is in contrast to Chamerblain's controller, where it operates wireless using the learn feature of modern garage door openers. The door/tilt sensor is similarly designed, with it being a small white rectangle with a status indicator light that again, acts as a button. On the back of the sensor is the battery compartment, which is secured with a small screw, and that is pretty much it. The sensor can be mounted either by the included tape or mounting screws.

Insignia has provided everything that you will need to install the controller in the box, including a handy screwdriver.

Installing the Insignia Wi-Fi Garage Door Controller was generally, a pain-free experience. Unlike the Chamberlain MyQ controller, the Insignia device requires you to physically attach wires to your garage door opener, and is limited in the style of openers that it can be installed on. Insignia states that their controller is not compatible with garage door openers that have a learn button on the wall mounted button used to control the door in the garage. Luckily, these types of garage door openers are seemingly rare, but is something to keep in mind. Insignia also strongly recommends that you check your Wi-Fi connection (2.4 ghz) in your garage, and even mentions installing a range extender if one does not have excellent coverage. Before starting the installation, you will need to unplug your garage door opener for obvious safety reasons, and once that is done, you begin by plugging in the Insignia controller unit. Next up is wiring, and involves using one of the two supplied wiring bundles, which includes a set with spade connectors on the end, and the other with just bare wire. This part will vary depending on your opener, but in my case it simply involved twisting the bare wires together with the wires already connected to my opener and inserting them back in the push/clip terminals. After connecting the other end of the wire bundle to the controller unit and plugging back in the opener itself, it was time to test everything to make sure it was wired correctly. To test the unit, a simple press of the button on the control unit was required, which if working correctly, will activate your garage door opener and either close or open it accordingly. Installing the door/tilt sensor was the final part of the installation, with a few simple steps such as inserting the battery and attaching the sensor itself one of the top panels on your garage door and pressing the test button which will prompt the control unit to emit a beep to confirm that the sensor is communicating.

Now it was on to setting up the devices to connect to your home Wi-Fi connection and HomeKit. Pressing and holding the button on the control unit for around 5 seconds puts it into pairing mode (this is also the Wi-Fi reset process) and a double beep confirmation sound occurs. On the software side of things, there is nothing to download, as Insignia's Connect app does not support the device. While this is somewhat strange, I actually thought that this was a huge plus for the device. As I have mentioned in other reviews, I prefer that the devices installed in my home do not require an account to use, and this certainly fits the bill, with just the iOS Home App being used for set up and operation. With that being said, setting up the device is just like most other devices in the Home App, which involves tapping on the "Plus" icon in the app, selecting "Add Accessory", and then scanning the HomeKit code (on the control unit or in the set up manual) for the device. After allowing the device to join your Wi-Fi network, the paring process begins, and once complete, the device details screen is displayed where you can set the name and room for the unit. The garage door controller is now added to your Home App, and you should now be ready to control your door with a simple tap, or via a Siri request.

Once added to the Home App, you should now see the status of your garage door (note: only 1 icon is added, the additional icon on my screen is for the Chamberlain MyQ controller that I had already set up).

Once added to the Home App, you should now see the status of your garage door (note: only 1 icon is added, the additional icon on my screen is for the Chamberlain MyQ controller that I had already set up).

As you may have noticed, I added a little emphasis on the word should in the previous sentence. Unfortunately, this is where the Insignia Wi-Fi controller's fatal flaw resides. Despite the unit working for a little while, the device would randomly go into the dreaded "No Response" status within the Home App, and could no longer be controlled. This of course rendered the device to be useless in these instances, and while there was a temporary fix, it was too much hassle. The "fix" for me was to perform the Wi-Fi reset procedure that required the walk to the garage and pressing and holding the button on the controller unit, and then setting the device up again. This obviously was not acceptable, and I began the process of trying to dianose the issue. The first thing that I tried was actually something that I learned from the Chamberlain MyQ setup that I have had installed for around 2 years. Once the battery in the door/tilt sensor begins to fade, HomeKit will start to display the "No Response" message, so naturally, I tried a new battery in the Insignia sensor. In my case, this was not the solution, even though others have had success with the battery swap. Next, I tried relocating the controller unit to the outlet closest to the inside of my home, which thankfully the provided wiring was long enough to accomodate. This again did not correct the issue, and even though I had confirmed to have a strong "full bar" signal in my previous location, it was worth a shot. My last hope was to relocate the door sensor to the middle of my garage door but alas, it did not help.

In the end, the Insignia Wi-Fi Garage Door Controller simply did not pan out for me. Despite the cheap price tag, lack of account requirement, and simple set up, the unit failed to perform reliably enough for me to keep it installed. I really wanted the device to take over for the Chamberlain MyQ set up that I had, as it requires two hubs and a Chamberlain account, but Insignia's device simply did not do the job. While I would normally keep an eye out for any potential firmware updates, I am uncertain if this device would ever actually receive one as it does not connect to the company's own Insignia Connect App and the iOS Home App currently does not offer firmware updating. As always, your mileage may vary when it comes to stability and Wi-Fi networks, but due to my issues with the controller, I cannot recommend it, and would point others to the Chamberlain MyQ Smart Hub if they wanted to enter the smart garage arena.

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