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SONOFF's NSPanel is the kind of tech many pictured the future smart home to include, replacing cumbersome light switches with sleek, user-friendly touchscreens capable of controlling more than just a single light. Enter SONOFF's NSPanel, an innovative device that has captured the hearts and minds of the DIY and Home Assistant community, thanks to its hackability. Although it necessitates some disassembly, flashing the NSPanel with ESPHome is a relatively straightforward process that takes roughly thirty minutes and requires minimal tools.
SONOFF recently revealed its latest creation – the NSPanel Pro. Contrary to what one might assume, this isn't intended to replace its predecessor; rather, it will be sold alongside the original as a more premium option. While the new device undoubtedly piques the interest of Home Assistant enthusiasts, potential buyers should exercise caution and seek answers to any lingering questions before committing to this shiny new gadget.
So long ESP32 and ESPHome, welcome ARM and Android?
A whisper among creators and influencers suggests that the NSPanel Pro has landed in their hands, revealing an enticing morsel of information: the device runs on Android. Given that an ESP32 is incapable of supporting Android, it's safe to deduce that an ARM system on a chip has taken its place. SONOFF has even confirmed that the NSPanel Pro boasts four cores, which eliminates the two-core ESP32 from the equation. Armed with a more powerful chip and Android, the NSPanel Pro promises richer colours and a visually delightful user experience.
Not your average Nextion display
Interestingly, there is no 3.95-inch display available from Nextion – owned by the same parent company as the NSPanel Pro – suggesting that this new device may opt for a higher-quality screen option. While the exact technology remains under wraps, one can't help but daydream about the possibility of deep blacks produced by an OLED screen blending seamlessly into our smart home setups.
Home Assistant integration: depth unknown
However, with Android at its core, installing ESPHome on the NSPanel Pro may be off the table. Despite this setback, SONOFF does note Home Assistant integration in their preliminary specifications. The depth of this integration is still a mystery – will users have access to custom weather providers or map Home Assistant scenes to shortcuts? As reviews start trickling in, we anticipate gaining more insights into these unanswered questions. It wouldn't be far-fetched to imagine the NSPanel Pro becoming an inaugural member of the Works with Home Assistant program.
Integrated microphone, speaker, and light sensor
The Pro variant benefits from the inclusion of a built-in microphone, speaker, and ambient light sensor. One might assume that the speaker's primary function is to serve as an alarm, but SONOFF also suggests its potential as an intercom and alarm clock. The addition of a motion sensor to this ensemble would have been a delightful touch. Nevertheless, in a Facebook comment, SONOFF divulged that an external motion sensor can be connected to the NSPanel Pro. The specifics of this integration, however, remained under wraps. A thorough examination of the device reveals no apparent connectivity ports, leading one to deduce that the built-in Zigbee controller may facilitate the connection with any sensor.
The SONOFF NSPanel Pro in the USA, Europe, and on your desk
The NSPanel Pro boasts a 3.95-inch screen, a significant improvement from the basic NSPanel's modest 3.5-inch display. This sleek touchscreen serves as the sole interface for the device, a design choice that has led to some notable changes. To accommodate the larger screen, SONOFF has removed the two physical buttons that previously controlled the relays for light connections. While touchscreens offer a modern aesthetic, many still appreciate the instant haptic feedback provided by traditional light switches. Despite this change, the NSPanel Pro's five wire terminals on the back suggest that it will maintain the ability to directly control two lights, albeit exclusively through its touch interface.
One aspect that may leave some customers wanting is the decision to forgo a separate size for the US market. Instead, a backplate will be necessary for seamless integration with existing light switches. However, the NSPanel Pro isn't limited to wall installations. SONOFF plans to offer an official stand, allowing the device to be placed on desks or other flat surfaces. For those with a 3D printer at home, a variety of NSPanel models are already available for download, enabling users to create their own custom stands.
Embracing Zigbee 3.0 and the potential for Matter
A particularly thrilling aspect of the NSPanel Pro is its ability to serve as a Zigbee 3.0 hub. While it continues to connect to your local network via Wi-Fi, the panel can now communicate with any device adhering to the Zigbee standard, extending its compatibility beyond just SONOFF devices. The unanswered question, however, is whether the NSPanel Pro can double as a repeater for Zigbee2MQTT or ZHA.
Adding another layer of intrigue, SONOFF hinted in a social media comment at the prospect of incorporating Matter into the NSPanel Pro once the standard officially launches. It remains to be seen if the embedded Zigbee chip can also function as a Thread Border Router, as the specifications have yet to be unveiled.
About Liam Alexander Colman
Liam Alexander Colmanis an experienced Home Assistant user who has been utilizing the platform for a variety of projects over an extended period. His journey began with a Raspberry Pi, which quickly grew to three Raspberry Pis and eventually a full-fledged server. Liam's current operating system of choice is Unraid, with Home Assistant comfortably running in a Docker container. With a deep understanding of the intricacies of Home Assistant, Liam has an impressive setup, consisting of various Zigbee devices, and seamless integrations with existing products such as his Android TV box. For those interested in learning more about Liam's experience with Home Assistant, he shares his insights on how he first started using the platform and his subsequent journey.