Eve Extend (review)

Today we are going to take a look at a slightly different HomeKit device in form of Eve Extend from Eve Systems, a device officially announced back in July of 2019, and released last autumn. The Eve Extend is sometimes advertised as a Bluetooth range extender, but is it a Bluetooth extender for HomeKit? Not really. In practice, it works like one, but only for Bluetooth devices made by Eve. I’ll try to explain what it really is and how it works later, but let’s begin with the basics.

PACKAGING

It comes in a small nicely detailed white box, which looks and feels decent, with most of all important information and specifications printed on it, with some product and application images.

Inside the box, you’ll find the device itself, the power supply, with different adaptors for regions including Australia, Europe, the UK, and North America, a USB power cable, and documentation in the form of a quick start guide, safety instructions, and a support contact sheet.

Technical specifications for the Eve Extend.

  • Power: USB to Micro USB (5 V, at least 500 mA)
  • Dimensions 75 x 23 x 78mm / 3 x 0.9 x 3.1in
  • Compatibility: All Bluetooth-enabled Eve accessories except Eve Thermo (2015) and Eve Room (2015), both without display. Due to technical reasons, compatibility is not possible. Compatible Eve accessories
  • Connection: Wi-Fi (2.4 / 5 GHz 802.11a/b/g/n)

THE DEVICE

The Eve Extend is quite small and light, with a casing made of high gloss white plastic that has a feel of quality. This style will be recognised by Eve users from earlier devices, such as Eve Motion sensor and Eve Room (1st gen).

Thanks to the small size of both the Eve Extend and USB power supply, it’s easy to find any unobtrusive location to place Eve Extend. You can use the included power supply, but because the Eve Extend only requires the typical 5V/ 500 mA voltage, you can also use any typical USB socket with the same specs to power the device. In the box, in addition to the main device itself, you get a small USB power adapter with plug adaptors for the aforementioned regions as well as a USB-A to Micro-USB cable. Departing from this topic for a moment, it’s hard not to mention that the power supply itself can also be used with the included adapters as a universal USB charger when going to countries with a different type of socket to your own.

The Eve Extend only has one socket, placed on the rear of the device – a Micro USB type – used to power the device, along with a single button that allows you to reset the device. On the base, you’ll we find the HomeKit code and four rubber feet, which helps stop the device from sliding around (on smooth surfaces). This is especially useful for how light Eve Extend is. There’s also a single coloured orange led light which informs us of the status of the device when pairing or turning on. When using the device itself, this led light has no function and when it is not lit, it is completely invisible because it is hidden under the plastic housing. Once installed, the Eve Extend does not require any interaction from the user, and the appearance of the device is not of any relevance to us in any way during regular use, so if the device’s coverage range permits, it can easily be hidden out of sight.

INITIAL SETUP

Generally, any HomeKit device can be added using one of the many third-party HomeKit applications available, including the official Home app, but in the case of Eve Extend, due to the specificity of the device’s operation, we cannot do without using the Eve for HomeKit app, and despite the fact that the Eve Extend is a HomeKit device, and also appears in other HomeKit apps, this device will not be useful to us in any other app except for Eve for HomeKit.

Just adding Eve Extend to our HomeKit home is no different than adding any other HomeKit device. The Eve for HomeKit app is available in the App Store in separate iPhone and iPad versions.

After scanning the HomeKit code, you will first see a request for permission to add the Eve Extend to your local Wi-Fi network, after which the standard options will appear, allowing you to give your device a name and assign it to a room in your home. The only additional option offered is to directly assign our Eve Bluetooth devices to Eve Extend, although it is not required, and we can skip this step for now, because I would like to first explain how the Eve Extend works and what it can do for your Bluetooth devices, as well as the fact that assigning devices to the Eve Extend can be done at any time.

It has to be stated that the Eve Extend only works with Bluetooth devices from Eve Systems and you can add a maximum of eight devices to each Eve Extend. Why is it like that? To eliminate any speculation on this subject, the answer is very simple. Technically, The Eve Extend is not a pure extender for a Bluetooth signal and therefore does not work with Bluetooth devices from other companies. Eve Extend simply doesn’t amplify, extend or do anything else with the Bluetooth signal itself, despite being called ‘Extend’. This device has one Bluetooth receiver, hence being limited to a maximum of eight connected devices, whilst balancing performance. With this in mind, it essentially acts as a bridge. It converts all Bluetooth commands from Eve accessories and forwards them to your Wi-Fi network. You can compare it to how any other hub or bridge works when transmitting commands from, for example, a Zigbee or RF protocol hub over a Wi-Fi connection. It can be definitely claimed that the Eve Extend is the first Bluetooth bridge operating within the HomeKit system. As for it extending the Bluetooth signal, it is possible and depends on placement, i.e. as in the case of other bridges, you must take into account, apart from the range of the Bluetooth signal between Eve Extend and the devices connected to it, also the Wi-Fi signal range between Eve Extend and your router. It is thanks to such use of the function of redirecting the signal from Bluetooth to Wi-Fi that we get a greater range and freedom to place your Bluetooth devices away from your Home hubs (Apple TV, HomePod etc). For example, by placing the Eve Extend on the edge but still within sufficient range of the Wi-Fi network, we can then extend the range between the Bluetooth device and the HomeKit bridge by several meters, via this additional Bluetooth connection.

For your devices to start using getting the benefits of the Eve Extend, you must first add them to the Eve Extend. Before you do that, the devices must be added to HomeKit, in addition to making sure that all compatible devices are using the latest firmware, because for these devices to work with Eve Extend, Eve Systems released some required updates for certain devices, like the Eve Door contact sensor for example.

ADDING DEVICES TO EVE EXTEND

To add a device to the Eve Extend with help of the Eve for HomeKit application in the options for Eve Extend, simply select ‘Assign Accessories’ and you will get a list of devices that you can add. The addition itself takes a moment, and after successful addition, the device is no longer directly connected to HomeKit. From that moment it is instead exposed to HomeKit via the Eve Extend, thereby acting as a bridge. It should be noted that when you turn off the Eve Extend after this point, you will also lose contact with all devices that go through the Eve Extend. However, this is not unusual and works exactly the same as other bridges, like the Philips Hue Bridge.

After adding devices, the Eve Extend’s status in the Eve for HomeKit app will show you the number of connected devices, whether each of them is available, or the number of disconnected devices, if at least one of them loses connection. In the ‘detailed view’, you will be able to see a list of all added devices and their statuses.  The Bluetooth devices themselves will always be visible as usual as individual devices too.

If we need to remove a device from Eve Extend for any reason, you simply open the options for that device and select ‘Unassign from Eve Extend’. Before the removal, you’ll receive a warning that after the removal this function will initiate the process of directly pairing the removed device to HomeKit with the HomeKit code for the given device being required.

When using Eve Extend in the Home app, it’s not easy to see any existence of this device. There are only two places where you can see it as such, with the first location being the settings of your HomeKit home where you will see the Eve Extend in the list of ‘Hubs and Bridges’ in use. The second place is a ‘detailed view’ for any of devices connected through the Eve Extend, where probably for the first time in the case of Bluetooth devices you will see that these have a Bridge. An additional effect of such a working system is that our phone can no longer communicate directly with these devices via Bluetooth because all commands transmitted from Eve Extend are transmitted instead via Wi-Fi connection, which means that we also do not need to have Bluetooth active on our iPhones for this specific reason.

DAY-TO-DAY USE
In everyday use, the Eve Extend is completely transparent and simply does its job, and does it very well. During the time stared to use this device, I have not encountered any problems. This solution extends the range of your Eve Bluetooth devices with respect to the HomeKit bridge but thankfully, that’s not all we gain. Communication with devices, connected in this way, has become noticeably faster. Of course, we still can’t count on the same response time compared to some other wireless protocols, because many Bluetooth devices that aren’t used for a period of time fall into a sort of low energy ‘sleep mode’, which requires a moment to ‘wake up’, but the communication itself is noticeably faster, and the same is true when updating historical data saved locally in the devices and updated in the Eve for HomeKit app, when connected to the device. Everything just seems to work faster. In theory, there is no reason why a connection via the Eve Extend should work faster than a direct connection, for example via Apple TV, but for now, let it be the secret of Eve Home and the clear evidence of noticeably faster performance, which alone is enough for me.

When it comes to compatibility with other systems, I can only reiterate that, as with any other device from Eve, they are designed to only works with the Apple HomeKit, so no Google or Amazon functionality is to be found.

WRAPPING UP
The Eve Extend is a very interesting idea and useful solution that works very well on the same basis that other systems using bridges work, in communicating with their sub-devices. Here we have the first such solution for Bluetooth devices that works directly with HomeKit. If you have compatible Bluetooth devices from Eve Home and you have problems with their range or you just want to speed them up, it’s definitely worth considering this solution. Eve Extend is not unique and doesn’t do anything that HomeKit hubs from Apple can’t already do, but it does it for a much more competitive price and in a much smaller and more convenient package. For example, it is certainly a better solution to put Eve Extend on a window sill, instead of an additional Apple TV for a better connection, for example with devices rated for outdoor use, like Eve Aqua or Eve Degree, or even inside the house, if we need to expand or strengthen the Bluetooth signal, it could be better solution wherever we do not need or want additional HomeKit hub. The only thing that the Eve Extend currently lacks is greater functionality for led light, which could, for example, show the status of the connection with Wi-Fi or power status, in the same way as other devices, to warn you with a flashing LED or some form of colour change in case of any irregularities, and refer you to the app for more information, but it is a minor addition and even without it I really appreciate how easy is to set it up and how reliably it works.

Eve Extend

7.8

Price

8.5/10

build quality

8.0/10

reliability

8.5/10

Design

7.0/10

Functionality

7.0/10

Pros

  • Extends range for Bluetooth devices from Eve
  • Speeds up device communication
  • Easy placement due to size of device and power supply
  • One version for multiple regions

Cons

  • Limited LED light functions