Controls (Hubs/Systems)
a photo of Control4 EA-3 Controller in a man's hand

Control4 Smart Home OS3 Review

Control4 offers a powerful full-service home automation system with thousands of automations for you to choose, but at a cost.

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Control4's system connects to thousands of smart devices no matter what wireless protocol the devices use. We've tested many smart home systems over the past few years, but a professional installation is not as standard. We were offered the opportunity to test Control4's new operating system, the Smart Home OS3, in a natural home (not a lab or the office). Here is how we found Control4's system and one of their starter kits.

Control4 set up its new entry-level system, powered by its new operating system Smart Home OS3. Our previous Control4 review article talked about our experience with the installation process. Now, we will focus on our experience with Control4's Smart Home OS3 system.

Photo of Control4 EA-3 Smart Home ControllerControl4 EA-3 Controller is compact and connects all your devices to the Smart Home OS3 platformGearBrain

What is Control4 Smart Home OS3

Control4's new Smart Home OS3 is an open platform and is the brains of Control4's system. The platform communicates between smart devices in your home, helping you create custom experiences by connecting with just about any consumer electronic device, even if it doesn't have internet capabilities.

Control4's new platform is housed inside a Control4 controller. While the company has a variety of controllers, for our test, Control4 installed the EA-3 Entertainment and Automation Controller. It's very compact and looks like a network switch, easily positioned behind your electronics or TV, as long as you have a long Ethernet cable. The controller is designed to manage multiple rooms, along with high-resolution audio and smart home automation for small to mid-size homes. It controls infrared devices, provides a nice on-screen interface, and has built-in streaming services. Our Control4 installer says it's an excellent entry-level controller and perfect for our test house.

Wi-Fi needs

As we tested the Control4 Smart Home OS3, we found the importance of having a stable and robust Wi-Fi network to run Control4 Smart Home OS3 effectively and efficiently — especially if you connect many devices. When we first installed the system, we kept losing the connection between our router and Control4 controller, which, according to our Control4 installer, was because of our Wi-Fi network setup.

If you have a lot of smart devices and plan to control them through Control4, make sure you have a good broadband connection and a stable network. If not, consider getting a network switch to wire your devices to your router. Adding a NETGEAR switch helped improve the connection to smart devices like the Philips Hue Bridge and the Vivint Smart Home Security system.

Smart home connections

Control4's Smart Home OS3 is an open platform, which means you can integrate over 14,000 devices, both smart and dumb, from over 300 brands. Smart devices connect to the internet through a wireless connection, from smart locks to smart lights, plugs to thermostats, HVAC systems to smart speakers, and more. Dumb devices are those that need help connecting to the internet.

Control4 uses IR readers to connect these dumb devices online, and we liked how we could keep our old but practical consumer electronics, like a CD/DVD player or a tape deck, and add them to the platform. Your Control4 installer will set everything up for you and customize access to these devices and automation for your home.

We added Philips Hue smart lights, a Nest thermostat, Amazon Fire Stick, and Amazon Echo devices for our test. Our Control4 installer set up everything on the platform and connected these to the Neeo remote. We were also able to control everything through Amazon Alexa.

The commands were simple but, in some cases, limited. For Hue lights, we could only turn them on and off and could not change the lights' colors. We had to use the Hue app to set up scenes, change light colors and run automation. For the Nest Thermostat, we had more functionality. We could change the room's temperature, set schedules, set away status, and run other features through the Neeo remote, voice commands, and the Control4 app.

Screen shot of Control4 app controlling smart lightsBasic controls for our Philips Hue smart lights in the Control4 app and with NeeoGearBrain

Control4 app

The Control4 app can control your home — even if you're away — which is a nice feature, especially if you have devices outside. You won't want to take your Neeo remote outside to control music, lights, or other connected devices in your yard or on the porch. The app is what you'll use in these instances, and it works on an LTE connection, which is helpful when streaming music from your smartphone using ShairBridge (C4 Airplay), an app Control4 has built-in to its OS. The OS also lets you add your music library or music from Pandora, Amazon Music, Napster, Spotify Connect and SoundMachine, and satellite radio stations using SiriusXM,, Tidal, or TuneIn. Again, your Control4 installer will set up everything for you in the app.

Main Screen

Screenshot of Control4 main screen in app and for Neeo

Main Screen for Control4


Watch Screen

Screenshot of Control4 app for watching TV or streaming media

The watch screen in Control4 app and on Neeo


Listen Screen

Screenshot of Control4 app for listening to music

Stream music or connect to you CD player for music



The Control4 Smart Home OS3 is powerful, easy to use, and can control several devices to create a customized experience in your smart home. But there were some challenges. The first one was Google Assistant integrations. At the time of our test, Google had gotten rid of the What Works with Nest program, and we could not link our accounts. However, on May 6, 2020, all that changed. Control4 announced that Nest owners could migrate their Nest and Google home accounts to the Control4 platform. You will have to follow specific steps to link your accounts which will take a few minutes. If you are a Google Assistant user, this is worth doing.

The other issue we had was with the IR readers. These readers are glued onto your dumb devices for Control4 to control them through the controller and app. There are chances these readers can detach from your consumer electronics. If they come loose or fall off, Control4 loses control of the device. We had IR readers on our cable box, DVD/VHS player, CD Player, and AV Receiver. The IR reader on our AV Receiver fell off, and we couldn't control the TV volume coming through the receiver. We had to call our Control4 installer to come and help us reconnect the IR reader. If you have a lot of dumb devices you want to add to your Control4 system, ensure the IR readers are securely attached.

Overall, the Control4 Smart Home OS3 is the most commanding platform we have tested — and yet it's simple enough for even those customers who aren't incredibly tech-savvy. But this comes with a cost. And, as we mentioned, you need a strong broadband connection and Wi-Fi network. If not, you will have system interruptions, and you don't want them to happen, especially when watching a movie with your family. The system is also expensive.

Photo of IR reader on a cable boxControl4 uses IR readers on consumer electronics without an Internet connection to connect to their Smart Home OS3 platform.GearBrain


All of Control4's systems are designed to meet the needs of their customers. The cost of their systems is determined by a few factors, including the number of smart home devices to be included with installation and how you want them to interact with Control4. If you have several smart devices, like a Nest Thermostat or LIFX smart lights, and want to use your phone or a tablet as a remote, the cost will not be that expensive. You would need a primary Control4 controller (CA-1), which costs $350 plus pay for installation for a few hours. Your Control4 installer determines the installation cost.

However, if you have devices that are not smart and want a remote control, things will get pricey. You will need IR readers to control these devices and upgrade your controller to one of the company's EA controllers. The basic EA controller is EA-1 and has an MSRP of $525. The most basic remote has an MSRP of $250. When you add the installation costs, the estimated cost for installing a Control4 basic system with a remote can be over $1,500. For our test house, just the Control4 equipment was $1,700 (Neeo Remote MSRP is $600, and EA-3 Controller has an MSRP of $1,100.)

Find Control4 Dealer Near You


For the past few years, I have been saying at some point that smart homes will have their own operating systems to control all of their devices, both smart and dumb. These systems will talk back to us just like Jarvis did with Iron Man in his house, car, and while in his suit. Control4 system is a version of this, helping customers integrate their consumer electronics and home appliances to build an OS for their home through its Smart Home OS3 platform. It might not be Jarvis exactly, but it's a good start.

The key benefits Control4 OS offers users today are ease of use and the ability to connect devices no matter their wireless protocol and customization. Control4 can also manage your network remotely — but, of course, that comes at a cost. If you are looking for a do-it-yourself system for your home, Control4 is probably unsuitable. There are some things you can do on your own with Control4, but you will primarily need a Control4 Installer to come in and fix issues or add devices. But if you want a pure custom solution that can be managed entirely, Control4 is a solid solution. It can control your smart lighting, home security, smart thermostat, consumer electronics, and more —creating a home designed just for you.


  • Ease of use - single touch or voice command control
  • Connectivity - connects with thousands of devices from 300 brands
  • Various controls - voice, remote control, app
  • Streaming music from your smartphone through ShairBridge
  • Price
  • IR readers can fall off dumb devices
  • Need an installer to add devices to your system

Find Control4 Dealer Near You

Check out The GearBrain; our smart home compatibility find engine, to find other smart devices and compatible products that work with Control4-enabled devices. You can also ask questions and troubleshoot any problems.

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