The Tuya platform offers hundreds of thousands of devices for a wide range of purposes. Smart home users can use it to implement extensive automations with just a single app.
Smart home platform Tuya Smart was founded in 2014 by former Alibaba executive Jerry Wang. Among other things, the IoT company develops WLAN modules for smart home devices (main topic) and provides services for managing these devices via its cloud. In Germany, the group cooperates with Pearl and its Elesion app (test), among others. Just last February, the two companies announced a strategic partnership to promote the connected home with a wide range of smart home products, including light bulbs, smart sockets and various other home appliances. But the infrared heating manufacturer Könighaus and Lidl also rely on Tuya. Tuya also cooperates with TÜV SÜD in the safety certification of its products.
Tuya works with more than 8,400 companies and 510,000 developers from over 200 countries worldwide. Customers can buy "Powered-by-Tuya" products in over 120,000 stores. These now include more than 410,000 devices spread across 2,200 product categories.
The cloud is included: All Tuya-compatible devices, which can be easily recognized in stores by the "Powered by Tuya" label, are compatible with each other, i.e. smart home users can manage them with one and the same app. No matter whether they call themselves Tuya, Smart Life, Elesion or something else.
In addition to the extensive range of products for a wide variety of purposes, there is another argument in favor of the Tuya platform: the price. Tuya-compatible products are often significantly cheaper than offers from well-known brands. For example, two Tado radiator thermostats cost 220 euros, while two Tuya-compatible radiator thermostats cost less than 85 euros. These offers often come from Chinese companies. If you don't trust them, you can also order Tuya-compatible radiator thermostats (guide) from the German company Könighaus. There are five thermostats for just under 200 euros. Similar price differences can also be seen for smart controllers for underfloor heating (guides) and many other product categories such as lamps, sensors, surveillance cameras, switches, door locks, air purifiers, air conditioners, weather stations, garage door controls, pet feeders or irrigation systems. Numerous tests of Tuya-compatible devices show that this is not junk. "Pearl shows once again with the Royal Gardineer components from the Tuya shelf that intelligent irrigation control does not have to cost a lot." say the colleagues from c't.
Speaking of Pearl: The German mail order company has by far the most Tuya-compatible smart home products in Germany. So if you want cheap smart home devices from a dealer who is subject to German warranty laws, you should take a closer look at the Pearl range. But this is not that easy. Although Pearl offers a central contact point for Tuya-compatible products at elesion.com, these are not sorted. And if you look for switches and lamps at Luminea.info, you will quickly find that not every device is smart. So you have to search a little to find smart light bulbs that can be controlled in a modern way via app and voice. What they all have in common is the low price compared to the competition with good quality based on experience.
If you take a closer look, you will notice other smart gadgets in the confusing mess of lamps. These include switchable sockets and motion sensors. All of these devices can be controlled via the Elesion or another Tuya-compatible app such as Smart Life. To make the confusion complete, there are also other Pearl brands such as 7Links, Revolt, Sichler or Visortech, which also belong to the Elesion universe and their air conditioners, electronic locks (alternative: Burg Wächter SecuEntry test report), vacuum cleaner robots (alternative : Robots with extraction station in comparison), surveillance cameras (main topic) or irrigation systems can be controlled via app. A total of over 400 different devices are combined in one app. When we last reviewed the Pearl offer about two years ago, it was "only" a little over 200.
That not only sounds like a smart home, it is. "Powered by Tuya" is quietly and secretly becoming a competitor for well-known smart home systems such as Magenta Smart Home or Samsung Smartthings (test report).
All products from the Elesion test
To operate the Elesion app or any other Tuya-compatible app such as Tuya Smart and Smart Life, interested parties need a suitable iOS or Android smartphone, WiFi in the 2.4 GHz band and the app itself. Newer Tuya devices such as a Visortech locking cylinder are also available in combination with a Zigbee gateway. Users then need an account, also free of charge, for which it is sufficient to enter a valid email address (a confirmation code will be sent there) and choose a suitable password. The app then shows the paired devices (i.e. initially nothing) of your own smart home on the start page. Weather information and room layout are also available here, more on that later. At the bottom there are also buttons to access smart functions such as creating rules or scenes and the account's own profile – that's basically it.
On the overview page, a small plus symbol at the top right allows new devices to be integrated. Similar to Samsung Smartthings (test report), product categories are offered here from which the right device is selected. Most devices are provided with the appropriate thumbnail, so that the appearance of the device to be integrated is sufficient to find it. Alternatively, the app offers a general search for all devices that are ready to be paired within range of your own WLAN. Some devices can also be integrated by scanning a QR code using the smartphone's camera function – all very intuitive and easy.
In the device view, users can choose between list and grid view via the three-dot menu on the start page. You can also access device management via the menu, which also appears when you press and hold the respective device. Anyone who wants to remove devices from their smart home system, for example, selects them and then clicks on the corresponding button at the bottom of the screen. On the plus side, once the device is removed, the device will automatically enter pairing mode. This makes it easy to add it again with another app, for example.
All screenshots from the Elesion app
Unfortunately, this simplicity ends as soon as the "Smart" button is pressed at the bottom of the screen. Scenes and rules can be set here using the already mentioned plus icon in the top right, but the overview and the ease, which we just praised when integrating new devices, leave a lot to be desired here. It starts with the name: Scenes are called "Execute" and rules are called "Automation". If that is still understandable (although the standard jargon of the industry would have made more sense), it then becomes more difficult. More on this in the Rules section.
Further improvement: When setting up the account, we were neither asked for the name of the smart home nor for its location. Without this, however, devices cannot be assigned to individual rooms, so we had to do this manually in the profile and in the family management there. Then there was also the room layout and the weather display, without which the "weather" rule trigger does not work.
The integration of Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa for voice control. It's basically simple: Activate the Elesion skill in the Alexa app under Skills or, if you use Tuya Smart or Smart Life, the associated skill, search for new devices in the Alexa app – done. However, unlike other providers, there is not a menu item for this in the settings for the account – you have to know this procedure and then simply carry it out – even without being prompted by the app.
Next point: settings for individual devices. Getting there is anything but comprehensible: If you have selected a device, there is a pen symbol at the top right next to the name of the device. Anyone who initially thought, like we did, that only the name can be changed with it, is wrong. This is where users can access additional settings for the device, including information and update options. The connection strength is also displayed and the services with which the corresponding product is compatible are indicated. The lamps we tested were mostly with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Smartthings and IFFFT are added to other devices.
Another problem: the German translation is occasionally incomplete. As a rule, an English translation is offered instead, sometimes – for example with the PIR sensor – we also found Asian characters.
We wanted to start simple and create a simple rule that should turn on a light when the PIR sensor detects motion. Not really a problem: Basically, the app works according to the if -> then principle, so first a trigger and then a reaction must be defined. However, if you now want to create a new rule, you will be greeted by the three logical triggers of weather, time and device status. Only then does "Set up a task" follow. However, there is also the advanced point "Execute" – the logic behind it remained closed to us, however, since we left the area for selecting the "If condition" when pressing the button and instead went directly to the "Then area" without selecting a condition. would have changed.
Otherwise, the creation of rules and scenes is extensive and yet logical and easy – if you have overcome the mentioned entry hurdles. The trigger is either the weather with the parameters temperature, humidity, type of weather (e.g. sunny or snowy), sunrise and sunset or the wind speed. Alternatively, a general start time, subdivided according to weekdays, or the status change of a device can be used as a rule trigger.
The task can then either activate a device, execute a scene or rule, send a notification or set a delay. Several combinations of triggers are also possible. Here users can then specify whether the rule should be executed when all conditions are met or only when one condition is met.
In test mode, the connection to the mainly WiFi-based Tuya components worked well: In any case, there were no disconnections in a 100 square meter condominium including the terrace. Even the most distant device, a battery-powered temperature and brightness sensor, reliably delivered data. But building a smart home control purely based on WLAN is certainly a challenge in larger apartments or houses. But that ultimately applies to all WLAN-operated components. If such problems occur, a look at our guide to better WLAN can help.
Otherwise, the following applies: since commands are not passed on from device to device via mesh, as is the case with Zigbee or Z-Wave, they sometimes get stuck at the limit of the range. Unfortunately, you don't get a message about whether a device is offline by default. Accordingly, the command to switch on a lamp, for example, is also considered to have been implemented if it never reaches the lamp.
At least the problem can be circumvented: In the device settings, users can specify whether they want to receive information about devices without a network connection. They are then not only displayed as offline in the overview, but the app also reports the offline status as soon as products with a power connection have been out of operation for 30 minutes or devices with battery operation for 8 hours. As soon as a device is available again in the network, the app registers this immediately and changes the status accordingly.
Unlike in our last test from two years ago, rules were no longer executed with a delay of several seconds, but immediately.
Speaking of electricity: WLAN is generally not considered the most energy-efficient smart home solution. According to Pearl, the tested PIR sensor, which is powered by two CR123 batteries (included), should last around a year with 12 motion detections per day. However, on the first day of the test, with around 20 to 30 triggers, the sensor already lost 5 percentage points of the specified battery life – so, purely mathematically, the power dispensers would have to be replaced after just 20 days. A temperature sensor showed no decrease in battery capacity after a few days.
In the meantime, however, Tuya devices are not only available as pure WLAN solutions. Zigbee variants including a hub are now also available.
The individual components such as light bulbs, sockets and camera also fully convinced us in the test, but not only because of the low price. The notification option, which is switched off by default, about wireless devices that can no longer be reached can at least be activated manually. This device setting should be active by default in the Tuya-compatible apps such as Tuya Smart, Smart Life or Elesion. In larger houses or apartments, smart home users should also keep an eye on the range and, if necessary, compensate with a WiFi repeater or mesh WiFi, which should also reduce power consumption slightly. Alternatively, users can use Tuya-compatible devices with Zigbee support. These are now also available, although not nearly as widespread as the classic WLAN-based smart home components of the Tuya platform.
The app is not optimally designed either. This includes the strange naming of rules (automation) and scenes (execution).
The greatest advantage of the Tuya platform lies in the variety of supported devices. For example, if you are interested in automatic control of the room climate or garden irrigation, you will hardly find a better platform. The necessary components can all be found in the Tuya universe.
Of course, the Tuya platform is linked to the cloud of the same name. Ultimately, this is where intelligence comes from. If the home WLAN network does not have Internet access, you can still manage the devices. In the test, this works without any problems. However, new rules can then no longer be created. And anyone who is interested in operating Tuya devices without cloud compulsion should take a look at the article Smart Home from the discounter: How to control Tuya devices without a cloud by our colleagues from c't.