Leviton Decora Smart Voice Dimmer with Amazon Alexa review: Two smart home devices in one

The Amazon Echo Dot has a small-enough footprint for most people, but it can be hard to disguise its power cord and unsightly wall-wart power supply. And if you want Alexa to control your lights, you’ll still need to connect that light source to a smart switch. Leviton’s Decora Smart Voice Dimmer with Amazon Alexa is essentially a zero-foot-print Echo and dimmer switch in one.

This isn’t an entirely new idea. Ecobee—the smart thermostat maker—came out with a similar product about 18 months ago. The Ecobee Switch+ also hosts an Amazon Echo smart speaker inside an in-wall device. The big difference is that Ecobee’s device is just a switch. It can’t dim a connected load. Leviton’s device can, and its “Off means off” feature ensures that the dimmer will work with LED bulbs that can be finicky when they’re in a socket controlled by a dimmer. Beyond that, Leviton’s companion app is much more sophisticated, especially if you have other Leviton Decora Smart Wi-Fi devices scattered throughout your house. I’ll go into detail about the app in a bit.

leviton alexa dimmer installed Michael Brown / IDG

The Leviton Decora Smart Voice Dimmer installed next to a “dumb” ceiling fan controller.

Leviton’s dimmer, on the other hand, is priced at about twice the current street price of Ecobee’s product. Another way to look at its $100 asking price is that it’s about the same as buying a third-generation Echo Dot ($60) and one of Leviton’s Decora Smart Wi-Fi dimmers (about $38). The advantage of Wi-Fi connectivity, of course, is that it eliminates the need for a smart home hub.

The downside is that if you’re using an older conventional router, versus a mesh router, you might encounter range issues. Additionally, this switch’s onboard Wi-Fi adapter is limited to operating on the 2.4GHz band, which could be a problem in environments where that spectrum is highly congested. Range wasn’t an issue for me, since I operate a Linksys Velop mesh router with three nodes, and my 2.4GHz airspace is relatively quiet.

But there were several occasions during the 10 days I was testing Leviton’s device that Alexa responded to the wake word by saying, “This device isn’t responding. Please check its network connection and power supply.” But then the Voice Dimmer would work as expected just a few minutes later. I quizzed Leviton’s product managers about it, and they said this wasn’t a known issue. I’ll leave the switch installed for a few more weeks and will update this review if it turns into a problem.

Design and feature set

The Decora Smart Voice Wi-Fi Dimmer doesn’t look radically different than a normal dimmer, apart from the half-inch-wide status LED at the top, which is also a button. Push it once to summon Alexa without speaking the wake word. Press and hold the button down for a second or two and you’ll mute the microphones mounted on either side of it. The button glows a blueish green when Alexa is listening, flashes blue when she’s executing a command or answering a query, and glows red when the onboard mics are muted.

leviton alexa dimmer muted Michael Brown / IDG

The Voice Dimmer’s LED glows red when you mute its onboard microphones for privacy.

Two larger buttons are mounted beneath the LED. Press the top button to turn the light on, and the bottom one to turn the light off. Holding the lower button down dims the light, while doing the same with the top button increases the brightness. Turn the switch off while the light is dimmed, and the switch will remember that state the next time you turn it on (you can use the My Leviton app to change this behavior so that the on button sets the brightness level to a specified value, if you prefer). A second small LED embedded in the same quadrant as the speaker glows green when the switch is off, to help you locate the switch in the dark (here again, you can program this LED with a different behavior in the My Leviton app).

The Alexa experience

Alexa on the Voice Dimmer operates almost exactly as it does on any Echo-compatible smart speaker, answering to the wake word, lighting up an LED when she’s listening, performing commands and answering queries, reading flash briefings and weather forecasts on demand, and playing music. Whisper mode, however, is an Alexa feature that Amazon reserves for first-party products. It’s enabled on my Alexa account, but Alexa responds at full volume on Leviton’s and other third-party devices.