Spending time with the Nucleus Intercom system to see how well it will fit into my Smart Home Arsenal. Does it replace a traditional intercom system and will it make your life a little easier to justify the purchase? Read more to find out.
I spent a few days with Nucleus Life’s intercom device testing basic functions and going through some use cases to see how well the device would fit in with the rest of the technology and home automation in my life. I’ve had my eye on this device since I first heard about it and I have even thought about it as possible solutions in consulting work I have done in the Cincinnati market with clients looking to replace old built-in intercom systems. Considering that I may end up suggesting this product I decided to take it for a test drive to try it out.
I reached out to Nucleus directly and was forwarded off to a PR firm to handle my inquiry. This was back in August 2016 and I had a few back and forth emails with a representative of Moxie Group PR and could tell right away that I was not big enough to get anywhere, I was always told they are out of review units and would keep me in mind. Thanks to Amazon Prime I decided to purchase a 3-pack and give it a go.
Out of the box you are greeted with welcome material and a Nucleus sticker, feels very much like an Apple device unboxing. All supplies needed to mount the device is included except for the tools. You don’t have to mount it to the wall as a table top stand is included as well.
The power cord is a long USB cable with a traditional power-barrel connector at the other end with an included wall wart to convert to USB 2amps 5v. You can also power this device by POE which adds the benefit of having an ethernet connection instead of having to use wireless.
Power up the unit and you are greeted by the Nucleus splash screen and asked to join your wireless network for connectivity, after this the unit will update to the current Firmware. The update process takes about 10-15 minutes depending on your internet connection.
After updates you are taken to a Welcome Wizard that will give you a brief introduction to features and how to get started, at the end you will be able to setup a new account or add the unit to an existing account. Thankfully Nucleus makes it easy to add additional units by giving you a ‘Home Code’ which is a short alphanumeric code that will link the device to your account, so keep it safe. This means you can, and should, use a strong/unique password.
Once you setup each unit and give them unique names you are all set to make voice and video calls. While the device is advertised as an intercom that’s more of a future proof on the concept instead of the current feature set. The current feature set is more of a buddy list and a one-to-one voice/video calling application.
More traditional features like paging/broadcasting to all units at the same time, open mics to listen to all units on the system, video camera monitoring, and door/gate control are all missing at the moment. I reached out to Nucleus support and found out that a page-all feature is in the works and a possible future integration with Ring video doorbell is being considered.
Nucleus to Nucleus calling does support adding multiple units to the same call one at a time, like a 3-way call. At this time you can not mix Nucleus to mobile (Nucleus App) calls with multiple units. Quality wise the video and audio is on par with an entry level mobile device, however, the hardware specs say the Nucleus camera is 5MP.
It’s hard to say if a software upgrade would solve the quality issues since the capability of the imaging sensor is unknown. I’ve included a few images in the gallery below to show some of the video/still images. During video calls I found it hard to see the person on the other end if the lighting was behind the subject, still image quality seemed washed and pixelated as well. This is probably all due with my home lighting, and your results could vary.
Of course all of this is based on the fact that I’m used to the quality of the last few generations of the iPhone cameras.
Alexa was an added benefit I was looking forward to and I’m happy to say it works well, but I did have to speak a bit louder for the Nucleus microphone and the Echo’s spatial perception feature didn’t seem to work as the Amazon Echo is the other room competed with the Nucleus so I had to mute it.
On-Screen prompts are missing if you are used to the way Alexa works on a Fire TV or Tablet, this would probably require more powerful hardware to support and the addition of a web browser. If you want a true Alexa experience get an Echo or Dot, however, if you want to have Alexa in an additional room while gaining the ability to video call then the Nucleus is perfect.
Best of all is Nucleus seems to communicate well, offer fast ticket support and customer service (non-PR), and they seem to take privacy seriously giving software and hardware methods to keep your privacy safe.
- Easy to setup
- Large screen size
- Wide viewing area on the camera
- Easy software and hardware privacy settings
- Fast and responsive Customer Service/Support
- Amazon Alexa integration
- Mobile App support
- Camera quality
- Currently only One-to-One and not One-to-many calling support. (Page-All)
- Account management only from mobile app or Nucleus device
- Microphone sensitivity
Keeping in mind this is the first version of the hardware and Nucleus is still a new company, I’m still excited to watch what they release in the future. Granted you could use a tablet with Skype or Facetime to accomplish the same functionality at the moment, the benefit is the way they implement the features and functionality in a way that makes it easier for our tech-challenged family members to use without having to have tech support local.
I see this as a great device to send to the parents or grandparents so they can easily be checked in on or talk and see the kids and grandkids. I see the current gen of hardware being able to have many new features added via software updates which could resolve a lot of the cons listed above, I do see a version 2 in the next year or two though that will offer better HD streaming and functionality.
I think of this product like the Ring where the first couple of models were slow to come out then once established with a steady stream of income I see more powerful hardware and a recurring revenue model coming out within a few years.
I will be sending my units back as my home is a bit too small for video calling room to room and my parents are comfortable with Facetime on iOS to chat with us or the kids. As for recommending this as an intercom replacement to my consulting clients I’ll hold off for now until a few of those paging and integration features come out with a stable release.
I could see having one of these in our Master Bedroom and Living Room/Kitchen if I was able to see who was at my front door via Ring with two-way communication and could unlock the door through August/Smartthings/z-wave.
I’d also like to see a web management platform that would allow me to setup multiple homes and pre-provision Nucleus devices before sending them out to family members. Central device management with remote provisioning/configuration is a must.
- Company contact information
- Nucleus Available on Amazon
Single pack is available as well, but it’s not recommended since you need someone else to talk to in order to get the most out of the system, you could use the mobile phone but it’s doesn’t have the same experience. Plus they charge more for the single unit to encourage you to buy multiple units.
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