Sonoff NSPANEL – I STILL like It – Update

Sonoff NSPanel with Tasmota

Originally blogged in here back in 2021, the now venerable NSPANEL still looks good and out of the box – it can control 2 internal relays while displaying time and temperature, local weather etc. on a pretty, auto-dimming touch-display but there is far more to it than that of course. NSPANEL works with the company’s eWeLink app for Android and IOS. Despite not having the power of the later NSPANEL Pro, it is still useful as I’ve just discovered.

I originally wrote this article when Sonoff sent me a sample NSPANEL during the launch campaign – and I’ve just updated the blog now in October 2023.

NSPanel, originally intended for wall mounting, powers up in Bluetooth-pairing mode the first time. Once set up in the App you can add the temperature controller (“thermostat”) and a range of widgets to control other devices including Sonoff smart-lighting and smart-power control. At the price of this – many companies charge the same or more just for a thermostat – though the thermostat controls on NSPANEL even in October 2023 remain very basic. I think Sonoff added this feature then lost interest in it – or maybe just don’t know much about thermostats – odd considering, after receiving some Nextion displays from Sonoff to review, way back in early 2016 I created a fully functional Thermostat using an ESP8266 as a controller and the Nextion for the display – and the Sonoff NSPANEL uses a much more powerful ESP32 with the display being based on their Nextion technology. Maybe they simply didn’t think that adding a proper thermostat into the mix was interesting.

Sonoff NSPanel -  featured at https://tech.scargill.net

The device plugs into the mains, no need for a separate power supply and is very thin (other than the round bulge at the back which should fit into a stanard mains wall fitting depending on your location) so well suited to wall or desk mounting. One key update here is that late in 2023 I went off to AliExpress and bought a cheap Sonoff-branded backing box for the panel which makes it suitable for desk or bedside cabinet mounting.

The touch-display auto-dims after a period you can set in the panel itself, great for bedside use. The unit measures 5 x 5 x 2.7 cm. Oh, worth a mention, the 2 relays internally are only rated at a couple of amps each so don’t plan to control anything major with them other than lighting or possibly a small bed heater?

The display is 3.5″ and very clear. Also like other Sonoff (and lots of other IOT) the NSPANEL works only with 2.4Ghz WiFi. You can also control up to 8 devices you set up in the eWeLink App.

NSPANEL

Ok, here’s the good thing – there’s an ESP32 device in there so it can be hacked by installing Tasmota for those inclined to doing their own thing. I won’t rip it apart as this has been done elsewhere but I have a second NSPANEL panel which I’m planning to Tasmotise (done – 2023). This stock NSPanel is going to a non-techy friend.

Of course, as well as App and local control there is always Alexa or Google voice control. Below is one of Sonoff’s stock pictures (a clip from one of their videos) controlling smart lighting using the NSPANEL. I can see this ending up next to a bed.

My NSPanel came with firmware version 1.0.1 but as I’m writing this update my phone recently updating the panel wirelessly to version 1.4.0 via the eWeLink APP (v4.16.1) – I’m watching the NSPanel screen – this looks familiar.. Ok – done.

AND … I have my MiniR2 and MiniUSB controllers running on NSPANEL – Wheeee. I noted the rubbish default name for my MiniR2 in eWeLink and changed it to “Minir2” and the NSPanel immediately reflected the change. I like it. I suppose “bathroom light” or similar would be more appropriate but I’m a techy.

Sonoff have a whole range of control devices (I’ve reviewed most of them at one time or another) – usually at low cost and I originally saw this device as some kind of central control hub – rather handy if you want your stuff controlled without having to constantly refer back to their eWelink app – but ultimately, Sonoff focussed on the NSPANEL Pro. As I wrote this, I was adding more of my Sonoff devices to the NSPanel. It would be nice if they’d support other people’s kit – but hey… that’s the point of Tasmota.

The software can turn on and off those front panel switches and also read back the STATE of them – and I have figured out how to check the set temperature and (predicted) outside temperature) but I’ve not yet gotten to grips with adjusting the set temperature.

I can’t seem to seem to find any way to control any of the devices hooked to NSPANEL via NSPANEL but of course, Node-Red-Contrib-eWeLink controls the devices directly (when it works) – which seems fair enough – all you need is the ID of the device (a MiniR2 in this case) and it can be controlled by NSPANEL itself or Node-Red – NSPanel sees the state if the change is made externally as does Node-Red so they are all automatically in sync within a fraction of a second. Light control is good but of course you are controlling Sonoff lights which are nothing special.

October 2023 Update

As mentioned above I updated both of my NSPANELS to firmware v1.4 – not without issues along the way – it turns out that NSPANEL may update the internal NEXTION display before keeping the user informed of the update progress in NSPanel itself. I spent maybe an hour on this but ultimately the updates installed on both panels.

Sonoff NSPanel backing box

So, the main points of this update as well as mentioning the backing boxes include pointing out that the timer in NSPanel is crippled by lack of repeat button. Imagine you have one of the relays wired to a non-smart bedside lamp and want it to turn off automatically after a while… you can set a time in NSPANEL (via the APP) to turn the output off after X time… but that only happens ONCE.. there is no REPEAT tickbox – WHAT?

Well, I got onto my contact at Sonoff who initially doubted if they’d be able to fix that but then came back to me within the day – there is another way. Instead of setting a timer in the APP, create a SCENE within the APP (main home page, not the NSPANEL page). I made a scene with an IF condition – i.e. IF the first output is ON, then delay X minutes, then turn it off. Ok, not quite as obvious as setting a repeat timer – but still simple and it works. Ok, I set it to one minute just to test easily.

Sonoff NSPANEL simple scene

So this works just fine for my pal’s needs – bedside clock with auto-dim and auto summer-winter adjustment etc. The latter happens thanks to the eWeLink APP.

For myself I’ve just taken the plunge (November 2023) and put the open-source Tasmota on my boxed NSPanel which is now sitting by my bed. With the NSPanel-specific controls in Tasmota, I’ve put the unit into economy mode so it actually blanks the creen completely after timeout – I realised after the first night of using standby dim that I still found the light slightly annoying.

I also noticed, though right now being at the early learning stage on setting this device up with Tasmota, that I could override the internal temperature sensor (which is slightly biassed upwards due to internal heat in the box) and have NSPANEL use the temperature AND HUMIDITY from one of my Aqara Zigbee sensors (connected to Node-Red and hence able to MQTT to the NSPANEL indirectly). I also have the “stock” controllers aready set up in the Tasmota image (I’ve yet to figure out how to rename them etc.) to control other MQTT-accessible devices via Node-Red.

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22 thoughts on “Sonoff NSPANEL – I STILL like It – Update

  1. Just got one for $50 on amazon.
    Flashed it for ESPHome and using Home Assistant TFT/BluePrint.
    Working awesome after a lot of setup (still have a lot of BluePrint config to do).

    FYI: You can disconnect the relay part and make it flat, just need to power the screen with +5 and GND (cut an old usb cable, and solder to pins). Lame the stands don’t do this and need a plug.

    Screen is not as good as a Nest Home Mini or my Brilliant Tech, but not bad either. Someday I may switch my walls to more of these, but I am still fairly new to HA and have a long way to go.

    I guess the NSPanel PRO runs android, and can be made to show an HA dashboard (and play cams). I would need those to replace the Brilliant Tech by the door… to auto-show Ring Cam when motion detected.

  2. Due to the few functions currently implemented it seems to me a somewhat useless and expensive object.

  3. I’m in for one. But disappointed Pete that you waited so long, we missed the cheapest lot… 😉

    We’re building a new house and I’m looking at all the various alternatives for doing simple cheap automation – nothing fancy but a bit more than a wifi dimmer. This looks promising.

    Worst case scenario, it joins a lot of other switches etc. which we’ve bought to try – and discounted….

    Think I need a jumble sale to get rid of all these bits and pieces that didn’t make the grade….

    Thanks for the post btw

    Simon

    1. Hi Simon – well, they asked me to hold back as I think initially there were issues – I got a call just before I blogged the unit to say all was well. Yup, shame if we missed the really cheap options. I have jumble sales all the time – I suppose I should do them in here but I don’t want to end up sounding like a vendor 🙂

  4. To be honest I would more consider this unit without the relays. Not even sure I would need the buttons with a decent touch screen. It would reduce the price and probably depth and make a terrific go anywhere, looks great control module for a smart home. Endless possibilities. If you need relays team it up with simple but more power capable ones through whichever smart home platform you use.

    1. But it’s cheap anyway. If I were to be critical I’d prefer if I could easily interface it my existing stuff without using eWelink… IE direct MQTT. I have a shedload of smartlamps none of which are Sonoff.

      1. Not sure our versions of ‘cheap’ are the same, Peter. $75? when I don’t think I have a single element of my smart home more then $25 except the pi 4 I just upgraded to and that only cost me $58.

        1. When I looked yesterday the early bird Kickstarter price was MUCH lower than $75… 😃 I can buy an ESP32 and backboard and ILI9341 and case… By the time I’m finished I’ve spent almost the early bird Kickstarter price…

          1. And the Insteon switches I used in ‘10 when I built my house are $70+ with no display and no programmability.

  5. I was just about to email you about this. You’re way ahead.
    Looks nice. It’s the first device I’d consider installing in my house. Easy and clean installation in wall switch boxes, physical buttons so you can always switch the lights, ESP32 for hacking (ESPHome).

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