Catlink AI Water Fountain - Pure Review
Full disclosure: This is a review sample sent to me free of charge by Geekbuying. Review is not influenced by that fact and is solely my opinion. Shopping links in this article are affiliate links and I earn a small commission when you buy through them
Geekbuying has sent me the Catlink AI Water Fountain - Pure (what a mouthful of a name!), model code CL-W-01, a smart pet fountain connecting over WiFi. Despite the company’s name, they don’t discriminate and the fountain can also be used by small dogs.
In the box is the titular water fountain with the water filter and two boxes marked accessories. The plastic it is made of looks nice and above average. What stands out the most in the build quality is the ceramic water dispensing plate.
The two boxes contain a braided USB-C cable and a pair of pet collars with 3 UFO shaped tags with QR codes.
I plugged the fountain base into a 1A phone charger. You need to supply your own!
After installing the very elaborate filter and in the fountain and adding water I placed the fountain on its base and it started working. Rocky, the cat that will be using the water fountain, promptly came to investigate.
The purpose of a pet water fountain is to have a reliable source of clean and flowing water for your pet. It holds 2,3 liters of water which provides water for your pet for up to 2 weeks. Water is held in a ceramic plate, which is the recommended material for pet use. You can use the fountain with or without the “waterfall” attachment. The elaborate filter helps to remove impurities from the water.
Because Catlink used a real water level sensor you won’t be notified only when the water completely runs out, instead you’ll always have the water level displayed in the app and will receive a notification one the level is low.
Those small UFO tags that came with the collar are RFID tags. The fountain has a built in RFID reader which will allow you to track the usage of the fountain by your pet or pets through the app. This is a part of the overall vision by Catlink that involves their other products and the app to help you completely and accurately track your pets well being. Additionally, the fountain will do a rinse cycle after your pet visited the fountain if it is in smart mode.
The front panel LED gauge informs you of the fountain state. The touch button in the bottom is only used to pair the fountain to your WiFi network. I have no idea why it couldn’t be used to switch modes without having to pull out the phone and open the app.
Fountain base has a compartment under what looks like a battery cover with a short USB cable. This is where you can plug in a power bank or a battery pack for backup power. The fountain will automatically switch to it in case of power failure. This gives you an uninterrupted water supply, at least until the battery runs out.
A well designed manual describes all the basic features, pairing instructions and how to use the RFID tags.
Time to connect the fountain to my WiFi and see how smart it really is. First I had to install the Catlink app (Android, iOS). As it is customary for these Chinese brands, the app has extremely low scoring reviews in both stores. Yikes!
After being greeted by a mix of Chinese and English I had to make the account using a phone number, ugh! Good thing I keep a burner phone for these situations. The app doesn’t look as terrible as I expected but there are traces of weird or missing translations. Adding the water fountain was exactly as described in the manual, the app even alerted me that my selected AP is 5Ghz and instructed me to choose a compatible 2.4Ghz one instead.
The app menu has an animated water level indicator and mode select icons. An event log is in the bottom. One frustrating thing is that the app asks you if you’re sure when you tap to change the working mode.
In the setting menu you can control LED indicator behaviors, bind collar tags to pets, set notifications for events and reset filter replacement reminder. I appreciate the option to share the device with another account so other family members can help in maintenance.
What is missing is integration with Google Home, Alexa, Homekit or anything. There is a Catlink custom component for Home Assistant but it doesn’t support the water fountain.
The Bad Stuff
You simply cannot turn the fountain off unless you cut the power to it. Let that sink in… A water fountain with an RFID reader doesn’t have an option to turn on only once the RFID tag is near the fountain. You cannot even customise the interval, you’re stuck with the default 3 minutes on, 5 minutes off in “eco” and smart mode or just always on. That’s just dumb and a waste of power. I contacted Catlink to find out if I missed something but nope, you can’t turn it off. They also commented that there are no plans to add a power saving smart mode or customizable work intervals.
If you’re using the waterfall column the sound of water dropping is loud and can get annoying. The water fountain is very noticeable when working and can be downright irritating during the quiet evening and night hours. And you can’t turn it off! Also, The pump motor gets louder the lower the water level gets. I guess you can treat is as another type of low water alert.
The water flows back in the basin from all sides of the ceramic plate which I do not understand since the filter is positioned only in the front. What is the point of the filter here if at least 50% of the water misses it. We have very hard water here and limestone was accumulating on the ceramic plate. That limestone also ended up in the water basin.
The waterfall attachment takes up a lot of space and combined with the splash shield makes the fountain awkward to use for bigger cats. Good thing both are removable.
The RFID tags are quite big for smaller cats and they rattle when worn on the supplied collar. Not a great combo for active cats. I don’t find them worth the hassle just so I can know if my pet visited the fountain because it cannot guarantee water has been drunk.
In it’s essence it a well designed device build with quality and wellbeing of your pet in mind. I like the ideas Catlink had for the fountain but, they missed the mark with baffling omission of, at least in my eyes, expected feature of simply turning the fountain off.
The biggest minus is lack of any kind of integration. The app has an OK UI, it worked well during testing and the health tracking in the app is very nice to have, especially if your pet requires it. But its just another app I need to have installed and if the water fountain is the only Catlink device I own it is not worth it.
There is one thing that still makes it an interesting buy. It uses an ESP-12 module with an ESP8266 chip which makes it possible to flash custom firmware, but that’s something for another day.
If you can live with the negatives or want to hack it you can buy it from Geekbuying. Make sure to check their site for discount coupons. Right now it’s on flash sale for $84.99.