ecobee’s new SmartThermostat gets better at everything – except being a thermostat

ecobee’s new SmartThermostat gets better at everything – except being a thermostat

The ecobee4’s successor is here: parent-company ecobee dropped the “4” and dubbed the latest iteration of their flagship product the ecobee SmartThermostat.

What’s new with the ecobee SmartThermostat

In short, the SmartThermostat is a big upgrade for Alexa features with some technology updates to improve speed and connectivity.

  • Glass screen (earlier models have a plastic screen)
  • Expanded Alexa support – these features were missing from the ecobee4 (and still are, and may always be)
    • Calling
    • Messaging
    • Drop-in
    • Bluetooth
  • Re-engineered speaker
  • Expanded music streaming options, including Spotify Connect support
  • Quad-core processor for better in-hardware language processing
  • Dual-band 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz WiFi support (earlier models only supported the 2.4GHz band)
  • Digital microphones (upgraded from analogue, with better wake-word detection and echo reduction)
  • Quicker display response

Like earlier ecobee models, the ecobee SmartThermostat is:

  • Compatible with iOS, Android, and Apple Watch
  • Compatible with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings, and IFTTT
  • Still fully functional with Alexa disabled

Ecobee’s famous room occupancy and temperature sensors – now called SmartSensors – also got an upgrade. The SmartSensors look fancier with a shinier base and a sleeker face. The new magnetic bottom makes it easier to stick ’em somewhere, and the sensors inside are now better at detecting occupancy and temperature.

If you’re losing track of which ecobee models support what features, check out ecobee’s handy model comparison chart.

Our thoughts on the new ecobee SmartThermostat

The new model is great, but it feels like a lot of style over substance. The glass cover feels upscale, but we hardly touched our current ecobee unit once we had it set up and the novelty had worn off. The new SmartSensor design is eye-catching and pleasing, but we were used to the plastic look and feel of the earlier ones or at least didn’t think of it as a shortcoming of the product.

Alexa is the biggest winner in this updated model. The microphone got an upgrade, making it more likely that the thermostat understands what you’re saying, and a number of Alexa features not included in the first Alexa-integrated ecobee model (the popular ecobee4) are available in this model. This includes calling and Drop In.

Some Alexa users are understandably delighted to see the ecobee become a fully-fledged Alexa device, which is what it should have been in the first place. We are now wondering if the expanded Alexa feature set is ever going to come to the ecobee4 – it is unclear if ecobee has any intention of patching them into the ecobee4 now that they’re here in the SmartThermostat.

That said, we still think the ecobee is the best thermostat on the market. The thermostat parts are still excellent. We love the included Power Extender Kit that makes the ecobee more likely to be compatible with your 24v HVAC system. The app makes scheduling a breeze. Assuming the servers are up, remotely controlling the thermostat via the app is still the #1 reason our readers say they chose a smart thermostat in the first place. The ecobee also has a number of clever features, such as recognizing the temperature drop on a summer evening and protection against overheating or overcooling based on data from a sensor placed in a too-hot or too-cold part of the home.

But we would be lying if we said we weren’t disappointed that our long-standing wishlist (and that of many other ecobee users) stands untouched with this iteration. We were hoping for improvements to the HomeIQ reports, realtime usage reporting (anything, just give us anything close to what Nest has and we’ll stop complaining so much about this), and local network control of the thermostat via the app (ie: if the ecobee’s servers are down, you should still be able to control the ecobee through the app provided you’re on the same WiFi network at the very least). We love beestat.io but we wish ecobee themselves would offer better usage and analytics.

We’re still ecobee fans – and we still think this is the right one for most homes – so here’s to hoping that our favorite thermostat manufacturer keeps on making the ecobee the best thermostat it can be.

See the new ecobee SmartThermostat on Amazon.com

 

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