Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat with Voice Control review: Good, but not quite worth the price

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.8
  • Features: 9.0
  • Usability: 7.0
  • Design: 7.0
  • Performance: 8.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Honeywell gets out from under the shadow of Nest by adding voice recognition to its new Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat with Voice Control. For the most part, it performs very well.

The Bad It costs $349. That's $100 more than the already pricey Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat (without voice control) and its main competition, the second-generation Nest Learning Thermostat.

The Bottom Line The voice control options are extremely basic, and the price increase just doesn't match the value added. Save some cash and get the $249 model or a Nest.

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The $349 Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat with Voice Control is an intriguing new offering from Honeywell. While it is virtually identical to Honeywell's $249 Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat in design and functionality, the addition of voice control really sets it apart. Unlike some of its other key features, this one wasn't borrowed from Nest.

I think that's great. Unfortunately, I can't recommend it -- at least not yet. I really wanted the voice control to work, but instead it's very basic, and occasionally glitchy. That makes the extra $100 for this one feature seem excessive.

Most of us will also still grab our phones or walk over to the thermostat to change the temperature, which makes voice control a novelty by comparison. It's neat, but will it really improve your interaction with your thermostat? In most cases, no. Regardless, I like the idea and hope to see updates soon. Mostly, though, I found the tech a bit too simple, the functionality a bit too novel, and, therefore, the price much too high.

If you like Honeywell, I would recommend the $249 model without voice control. And if you aren't quite sold on the design, take a look at the Nest Learning Thermostat. Some of you will want to regularly give your thermostat verbal commands, and if you aren't scared off by the price, it isn't a bad choice at all. I can see this having more-practical applications for someone who cooks a lot, gets overheated, and doesn't want to grab a phone or adjust the thermostat with uncooked chicken on their hands. It also makes sense for people with mobility limitations. But for most people, the value just isn't there.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Design
The design of the Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat is similar to the original, non-voice-enabled thermostat that came out earlier this year. They're both 3.5 inches by 4.5 inches by 0.75 inch. And the only obvious difference between the two is the color: the $249 model has a silvery finish, whereas the $349 model comes in black. Both are fine, but I do prefer the black.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

I really like the look of this thermostat. At a glance, you have access to the date and time, the system status (heat, cool, or off), and the indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity. The touch screen is responsive, and you can select among 15 different background colors (the $249 model offers 14). And if that isn't enough, you can customize further with 28 different background options and 28 different font colors.

This small thermostat boasts a large screen with a nice layout. But despite its sleek finish and abundant color options, it still has a pretty traditional feel to it. It depends on your preference, but the Nest Learning Thermostat remains the choice for those who prefer a more forward-looking design.

Nest offers similar features and capability, but it has a rounded design rather than rectangular and the home page displays one thing: the current temperature. This minimalist display will appeal to folks who want to stray from the classic thermostat look.

Usability
Installing this model was the same as installing the $249 model, so check out this how-to video for more details. And when in doubt, ask a professional or more-experienced friend for help.

Since my system at home doesn't have a C wire, which you need for power, I relied on the power cord provided with the review unit to get this thing running. A note: Most of the photos you see were taken in our office, where I mounted the thermostat on a thin wooden board and fed the power cord wires through a hole in the back. That way, you can see what it would look like "properly" installed. The power cord is not available for purchase.

The amount of time and effort you have to expend on setup will vary a lot depending on your HVAC system and your level of comfort with thermostat installations. Otherwise, I can tell you that this thermostat is designed for ease of use, thanks in large part to the responsive display and intuitive app.

This thermostat has more features than most, so you might expect it to be clunky, but it just isn't. The Wi-Fi setup and scheduling options are all extremely simple to adjust via step-by-step guidance. And the temperature itself is easy to read and adjust, whether you're on the go using the Honeywell Total Connect Comfort Web or mobile app (available for Android and iOS devices), standing directly in front of it using the touch screen arrows to make it warmer or cooler, or talking to it totally hands free.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

In addition to controlling the temperature directly from the app, you can also make scheduling changes and update the system status and the fan. The new voice control feature, which I'll discuss more in the next section, is also very straightforward. I wonder, though, how more than one voice control unit would fare in a larger home. If I tell one thermostat to make a temperature adjustment, would the other respond accordingly? Apparently not. The thermostats would only adjust simultaneously if they were within range to "hear" the same command.

Features
The $249 model has pretty much all of the same features as the $349 model, and they work in much the same way. The Honeywell Total Comfort Connect app is compatible with this model, so remote access is unchanged, and both use Honeywell's Smart Response technology, which relies on algorithms to learn and adjust your usage over time. And you can also set schedules and program your thermostat to adjust for vacations or other temporary schedule changes.

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Where to Buy See all prices

Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat with Voice Control

Part Number: RTH9590WF1003/U
MSRP: $349.00 Low Price: $260.53 See all prices
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