Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat review: How does the Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat stack up against the popular Nest?

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
  • Overall: 8.0
  • Usability: 7.0
  • Features: 9.0
  • Performance: 9.0
  • Design: 7.0

Average User Rating

3 stars 3 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Along with straightforward management software, the Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat quickly learns your energy usage habits and adapts accordingly.

The Bad Ease of installation will vary widely depending on your experience with wiring and the type of heating and cooling system you have.

The Bottom Line Honeywell's Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat can compete directly with the Nest Learning Thermostat on features, but it doesn't match the Nest's intuitive design.

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Editor's Note: The power cord used for this installation is not included in the standard packaging.

Thermostat giant Honeywell designed this Wi-Fi-enabled model in direct response to the innovative Nest Learning Thermostat created by Apple alumni Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers. Honeywell went so far as to file a lawsuit against Nest on February 6, 2012, claiming the new company violated seven existing Honeywell patents in the making of their iPod-inspired thermostat. Strip away all of that drama, and you still end up with two extremely capable products that have top-notch functionality and identical $249 price tags. So, what makes Honeywell's Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat unique?

In brief, the Honeywell has more predictable design characteristics, a much busier home display, and, in my case, a more complex set-up process. There are a few other slight deviations between models, but the design and installation will be the main deal makers -- or deal breakers -- for most. Where the Nest packaging is akin to that of an Apple product, (it includes a screwdriver and the Web site even offers a quiz that you can take before buying to find out if your home is compatible) the Honeywell is comparatively no-frills. I would recommend the Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat to any home automation DIYer who appreciates traditional style and doesn't need hand-holding during the installation. Just know that it might not work in every home.

Design
This Honeywell is a slightly sleekified version of that old boxy thermostat you probably have at home now. On the home screen, you will see the date and time, the indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity, and up and down arrows so you can change the temperature manually. It's considerably smaller than my old thermostat and it doesn't come with different size base plates, so the previous paint job is clearly visible on all sides.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

The Nest, on the other hand, is round and comes with a square and a larger rectangular base plate to cover up any unsightly holes or paint. Its home display is also extremely minimal; it shows the current temperature and that's about it. Honeywell places more emphasis on utility by displaying more information up front, whereas the Nest is more streamlined and design-focused. It's really a matter of preference here.

This DIY installation is not for beginners. There are many different types of heating and cooling systems and some of them just won't be compatible with this thermostat. Honeywell doesn't do a great job of warning you about that beforehand, which leads into a larger issue I had with this setup. You really need a C or "common" wire to power this model. There are a couple of different workarounds available if you don't have a C wire, but they aren't guaranteed to work on every system. So that could cause some installations to come to a screeching halt.

For example, my system has a G, a W, a Y, and an Rh wire. To get power to my thermostat without a C wire, I had two main options. I could run a new wire from the HVAC to the thermostat and assign it to both C ports or I could redirect the G wire to the C wire port at the thermostat and HVAC terminal (which would disable my ability to adjust the fan at will). It was around this time that I learned that my HVAC unit is not in great shape. Everything is connected with wire nuts and there's no terminal unit to be found. I am not nearly experienced enough to figure out where to put the C wire without a port labeled "C" in my HVAC. The same goes for rerouting the G wire to the C wire port -- my system doesn't have a traditional G or C port.

Fortunately, Honeywell also provides power cords to reviewers as a simple and quick installation option. Unfortunately, the cord isn't included when you buy this thermostat or available as a separate commercial purchase. Basically, I wouldn't have been able to install the Honeywell thermostat at all without either the power cord (which isn't an actual option) or help from an electrician. I can't exactly blame Honeywell for my sketchy HVAC unit, but the Nest doesn't require a C wire in most houses. Points Nest.

Usability
Like the Nest, the Honeywell thermostat functions so much like a regular digital thermostat that you shouldn't experience too much of a learning curve when you want to use it on your wall.

The Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat is also remotely accessible via free Web-based and Android and iOS mobile apps. I've been using the Honeywell Total Connect Comfort iOS app and it's very intuitive, although the frequent log-outs are annoying.

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Where to Buy See all prices

Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat

Part Number: RTH9580WF
MSRP: $249.00 Low Price: $189.95 See all prices