Rachio's new sprinkler gadget gets cheaper, adds voice control

Rachio

Rachio's second-generation smart sprinkler controller doesn't stray too far from the successful formula of the first, the Rachio Iro -- you'll still install it in place of your existing sprinkler controller, where it'll use local weather and humidity info to help you plan your watering schedule. But small cosmetic changes, new integrations including voice controls through Amazon Echo, and a lower price combine to make Rachio's latest feel fresh, if not revolutionary.

With new onboard controls, a waterproof case and LED status lights, the hardware of the second-gen Rachio looks more refined than the original. Its app supposedly works quicker, and helps streamline the setup process. Again, it's also cheaper than the old Rachio Iro, which cost $250 for an eight-zone controller and $300 for 16 zones -- this sequel has a single 16-zone model at that lower $250 price. It's not yet widely available in the UK and Australia, but that converts to approximately £175 and AU$350.

Available starting today at Amazon -- with international shipping available -- Home Depot and Rachio's site, and coming soon to Best Buy and Apple.com, the release mostly highlights the many step-by-step improvements, particularly in terms of interoperability, that the Rachio team has made since the Iro initially launched in the spring of 2014.

The weatherproof case.

Rachio

The basics of the Rachio system remain the same. You replace the existing controller for your in-ground sprinklers with the Rachio, then you use the iOS app, the Android app, or the Web interface to connect the Rachio to your home's Wi-Fi router. At that point the controller will use local weather and humidity data to customize a watering schedule for you, alternating it as necessary based on your preferences or updates to the forecast.

You can also control the Rachio Sprinkler Controller with your voice -- if you have an Amazon Echo. One of the company's most recent integrations, you'll be able to tell Alexa, the digital assistant within the Echo, to turn your sprinkler zones on or off. Other smart home integrations with Rachio include:

Since Rachio launched a number of competitive devices have hit the marketplace, usually with features and prices tailored to best the Rachio Iro. Particularly, the Blossom Smart Watering Controller offers 12 zones of control for $180, has a weatherproofed exterior unlike the original Iro, and can connect using either power line or Wi-Fi for extended range. The GreenIQ controller offers 16 zones for $250 and allows direct integration with other smart gardening devices such as plant sensors and weather monitors to refine when it schedules your sprinklers based on the exact conditions of your yard.

Rachio's been improving the company's software side all along, as demonstrated by its impressive list of interoperable systems. A new killer feature on the hardware side of the second-gen Rachio would have been great, but small changes such as weather-proofing and the option to connect a rain sensor will help users who need those options while allowing the company to cut the price. The new price and small, smart changes to the device itself should help keep Rachio at the forefront of the smart sprinkler conversation.

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Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller Generation 2

Part Number: 16ZULW-B
MSRP: $249.00 Low Price: $244.99 See all prices