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iDevices Thermostat review:

iDevices Thermostat is short on features, high on potential

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iDevices Thermostat

(Part #: 671869) Released: Oct 29, 2015
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The Good The body of the Thermostat looks nice enough, and the instructions for setup are clear and helpful. Between coming HomeKit and iDevices software upgrades, this could be one of better thermostats for its price.

The Bad The design ends up feeling inefficient, and the interface raises usability problems. Worst of all, this Thermostat includes surprisingly few smart features at present, making its price tag inappropriate.

The Bottom Line Once features like geo-fencing, pattern-learning algorithms and triggers become available, this oddly standard Thermostat could become a strong contender at its price point. For now, though, it's not worth the money.

CNET Editors' Rating

6.5 Overall
  • Features 5.0
  • Usability 7.0
  • Design 7.0
  • Performance 8.0

At the CNET Smart Home, one of the easiest gadgets to forget about is our Nest Learning Thermostat -- and that's a good thing. When we arrive in the morning, the home has already changed from its energy saving 65 degrees to 71 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature our staff prefers. Throughout the day, if Nest senses no one is in the house, it will allow the temperature to drift within a reasonable range to save energy. This is the power of the smart thermostat: it saves you money and keeps you comfortable, all while fading into the background of your daily routine.

The problem with many smart thermostats is they clock in at a pricey $250. So I was excited to hear iDevices, the company behind the iGrill and the Switch -- both solid products -- would be releasing their HomeKit-compatible Thermostat for a mere $150. When I got my hands on it, though, I was disappointed to find the Thermostat software lacking major features that would classify it as "smart." While the device will certainly develop as Apple HomeKit grows (according to developers, the hardware is already capable of Bluetooth connectivity and geo-fencing, pending software updates), right now the Thermostat is only worth it for those willing to invest in HomeKit's future.

Setup

After seeing some of the more creative solutions of recent smart thermostats, I was a little disappointed by the surprisingly standard setup of the iDevices product. The Nest Learning Thermostat, for example, provides nodes for your wires to plug into -- nodes that you can clamp shut with the push of a button. The iDevices Thermostat by contrast requires you to screw in the wires using a tiny screwdriver (not included).

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

When I installed the Thermostat for the first time, it didn't work. The temperature drifted upward and the controls had no effect on it. After examining the directions again, I discovered I'd missed something: I had to enter information about our particular HVAC system into the Thermostat's menu. This process surprised me, since other smart thermostats bypass it by analyzing your wiring. Not only did I have to know what kind of HVAC we have (a gas-powered, heat pump system), I also had to look up the type of reversing valve it uses (O-type).

Setting up thermostats can be complicated, and the iDevices Thermostat certainly didn't make it easier. I was disappointed nothing on the app or the Thermostat screen told me it had defaulted to a non-heat pump system, and I didn't even know anything was amiss until a few hours later when the house was uncomfortably warm.

Design

The Thermostat's design looks nice -- from a distance. Its glossy white face will fit with more contemporary home decors, and the four buttons around the small rectangular screen are touch sensitive. This means that, despite the smaller screen, your hands will never get in the way of seeing the menus. The button placement even gives a cool visual structure to the device that some purely touchscreen devices lack.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Once I started using the Thermostat, though, I realized the button placement, while aesthetically pleasing, was inefficient. The button used for both "settings" and "select," for example, is located in the upper left corner where "back" buttons are usually placed. As a result, more than once when I wanted to go "back," I accidentally touched the "select" button, opening a new menu I had to exit. This, among other small problems, made navigating the Thermostat interface a little cumbersome.

The menu system on the Thermostat is also oddly inefficient. Rather than learning from the menu systems of competitors, like the Ecobee3 Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat, that pair clever graphics with only-when-necessary text, the iDevices Thermostat features a menu tree of monochromatic visuals and lists. The text is even pixelated and bland, so what should feel like a new device instead strikes me as already dated.

Features

Setup can be a pain for any thermostat, and every consumer will have different design tastes, but the quality of a smart thermostat is largely measured by its smart features. In other words, why pay more for a thermostat unless it's going to be somehow different from what you already own?

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