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Orbit B-Hyve review:

The Orbit B-Hyve is the best budget-friendly smart sprinkler

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The Good The Orbit B-Hyve combines a classic look with well-implemented smarts. The app will watch the weather and schedule your sprinklers for you, and you can control your sprinklers with your voice through B-Hyve's Alexa skill.

The Bad The app could have used a few more scheduling options and a little more depth throughout. The manual controls can be confusing and the B-Hyve doesn't work with as many smart home partners as the competition.

The Bottom Line The Orbit B-hyve isn't the best smart sprinkler we've tested, but its reasonable price makes it the best budget-friendly option.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.8 Overall
  • Features 8.0
  • Usability 8.0
  • Design 7.0
  • Performance 8.0

When you first install the Orbit B-Hyve, you might not think it's that different from an ordinary sprinkler controller. The large central dial, the four large buttons and the clunky LCD display all give the impression that you're dealing with outdated technology. Indeed, Orbit's first smart sprinkler doesn't stray far from the company's non-smart options in appearance, and Orbit has been making sprinkler controllers for decades.

In this way, the B-Hyve stands in stark contrast to the excellent Rachio Smart Sprinkler, which started from scratch as a smart device. Not all of the B-Hyve's differences from Rachio's sprinkler are a bad thing. If you're a fan of manual controls or you want to save money, Orbit's B-Hyve might be the better option for you than the Rachio at about twice the price (more on pricing later). You even have to pay extra for a waterproof case from Rachio. Orbit's waterproof casing is built in and part of its industrial appearance.

Price aside, the Rachio Controller is the better smart device -- it has a wider mix of smart scheduling options and does a better job of integrating into an existing smart home setup. Taken on its own, the B-Hyve's certainly no slouch. It works with Amazon's assistant Alexa, and will schedule your sprinklers for you based on the weather. The B-Hyve is worth your consideration as a cheap, competent, but not-quite-as-smart alternative to the Rachio Controller.

The basics of the B-Hyve

Not only is the Orbit B-Hyve cheaper than Rachio, it's one of the least expensive smart sprinkler controllers you can find. Like most competitors in the growing smart sprinkler category, the B-Hyve replaces the existing controller for your in-ground sprinklers. Connect it to your Wi-Fi and download the B-Hyve app, and you'll be able to control your sprinklers with your phone.

The B-Hyve also monitors the local weather, and will schedule your sprinklers for you if you'd like. Like most smart sprinklers, it's approved by the EPA WaterSense program. Head here to see if you'd qualify for a rebate on your water bill. So not only does the B-Hyve make it easier to control and schedule your sprinklers, but it can theoretically help you water more efficiently and save you money as a result.

You can buy the Orbit B-Hyve online in the US via the company's site or Amazon. It's also available in hardware stores such as Lowe's and Home Depot. The six-zone model costs $100 and the 12-zone model is $120. The B-Hyve is also available in the UK and Australia. The six-zone controller is £150 on Amazon.co.uk. The US price converts to roughly AU$130 and AU$150 for the six- and 12-zone models respectively. 

Simple setup, complex controls

If you're not familiar with advanced sprinkler timers, you might be intimidated by all of the B-Hyve's options. Setup is as simple as connecting wires for power and each of your zones. If you can install a thermostat, you can install the B-Hyve.

Once you're up and running, the left side of the screen serves as the menu. Seemingly redundant options such as "manual," "run time" and "start time" make using the display confusing. So keep the instruction manual handy if you'd rather set up your schedule with the manual controls rather than the app.

b-hive-sprinkler-1

You can use the wheel to scroll through the list on the left. 

Chris Monroe/CNET

The app simplifies your options for controlling and scheduling your sprinklers, and it's generally much easier to use than the physical controls. Still, it's not perfect. I wish it showed a little more detail as far as weather info. Rachio lets you choose where you get your weather info. Orbit doesn't offer that layer of customization. The calendar could have also used an extra layer or two of info. 

Once you set a program or a schedule, you'll be able to see dots on the days when your system is set to water. Tap a day, and it'll show you the start time of each program, but you can't see much more detail than that, even if you tap the time to pull up additional details. The calendar entry never shows you a full play by play of which zones are going to run and for how long in each session.

The main page of the app, the scheduling page and the calendar page. 

Screenshots by Andrew Gebhart/CNET

The main page of the app lets you set a rain delay, or manually turn your sprinklers on or off. You can access the details of each zone in the zone page, and set up schedules and programs in the programs page.

Smarter scheduling

Under the zones page, you can give the B-Hyve the details it needs to set your schedule for you under "smart details." For each zone, you can set the soil type, plant type, sprinkler type, amount of sunlight, slope and how many sprinklers are in the zone. You can also set up catch cups to determine exactly how much water hits your yard between rain and the sprinklers for a more exact estimate of soil moisture.

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