Editors' note (Nov. 14, 2017): The Ecobee4 now works with the Google Assistant and supports Amazon's ESP feature.
Editors' note (May 9, 2017): Amazon introduced Echo-to-Echo Alexa voice calling today. This feature isn't currently supported by the Ecobee4 thermostat.
The $249 Ecobee4 borrows all of the best stuff from Ecobee's older thermostats. It has a responsive touchscreen display, a remote temperature and proximity sensor, intuitive mobile and web apps and integrations with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings and IFTTT. But instead of simply working with Alexa, the Ecobee4 itself is an Amazon speaker. (The Ecobee4 is only available in the US; at the current exchange rate, pricing converts to roughly £190/AU$330.)
Not only does the Ecobee4 work incredibly well, it's the smartest thermostat we've ever reviewed. For these reasons, we've given it a CNET Editors' Choice Award. If you don't want all of these smarts (or if you already have an Alexa speaker), consider one of Ecobee's less expensive thermostats or Honeywell's $150 Lyric T5. Otherwise, I'd strongly suggest the Ecobee4.
Ecobee's been in the thermostat biz for a long time, but its first few smart models weren't quite able match the appeal of Nest's stylish Learning Thermostat. Flash forward six years and Nest still sells the same ol' thermostat for the same $249 price. During this time, Ecobee has forged ahead with a lineup of three connected thermostats: the $169Ecobee3 Lite, the $199 Ecobee3 -- and the new Ecobee4.
The Ecobee4's design still can't match Nest's gorgeous iPod-inspired thermostat, but it dominates in every other category. Its touchscreen display is easy to use and fast to respond. Instead of Nest's predictive algorithm, the Ecobee4 relies on a remote sensor. Complete with temperature and motion/proximity detection, the sensor makes it easier to determine if someone's home or away. It's also a nice accessory for tracking rooms with hot or cold spots. I installed the sensor for our review unit at the CNET Smart Home in a basement bourbon storage room to monitor temperature.
A Power Extender Kit (PEK) comes with your Ecobee4 purchase, too. Since this thermostat requires a C-wire to operate, you can use the PEK to add in the extra wire's functionality without rewiring your entire HVAC system. Want to know more about C-wires? Check out this article. Always consult a professional installer if you have questions about your thermostat's configuration. But if you're familiar with electrical wiring and you don't need to use the PEK, the installation should take less than 30 minutes.
Connecting your Ecobee4 to Wi-Fi is as easy as downloading the related app for Android and iPhone and following the step-by-step instructions. It should only take a few minutes. Once the thermostat is connected to your local network, you can access it from the mobile or web app. You have access to the same features in both apps, but the web app's home screen provides a better overview at a glance.
The Ecobee4 also works with a lot of smart home partners. Nest's count? Three -- Amazon Alexa, IFTTT and Wink. Ecobee works with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings and IFTTT. And, instead of simply integrating with an Amazon Echo, Echo Dot or Tap speaker, the Ecobee4 doubles as an Alexa speaker. Just as you would with a standalone device, you can ask Alexa to tell you a joke, to turn on your Haiku fan or to adjust your thermostat.
Adding smart home integrations takes a little longer than the initial configuration, but it's still very straightforward. I linked the Ecobee4 to HomeKit's Home app in iOS 10, as well as to a shared Amazon account. From here, I was able to control the thermostat with Siri via HomeKit and with Alexa directly from the thermostat.
Everything I tried worked well. Adjusting the thermostat at the source, with the mobile or web app -- and with Siri or Alexa voice control -- was all consistent. Adding an Alexa speaker to the thermostat also provided an additional layer of smarts.
The Ecobee4 became a central hub in the home, a place where I'd ask Alexa for the daily forecast, turn Alexa-enabled lighting on and off and more. One limitation: the Ecobee4 doesn't have Amazon's Echo Spatial Perception (ESP) feature, so it will respond to your command even if other Alexa speakers are nearby. Also, a built-in Alexa speaker might not make sense if your thermostat is located in a remote hallway, but it's a very useful integration otherwise.
By DIY standards, Ecobee's $249 Ecobee4 Smart Thermostat is top-of-the-line. If you don't care about having multiple points of access between your thermostat and other smart home devices, this model might not be worth the price. But consider this: Nest's Learning Thermostat also retails for $249, but offers fewer smart home partners and related accessories. It also doesn't have an integrated Alexa speaker.
Ecobee has shifted the paradigm with the Ecobee4, making it the best smart thermostat available today and an Editor's Choice Award winner. Get it for its cool tech, keep it for its reliable performance.