Ecobee4 review: Nest who? Ecobee just built a better thermostat

The Ecobee4's smarts

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's web app home screen gives you instant access to a bunch of features.

Screenshot by CNET

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.

One clever thermostat

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.

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