Honeywell Lyric Thermostat review: This round thermostat has a few rough edges

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The Good Whatever your schedule, the Lyric can use its 500-foot or 7-mile adjustable geofencing feature to adapt to it. The thermostat and app are clear design upgrades from the brand's Wi-Fi Smart thermostats.

The Bad The thermostat isn't compatible with certain routers, it periodically shifted to Away mode when I was home, and the app doesn't always label your heating and cooling status, making at-a-glance monitoring of your Home or Away settings a real challenge.

The Bottom Line While the Lyric has a ton of potential, the app needs some major updates to make its usability and performance on par with the Nest.

7.2 Overall
  • Features 9
  • Usability 6
  • Design 8
  • Performance 5

I really liked the $249 Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat I reviewed last year, but its utilitarian design doesn't appeal to the same category of consumer as the Nest Learning Thermostat (also $249), even though it was very similar in terms of features and performance.

Nest fans are looking for solid performance, innovative features, and statement-making design, which is a tough combination to find in the thermostat industry. But unlike Honeywell's previous Wi-Fi thermostats, the $279 Lyric matches the precedent set by Nest, giving it the potential to pose a very real threat to this still-niche market -- at least someday.

While the geofencing feature promises the utmost convenience for those of you with impossible-to-predict schedules, the thermostat would occasionally and inexplicably revert back to Away mode, even when I was at home. I also found the iOS app glitchy (an Android app is also available) and the setup challenging. I'd hold off on the Lyric for now, but a few key tweaks could change everything in its favor.

Getting started

Honeywell's Lyric thermostat is a white, circular thermostat that comes with two screws, a AAA lithium battery, and a round baseplate. The baseplate is optional, depending on your need to strategically cover any holes or mismatched paint. The Lyric measures three inches in diameter and one inch deep.

Unlike Honeywell's other Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats, the Lyric doesn't require a C, or "common," wire to operate. Instead, you can install the Lyric using the same wire configuration as the Nest, which worked out well for me because my system doesn't have a C wire.

The installation process was fairly simple. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

So, I turned off the AC and furnace at my circuit breaker, removed my old thermostat, noted the wiring, and made sure everything was correctly labeled -- I have G, W, Y, and Rh wires, but my Y wire is light blue rather than yellow so it's nice to have that information recorded somewhere. I fed the wires through the baseplate and the base of the thermostat and screwed them into the wall.

The Lyric app walks you through the entire setup process, including everything from removing your old thermostat to connecting your new Lyric to your home Wi-Fi. Here's where I started running through the app instructions as a guide and ran into something confusing. The app asks you to list your wires and then shows you how to install them.

Interestingly, the app told me to hook up the G, W, and Y wires only. I know that the Rh wire, which can double as the R wire, was needed to power the system, so I hooked all four wires up anyway. This was my first usability snag with the Lyric. When in doubt, double-check your wiring setup with a knowledgeable friend -- in this case, the app was actually wrong.

Configuring and connecting the thermostat. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

Then, I snapped the faceplate on and turned the AC and furnace back on at the breaker. The thermostat began to power up, showing the Lyric product name on the display and a ring of lights around it that illuminated slowly over two to three minutes as the thermostat turned on fully.

Next came the configuration process, which is simple if you know basic info about your heating and cooling system -- fuel source, cooling stages, and so on. Connecting the thermostat is the next step, and this gave me the most trouble by far. I followed the steps exactly to add the Honeywell Lyric network to the Wi-Fi and then input the details for my home Wi-Fi, but I kept getting the same error: "I can't connect. Make sure DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) is enabled on your router."

Now, DHCP is required for this setup, but I logged into my Netgear router and confirmed that it was already enabled. I tried a couple of other fixes to no avail and eventually decided to try a different brand router after reading this forum, which discusses networking issues between certain routers and Honeywell thermostats (although no one named the Lyric specifically).

Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat
The Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat. Colin West McDonald / CNET

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