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Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat review: How does the Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat stack up against the popular Nest?

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Even if you don't set a schedule for your thermostat, the Honeywell will use algorithms to "learn" your habits and will begin to automatically adjust your heating and cooling based on your usage patterns. Of course, you can still override this by manually adjusting the temperature.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

It also offers advanced fan settings designed to keep you comfortable and save energy simultaneously. You can adjust the background color from an established list or use the custom menu to create your own color scheme. This thermostat will send you warnings when it registers an extreme degree shift beyond the norm and lets you know when it's time to replace your air filter. It also tracks the indoor humidity and displays the external temperature and humidity.

If you're worried about security, you have the option of locking the touch screen and you can adjust the length of time the backlight stays illuminated. Honeywell says this thermostat can maintain one degree of accuracy on any temperature setting. That's great, but your heat or air conditioning will kick on more frequently as a result, so you can adjust it down whenever you want.

These Honeywell features closely mirror what Nest offers. Similarly, the Nest will help you save money by studying your energy usage and adjusting accordingly. It relies on system runtime to send filter change reminders. So, the more you use your heating or cooling, the more often you will receive filter replacement notifications. It has built-in sensors that track indoor humidity readings and it notes weather conditions via Wi-Fi to determine how the outside temperature influences your indoor heating and cooling patterns. It also allows you to set an acceptable temperature range and use a four-digit code to keep anyone from making unauthorized changes. Unlike the Honeywell, you cannot change the background color of the Nest. However, the stainless steel ring it comes with claims to adopt the color of the wall like a chameleon. A more significant difference is that the Nest can only promise to get within three degrees of accuracy, so the concept of "set temperature" is a bit more liberal.

The Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat exceeded my expectations. The temperature adjusted automatically based on my typical heating and cooling cycle and the scheduling functionality also performed without any hiccups. The touch screen and app are both highly responsive and if your Wi-Fi goes out, your thermostat will continue to function like a regular digital model.

Chances are that this thermostat is more intuitive and efficient than the one you have now and, as a result, it will save you money over time. The only performance problem I noted was that the outdoor temperature and humidity reading is sporadic at best. But for most, that's probably not going to be the deciding factor against purchasing this thermostat.

Honeywell staked its claim in the DIY smart thermostat market with this $249 Wi-Fi-enabled model. Its feature-rich display, straightforward Web and mobile apps, and top-notch functionality make it a worthy rival for the identically priced Nest Learning Thermostat. If you're comfortable with electrical wiring, the buying decision may come down to aesthetics, since they have nearly identical functionality with different design structures.

For me, the main decision comes down to the ease of installation. Overall, each one is a useful addition to your home and especially appealing if you're into DIY and looking for new ways to automate. I'm also interested to see how this market develops. Even if its design isn't quite as polished, Honeywell has shown it can match the Nest in terms of basic functionality. The competition between these two is sure to intensify.

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