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Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat with Voice Control review: Good, but not quite worth the price

The voice control options are extremely basic, and the price increase just doesn't match the value added with the Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat with Voice Control.

Megan Wollerton Former Senior Writer/Editor
8 min read

The $349 Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat with Voice Control is an intriguing new offering from Honeywell. While it is virtually identical to Honeywell's $249 Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat in design and functionality, the addition of voice control really sets it apart. Unlike some of its other key features, this one wasn't borrowed from Nest.


Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat with Voice Control

The Good

Honeywell gets out from under the shadow of Nest by adding voice recognition to its new <b>Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat with Voice Control</b>. For the most part, it performs very well.

The Bad

It costs $349. That's $100 more than the already pricey Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat (without voice control) and its main competition, the second-generation Nest Learning Thermostat.

The Bottom Line

The voice control options are extremely basic, and the price increase just doesn't match the value added. Save some cash and get the $249 model or a Nest.

I think that's great. Unfortunately, I can't recommend it -- at least not yet. I really wanted the voice control to work, but instead it's very basic, and occasionally glitchy. That makes the extra $100 for this one feature seem excessive.

Most of us will also still grab our phones or walk over to the thermostat to change the temperature, which makes voice control a novelty by comparison. It's neat, but will it really improve your interaction with your thermostat? In most cases, no. Regardless, I like the idea and hope to see updates soon. Mostly, though, I found the tech a bit too simple, the functionality a bit too novel, and, therefore, the price much too high.

If you like Honeywell, I would recommend the $249 model without voice control. And if you aren't quite sold on the design, take a look at the Nest Learning Thermostat. Some of you will want to regularly give your thermostat verbal commands, and if you aren't scared off by the price, it isn't a bad choice at all. I can see this having more-practical applications for someone who cooks a lot, gets overheated, and doesn't want to grab a phone or adjust the thermostat with uncooked chicken on their hands. It also makes sense for people with mobility limitations. But for most people, the value just isn't there.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

The design of the Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat is similar to the original, non-voice-enabled thermostat that came out earlier this year. They're both 3.5 inches by 4.5 inches by 0.75 inch. And the only obvious difference between the two is the color: the $249 model has a silvery finish, whereas the $349 model comes in black. Both are fine, but I do prefer the black.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

I really like the look of this thermostat. At a glance, you have access to the date and time, the system status (heat, cool, or off), and the indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity. The touch screen is responsive, and you can select among 15 different background colors (the $249 model offers 14). And if that isn't enough, you can customize further with 28 different background options and 28 different font colors.

This small thermostat boasts a large screen with a nice layout. But despite its sleek finish and abundant color options, it still has a pretty traditional feel to it. It depends on your preference, but the Nest Learning Thermostat remains the choice for those who prefer a more forward-looking design.

Nest offers similar features and capability, but it has a rounded design rather than rectangular and the home page displays one thing: the current temperature. This minimalist display will appeal to folks who want to stray from the classic thermostat look.

Installing this model was the same as installing the $249 model, so check out this how-to video for more details. And when in doubt, ask a professional or more-experienced friend for help.

Since my system at home doesn't have a C wire, which you need for power, I relied on the power cord provided with the review unit to get this thing running. A note: Most of the photos you see were taken in our office, where I mounted the thermostat on a thin wooden board and fed the power cord wires through a hole in the back. That way, you can see what it would look like "properly" installed. The power cord is not available for purchase.

The amount of time and effort you have to expend on setup will vary a lot depending on your HVAC system and your level of comfort with thermostat installations. Otherwise, I can tell you that this thermostat is designed for ease of use, thanks in large part to the responsive display and intuitive app.

This thermostat has more features than most, so you might expect it to be clunky, but it just isn't. The Wi-Fi setup and scheduling options are all extremely simple to adjust via step-by-step guidance. And the temperature itself is easy to read and adjust, whether you're on the go using the Honeywell Total Connect Comfort Web or mobile app (available for Android and iOS devices), standing directly in front of it using the touch screen arrows to make it warmer or cooler, or talking to it totally hands free.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

In addition to controlling the temperature directly from the app, you can also make scheduling changes and update the system status and the fan. The new voice control feature, which I'll discuss more in the next section, is also very straightforward. I wonder, though, how more than one voice control unit would fare in a larger home. If I tell one thermostat to make a temperature adjustment, would the other respond accordingly? Apparently not. The thermostats would only adjust simultaneously if they were within range to "hear" the same command.

The $249 model has pretty much all of the same features as the $349 model, and they work in much the same way. The Honeywell Total Comfort Connect app is compatible with this model, so remote access is unchanged, and both use Honeywell's Smart Response technology, which relies on algorithms to learn and adjust your usage over time. And you can also set schedules and program your thermostat to adjust for vacations or other temporary schedule changes.

Here's how the voice control works: you have to start every command with, "Hello, Thermostat." It may sound silly, but that's what triggers it to listen to your command. Otherwise, it would be picking up on different bits of conversation and thinking that you are trying to give it a command when you aren't. It responds with, "Hello! Please say a command."

Colin West McDonald/CNET

From there, you can say any of the following: "Make it warmer/cooler," "Make it much warmer/cooler," "Make it (1-10) degrees warmer/cooler," "I'm feeling hot/cold," and "What can I say?"

"Make it warmer/cooler" and "I'm feeling hot/cold" will adjust the temperature up or down 1 degree. "Make it much warmer/cooler" will move the temp up or down 4 degrees. "Make it (1-10) degrees warmer/cooler" allows you to specify the number of degrees up to 10, and "What can I say?" will list the above commands and remind you to kick everything off with, "Hello, Thermostat."

Importantly, if it starts to annoy you, you can turn off voice control. You can also adjust the volume of the speaker. And you can adjust the sensitivity of the microphone. When I received mine, it was set to 3 out of 10, with 1 being the least sensitive, and 10 being the most sensitive. You will have to find the right balance for your home -- too high a number, and it might interpret ambient noise coming from your television as ,"Hello, Thermostat." Too low, though, and it won't pick up on much of anything.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

I tested this thermostat at home, with a focus on the voice control feature. To flummox it I ran water, and turned on the TV and the bathroom fan. I even tried out different accents and voice volumes from various distances -- all to trick this thing into not working. But, it hung in there, and, for the most part, it worked very well.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

I also measured my distance from the thermostat; since it's centrally located in my condo, the farthest away I got was about 25 feet. I tried shutting doors, too, to make my voice more difficult to hear. At one point I had two different doors separating me from the thermostat, and that was the only time it didn't respond at all after several attempts. That's pretty good.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Occasionally, it would note my "Hello, Thermostat!" and ask me to provide a command, but then would say, "I'm sorry, I did not understand. Can you please try again?" That happened whether I was trying to speak clearly near the thermostat without much background noise or using an admittedly very bad British accent with the TV on from 20 feet away. I'm not sure why that happened. But it would work by the second or third attempt.

I had bigger problems with the "Make it (1-10) degrees warmer/cooler" command. Since you wouldn't typically be staring at the thermostat or within easy reach of a phone when giving this command, you might not know the exact indoor temperature at that moment. So when you say "Make it 3 degrees warmer," you're just going to have to trust that it worked.

The thermostat usually responded correctly with "Changing set point to 71 degrees." But on more than one occasion, after noting the current set point and then asking it to make a 1-10 degree adjustment, it would only raise or lower 1 degree instead of 3 degrees. It did seem that the closer I stood, the better this particular command worked.

Now for the most interesting performance issue I encountered. When talking with a co-worker, I said something completely unrelated to "Hello, Thermostat" and it responded with "Hello! Please say a command." So I tried again, and it responded the same way two more times. That might have been a fluke since I tried at least a dozen other times after that to no avail, but it still isn't what you hope to see during testing.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

While this thermostat has a lot going for it -- generally reliable performance, appealing design, remote access via Honeywell's Total Connect Comfort app, and Smart Response technology -- I don't think it's worth $349. That's a shame, because this is a solid product, but the $100 price increase gets me. That's a lot extra to pay for one intriguing, but ultimately (mostly) novel addition.

And while the voice recognition software does work well most of the time, it's also very basic. I found myself wanting to be able to ask the thermostat the current indoor temperature and then tell it to adjust up or down to a specific number. Hopefully updates are in the works for folks who decide to spend the $349.

If you have the money and are curious about the technology, go for it -- you will enjoy this product. But that also means that you will likely enjoy the virtually indistinguishable Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat (without voice control). And for $100 less.

The $249 Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat without voice control. Colin West McDonald / CNET

I'm guessing that most people interested in smart thermostats stay within fairly close range of their phones and other devices. And from a home automation perspective, it couldn't be much easier to control this Honeywell thermostat using the Total Connect Comfort app. Instinctively, most of us will reach for our phones to make remote adjustments -- and the app allows for more-comprehensive monitoring and operation.

That's why the features and functionality offered in the $249 model are so appealing. Rather than throwing out a "neat" technology that simply piques curiosity and then falls a little flat in practice, it offers a thoughtful, modern, and pragmatic approach to smart appliances. It combines innovation with efficiency in a way that helps us learn more about the often underrated role thermostats play in our daily lives. And that translates to a clever little energy- and money-saving gadget. That's true for the Nest Learning Thermostat, too. So, save a little money and get the voice control-less $249 model or a Nest.


Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat with Voice Control

Score Breakdown

Features 9Usability 7Design 7Performance 8
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