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MyQ Garage review: A smart-home gateway drug

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The $100 Chamberlain MyQ Garage Door Opener lets you open and close your garage door from anywhere with an internet connection. It also grants you the ability to set custom alerts and monitor whether your garage door is open or closed. Google Assistant, HomeKit and IFTTT support are all options with the MyQ, none of which are free. Understandably, subscriptions for these services rub a lot of consumers the wrong way. If you don't mind paying the premium, the MyQ system offers the broadest smart garage compatibility available.

The Good

The Chamberlain MyQ Garage is one of the most affordable smart garage-door openers, and also one of the easiest to install.

The Bad

It works with a growing list of other smart home products, but notables like SmartThings and Revolv still don't have official support.

The Bottom Line

Chamberlain's MyQ Garage should be the first on your list if you want to add some smarts to your garage door. Just prepare your wallet for the urge to link it to other devices.

There's plenty to like about the MyQ. Installation is simple. Broad compatibility means the MyQ should work on your current garage hardware. Chamberlain's inclusive attitude also means you can coordinate the MyQ to interact with a growing number of connected home platforms.

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Colin West McDonald/CNET

You'll find that interoperability to be crucial to the MyQ achieving its full potential. The basics of the MyQ all work as expected, but soon after you install it you start wondering what else it can do. What if it could learn when you're coming and going and respond automatically? Wouldn't a camera in the garage also make sense?

Between its comparatively low cost and its ease of use, the MyQ is recommendable in that it that delivers on its core promises with little fuss. Just be prepared to feel the itch to add more smart products once you start using it.

Installs in a flash

The world of connected garage door openers is surprisingly broad. In addition to Chamberlain's own fixed units with built-in connectivity, it shares the same MyQ technology with sister brand Liftmaster. Sears' Craftsman also has it own line of connected openers using a tech it calls AssureLink. You'll also find at least half-a-dozen options on the retrofit market.

Those retrofit devices include GogoGate2, Garageio and others, with prices ranging from $89 for the MyQ to $180 or so. Although it's one of the least expensive devices in its class, the MyQ is also one of the easier units to install, requiring no wired connection to your existing opener.

The entire MyQ kit itself is made up of of two main hardware components; a base station that attaches to the ceiling of your garage near your current opener, and a sensor unit that adheres to the garage door.

Installation should take about 15 minutes. Start by screwing a small bracket to your garage ceiling near a power outlet (wood screws as well as drywall screws and anchors are included). Slide the base station onto the bracket, plug in the power cable, then link your phone, your wireless network, and the garage opener to the base station, via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

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Colin West McDonald/CNET

Go through the typical iOS or Android Bluetooth pairing process to link the devices and share your home Wi-Fi settings between your phone and the MyQ base station. That step puts the hub on the internet, granting you access to your garage door opener from anywhere you can get online with your phone. Via the MyQ app, you then make an account and add the device via the serial number from the base unit.

Select the make and model for your opener within the app, and then follow the prompt to hit your opener's program button. Chamberlain says the MyQ is compatible with any photoelectric sensor-equipped opener made after 1993. The opener will then broadcast the open/close code for the hub to memorize. Lastly, attach the door sensor to your garage door via the included adhesive strips and hit the test button to pair the sensor to the MyQ hub.

None of these steps are terribly onerous. Yes, you'll need to get up on a ladder and drill into the ceiling of your garage (unless you mount the hub some other way). There's no need to mess with breaker switches or hard wiring the hub to anything, making it an exception in its category. It matched the photoelectric signal to my Overhead Doors Overdrive opener on the first try.

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The MyQ app gives you a fair amount of control and insight into your garage door activity.

Screenshot by Rich Brown/CNET

Chamberlain also deserves credit for making the Wi-Fi receiver in the hub rather strong. My iPhone registers only one bar of Wi-Fi signal strength coming from my house to my detached garage, and sometimes it doesn't find the signal at all, but I've always been able to find the MyQ remotely and send signals to it in the two weeks or so that I've had it installed.

Smart, but it could be smarter

As easy as I found the MyQ installation, there's no getting around the fact that it's far easier to simply reach up and hit the old-school opener clipped to the windshield visor in my car. Replacing that routine with an app isn't really the point of the MyQ, though.

Instead, the idea is that it will let you check the status of your door remotely, and then do something about it if you don't like what you see. The kids left the garage door open? Your neighbor wants to borrow or return a tool when you're not around? MyQ lets you intervene from your bedroom, the beach, or pretty much anywhere with Wi-Fi or a cellular data signal.

One usability quirk with the MyQ comes when you have multiple residents in a home. Via a custom rule I made in the app software, my MyQ unit will tell me when the door has been open for 45 minutes. My wife works at home though, so when I get an alert telling me the door is open on a workday, I'm never exactly sure where she is or what she might be doing around the house.

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This sensor tells the hub whether the door is up or down.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

I'm not worried about accidentally crushing her with the door. When you tell the app to close, the MyQ base unit beeps and flashes a light for about 15 seconds before it actually starts closing. That and the standard motion sensor already installed across the threshold of my garage ensure that no one will be hurt or surprised by the MyQ.

But if my wife is for some reason counting on the garage door staying in a certain state -- maybe she's taking in groceries, or playing in the driveway with our kids -- there's no way for me to see what's going on remotely via the MyQ app.

The obvious solution is to put a camera in the garage. This is how the MyQ starts you thinking about adding more devices. Fortunately it's rather good at accommodating them. If you're set on going that route, you'll need to either add a third-party camera and its corresponding app to your smart home or consider a garage system like the Garager or the Garadget.

Making connections

Chamberlain is keeping its options open among the various smart-home platforms out there. If you own a Nest Learning Thermostat, you can use the MyQ app to set home and away status on your thermostat automatically when you open or close the garage. As a Works with Nest product, you can control and view Nest thermostats or cameras from the MyQ app.

Chamberlain also works with Xfinity Home. You can set rules for real-time notifications when your garage door is opened or closed. The MyQ system also works with the Wink Hub. With Wink, you can automate and monitor the MyQ in the Wink app along with an assortment of other smart home products. 

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Colin West McDonald/CNET

It doesn't support all home automation hubs. If you use either SmartThings, you'll either need to find a workaround, as SmartThings users have already done, or hope for official compatibility soon.

The MyQ works with Google Assistant, but there's a catch. Compatibility requires a subscription fee after the 30-day free trial period ends. There is IFTTT support for MyQ for closing the door, turning on and off the MyQ's light and set your Nest thermostat temperature when the door is opened or closed. But, like Google, you'll have to pay a subscription fee after a 30-day trial, something very few other manufacturers require for IFTTT support. Both subscriptions cost either $1 per month or $10 per year. That's not a lot of money, but it feels like a low blow from Chamberlain with so many other manufacturers providing these integrations for free. Amazon Alexa isn't on Chamberlain's list of technology partners, though you can use IFTTT to create a custom recipe for closing the door and controlling the MyQ's light. 

Other retrofit openers like Nexx Garage and Garadget include Alexa, Google Assistant and IFTTT integrations at no cost. Still, the MyQ comes out ahead in terms of the number of integrations out there and it's the only one that supports Apple HomeKit, though that requires the Home Bridge.

The Home Bridge option

If you want Siri to control you garage door, you'll need to purchase a second device, the MyQ Home Bridge. This enables HomeKit compatibility for MyQ hubs and openers. At $70, it nearly doubles the cost of your garage investment, but that's worth it for HomeKit users, given that it adds Siri voice commands, scheduling and automation.

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The Chamberlain MyQ Home Bridge allows HomeKit compatibility and Siri voice assistant commands. 

Chris Monroe/CNET

Connecting the Home Bridge to an already installed MyQ is a little tricky, but after a few resets and a check of my Wi-Fi connection, I was able to get everything paired. First, you'll add the Home Bridge to the MyQ app, pair it to your existing MyQ hub or opener and scan the Apple HomeKit code to add it to your Apple Home app.

If you have a good 2.4GHz internet connection in your garage and an updated app, all of this should work. If you have any trouble getting these pieces to work, try resetting the Home Bridge.

With the Home Bridge connected, you can ask Siri on an iPhone or iPad to open and close the garage and check the status. Opening the garage via a HomePod isn't possible, as Apple considers the garage door a security device, but you can close the door and check its status.

Scheduling

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The MyQ Home Bridge enables HomeKit scene and automation functionality. 

Screenshot by Molly Price/CNET

Without HomeKit, scheduling in the MyQ app might not work for certain MyQ devices. Models, including the MyQ Smart Garage hub (MYQ-G0201) I tested Home Bridge with, aren't currently allowed to create schedules. Last year, Chamberlain identified a system issue that sporadically prevented doors from closing as scheduled. 

As a result, Chamberlain disabled the schedule-to-close feature for everyone with this model number. A solution is reportedly in the works, but there's no word on when the issue will be resolved. Until then, scheduling won't be an option via the MyQ app. That's where Home Bridge saves the day. 

With the MyQ Home Bridge connected, you'll be able to use the automation and scenes functions in HomeKit to open or close your door. That means you can set your garage door to open or close at a certain time of day, when you leave or approach the area or as part of a scene like "Good night." 

This worked well in my testing, even with the disabled scheduling model.

Want to watch your garage in real time?

If you're looking for a garage system that provides live feed video or recorded camera footage of your space, the $120 GogoGate2 has built-in support for integration with cameras from Nest, Foscam, Insteon and others, although it costs a reasonable $30 for a three-year subscription to the video-streaming service. The Garager is a two-in-one camera and garage door controller, though the Garager app is less than intuitive and voice assistant integration isn't working yet. 

When it comes to installation and wiring, openers from Garageio, Garager and Garadget all require some kind of direct wiring into your opener system. The wiring step isn't the most difficult thing, but it will alienate a few people, and the MyQ and its wireless setup are there to offer an easier alternative. 

With few wires and the growing interoperability with various other smart-home systems, the Chamberlain MyQ has all of the momentum in this improving device category. Watch its competitors, particularly the GogoGate2 and Garager, to see if they start to play better with other smart-home products without subscription plans. Until they do, the Chamberlain MyQ is the smart garage-door opener I'd recommend.

First published Aug. 25, 2014.
Update, March 23, 2018: Added Home Bridge testing.

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8.2

MyQ Garage

Score Breakdown

Features 7Usability 9Design 8Performance 9