Netatmo Urban Weather Station review: Netatmo offers niche appeal for weather geeks

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The Good The Netatmo Weather Station is easy to set up and use, performed well when we tested its accuracy, and features a well-designed app that's bursting with info. IFTTT integration is another nice touch.

The Bad For casual weather tracking, there isn't much separating Netatmo from the scores of free weather apps out there.

The Bottom Line This system works well, but the appeal might be too limited to justify the price.

7.0 Overall
  • Features 7
  • Usability 8
  • Design 6
  • Performance 7

The $180 Netatmo Weather Station wants to take armchair meteorology to a whole new level. Its two modules are capable of monitoring things like temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, and even noise levels both inside and outside of the home. A Wi-Fi connection means that you'll be able to monitor all of it on your phone, tablet, or computer. Throw in the full-scale integration with the popular online automation service IFTTT, and the fact that Netatmo was recently included during the announcement of Apple's HomeKit smart home platform, and you're suddenly looking at one of the most well-connected weather trackers available to consumers.

If you're a hardcore hobbyist or a longtime weather geek, I've probably got your attention, but if not, I might have lost you at "armchair meteorology." That's kind of the problem here, as the average consumer is likely content with any of the numerous free weather apps they probably already have. If you live in a rural area, where location-specific weather information can be hard to come by, or if you need to monitor the conditions in something specific, like a wine cellar a greenhouse, or maybe a second home, I think the Netatmo makes sense. Otherwise, you'd probably need to consider yourself one of those full-fledged weather geeks in order to justify spending this much money.

Each Netatmo module is a rather sparse-looking aluminum cylinder that's packed with sensors. The indoor module is the taller of the two at 6 inches high (155mm), while the outdoor module comes in at 4 inches (105mm). You won't find any dials, buttons, or display screens on either of them, although you do have the option of tapping the top of the indoor module to force it to take a reading.

You will find a Micro-USB port on the back of the indoor module, which is how you'll keep the thing powered. The outdoor module runs on two AAA batteries (included), which Netatmo claims will keep things powered for a year.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

To get your system up and running, you'll plug in the indoor module and pop the batteries into the outdoor module, then log onto Netatmo's servers. I did this by downloading the Netatmo app (available on most recent iOS and Android devices), but you can use the Netatmo website, too.

Like most of the smart home gadgets I've tested out, the Netatmo app does a good job of walking you through the setup process with clear, step-by-step instructions. With Netatmo, the system simply asks if it can copy your phone's Wi-Fi settings, so you won't even need to pick a network or punch in a password.

Once you do, that vertical slit on the indoor module will glow green to let you know that everything's synced up. That's a nice little feature -- but I never caught the module lighting up again throughout all of my testing, which seems like a bit of a waste of a perfectly good LED. I would have enjoyed the option to customize that light a bit, and perhaps set it to glow if certain criteria were met, like if the CO2 level was rising too high. A helpful feature like that would alert you to take action and open some windows without ever needing to pull your phone out of your pocket.

You'll keep the indoor module powered via Micro-USB. The outdoor module runs on two AAA batteries. Colin West McDonald/CNET

At any rate, within a minute or two of starting the setup process, I was up and running and ready to start tracking the local climate. What this really means is that I suddenly found myself staring at a melange of information on my phone, wondering "what now?" The Netatmo app told me the temperature and humidity, that there was 370 parts per million (ppm) worth of CO2 circulating around the office air, and also that the noise levels were a quiet 52 decibels. It did not, however, tell me what I was supposed to do with this information.

Things became clearer as time went on. Turn your phone into the horizontal position, and the app will switch over into a graph mode, where you can track how things have changed over time. That's a feature I found myself wishing for as I reviewed the Quirky Spotter , which also tracks environmental changes, but which lacks graphs or timelines of any kind.

With Netatmo, I finally got to see what I had been missing with the Spotter. The graphs are easy to navigate with swipe and pinch gestures, and surprisingly fun to examine. Looking at the noise levels for instance, I could discern the point at which I had left at the end of the day, and the point at which the evening cleaning crew had arrived. I don't know why that seemed neat to me, but it did.

The Netatmo app is jam-packed with environmental data. Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

The Netatmo app also offers full 7-day forecasts provided by MeteoGroup, a private weather tracking service based in Europe. Aside from the basic day-by-day summary, you can look at the specific temperature projections and even estimated rainfall amounts. True, this is stuff that you can get for free from other apps, but it makes sense for Netatmo to include it in theirs.

Still, the huge amount of data makes for a slightly cluttered presentation on smart phone screens, especially the iPhone. Unlike the tablet version of the app, the smart phone version can't fit the information for both the indoor and outdoor module on one screen, so you'll need to swipe up and down to change between them. On my iPhone, I often found myself swiping up from the bottom to pull up my indoor module's screen, and pulling up the iOS Control Center instead.

The app feels like a better fit for tablets. Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

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