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.
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.
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 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.
Overall, Netatmo impressed me with its performance. The indoor module's temperature readings always stayed right in line with our office thermostat. The noise sensor seemed accurate too, and was able to differentiate between loud, quiet, and silent.
Netatmo factors this noise data into an overall comfort score. I'm not sure how useful or scientific it actually is, but I suppose it'd be nice to have the numbers back you up when telling a roommate to turn his TV down at night.
The outdoor sensor is water-resistant, which is something Netatmo claims to have have improved upon from the product's original design. I tested this out by spraying the module with a little bit of makeshift condensation -- the readings didn't seem to be affected, and the module continued working just fine.
I wanted to be sure and play around with the Netatmo's IFTTT channel, too. Right off the bat, I was impressed with the fact that you're able to use fourteen different measurements as recipe triggers. Temperature, humidity, CO2, noise, air pressure, rainfall... if Netatmo can monitor it, IFTTT can trigger a recipe with it.
That puts Netatmo well ahead of the Quirky Spotter, which, despite having multiple sensors, currently only offers two IFTTT trigger options: one for when the temperature gets too hot, and another for when the temperature gets too cold.
The Netatmo's 14 triggers get especially interesting once you start thinking about the wide range of services and devices that IFTTT brings to the table. With IFTTT, I could sync the Netatmo up with something like a WeMo Switch , for instance, and automatically turn a fan or air conditioner on whenever things got too hot.
To put the Netatmo triggers to the test, I decided to track the temperature at CNET Appliances HQ. From my previous day of testing, I knew that the overnight office temperature would drop to 70 degrees Farenheit (20 degrees Celsius), then warm back up to 73 degrees F or 74 degrees F (about 22 to 23 C) the next morning. So, I crafted an IFTTT recipe that would alert me of that change. If my indoor module recorded a temperature above 72 degrees F (about 22 C), then IFTTT would kick in and send me an iOS notification alerting me to the fact.
That's a pretty subtle temperature increase, and I was worried that Netatmo might be slow to catch it, or that IFTTT would fail to report the change. Fortunately, just a minute or so after recording a temperature of 72.1 degrees Farenheit (22.3 degrees Celsius) , my phone buzzed with the alert. The Netatmo and IFTTT had passed the test with flying colors, and did so again and again as I repeated the test.
The results were reassuring, and they help to justify the fact that Netatmo essentially outsourced notification duties to IFTTT. Still, some users might find it frustrating that they need to download a second app in order to set and receive those sorts of custom alerts.
Netatmo will, however, automatically send you alerts in the case of a "Special Weather Event." During the time I spent testing the system out, we had a storm system pass through Louisville that brought a tornado watch with it. Sure enough, Netamo let me know about it, and let me know when it had ended, too.
I can't say that the Netatmo Weather Station has made me any more of a weather geek, but if I were one, I think that I'd be pretty happy with it. Setting it up was a cinch, and it proved to be an accurate, reliable performer in all of my tests. I'd feel comfortable trusting it to keep tabs on a greenhouse or a wine cellar. Plus, IFTTT integration opens up a whole range of new possibilities -- for instance, automatically sending that aforementioned roommate a text telling him to turn the TV down.
Still, if all you want is an app that'll help you keep a casual eye on the local skies, you don't need to spend $179. You probably don't need to spend anything, not even for IFTTT integration (the Yahoo! Weather IFTTT channel works for basic purposes, and doesn't cost a dime). There's a lot to like about Netatmo, but unless you're more of a weather geek than I am, you're probably better off saving that money for something that isn't such a niche product.