The world of smart thermostats, once a hot space, has mostly cooled in recent years. Nest Thermostats, for example, haven’t moved the needle in a long time, and have only held steady. Ecobee is trying to change that by introducing two new models: Smart Thermostat Enhanced and Smart Thermostat Premium. The end result is a predictable upgrade that now makes them the best thermostats on the market.
Overall, both new models are very similar. The Enhanced model sets a solid baseline for all customers, while the Premium adds an extra layer of features and design for those really enthusiastic about the latest smart home gadgets.
Since the Premium model is a little more interesting, I focused on that one for this review. If you don’t want some of its extras, like an indoor air quality sensor or a built-in speaker that can play music from Spotify (seriously), then you’ll be a good candidate for the entry level Enhanced model.
- The new design is more stylish than past models
- Easy to understand and navigate touch screen interface
- Only one color and/or material
Buy at Ecobee.
The new Smart Thermostat Enhanced has an occupancy radar sensor, 50 percent larger display, a new touchscreen interface and better Wi-Fi connectivity. Again, it’s a solid smart thermostat product with HomeKit support. It should probably be most people’s default choice at the present.
If you want your thermostat to do more, there’s the Smart Thermostat Premium. It has all the Enhanced features plus an indoor air quality sensor, a smart speaker with your choice of Siri or Alexa assistant and zinc around its exterior. The Premium model also includes an additional sensor in the box that can be used to monitor temperature upstairs or in a far part of the house.
Ecobee thermostats have always looked OK, but now they look good. The larger touchscreen area does make for an easier-to-use interface. I like the bigger size, but I also hope future models don’t get any bigger than this. It is verging on gigantic, especially when directly compared with the Nest Thermostat. The brushed-metal look on the side of the Premium model does add a touch more sophistication over the previous Ecobee model’s plastic.
If Ecobee is only going to make one color in each model, the ones it chose are nice and neutral enough. I do like how Nest offers different colors to better match a home’s interior, though. I hope Ecobee goes that route, too, and introduces these new thermostats in additional materials or colors at some point.
The headlining feature for the Smart Thermostat Premium is the indoor air quality sensor. Ecobee says this is a first of its kind. It sounds like a good idea to include this kind of sensor, but I question whether most people will need it. I never saw any message besides clean indoor air. One notable exception is that this new sensor could be especially helpful come fire season in California. At the moment, however, it’s clean air all around.
The indoor air quality sensor also estimates VOC (volatile organic compounds) and CO2. They are combined on a sliding scale that uses color to make the information available at a glance.
There’s a new radar sensor the thermostat uses to wake up the display and detect occupancy. Ecobee says it can work from further away and even around corners. I noticed the sensor doing a good job of always illuminating the screen on approach. I found the occupancy detection to be more hit and miss, or at least much harder to test. Once, for example, with no one home, I opened the Ecobee app to see it said, “Occupied,” even though I had been gone for 20 minutes or more.
Personally, I tend to rely on adjusting my home thermostat manually instead of letting it try to guess. I did leave on the Eco Plus feature, however, for testing to get the full experience. This is where Ecobee will detect whether you’re home or away and adjust settings based on humidity or time of use according to peak electricity costs. I didn’t notice much assistance, but if you live in a location with weather more extreme than Southern California’s and that changes rapidly, you’ll probably enjoy letting the thermostat drive temperature control.
The Eco Plus feature can also tap into a lot of utility providers’ systems to change your thermostat depending on time-of-use costs. I noticed this adjustment regularly on-screen as the acceptable temperatures moved around. Overall the option worked as advertised during my time testing it.
The Premium model comes with a SmartSensor in the box, but this can be purchased and used with the Enhanced model. My home tends to have a 5 degree or more temperature difference between upstairs and downstairs in the summer, so I’ve come to think the additional sensor is key for whole-home monitoring.
It does make sense to have a voice assistant built right into the thermostat itself. Asking an assistant to set the thermostat for a specific temperature is surely a common use people call out. Now, with the Premium model, no additional speaker is needed to do that.
You can use Alexa or Siri on the Premium thermostat. I chose to use Siri because you can’t have both active at the same time. Siri works exactly as it does on your phone or, rather, a HomePod mini. So, while I like the idea of this feature being included, I also now have four ways to summon Siri within a 200-square foot radius. This seems overly redundant.
Siri comes with all its personal limitations and accuracy issues, but as far as I could tell, it did a competent job of hearing talk to me about it.
A Smart Speaker on the Wall
If you include a smart voice assistant that’s going to talk to you, the product needs to have a built-in speaker. Ecobee goes further than I think it should have and allows the speaker to be an AirPlay speaker or Spotify Connect device. Even after plenty of testing time, it still seems wild that the Premium thermostat can play music like any other Wi-Fi speaker.
I used it a few times as a novelty, but I don’t think it sounds good enough playing music to use it for that purpose regularly. The speaker sounds hollow and strained at more than about a 30-percent volume level. Of course, its music functionality is a bonus feature that doesn’t make the product worse if you never engage it. Mostly, I find it humorous.
Should You Buy an Ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium?
The hardest choice here will be deciding whether you should get the Enhanced or Premium model. Do you want to know about indoor air quality or need another voice assistant? Either way, Ecobee’s excellent mobile app, HomeKit integration and large touchscreen all make these models an easy choice for a blanket recommendation.
It’s mostly a matter of aesthetics, but I found the refreshed design was a big part in my making the jump from Nest to Ecobee. Once I did, I was blown away by the streamlined, but comprehensive, software the company offers. And, for me, I like the extra air quality sensor, an upstairs sensor in the box and even the possibility of using Siri on the wall, too.
Buy at Ecobee for $249.99.
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