When it comes to smart thermostats, there’s a handful to choose from, but the big three that stand out are the Nest, Ecobee4, and Honeywell Lyric Round. We’ve tried out all three to see which one has the upper edge, and where their features differ.
Each of these three smart thermostats is unique in its own way, so before we dive in and discuss the similarities and differences between them, here’s a brief overview of the Nest, Ecobee4, and the Lyric Round.
One of the more popular options when it comes to smart thermostats is the Nest Thermostat ($250), which sports a unique design from Tony Fadell, the designer of the original iPod (which the Nest is mildly reminiscent of with its spinning wheel). It’s ultimate feature, though, is the ability to learn your habits and automatically change the thermostat so that you eventually don’t have to mess with it at all.
Its user interface is also very user-friendly, and perhaps the easiest smart thermostat to install and use out of the three.
If the price of the Nest Thermostat scares you, you can grab the lower-cost version, called the Nest Thermostat E. It’s made out of plastic instead of metal, and the display isn’t quite as grand, but it’s only $169. You can also likely get rebates from your power company.
The Ecobee4 ($250) is the only smart thermostat that we know of that has a touch screen, so if you know how to use a smartphone, then controlling this thermostat will be a breeze. It also has the biggest screen out of the three thermostats, giving room for plenty of information to appear without crowding the display.
The Ecobee4 also comes with a remote sensor that you can place in another room, so if you have a larger house with an upstairs, you can place the sensor there and have the thermostat use that sensor for regulating the temperature instead of the sensor that’s on the thermostat itself.
The biggest feature of the Ecobee4, though, is its built-in Alexa capabilities, doubling the thermostat as an Echo Dot of sorts. So if you’ve ever wanted an Echo in your living room, this is a good way to kill two birds with one stone.
And like the Nest Thermostat, the Ecobee4 also has a little brother called the Ecobee3 Lite. It doesn’t come with Alexa built in, nor does it come with a remote sensor in the box, but it’s priced at only $169.
The Honeywell Lyric Round ($200) isn’t quite as popular as the two options above, but its Honeywell’s attempt at creating a hip and sleek smart thermostat. It has a familiar round shape like the Nest, and even has a similar spin wheel—although it’s not nearly as tactile as the Nest’s fluid scroll ring.
It was also pretty easy to install, and Honeywell does a decent job of telling you where all the wires go. However, that’s where most of the pleasantries end, as the user interface is quite buggy.
It’s certainly the cheapest smart thermostat out of the three, but spending $50 more for one of the options above is probably your best bet.
What They All Have in Common
Before we get into the nitty gritty, we thought it’d be a good idea to go over what all three of these smart thermostats can do. They have their major differences, yes, but they all share the basic features of a good smart thermostat, including:
- iOS and Android support
- Control your thermostat away from home using your phone
- Set a schedule for your A/C or heat
- Geofencing and motion detection, so it knows when you’re home (Note: The Ecobee4 uses IFTTT for geofencing) and can turn on the display when you walk by
- Amazon Echo support, so you can adjust the temperature with your voice
- Family sharing, so other household members can adjust the thermostat
- Weather forecast data, so you know what’s coming
With all that in mind, let’s look at some of the standout pros (and cons) of each.
Nest Doesn’t Have HomeKit
If you’re an iOS user, HomeKit is a feature that you might want with your smarthome products, as it makes easier to control and manage them. However, the Nest Thermostat doesn’t have HomeKit, and probably will never support it.
Nest is owned by Google, and they’re a fierce competitor with Apple. While Google has brought many of its mobile apps to iOS, the chances of Nest products getting HomeKit support are slim to none.
The good news is that the Ecobee4 and the Lyric Round both have HomeKit support, so if you absolutely want HomeKit in your smart thermostat, these two are your options.
Ecobee4 Doubles As an Echo Dot
As mentioned further above, the Ecobee4 is not only a smart thermostat, but it’s also an Echo Dot of sorts—it comes with a microphone, speaker, and Alexa all built in to give you the full experience that you’d normally have to pay for separately.
In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a huge deal, since you can just buy an Echo Dot for $50 (or even cheaper since the used market is littered with them), but saving that $50 and having one already built into something you’re buying in the first place is also a pretty sweet deal.
Nest Is the Easiest to Install
I found the Nest Thermostat to be the easiest to install, mostly thanks to the Compatibility Check tool on Nest’s website, where you can enter in the wires that your thermostat setup has and Nest will tell you where each of those wires go on the Nest Thermostat itself. After that, it’s just a matter of plugging in wires.
Furthermore, setting up the Nest can be done completely on the unit itself, whereas the Lyric Round required the accompanying app to get it set up. The Ecobee4, like the Nest, was able to be set up on the unit itself, which was a bit easier than the Nest thanks to its touch screen display.
However, the Ecobee4 install was the hardest out of the three, since it likely requires a Power Extender Kit that has to be installed on the furnace’s circuit board. This wasn’t too hard to do, and Ecobee support flawlessly guided me through the process, but it was just a little annoying to have to jump through extra hoops. Luckily, not everyone needs to install the kit—it depends what HVAC system you have.
Ecobee4 Is Best for Bigger Homes
If you have a house like mine, the upstairs is always warmer than the downstairs, which can be a problem if your thermostat is downstairs. Since most thermostats use the temperature sensor on the thermostat itself, it doesn’t know what the temperature is upstairs, so it can’t adequately cool your entire house.
However, the Ecobee4 has a wireless remote sensor that you can place anywhere. In this case, it works best placed upstairs where the temperature differs. From there, you can tell your Ecobee4 to use the sensor upstairs in order to gauge whether the A/C or heat should be running or not.
Of course, you can simply just crank up any other thermostat to compensate for the warmer upstairs region, but the Ecobee4’s remote sensor makes it precise so that you’re not wasting more energy than necessary.
Nest Has the Best User Experience
In the end, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Nest. While it doesn’t have HomeKit or remote sensors, it was the easiest smart thermostat to use. The app is really good and the scroll ring on the unit itself makes it simple and easy to operate. The user interface just looks plain good.
Plus, all of the settings available for it are accessible right from the app, whereas a handful of settings on the Ecobee4 require you to login to the web portal.
The Lyric Round Is Too Buggy to Recommend
The Lyric Round certainly isn’t a terrible smart thermostat, but it doesn’t have quite as nearly the number of features that the Nest and Ecobee4 have.
Overall, the Honeywell Lyric simply wasn’t a good experience at all. The app is fairly buggy—some changed settings reverted back to default after I saved and closed it out, and I received several error messages within just the first few days of using the thermostat. Plus, I had to reconnect it to Wi-Fi, and the first few times it just wouldn’t connect.
To be honest, I can’t recommend this thermostat at all—it may be $50 cheaper than the other two, but you’re really better off with one of the other two options.
In the end, when it comes to choosing the best one, I think it really depends on what you want out of a smart thermostat. The Nest and the Ecobee4 are easily the two worth looking at, but if you want HomeKit or remote sensors, then the Ecobee4 is the thermostat to buy. Plus, the touch screen on the Ecobee4 makes it easier and quicker to navigate through menus than most other smart thermostats. Furthermore, if you don’t need the remote sensors of the Ecobee4, then the Ecobee3 Lite might be an even better buy at only $170.
However, the Nest has the best user interface, best app, and best experience overall, making it the right choice if you don’t really need the extra features of the Ecobee4.
Title image from Noppanun/Bigstock, Nest, Ecobee, Honeywell