Ecobee SmartThermostat with voice control review: Ecobee’s fifth-gen device is its best yet

This is easily our new top pick in smart thermostats.

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At a Glance

Ecobee’s smart thermostats are consistently among our top picks, and the overhaul that produced this fifth-generation product is as welcome as it is unexpected. In other words, we didn’t think the Alexa-powered Ecobee could get much better—but it has. And that goes for the remote room sensors, too (more on those in a bit).

Apart from the glass over its display, the new model doesn’t look radically different from the previous one, because most of the improvements are under the hood. That display, however, is even more vivid and responsive to touch, thanks in part to an all-new quad-core processor. There’s also a new dual-band Wi-Fi adapter, so you can add the thermostat to your 5GHz network if you find the 2.4GHz frequency band in your environment to be too crowded.

An updated microphone makes it even easier to summon Alexa’s, and the addition of a Bluetooth radio gives you the option of pairing external speakers to the Ecobee in the pursuit of higher-quality audio streaming. The new Ecobee can do pretty much anything an Amazon Echo smart speaker can do.

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A larger speaker and a more sensitive microphone render Ecobee’s latest smart thermostat a better Amazon Alexa host.

Well, almost anything. If you already have a bunch of Echos in your home, you might find it to be a crapshoot as to which one answers when you utter the Alexa wake word. An easy fix for this would be to change the Ecobee’s wake word, but Amazon apparently reserves that feature for its own hardware (you can configure any Echo speaker to respond to “Amazon,” “Echo,” or “Computer” instead of “Alexa.” The Ecobee is stuck with the default.)

What’s that? You don’t live in an Alexa household? Take your pick of several other smart home integrations then. The new model also supports Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings, and IFTTT.

An easy-to-use smart thermostat

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If you don’t want to talk to your thermostat—or you don’t want it listening—you can easily turn its microphone off.

Every Ecobee model we’ve dealt with has been easy to install and easier to use, and this fifth-generation model is no different. The company does suggest you take a quick compatibility test to make sure your HVAC system is compatible (you’ll find that here), but all Ecobee thermostats are generally compatible with a wide range of central HVAC systems, including heat pumps, two-stage set-ups, and other common configurations.

A power extender kit (PEK) for systems without a C-wire is included in the box. One other minor inclusion we appreciated was the surprisingly detailed paper manual covering the entire physical installation process—we much prefer printed documentation over relying on just the mobile app for instructions.

Once you’ve wired it up, powered it on, and the new Ecobee has confirmed your HVAC setup, you need only inform the thermostat of your preferred temperature comfort ranges for when you’re at home, away, and sleeping. It will then establish a basic schedule that will automatically adjust as it learns both your daily activity and any tweaks you make while using the app, via Alexa commands, or by operating the thermostat itself.

An onboard motion sensor and any remote sensors you deploy in other rooms (the kit comes with two) helps the thermostat determine which rooms are occupied. Geofencing is also supported, so you can program the thermostat to automatically adjust target temperatures to avoid needlessly heating or cooling your home while you’re not in it.

Ecobee’s sensors have been overhauled, too

Ecobee was one of the first smart thermostat manufacturers to support remote sensors, so that your home’s climate will be comfortable wherever you are in it. More conventional thermostats simply the monitor the space where the thermostat itself is located—which is typically a hallway that people only pass through. Remote sensors are less unique than they once were, however, as competitors including Nest and Honeywell have followed Ecobee’s lead. Ecobee has responded in turn, making its all-new SmartSensor even better.

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Ecobee’s new SmartSensors are more effective and deliver even better range than the previous generation.

Despite being smaller, the new and more attractive SmartSensor can detect motion across a wider field of view. It also draws less power—Ecobee says you can expect up to five years of battery life—and it delivers significantly better range (from about 30 feet to better than 60 feet, although walls and other barriers will reduce that range). During my tests, the new sensor never lost its connection to the thermostat, including when it was placed in locations where the previous-gen device was unreliable at best.

Ecobee thermostats can support up to 32 SmartSensors (add-ons come in two-packs that cost $79 each at Amazon), and these new models are backward compatible with Ecobee3, the Ecobee 3 Lite, and the Ecobee 4. Over time, any of these Ecobee models will learn which rooms you spend the most time in and strive to have your HVAC system warm or cool those rooms to your preferred temperature. You can also set up the thermostat to average the measured temperatures in several rooms to eliminate hot and cold spots in your home.

Ecobee is still on top

As much as we dig the new model, there’s not quite enough of a bump in performance to justify replacing a fourth-generation Ecobee—or even one of the Ecobee 3 models if you don’t care about having a smart speaker in your smart thermostat.

But if you’re looking to replace a dumb thermostat or an early smart hone, the all-new Ecobee SmartThermostat with voice control is the model we’d recommend, hands down. It’s beautiful to look at and easy to use, its AI will learn your patterns and preferences more quickly than anything else, its Alexa implementation is even better than what’s on offer with the fourth-generation model, and the new SmartSensors perform better and deliver longer range. Highly recommended.

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At a Glance
  • Ecobee tops itself before anyone else can: The Ecobee SmartThermostat with voice control is our number-one pick in this category.

    Pros

    • A full hardware makeover renders this elegant thermostat even smarter and more responsive
    • A strong app and an excellent touchscreen interface on the device itself make it supremely easy to use
    • The new sensor is smaller and better, with improved range, sensitivity, and battery life

    Cons

    • Alexa integration can be annoying if you already have an Echo (or other Alexa-powered device) within earshot
    • It could be easier to program complex schedules (if that's something you feel the need for)
  
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