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More than a century ago, Carrier literally invented modern air conditioning, but with the advent of smart thermostats, the company has to keep up with the times. The $250 Cor is Carrier's Internet-connected thermostat, and, like its competitors, lets you remotely monitor and control the temperature in your home from your smartphone or PC. Unfortunately, Carrier's newest thermostat doesn't innovate as much as the competition.
Similar to the Ecobee3, the square Carrier Cor looks like a modern piece of tech, instead of boasting the retro-chic circular designs of the Nest and Honeywell Lyric. Like the Ecobee3, the Cor's corners are slightly rounded, and the front of the 4 x 4 x 1-inch thermostat is black, with a large, color touch-screen in landscape mode. It's not the most interesting design, but it's relatable for those who are used to smartphones.
Although Carrier insists a professional technician should install the Cor, the thermostat went in the same way as others, such as the Ecobee3 and Nest.
The technician attached the base plate to the wall, plugged in the appropriate wires into the base plate and then attached the front of the Cor to the base plate.
Like the Ecobee3, the Core doesn't have a built-in battery, and requires a C, or common wire, to get power. Unlike the Ecobee, though, the Cor doesn't have an adapter kit, so if you don't have a C wire running from your furnace to your thermostat, you'll have to have one installed.
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I then went through the on-screen setup process, which involved connecting to my home's Wi-Fi network and setting my desired temperatures for heating and cooling. In all, it took less than half an hour.
While the Cor's on-screen interface was colorful, I found it less intuitive than other thermostats. For example, when I tried to set up a heating and cooling schedule, it wasn't clear that I was selecting weekends, and not weekdays. On the main screen, the same two arrows control both the heat and cool temperatures; you only know if you're changing, say, the heat by a thin white border that wraps around the arrows and the heat icon.
The home screen shows the current temperature and humidity inside your home, and a large weather icon gives you an indication as to what's going on outside. Similar to the Ecobee3 and the Nest, the Cor thermostat has a motion sensor, which brightens the screen automatically when you walk by. Unlike its competitors, though, this motion sensor isn't used to automatically switch from away to home mode if it detects someone, which is a lost opportunity.
Also, for a forward-looking device, the interface could look more futuristic. Maybe I'm too used to my iPhone, but the Cor's icons all look a bit dated.
Similar to how the Ecobee3 is set up, Carrier's iOS app mirrors that of the Cor's on-screen interface.
However, whereas Ecobee's app is presented in portrait mode, Carrier's shows up in landscape mode, making it more inconvenient if you want to use it one-handed.
As a thermostat, the Carrier Cor performed well. It turned on when it should and turned off when the temperature in my apartment hit the desired level. The Cor also responded quickly when I made adjustments using the iPhone app.
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The Smart Setback feature helps save energy by monitoring the temperature and humidity in your home as well as outside, and adjusting when it turns on your heating and cooling system for the best efficiency. The Cor can also be set to remove excess humidity by running the cooling system longer, as well as helping prevent condensation on windows.
However, the Carrier Cor isn't the smartest of smart thermostats. It doesn't work with other smart home devices like the Nest and the Ecobee3 do. For example, you can't trigger the heat to go on when you open the front door to your house. Nor does the Cor use geofencing, like the Honeywell Lyric does, to automatically turn on your heat when you get near home.
Outside of its touch screen and app, there's nothing that distinguishes the Carrier Cor from other connected thermostats. It doesn't have extra sensors like the Ecobee3, doesn't offer geofencing like the Honeywell Lyric and doesn't work with other smart home devices, like the Nest does. Plus, Carrier requires that you get it installed by a technician. While the Cor works well, it wouldn't be my first — or even second — choice of connected thermostats.
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Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.