The Ecobee4 was one of the first smart home devices with Alexa that wasn't a smart speaker first. It was a clever idea, one that several other companies have adopted. However, that thermostat lacked some of Alexa's core functions, and the speaker wasn't all that great. Ecobee has fixed both issues with the Ecobee SmartThermostat with voice control — yes, I wish they simply called it the Ecobee5 — and the company added a few more features, too. If you want the best smart thermostat with Alexa built in, this is the one to get.
Alexa calling, messaging, and Drop-In
Like most third-party Alexa devices, the Ecobee4 didn't support Alexa calling, messaging or Drop-In. The new Ecobee SmartThermostat, however, includes all those features. That's a welcome improvement, which will make this device more handy when you're calling the family to dinner.
When you wake Alexa, a blue bar on the top of the Ecobee lights up, awaiting your command. Even with music playing through the Ecobee, I was able to speak in a conversational voice from 15 feet away and still have Alexa hear me and interpret my voice correctly.
However, I'm surprised that Ecobee hasn't developed a smart thermostat with Google Assistant built in. I get that it's not easy — Sonos took a year to figure this out — but I would hope that it's on Ecobee's road map.
Still, you can pair the Ecobee with Google Assistant, as well as HomeKit, IFTTT, and SmartThings, so you can use it in conjunction with other smart home devices.
Better Audio Quality
The speaker on the Ecobee4 was pretty tinny, so other than asking Alexa questions, you didn't want to do anything else with it. The Ecobee SmartThermostat's speaker is a bit beefier, making this a passable entertainment device. It's on a par with a very good clock radio or somewhere between the second- and third-generation Echo Dots. You're not going to use this thermostat to entertain guests at a party, but it's good for playing music in the background while you're doing something else, like cooking or reading a book.
Ecobee also added Spotify support; Spotify joins Amazon Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and SiriusXM as music services supported by the thermostat, a very welcome addition.
New remote sensor
Alexa is nice and all, but the best parts of Ecobee's thermostats have been the remote sensors, which can detect both temperature and occupancy. With these, you can do some pretty smart things, like tell the thermostat to make sure even the coldest parts of your house get warm, but only if there are people in that area.
The new sensor, one of which comes with the SmartThermostat, has a slightly smaller design, improved battery life (up to five years, thanks to a much larger battery) and a longer range (up to 60 feet from the thermostat). The latter improvement is especially handy for me; when I tried to put the previous sensor in my attic, it went out of range of the thermostat. I had no such problems with the new sensor. You can purchase additional sensors in a pack of two for $79, and older sensors are also compatible with the new thermostat.
Supports 2.4- and 5GHz Wi-Fi
The Ecobee now supports both 2.4- and 5-GHz Wi-Fi, which is nice but not a huge deal. On your home network, devices, like the Ecobee, that require little bandwidth should be relegated to the 2.4-GHz network. Devices, such as streaming sticks, that require greater throughput should be assigned to the 5-GHz network.
While its face is now glass instead of plastic, the newest Ecobee smart thermostat looks the same as previous versions: a square with rounded corners and a rectangular touch screen in the middle. When the Ecobee debuted, I thought its design was a nice departure from Nest Learning Thermostat's circular design.
Over the years, though, I think the look of the Nest has held up better than that of the Ecobee. For one, the Nest is more compact, and there's much less of a bezel around its display. On the Ecobee, it now just feels like there's a lot of wasted space.
Similar to Nest, Ecobee uses the sensors in its thermostat to detect if you're home and then adjust the temperature accordingly. I only wish that you could tie the Ecobee's Home and Away states to other smart home devices, as you can with the Works with Nest program.
Ecobee's other smart feature is called Follow Me, which takes advantage of the device's remote sensors to detect which rooms people are in and then adjust heating and cooling accordingly.
The Ecobee SmartThermostat (Ecobee5) improves nicely upon the two core features of its predecessor. I like that it now has the full functionality of Alexa paired with a better speaker and that its remote sensor has a better range. I wish it had Google Assistant built in, though.
If you're in the market for a smart thermostat and use Alexa a lot, then you'll want to check out the Ecobee SmartThermostat. If you're an occasional Alexa user, the older Ecobee4 should suffice. And if you don't use Amazon's assistant at all, then the Ecobee3 Lite or the Nest are the best options for you.
The changes that Ecobee made to its latest smart thermostat aren't radical, but they are welcome. Now, about that name ...
Credit: Tom's Guide