Nest 3 vs. Ecobee4: Which Smart Thermostat Wins?

Hopping on the smart-thermostat train? If you're Googling around, you'll probably notice that two names come up again and again: the Nest Learning Thermostat 3 and the Ecobee4. But which one is right for you?

Credit: Tom's GuideCredit: Tom's GuideEach of these thermostats is available on Amazon for around $249. Both are compatible with both Amazon's Alexa and Google's Assistant, so you can control them with your voice. Both let you create schedules based on your heating and cooling needs, and this scheduling can save you time and money. And both can be connected to other smart home devices to further automate your house or apartment.

We pitted the Nest and Ecobee against each other across five categories to find a winner. We assigned a value for each round and awarded points to each thermostat based on how well it performed in each category.

Design (10 Points)

While they have their differences, both the Nest and Ecobee4 are good-looking thermostats. The Nest sports a classic round design, featuring a ring of brushed stainless steel that's 3.3 inches in diameter and 1.26 inches thick, and it feels great when you turn it to raise or lower the temperature.

Credit: NestCredit: NestThe Ecobee4's rounded black square with a touch screen in the middle looks modern; a small blue LED bar along the top lights up when Alexa is listening.

Credit: EcobeeCredit: EcobeeWinner: Nest 3

Setup (5 Points)

Setting up the Ecobee takes only about 15-20 minutes. Its app is intuitive, and the process for setting up the app is identical to that for setting up the thermostat.

Credit: NestCredit: NestNest's thermostat takes about the same amount of time to set up, though it does come with a screwdriver, which is a rarity among smart-thermostat kits. Nest's thermostat doesn't need a C wire to draw power, but the Ecobee does. If your system lacks a C wire, you'll either have to get one installed or use Ecobee's included adapter.

Winner: Nest 3

Usability (10 Points)

Nest's Learning Thermostat 3 has an old-school rotating dial, rather than a touch screen, which you use to adjust the temperature. The dial has a nice weighty feel, and its brushed-metal ring is arguably more stylish than the Ecobee4's design.

Credit: NestCredit: NestBut the signature feature of Nest is that you don't have to use it that much. As its name implies, the Nest Learning Thermostat 3 learns over time the temperatures you like in your home at various times, and it adapts to that schedule. It also switches from Heat to Cool modes automatically based on external temperatures. And the Nest has a unique feature called Farsight, which senses your presence from across the room and lights up to show the temperature and time.  

Credit: EcobeeCredit: EcobeeThe Ecobee4 features a smartphone-size touch screen. If you're accustomed to using touch-screen devices all day, relying on one to adjust heating and cooling will feel like second nature. But the Ecobee4 doesn't customize a schedule for you; you'll need to set all that yourself.   

Winner: Nest 3

Features (15 Points)

The Ecobee4 is the first thermostat to come with Amazon Alexa built in. Alexa's voice comes from a speaker in the back, and a sleek blue LED bar along the top of the device lights up when the thermostat is listening to you. So, not only can you use the Ecobee4 to adjust your temperature, but you can also use the device to order pizza, get the news, call an Uber and do everything else Alexa can do. In fact, you could theoretically use an Ecobee 4 to control a Nest.

Credit: EcobeeCredit: EcobeeIf you already have an Amazon Echo or another Alexa-powered device in your home, this feature might not tip the scale for you. But it provides a great way to get to know Alexa and to start connecting devices. While the Nest can be connected to an Echo, it's not equipped with a voice assistant of its own.

The Ecobee4 is also notable for its remote-sensing capability. You can place wireless sensors in multiple rooms in your house and automatically monitor and adjust those locations' temperatures using the Ecobee4. The Nest, by contrast, can monitor only the room it's in. While you can also purchase Nest Temperature Sensors and place them in different rooms, they cannot automatically adjust the temperature if they detect the presence of people in those rooms.

MORE: Best Smart Thermostat - Reviews, Ratings and Comparisons

The Ecobee4 can also adjust its temperature to support various accessories, including ventilators, humidifiers and dehumidifiers.

The Nest has a number of unique features as well. Notably, its Family Accounts allow up to 10 members of your household to connect their Nest accounts to your thermostat. Each member can view livestreams from connected Nest Cams, notifications and a monthly consumption report. At this time, only one account can connect to the Ecobee4.

Credit: NestCredit: NestThe Nest's Auto-Away Mode can also sense when you're away from home, using a mix of sensors and phone-location data, and automatically switch to energy-saving settings — then switch them back when it senses you're home. And the device has batteries as well as a power source, meaning that it'll keep working even if your power goes out.

Winner: Ecobee4

Connectivity (15 Points)

The Ecobee4 is compatible with a number of smart-home ecosystems, including Apple's HomeKit, IFTTT, Wink and Samsung SmartThings, and its app works well on iOS and Android.

Credit: EcobeeCredit: EcobeeThe Nest is compatible with many of the same systems — including Google Assistant, Alexa, IFTTT and Wink — but doesn't work with HomeKit. There's a custom setup that allows the Nest to work with HomeKit and Samsung's SmartThings, but that feature is not technically integrated.

However, the Nest 3 is tightly connected to a number of products in Nest's ecosystem through  Nest Weave, a low-power mesh network that can connect devices in your home that run solely on battery power.

Winner: Ecobee4

Overall Winner: Ecobee4

The Ecobee4 is our top pick, but this contest is close. The two devices are similar enough in quality that a number of factors could have easily tipped the scales one way or the other.

The Ecobee4 is a better choice for a larger home, especially one with rooms that get very hot or very cold. The presence of Alexa in this device is a huge plus, especially for those who don't yet own a smart speaker, and Apple fans will have a much better time using this thermostat.

Nest Learning Thermostat 3
Design (15)1513
Setup (10)86
Usability (20)2018
Features (30)2126
Connectivity (25)2025

On the other hand, the Nest is a better choice for those who are busy and don't want to fuss too much getting the temperature settings just right. And because Nest is a division of Google, the Learning Thermostat is tightly integrated into the Nest Weave platform and a number of other popular smart-home products, such as the Nest Cam and the Nest Protect smoke detector.   

While the Ecobee4 is a narrow winner, the decision between the two thermostats largely comes down to what you're looking for.

Credit: Tom's Guide

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  • jacksmith21006
    Well that is a super easy one. Nest 3. For so many reasons. But a big one is the Nest looks so much nicer.
  • harvshell
    Lot's of operation problems with the Nest 3 without the common wire. We have had customers that Nest told to have common wire installed to fix problems. We prefer to install Ecobee because they come with the adapter to add common to 4 wire system.
  • beckzach05
    Nest has sensors you can now buy to monitor temperatures in other rooms. You can also adjust the schedule to use different sensors at different times. Also missing here is mention of Nests sun shade feature, where it adjusts to compensate for being in sunlight and getting an inaccurate temperature reading.
  • Goodspike
    I'm shocked you consider Nest working without a C wire to be an advantage. There have been a lot of reported problems of the Nest's "power stealing" functions.

    Also, design getting 10 points when they are so similar? That's just a personal preference thing.

    Finally, any review of smart thermostats should mention that they are fairly pointless if you are smart enough to program a thermostat. The only savings would come from delaying a temperature change if you're not home, and for most people that would be an extremely nominal savings over even a 10 year period.
  • Goodspike
    I'm surprised you consider the Nest not requiring a C wire to be an advantage. There are lots of reported problems with Nest's "power stealing" feature.

    Also, the design should not be worth any points--they are very similar and it would just be personal preference. That's a tie.

    Finally, and review of smart thermostats should mention that they are unnecessary if you are yourself smart and able to program a thermostat. The only energy savings from a smart thermostat would come from being able to delay a temperature change if you're not at home, and for most users that savings would be nominal even over a 10 year period.