Orbit B-hyve review

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Orbit B-hyve review

The scent of a tomato picked fresh from the vine is unrivaled. However, you've got to keep those plants watered, which can be an issue if you have a busy schedule or go out of town frequently. Orbit's B-hyve smart faucet ($69) takes care of irrigation for you: Connect it to your tap, and it will keep your plants regularly hydrated.

Though the Orbit B-hyve smart faucet is among the best Google Home compatible devices and best Alexa compatible devices, its setup process proved a bit complicated. But it's still a clever gadget for tending to your garden no matter where you are. 

Orbit B-hyve review: design

The B-hyve faucet is an unremarkable gray, plastic box, with a female hose connection on one end and a male connector on the other. A small, weatherproof door houses two AA batteries and is much easier to open than the one on the Elgato Eve Aqua.

The smart faucet connects via Bluetooth to a small hub, which you need to plug in to a socket inside your house. Through this hub — which connects to your Wi-Fi network — you can remotely control the faucet. In fact, the hub can be connected to any number of B-hyve faucets, in case you want to use more than one.

Orbit could have put a little more thought into the hub's design; it looks like a USB stick stuck into a plug, and a big warning sticker tells you not to try and separate the two halves.

Orbit B-hyve review: Setup

Orbit's app (available for Android and iOS) makes you go through a bunch of steps to get everything up and running. First, you have to connect the hub to your Wi-Fi network (the hub must also be plugged in to an outlet inside your house). Then, you have to connect the smart faucet to the hub via Bluetooth, through the app.

Then, the fun really starts. In the app, you have to specify how many zones you have, the type of sprinkler you have, how far you want the spray to reach, how much sun your yard gets, the slope of the ground, what you're planning to water and more. There's even an Advanced Details section, where you can enter the microclimate factor, plant factor, permanent wilting point and much, much more. Unless you're a horticulturist, you won't likely ever use this section of the app.

Ironically, for all this granular detail, Orbit doesn't provide options for my intended uses: drip irrigation, vegetables or raised garden beds (drip irrigation is being added, according to the company). However, the faucet does perform a check to determine the flow rate of any connected system.

You can also configure smart watering, in which the system will automatically water based on the parameters you set; watering restrictions (if there are rules in your community against watering during certain hours); weather adjustments for rain, wind and freezing temperatures; and more. You can also set up the app to send you notifications when the faucet starts watering or if there's a delay for any reason.

If you don't want to use smart watering, you can create your own watering program and configure things such as start time, duration and days of the week.

This is a lot to go through, and I wouldn't be surprised if it's more than intimidating for novice gardeners. I got through everything in about 20 minutes, though I suspect it'll take longer for users who have less experience with tech than I to set things up.

Orbit B-hyve review: Performance

Once configured, the B-hyve performed as advertised, keeping my tomatoes, fig tree and herbs well-watered. I especially liked the rain delay; we've had a fairly damp spring, so it was nice to know that my plants weren't being overwatered.

Credit: Orbit

(Image credit: Orbit)

Like many of the best smart home devices, you can control the B-hyve with Alexa and Google Assistant; as with the setup, there's an exhausting list of things you can ask the faucet to do. This includes not just commanding the faucet to turn on and off, but also asking when it last ran and when it's turning on next. Elgato's Eve Aqua, by comparison, works only with Apple HomeKit. 

Orbit B-hyve review: Verdict

As for the results? My tomatoes shot up spectacularly, my zucchini and squash plants are flowering, my herbs are huge, and my small fig tree has about half a dozen fruits ripening. My Swiss chard and snap peas didn't do so well, but that was because I failed to set up the irrigation hose properly.

The Orbit B-hyve 21004 costs $30 less than the Elgato Eve Aqua and works with more smart-home systems. If you can get past its involved setup, the Orbit B-hyve is a good way to keep your plants green.

Credit: Tom's Guide

Mike Prospero
U.S. Editor-in-Chief, Tom's Guide

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.