Wyze Sprinkler Controller review: 8 zones, 50 bucks

The sprinkler controller is not such advanced technology that it should command more than a hundred bucks at retail. And yet it does. That’s in part because this market is so small that it has been able to resist significant price competition.

But now Wyze has arrived to shake things up, as it does in every product category it enters. In a market where most options hover around $150, the Wyze Sprinkler Controller hits the ground at a mere $50.

In order to keep costs down, Wyze’s devices tend to be simple affairs, and this controller is no exception to the rule. The fairly trim, oblong device offers eight zones, connecting to your valve wiring via simple spring clips, so no screwdriver is required to install the controller except for mounting it to the wall.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best smart sprinkler controllers,  where you’ll find reviews of the competition’s offerings, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.

A simple series of eight lights on the front illuminate to tell you which zone is actively running, and a set of four buttons to the right of the display can be used to run manual “quick runs.” You simply use the arrows to select a zone, and the other two buttons to start and stop the run.

Wyze Smart Sprinkler Controller app Christopher Null / IDG

The primary display offers a weather forecast plus info on both your prior run and the next.

The system sets up in Wyze’s do-everything app (I tested with final hardware but a beta version of the app, in advance of the January launch of the product) and connects to your network via 2.4GHz Wi-Fi (only). In my testing, installation went quickly and completed successfully without incident, and soon I was able to begin working with my zones in earnest.

Numerous options are available for configuring your zones, including fixed scheduling based on time and day of week and a “smart” scheduling system called Sprinkler Plus, which uses localized weather information to manage your watering. Sprinkler Plus is a subscription add-on that costs $10 per year, but three years of the service are currently included with the product. Note that weather-based skips can’t be activated without a Sprinkler Plus subscription, even if you’re using an otherwise fixed schedule. Scheduling can, however, be set based on sunrise and sunset times without a current subscription.

soil moisture estimate Christopher Null / IDG

It’s unclear how Wyze derives this soil moisture estimate.

The biggest catch with the device is that Wyze doesn’t do a great job of holding your hand during setup. To start with, I wasn’t presented with a wizard to set up my zones but was instead just dropped into the interface, complete with a default schedule that was set to deliver 20 minutes of watering over a 2-hour, 20-minute period (pausing frequently for 30 minute “soak” sessions). It also wasn’t clear how often this schedule would run—the upcoming calendar was blank—but after the first night of watering concluded, another instance appeared in the calendar three days following the first run.

I tried deleting this schedule, tweaking some characteristics of my lawn, such as sun exposure, slope, and soil type, and was then presented with a new smart schedule of a 40-minute block of watering (which is definitely overkill for my yard). Again, there was no indication how often this would run, as if Wyze decides day by day based on its arcane estimate of soil moisture and that day’s weather conditions whether or not it is going to water your lawn. As well, you must set up a separate backup schedule that Wyze uses in the event that your internet connection is lost (for more than 2 weeks).

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