Easy to install. Scheduled and weather-based watering. Works with Amazon Alexa. Locking weatherproof case. Large manual controls and LCD panel. Intuitive app.
No IFTTT or third-party device integration. No usage reporting. LCD panel not backlit.
- Bottom Line
The Orbit B-Hyve 12-Station Smart WiFi Sprinkler Timer is a reasonably priced sprinkler controller you can program and control using your smartphone. It supports Alexa voice commands and creates watering cycles based on your weather and soil type, but it doesn't work with other smart home devices.
If you have an in-ground sprinkler system, there's a good chance it's being controlled by an Orbit Irrigation Products controller. Orbit has been in the business for more than forty years, though it's a relative newcomers to the smart home arena. Its first connected controller, the B-Hyve 12-Station Smart WiFi Sprinkler Timer ($119.99), lets you program your sprinkler system from anywhere using your smartphone, and offers a Smart Watering feature that keeps tabs on the weather, among other factors, to determine the best watering schedule. The B-Hyve works like a charm, supports Alexa voice commands, and is easy to install, but it lacks the detailed water usage reports and third-party integration you get with our Editors' Choice, the Rachio Gen2 Smart Sprinkler Controller.
Design and Features
The B-Hyve can be installed indoors or outdoors and offers built-in fault and surge protection. It's housed in a gray IPX5 weatherproof enclosure that measures 6.2 by 8.7 by 3.2 inches (HWD). The door panel opens to the left and has a locking mechanism and three sturdy hinges. A 55-inch heavy-duty three-pronged power cord juts out of the bottom of the enclosure, and there are two knockouts for running your sprinkler cables into the box.
Behind the door is a control panel with a 3.5-by-2.5-inch monochrome LCD panel, four large rubberized buttons (Prog ABC, Back, Clear, Rain Delay), and a large jog dial for accessing the menu and entering selections. With the Prog ABC button you can create separate watering programs for different parts of your yard that require specific needs (like lawn, flower bed, and vegetable garden). Pressing the Rain Delay button will cancel all watering for up to 32 days, and the Back and Clear buttons are used to select menu items and navigate the menu system.
The entire control panel swings out to the left to provide easy access to the wiring terminal, which contains connections for 12 watering zones, three common terminals, a pump terminal, two 24-volt output terminals, and a terminal for attaching a rain sensor (a six-zone timer is also available for $99). The rear of the enclosure has a built-in hanger for mounting it on a nail, or you can use the pre-formed mounting holes for a more secure installation. The timer comes with two mounting screws and anchors, a screwdriver for securing wires to the terminal, two keys for the door, and a user guide.
As with the Rachio Gen 2, the B-Hyve offers weather-based watering cycles for each zone. Orbit's Smart Watering feature uses information about the soil, sun/shade ratio, plant type, and sprinkler type to create a watering schedule for each zone, and WeatherSense technology uses local weather data to adjust the schedule based on past and expected rainfall totals. For example, it will initiate a rain delay if a certain amount of rain has recently fallen or is expected to fall. You can also initiate your own rain delay from within the app or at the controller, or you can just have the timer follow a calendar-based schedule.
The B-Hyve can be programmed and controlled manually using the onboard LCD and buttons, or with the thoughtfully designed mobile app (for Android and iOS). The app opens to a home screen that displays your scheduled watering programs and any rain delays. At the bottom of the screen are Calendar, Program, Home, Zones, and Settings buttons.
Use the Calendar button to view programmed watering schedules and the Program button to set up the schedules. Here you can configure start times, select zones, and assign watering days (every day, odd, even, interval). You can also turn Smart Watering on and off for all or specific zones. When you tap the Home button twice the app will display all zones. Tap a zone to initiate manual watering for a specific period of time. Use the Zones button to view the watering history, scheduled run times, and soil moisture level for each zone, and the Settings button to configure account and Wi-Fi settings, enable notifications, and view watering history for all zones. The history shows dates and length of watering times, but lacks the water usage and cost reporting that you get with the Rachio Gen 2 controller.
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The B-Hyve doesn't integrate with other smart home devices such as thermostats and home automation hubs, and it doesn't support IFTTT recipes, but if you have an Amazon Echo, Tap, or Dot, you can use Alexa voice commands to initiate a bevy of actions. You can use your voice to water all zones or specific zones for a certain period of time, initiate and cancel a rain delay, skip a zone, turn the timer on and off, and run a specific program. You can also have Alexa tell you when the lawn was last watered and when the next scheduled watering will take place.
Installation and Performance
Installation was easy. I have a five-zone system, so before I removed my existing controller I took a picture of the wiring to make sure each zone was wired correctly. I connected each zone wire to its corresponding terminal, and the white wire to the common terminal. I hung the controller on a screw and plugged it in. At first it looked like it wasn't getting any power because the LCD panel didn't light up. As it turns out, the LCD panel isn't backlit and can be very difficult to read in low light, so bring a flashlight if you're putting it in a basement closet like I did. Once I had light I could see that the Wi-Fi indicator was flashing. so I downloaded the app and created an account.
Once registered, the app prompted me to add a device. I chose This is a New Device and used my phone's Wi-Fi settings to connect to the B-Hyve's SSID. When I returned to the app the timer was immediately paired and I entered my home Wi-Fi information. Once I was connected to my home Wi-Fi I was prompted to enter my zip code (for local weather forecasting and conditions) and how many zones I was using. It then ran a one-minute test on each zone and asked me to name the zones as each test completed. When testing was finished I set up a Smart Watering plan for each zone.
The B-Hyve worked perfectly in my tests. The timer reacted quickly to my commands to manually water zones via the app and followed my calendar-based schedules without missing a beat. I received prompt push notifications when each watering cycle was completed, and when watering was cancelled due to a rain delay. Alexa voice commands also worked without a hitch; I had no trouble getting the B-Hyve to water or skip a specific zone for a designated period of time, or to run all zones for a period of time, and I was able to easily initiate and cancel rain delays.
The Orbit B-Hyve is a solid smart sprinkler controller from a company that's been in the business for more than 40 years. It can be controlled from anywhere using a mobile device and offers extensive Alexa voice commands, and it uses Smart Watering and WeatherSense technologies to create watering schedules based on your lawn and garden properties and the local weather. It's weatherproof and can be installed indoors or outdoors in a matter of minutes, and it comes with a handy mobile app that makes programming the timer a snap. You don't get the detailed water usage statistics and integration with other connected devices that you get with our Editors' Choice, the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller Generation 2, but it costs significantly less and is an excellent deal regardless.
By John R. Delaney Contributing Editor
As a Contributing Editor for PCMag, John Delaney has been testing and reviewing monitors, TVs, PCs, networking and smart home gear, and other assorted hardware and peripherals for almost 20 years. A 13-year veteran of PC Magazine's Labs (most recently as Director of Operations), John was responsible for the recruitment, training and management of the Labs technical staff, as well as evaluating and maintaining the integrity of the Labs testing machines and procedures. Prior to joining Ziff Davis, John spent six years in retail operations for… More »
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