Testmodo Challenge #4: Four Readers Give Their Final Verdicts On Hive Active Heating

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It's the last week of the last Testmodo before Christmas. Our Giz readers-turned-reviewers have been warming themselves on Hive's Active Heating for a good month now, with the thermostat in their home, app on their phone and a smart-home spring in their step.

Thanks to Roger, Toby, Olly and Allan for their thorough testing these past weeks, but after much schedule setting and geolocating, it's at last time for the final verdicts…

Four weeks have passed and I can now say that I am a fan of Hive. I haven’t had the features provided here on previous thermostats, so the remote access and phone app have been genuine revelations. I'd definitely recommend it to family and friends.

While I'm aware of other solutions available on the market, with some a little more stylish in the looks department, Hive has done everything I've wanted it to do. Sure, it misses a 'boost’ feature, but with our boiler system reacting so quickly to the commands from the app, I really haven’t seen it as a major issue.

The scheduling works well and being able to see it visually allows you to plan the week ahead with ease. I haven’t felt the need to use the web-based app all that much, really, other than to look into how it works, as the app is so straightforward. It's smart looking and always with me, which is of far more use than the online option.

I do walk past the physical thermometer occasionally to adjust the temperature, with the clicky buttons, and wish it looked just a little more interesting. It's not the main thing but I am a fan of gadgets, so to have something that looks a little techier, more space-age would have been a bonus. It's fine but not flashy.

What would I like to see added or improved? Honestly, I am a man of fairly simple means and Hive does what I need it to do just now. If another product is out there and wows me, I would hope that Hive would react to the much-populated forum's feedback and ensure that it's competitive, too.

I'm heading home in a bit, to a recently updated, warm house. Ahh…

Roger is a primary school head teacher from Potter's Bar. Follow him on Twitter here.

After a month or so with Hive, it is clear that it is an innovation greater than the sum of its parts. It has been my first foray into home automation and I can see the future.

Indeed, it's a great starting point. I have since invested in other like products and now have a number of household appliances hooked up to the internet via services such as WeMo. Who would have thought my Christmas tree this year would have been part of the ever-growing Internet of things?!

I had not even really used a thermostat before – my first house had a very mechanical boiler on and off switch without a timer and my new house has had this as its only thermostat in the winter months. But the simplicity of the Hive system is its killer feature.

Hive works as expected and builds on well-known conventions of how a heating system is supposed to work. The applications for both iOS and Android are beautifully simple and well designed and deliver a level of functionality that is clean and efficient.

But my favourite element is watching the system grow. While I have only seen a very minor update published in the App Store since having the system, there are innovations coming very soon via software updates. There are vibrant online communities pitching Hive and its competitors against each other, which I think is great, as it keeps the systems pushing each other and the winner is the consumer.

I really like Hive, it works just as advertised and offers me control over my heating system that is so convenient while making me feel a bit like a Jetson.

Toby is head of computer sciences at a technical college in Kent. Follow him on Twitter here.

While my feelings towards this fairly unassuming smart-heating white box up until now have been lukewarm, something changed this week. A grudging respect has grown, a knowing nod as we pass each other in the hallway. Hive has really stepped up its game.

Basically, I went on holiday and have generally had far more ad-hoc evenings out than I normally would and, as a result, I've had to rely on it more. Spending a few days in Budapest, I (naturally) forgot to turn the heating off before I left. No drama – I did it at the airport. Then, before leaving for home, I flicked the heating on to make sure our house was habitable on arrival – over hotel Wi-Fi, natch.

Finally, during this week we were also coming back from a late night in Landaaaan and I was able to make sure the heating was still on when we got in as the schedule had hit its end. These things are very convenient and really are the bread and butter of why you’d want Hive installed.

There’s a lot of potential to be unlocked to make it even more useful, too. The community you can access in the app is very vocal about features that they’d like to see included and Hive leave feedback and mark issues and features that they’re working on.

Prime examples are learning how long it takes to heat your house to certain temperatures and then deciding when the heating should come on based on how hot you want it and when. No more schedules!

Other items such as geolocation could also be upgraded to make it more useful than just an alert. Knowing when there’s someone still left in the house would certainly be a good start! It would be great to see Hive expand and evolve to encompass smart light bulbs, too.

But as it stands, Hive is just a handy portable heating controller. While some may feel the features offered here are enough for the comparatively low outlay, but for me I'm still not sure I could justify buying it off my own back until it can do a bit more.

It might well be that in 12 months' time it's a completely different, updated beast – certainly the forums suggest it could be, with updates incoming – and I could imagine recommending that. But for now, Hive is more potential than essential.

Olly is a digital media type from Guildford. Follow him on Twitter here.

We've been living with Hive for just under a month now and I'm in the odd position of liking it but being a bit unconvinced at the same time. I can forgive the scrappy cross-device apps and inconsistent behaviour so long as it does what it's supposed to do – and it generally does that very well.

It's definitely an improvement on my old thermostat – although I really do miss having a 'boost' function – and I love that I can program lower temperatures for when I'm in on my own. The preset temperature function isn't a substitute for the missing boost, but it's pretty handy, and progressing to the next heating activity does the job.

However, I wanted to be writing about how smart Hive was, how it revolutionised my home heating and how it dealt with things automatically so that I didn't have to. But the reality is that I've now got a much nicer interface for programming my thermostat and I can use my phone to turn it on and off. That's nice, but that's kind of where the "smart" stops.

"Smart", for me, means communication, automation and intelligence. But Hive is a closed system that doesn't do anything without your input: you program your timer and it never adjusts it automatically, or even suggests adjustments for you. Maybe I had lofty expectation?

Typically, I remember to turn it off at some point after I've left the house with my phone – which is good – but then forget to turn it back on again until the next morning when my wife complains. Whoops.

Sure, the geolocation feature can act as a memory jogger, but if you do anything nearby – school runs, for example – you'll end up with a ton of notifications that don't actually let you switch it on and off with a single press. It really needs to be automated to be useful.

Except it can't be, because I don't live on my own and we have guests and babysitters and so on. Hive is effectively a single-user system – even geolocation ties you to a single location – so it simply can't be anything more than a thermostat with an app for turning it on and off. This means I've mainly ended up leaving it on the schedule and treating it as a remote control, while my wife has barely used the app at all, preferring to tell me to do it.

With competitors boasting that they can learn about your activity, monitor current weather conditions to factor that into when to turn on your system and program your schedule automatically for you, Hive can feel like it's lagging behind.

This is perhaps a little unfair when you consider the price difference – Hive is proudly an entry-level system – but the large list of suggestions on the forums show that some people already want a bit more.

Allan is head of development at a travel company. Follow him on Twitter here.

Previously on the Hive Testmodo Challenge…

Testmodo Challenge #1: Four Readers Get Started With Hive Active Heating
Giz readers give the lowdown on the phone-connected thermostat's installation and setup. Read More >>

Testmodo Challenge #2: Four Readers Take Hive Active Heating's Scheduling For A Spin
Hive's smart thermostat and web app are the hot topics for our Giz readers turned reviewers. Read More >>

Testmodo Challenge #3: Four Readers Sync Their Smartphones To Hive's Appy Heating
Mobile devices at the ready as Giz readers take Hive Active Heating on the road. Read More >>