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Skydrop smart sprinkler controller review with video

I’ve been using the Skydrop 8-Zone WiFi sprinkler controller for the past few weeks and it has shined with beautiful design and smart watering. But I have had a few minor glitches along the way with the installation and notifications.

I’ve been trying to get my hands on the Skydrop for the past few months, and I’m happy to finally get it in the garage and running. “What about the Skydrop?” has been the #1 question in my YouTube comments for months now.

SUMMARY

PROS

  • Beautiful controller design
  • Beautiful iOS and web app
  • On-device manual controls
  • EPA WaterSense certified = $$ rebates $$
  • Solid smart watering

CONS

  • Glitchy install process
  • Push notifications took time to work
  • No way to pause/resume watering
  • No way to water for a specific zone for a specific amount of time

REVIEW VIDEO

REBATES

The Skydrop is EPA WaterSense certified, so you may be able to get a sizable rebate when you purchase this unit. Residents of my county are eligible for a 50% rebate if they jump through the water company’s hoops. There are quite a few caveats, but for half off the price, it’s worth it.

HARDWARE

The Skydrop unit is probably the most beautiful of any smart sprinkler controller. The green LED is a nice addition to a dark garage. The LED can be switched off if you find it too distracting. It also turns blue when watering begins. When I mounted the device to my wall it really felt sturdy and solid, which isn’t always the case with every sprinkler controller.

The internal plastic is also quite nice and has a really nice feel. Something you have to see and touch to truly appreciate.

INSTALL

The Skydrop comes with some of the biggest screws I’ve ever seen. I had a good laugh at their beefyness. But I can’t complain, as they keep the unit nice and snug to the wall.

The controller comes in two pieces, the backplate that the wires are fed into, and the front piece that has the controller wheel and the LCD screen.

I routed the wires up through the bottom of the unit, which meant that my little stickers that identified my zones would need to go. They had been on my wires since I reviewed the Blossom many months ago.

Once the wires are in place you place the front piece onto the backplate. This took a bit of force, and I initially thought I had my screws too far off center for it to work. But on a second push I got it to snap into place.

SETUP

I ran into a decent glitch the first time I turned on the device. It looked like the Skydrop was up and running, as it took quite a while to boot up and then the wheel turned green. But when I downloaded the app and went through the setup I was befuddled when I was asked to enter a 6-digit security code. The Skydrop was booted up, but the screen was blank.

So I did what any computer expert would do: unplug it and plug it back in. That fixed the problem and it was able to boot all the way through to the setup menu, where I entered my zipcode and connected to my home WiFi network.

Weather stations

Other smart sprinkler controllers have you enter your specific address to get really zeroed in and using the closest possible weather station, but Skydrop just uses your zipcode. Skydrop says they use their “vast network of weather stations near you”, but they don’t tell you where your weather station is located.

Rachio, on the other hand, is very clear, and will even let you pick a personal weather station in your neighborhood.

The FAQ on the Skydrop website says Weather Underground integration is coming in the second quarter of 2015, but it hasn’t been integrated yet as far as I can tell.

THE APP

fullThe Skydrop app is nicely designed and very user friendly. Setting up the various zones in the app was a breeze and very intuitive. You pick what time you want smart watering to begin and then set up each zone with things like soil type, slope, shade and how many sprinkler heads or drippers are attached. Some of the other controllers I’ve used made this process difficult, the Skydrop was a pleasure.

Great digital design

The home screen for the Skydrop app is the best I’ve seen. You get every piece of information on one screen and it is incredibly easy to understand it all.

I have found that if you’re checking out the app WHILE watering is happening your stats and info will be a little off.  It will say “now watering” and have the blue ring lit up in the app, but the “watering forecast”, “watering history” and “zones” graphics all seem to go into information limbo where the current watering is ignored. For example, during watering, even if a zone has completed watering, it will say “Last watered [2 days ago]” instead of “Last watered today”. If you go into watering history as it’s watering and look at the current day it says “No Watering”.

Once watering ends all of the information syncs up and looks good, but when you are in the middle of it, it’s hard to figure out what’s going on.

Push notifications

When I set up my unit I turned on push notifications so I could get alerts when watering started and when it ended. I like knowing what’s going on. But my push notifications weren’t firing, so I contacted Skydrop support and the guys were absolutely great as they worked to get it up and running for me. They discovered and squashed a bug within a couple days and now push notifications are working smoothly.

No way to pause or resume

A couple shortcomings I have found with the Skydrop is that there is no way to pause watering and no way to water a specific zone for a specific number of minutes.

If I’m halfway through zone 2, with zone 3 and 4 still to be watered, I can’t just pause the Skydrop and hop in the shower. I have to stop it. And if I want to finish out the watering on zone 2, I have to start from the beginning and water it all over again. There is no way to just water zone 2 for 10 minutes. Those two things combine to form a really funky experience for me.

GEEKINESS

This is one place where the Skydrop falters. There is currently no open API or IFTTT integration. For most people these things don’t matter, but I see it limiting the future growth and possibilities as smart home devices become more and more present in our homes. Opening up the Skydrop for tinkerers could lead to some awesome integrations.

Amazon Echo and Google Home will continue to gain steam, and with the Rachio you can say things like “Alexa, tell Rachio to get the water running on zone number 1 for 15 minutes.”

CONCLUSION

The Skydrop is a solid device with fantastic physical and digital design. The developers are committed to making the product better and better, and I’m sure it will continue to evolve.

I ran into a few glitches and would like to see a few improvements, but this controller is in the top tier with Rachio and RainMachine.

Check it out on Amazon

PHOTOS

Skydrop backplate and wires
Skydrop backplate and wires
Skydrop backplate and wires up close
Skydrop backplate and wires up close
Skydrop shutting down
Skydrop shutting down
Skydrop up and running
Skydrop up and running
Skydrop box
Skydrop box
Skydrop box
Skydrop box
Skydrop box side
Skydrop box side
Skydrop box end
Skydrop box end
Skydrop box contents
Skydrop box contents
Skydrop control unit back
Skydrop control unit back
Skydrop control unit
Skydrop control unit
Skydrop wiring unit
Skydrop wiring unit
Skydrop box contents
Skydrop box contents

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