Gardeners and homeowners are peering out from behind the drapes and planning ahead for a spring spent planting, redesigning or cleaning up
Top of the feature list for smart home gardeners will be automatic sprinkler system controllers that can give each area the right amount of water, while saving water if there’s lots of rain about.
There are many smart controller systems on the market, all offering broadly the same features, but some are smarter, or more rugged than others.
Basically they replace whatever original dumb controller you have and create a number of zones for different watering requirements, depending on how many sprinklers you have.
This comparison checks out the key features, pros and cons and the overall user experience you can expect from the popular Rachio and Skydrop models.
Main Differences Between Rachio vs Skydrop
The Main Differences Between Rachio vs Skydrop are:
- Rachio comes in white, whereas Skydrop comes in grey and a less minimalistic look.
- Rachio is supported by browser OS, Android and iOS, whereas Skydrop is just supported by Android and iOS.
- Rachio is cheaper, whereas Skydrop does not update their app very often.
- Rachio has its own personal weather station where it gets its data, whereas Skydrop doesn’t but integrates well with Nest.
Key Features of the Rachio
- Smart Mobile Control: The Rachio is one of the larger model smart sprinkler controllers at over 7-inches square. It replaces your old controller and hooks up to your WiFi via some Blink Up instructions, since it has no control panel of its own. You use your phone to send it a series of light pulses to the box and then control it through the smartphone app.
- Terrain Variability: The app allows the user to enter a host of variables for each zone including soil type, vegetation, slope angle, level of sun exposure, and nozzle types in the sprinklers.
- Custom Weather Data: Users can then pick from national or local weather stations to get the most accurate weather data available.
- EPA WaterSense Certified: The Rachio should be able to help make water savings over time, as it adjusts based on the weather and seasonality. It won’t stop during a downpour, it is not that smart, but will help your water bill and is EPA WaterSense Certified.
- Different Price Points: The Rachio Smart Sprinkler controllers MSRP starts at a fair price (For the latest prices and discounts, check here). There is an additional cost for a waterproof enclosure, if needed. The base model supports up to eight zones, while a higher-rated edition supports up to 16 zones.
Update: If you loved Rachio before, then you would have more reasons to love the third-generation Rachio Smart Sprinkler System. Read here!
Key Features SkydropNo products found.
- Flexible Zones: The basic Skydrop controller can control eight different sprinkler zones, with support for up to 16, if needed. That means it can manage your hanging baskets, lawns and other
- Also Has Terrain Variability: Similar to the Rachio, the Skydrop has the standard variables for soil type, vegetation, slope, etc…
- Intuitive and Smart Interface: The gorgeous looking and hi-tech looking controller unit features a WiFi unit, LCD, jog dial controller to take charge of the settings. The control screen can display the weather forecast and the status of each zone.
- Smart Soil Watering Tech: Once installed, you can tell the Skydrop about the types of soil you have, the watering needs of each zone and your timings. Then, let it manage your watering in accordance with the local weather and watering laws, or you can use it in manual mode to trigger sprinklers if things need an extra soaking.
- Easy to Read Controls: Once installed, the glowing jog dial ring on the controller is used to navigate the menus. The ring itself shows green for standby mode, blue for watering, yellow for no network and red for an error.
- Smart App Control: You can monitor the app via smartphone or browser. The system uses Weather Underground to pull local weather reports based on your zip code and smart cloud software to figure out the needs of your garden.
Pros and Cons
- Pro – Integration: The Rachio can integrate with Nest, Wink, Control4, IFTTT and other smart home systems for extra control, a big plus for the Rachio.
- Pro – Better App: The recently updated app is more useful than most and gets very good ratings.
- Pro – Better Reports: It can also provide feedback in the form of Rachio Water Reports that show how much water is used and saved.
- Pro – Personal Weather Station: The PWS is an excellent little feature that pulls from Weather Underground for data. If you are in an area with neighbors that are part of the network, you can tap into their monitoring system (often more accurate – and localized – than other weather sources).
- Con – Weatherproof Box Not Included: On the negative side, this box should be weatherproof from the off, and not have an extra case as an option, since most sprinkler controls do live outside.
- Con – Depends on Rachio Servers: It is also dependent on Rachio’s servers for data, and will default to a previous schedule if it can’t access them.
SkydropNo products found.
- Con – Not as Many App Updates: The Skydrop app hasn’t been updated in three months which is always something of a worry. UPDATE: This isn’t emblematic of a problem, but – in my experience – a company that upgrades their systems frequently is iterating faster in their product development life-cycle.
- Pro – Integrates Well with Nest: However, if you have a Nest device in the house, then it can send its data to the Nest Home Report, helping to build up your household energy usage profile.
- Con – Not Always Smart Enough to Stop Watering During Rain: As with all these devices they are not yet smart enough to stop providing water when it is, or was recently raining in some situations.
- Con – No Touchscreen: While the Skydrop controller looks hi-tech, the screen isn’t a touch model, which is rather disappointing and the jog controller is oversensitive and not particularly durable to the touch. If you like using the app and don’t want/need a touchscreen, this – of course – doesn’t matter.
- Pro – Good Customer Support: If you do have problems, their customer support seems keen to help, but having a better product would avoid users have to reach out to them in the first place.
- Con – Still Reliant on Cloud Services: Both devices rely on cloud services, which if unavailable means your system will be running on old information and slowly become out of date, so pray your choice of system never goes bust.
Final Look – Skydrop vs Rachi0
|Zones||Up to 16
|8, up to 16|
|Dimensions||2.25” x 7.25” x 7.25”||3.4” x 9.7” x 1.9”|
|OS support||iOS, Android, Browser
|Price||8-zone (For the latest prices and discounts, check here) 16-zone (For the latest prices and discounts, check here) waterproof enclosure (For the latest prices and discounts, check here)||8-zone (For the latest prices and discounts, check here) waterproof enclosure (For the latest prices and discounts, check here)|
Final Call – Which to Go With?
Both of these watering smart aids can help benefit your lawns, rockeries and other areas, through water management.
In hardware terms, the Rachio is marginally less expensive and has a better app and cloud service. It seems more flexible when it comes to sensing and water management.
It will take some extensive testing to find out which is truly the better value, so check back for an update next summer (and feel free to share your comments).
Otherwise, they will both do the job, but users will have to check the software meets their specific needs, which will vary depending on their needs. .
Unlike the Rachio, the Skydrop certainly looks more like a smart home product, and something that looks cool in the home, if you can
install it inside.
However, its reliance on smart software and weather forecasts often seems to put it at odds with the reality of your conditions and your lawn.
Yes, there are manual overrides, but the claims based on technology are what sell it to people who would rather not have to be checking their systems every day. This puts the Skydrop in the category of products that one user may consider brilliant, while another may consider it useless.
Bottom Line: As an entry level user, I’d stick with the Rachio until the Skydrop can fully catch up. You can (For the latest prices and discounts, check here).
My experience with the Skydrop differs from that of Patrick and he has either left some information out or just didn’t list it.
The Skydrop has Android, iOS and browser support which is not listed in the above chart. The site for the browser can be found on their homepage or here: my.skydrop.com
Also, why does it need a touchscreen at all? Once you set it up you can do everything from from either a browser or the app. I never use the actual device to do anything, especially since it is on the side of the house in the weather proof enclosure. Sure the jog wheel is sensitive but all I did with it was set the WiFi up on the unit and did all of the rest of the programming via a web browser. They also allow you to turn the light on the jog wheel off which is what I did. It sits in an enclosure, so the light status is not visible anyway. On the app or the browser you can see the light status as they show that jog wheel.
As for the app being updated. Rather than looking at when the last app update occurred, one should look at the functionality of the app itself. If the app already does everything, then why would it need to be updated? The app should be compared between the two units and if the Skydrop app lets you do everything that the Rachio app does, then maybe one should question why Rachio didn’t have a complete app before now? Maybe the Rachio app is getting updated to fix bugs whereas the Skydrop app doesn’t have those noticeable bugs in it?
As for watering in the rain; mine hasn’t. One nice feature is that Skydrop allows you to use a Personal Weather Station (PWS) and in my case, a neighbor less then 1/4 mile away has one and is part of Weather Underground. I contacted Skydrop and they updated my unit to use that PWS. With that information my didn’t water for six weeks because of how much rain had fallen. A typical irrigation controller just checks the rain sensor and it isn’t currently tripped then it will water. Also, with a rain sensor, it takes a certain amount of rainfall before it will trip and thus you still might water while it is raining. The Skydrop has also not watered a zone at all because that area didn’t need it since it was a shaded area. It also lowered the other zones than what the schedule would typically dictate. A typical irrigation controller waters the same amount at every watering time/day.
The Skydrop also has terrain variability, nozzle type and what is actually being watered just like the Rachio but yet that is not listed in this article.
The Skydrop is also EPA water sense certified:
The Skydrop servers are housed with Amazon AWS. Outages are rare with AWS.
While both systems can support up to 16-zones there is a key difference. If you go with the Rachio and buy the 8-zone system, if you ever needed to upgrade to the 16-zone system you need to buy the 16-zone system. Skydrop uses the same controller and you add the additional 8-zones as a module to the back of the controller. This makes the Skydrop expandable. Also, they are working on the integration to either a rain sensor or a flow meter. You do need the 8-zone expansion module though. I have that expansion module as I have 12-zones and I do have a rain sensor. Currently the rain sensor doesn’t do anything but Skydrop is working on a firmware update to support it. The last firmware update came out within the last month for the Skydrop.
Patrick Sinclair says
Lance – Thanks for commenting. I’ve updated the article with some of the information you shared. As I mentioned in the article, I’ll be updating as I go. This is the first Summer working with it. For my set-up the Rachio just works a bit better. Some of this is personal preference. I’m sure both products will evolve quickly as mainstream smart irrigation is still in the early adopter phase.
Also, Skydrop has another product coming out that allows more than 16 zones and also removes issues with the range of WiFi; it is called Skydrop Link: