Venstar vs Ecobee – Which is the Better Thermostat Option?

Smart thermostats broadly fall into two categories, the minimalist Nest circular style and a makeover of the more common rectangular models, with full touchscreens and lots of extra pizazz to tempt buyers.

However, while styling might be an issue for some, we’re more concerned about features, practicality and user experience, so this head to head will see which offers the most bang for your buck.

The recent Ecobee 3, launched last September, sits in the round, or at least curved, category and is winning plaudits for its remote sensors that add a degree of smartness and intelligence, all from a recent entrant into the smart home devices market.

The Venstar ColorTouch Thermostat is a brand new product from a company more associated with tranditional models, so no surprise that it sticks with the rectangular style.

In this article, I compare the Ecobee 3 against the new Venstar ColorTouch Thermostat head-to-head to see which one comes out on top.

In doing so, I evaluate the two devices using the following criteria: key features, software, pros and cons, installation, and price. Let us know in the comments of your experience with these devices.

Key Features of the Venstar vs Ecobee3


The Ecobee3 replaces your current home thermostat control, but uses wireless sensors to help understand how rooms are occupied and what their temperature is, to best manage the central heating.

Against a stark black plastic panel, it features a 3.5-inch full-color 320 x 480 LCD touchscreen, remote sensors and a free app. It works with iOS, and is HomeKit (link to HomeKit news piece) compatible. You can talk to set it through Siri, or use Apple’s new Watch. It is also compatible with Android devices.

What’s New with the Third Gen? To support its green credentials, Ecobee reckon their third-generation model can save up to 23% on your heating and cooling bill.

To help prove that, it delivers regular home energy reports, while the control unit shows live weather updates, and supports software updates for future compatibility and to add new features or improvements.

Smart Sensors: The basic Ecobee 3 kit comes with a single sensor, that wirelessly connects from any room to give it more information about the house.

Users can add more sensors for each room, but it doesn’t control the heat of each radiator, so can only try to keep a balanced temperature. In doing so, it builds up an energy profile, to heat the home for greater comfort at minimal cost.

Venstar ColorTouch Thermostat

Venstar has a long line of digital thermostats, but this is their first model that breaks into color, with the added benefit of touchscreen controls for easier programming.

Interestingly, you can use your own photos or a range of scenic images as a background, stored on an SD card, which is a neat touch, but hardly essential.

Three Models: There are three models, a basic edition (Model T7800), a WiFi edition (Model T7850) and the Model T7900 that can manage humidity control. It uses the SkyPort Mobile app which is available for iOS, Android and BlackBerry, which gives it greater compatibility than most.

That SD card can also be used to copy settings from one unit to the next, if you have require multiple units, or are running a bunch of smart homes. Compared to most smart thermostats, it looks pretty huge, but that’s handy as the big screen menu is very accessible and easy to see in all lighting conditions.

Programmable: It can be programmed to manage up to four heating and two cooling stages, using gas, electric or heat pump control, with support for dual fuel modes. The timer can be set to automatic or programmable mode, with adjustable timers and deadbands, and point limiting for fine-tuned control.

Multiple Ways to Control it: Setting the ColorTouch’s options is straightforward either on the screen, or via your smartphone, with multiple settings per day available, vacation modes and other options.

You can dim the screen later in the day and at night, and show performance graphs on the screen to show your usage.


The Ecobee3’s sensor-based solution gives a wider view of your home’s temperature, at a greater cost if you want to cover the whole home.

The larger screen of the ColorTouch allows you to regularly check your power usage, rather than waiting for a report, which is good for energy obsessives, but overall, the screen features are largely cosmetic if you plan to get the WiFi model and use your smartphone.


Ecobee 3

The Ecobee 3 is designed with home owner installation in mind, while previous Ecobees were for installers to set up. The Ecobee3 can be wired in to most current 24V HVAC systems, or if that sounds scary, you can order one with a quote for professional home installation.

If your current thermostat doesn’t have a C-wire, then you can use the supplied Power Extender Kit to bring life to your Ecobee. The Ecobee requires just five wires connected to get up and running, after that there’s a quick set up process to go through, and you’re done.

Venstar ColorTouch Thermostat

The Venstar requires only three wires connecting at a minimum at get going as a heating-only solution. Five wires for a indepentent fan control. If there’s no fifth wire, then the Venstar Add A Wire accessory is an optional extra.

Also optional is the Venstar Wallplate as the device’s backplate may not cover a full size vertical junction box.

Note: there are three dip-switches you can set on the back to configure it specific HVAC situations, but they are pretty straightforward to set.

Using the straightforward installation process, getting the ColorTouch up and running is pretty simple, and the Venstar should be commended for their plain menu design and logical layout.


Ecobee 3

The Ecobee aims for simplicity with a minimalist display on the screen, which follows through to the iOS and Apple Watch displays. Talking to the thermostat via Siri means you don’t even have to touch a dial or setting.

Ecobee’s smartness comes at the cost of some of the configuration options of the ColorTouch, but will be approved of by people who just want to get on with their lives in comfort.

Venstar ColorTouch Thermostat

Venstar’s screen might look crowded when you have an image in the background, but the menus are well designed and straightforward to navigate.

The SkyPort mobile app makes a good alternative way to operate the thermostat, with plenty of setting options and all the flexibility anyone who wants to be in charge of their home heating will need.

Pros and Cons of Both Thermostats

Ecobee 3

The Ecobee’s extra remote sensors mean that you can better monitor the temperature around the home. However, if you live in a house that’s always hot upstairs but cold downstairs, or vice versa, there’s not much that the Ecobee can actually do about it.

However, as it learns your patterns and heating needs, it becomes a clever part of the home, working away in the background.

Venstar ColorTouch Thermostat

The ColorTouch is a thing of beauty in the home, with that clear screen, practically designed menus and ability to let you customise the picture.

While it may lack some of the smart features of its rival, there’s plenty of flexibility in the programming to enable it to keep your home warm or cool, whatever the weather.

And, with the remote access, you can do that from anywhere. Does remote control really equate to smart? We guess that’s in the eye of the beholder.

Features Comparison Table

Specs Ecobee 3 Venstar ColorTouch Thermostat
Size 3.9 x 0.9 x 3.9 inches 7 x 5 x 2 inches
Compatible Devices iOS, HomeKit, Apple Watch and Android (unofficial Windows Phone app) iOS, BlackBerry and Android
Wi-Fi WiFi, 2.11 b/g/n @ 2.4 GHZ 915MHz, future expansion slot WiFi modes not listed
Price $249 ($248 current offer) $159 (WiFi edition)

Final Recommendation

The Ecobee3 is small beautiful and smart, the ColorTouch is big, bold and perhaps not quite as smart or flexible. So, its likely they will appeal to very different markets. As a smart home site, we’d have to lean toward the Ecobee3, but we can easily see a place for the ColorTouch in many homes.

If you’d like to read more about the Ecobee3, check out my full review post here. Otherwise, you can check out the live pricing below.