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Orbit B-hyve XR sprinkler timer review: A great irrigation system


Three years after its first steps into smart irrigation systems, Orbit’s B-hyve brand is back with its most advanced smart watering hardware yet. The new B-hyve XR is stuffed with features, so let’s dive into it.

For starters, the hardware—a beefy device that weighs more than two pounds—is designed for either indoor or outdoor installation, with no additional housing required. (That said, the device is clearly not fully waterproof, so I’d advise giving it some level of protection if you’re mounting the XR outside.)

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best smart sprinkler controllers, where you’ll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of device.

A row of connectors beneath a removable panel supports up to eight valves (or 16 valves for the next model up, which costs an additional $30) and includes room for a rain or freeze sensor. Unique to the smart irrigation space, the XR includes no external power brick (which is one reason why it’s outdoor friendly); the transformer is instead built into the main housing. This also helps to explain its overall size and weight.

b hyve xr wiring Orbit

The Orbit B-hyve XR relies on the typical clips to secure your sprinkler system’s wiring, but it takes quite a lot of force to shove the leads in (16-zone model shown here).

As with most smart watering systems, your valve leads attach via simple wire clips. (The previous B-hyve required wiring to be attached with tiny screws.) I initially tried inserting my leads into these clips and thought they were connected, only to find that when I ran a test watering run, nothing happened. After some trial and error, I found that the XR requires fairly long wiring leads, and those leads need to be inserted with a significant amount of force in order to hold. I ended up trimming and re-stripping my wiring to improve the connection, after which everything worked fine.

With the B-hyve XR powered up, you’ll quickly notice its most interesting feature: A panel of three tiny, color LCD screens built into the hexagonal design pattern on the housing. These micro-displays give you some basic information about your system, including the current weather and the time and date of your next scheduled run time. Strangely, the weather report only includes the overall condition (sunny, raining, etc.) but not the temperature, which would have been a bit more useful.

b hyve xr display 1 Christopher Null / IDG

While it’s a monstrous hardware device, the B-hyve XR offers a number of new features you won’t find on competing water controllers.

Once your hardware is configured, it’s time to use the B-hyve app to connect the system to Wi-Fi. Both 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks are supported, and I had no trouble bringing the XR online, after which I could begin configuring my watering zones. Like most modern sprinkler controllers, the B-hyve XR offers both manual and “smart” watering programs, the latter setting up what it thinks is an ideal watering schedule based on answers you provide about the size, condition, and composition of your lawn or garden.

b hyve xr 3 Christopher Null / IDG

You can set up to four separate watering programs, or let B-hyve’s smart watering system decide for you.

After telling the app about the soil, plant types, sprinkler heads, ground slope, and sun condition, my system suggested a somewhat strange smart watering schedule: two 18-minute soaks, one right after the other, running once every three days. I don’t know if this is really the ideal way to water my plants, as I know a smaller amount of water every day tends to work best in my garden. The total amount of water being delivered over the course of a week, however, was just about right.

If you want to fine-tune things, B-hyve supports catch cups, wherein you physically measure the actual amount of water your system is putting out, and then use that information to tweak its programming. As well, if you have a Flume water-leak system installed, a new partnership with that company lets you use its data to measure exactly how much water each zone is using. If the numbers suddenly jump, that’s a sign that there’s a leak or break somewhere in your irrigation tubing. This feature is available now, but Orbit says it won’t be fully implemented until the end of the year.



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