Eve Aqua review: The perfect watering timer for the HomeKit set

Eve Aqua review: The perfect watering timer for the HomeKit set

When it comes to smart watering timers designed for garden hose or drip irrigation—where “smart” is defined as “connected to the internet”—the pickings are pretty slim. There’s the Orbit B-Hyve Smart Hose Water Timer; the Melnor RainCloud Smart Water Timer, which we have yet to review; and the Eve Aqua, which we’re reviewing here.

The Eve Aqua is doubly rare for not only being in Apple’s HomeKit smart home ecosystem but for also supporting the low-power wireless smart home standard Thread. But you’ll need an iPhone or an iPad to use it, plus a HomePod, an Apple TV, or (again) an iPad if you want to control it while you’re away from home. The alternative is to use Bluetooth and control the device only locally.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best smart sprinkler controller systems, where you’ll find reviews of the competition’s offerings, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.

The device’s manufacturer, Eve Systems, prides itself on its consumer privacy protections, so there’s no product registration required to initiate a product warranty, no cloud services to sign up for, and all communications are between your iOS device and your HomeKit hub with end-to-end encryption. But that dependence on Apple products means Android users cannot use any of Eve’s products, including this one. The Eve Aqua also does not support Alexa or Google Assistant, so you’ll need to rely on Siri if you wish to control the smart valve with voice commands.

eve aqua hose connector Michael Brown / IDG

The Eve Aqua is designed for installation between your outdoor spigot and your garden hose.

Setting up the Eve Aqua

The Eve Aqua is a cuboid device measuring 3.74 x 3.23 x 3.25 inches (WxHxD), not including the threaded hose connections. It operates on 2 AA batteries, which come in the box along with a plastic quick-connect hose attachment if you have the matching connector for your hose. You’ll want to program watering times in the Eve app, but there’s also a power button on its face that will open its valve when pressed and close it when pushed a second time. You can set a default shut-off time in the Eve app, and you’ll find a child lock there that disables the button if you fear mischief-makers.

The Eve Aqua user manual suggests you install the batteries, mount the smart valve to your spigot, and then connect it to your smartphone via Bluetooth. After doing it that way, I would suggest the better approach would be to install the batteries, connect it to your smartphone via Bluetooth, let it download two sequential firmware updates (the second of which will activate its onboard Thread radio), and only then mount it to your spigot. I did this with a second review unit that Eve sent, but wasn’t able to complete the final step because I learned they’d inadvertently sent me a European model which has different hose threads.

eve aqua with quick release Michael Brown / IDG

Eve includes a quick-connect hose fitting in the box, but you’ll need to supply the matching connector that fits on your garden hose.

You’ll also want to take care when installing the batteries, which involves pressing on one side of the cube to push the entire face of the valve up. Not knowing how the compartment opened, my inclination was to grip the valve with my fingers on its face, which meant I was fighting with myself to get it opened, because the face pops out. When I moved my fingers away from that position, the compartment slid up with such force that it popped completely out and was dangling by the wires that connect the valve to the button. Fortunately, there’s enough slack in these wires that they didn’t break free from their soldered connections at either end.

The Eve app

Eve Systems has a single app for all its smart home products, which is great because you need to learn just one user interface for everything. It’s also confusing, because the app gets populated by every other HomeKit device you have installed. That left me with more than two dozen squares to navigate in the app’s home screen—labeled At a Glance—which looks completely different than the home screen in Apple’s Home app. Fortunately, you can limit the devices that show up here by designating a limited number of them as “favorites,” and you can re-order how they’re presented in a three-across grid.

eve aqua running Michael Brown / IDG

You can configure the Eve app to show you all of your HomeKit devices in its At a Glance screen, but that’s overkill unless you’re deploying a lot of other Eve devices that you want to interact with other products.

Four icons sit across the bottom of the app: A home icon takes you to the At a Glance screen I just described, a Rooms button displays which HomeKit devices are assigned to each room in your home, an Automations button takes you to a screen where you can create those condition-based actions, and a Settings icon drills down into various device configuration options.

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