Review: Netatmo Wind Gauge
Despite our hesitation about the high cost of entry, there's no doubt in our minds that Netatmo's Urban Weather Station is one of the coolest looking and most straightforward Internet-connected weather stations out there, and has remained both relevant and useful for more than three years now with minimal updates — an impressive feat when you consider that we've seen four new iPhone models in the same time frame. However, Netatmo hasn't stood still with the Urban Weather Station, adding a Rain Gauge option last year to track rain fall, and is now taking it to the next dimension with the company's new Wind Gauge ($100), which can not only provide information on wind speed and direction, but use this information to calculate more accurate "feels like" readings for the temperatures reported by the other components.
Like the Rain Gauge before it, the new Wind Gauge is sold as an add-on to Netatmo’s base Weather Station, so you’ll need to either have one of those already up and running, or make that additional $179 investment as well. Opening the Wind Gauge packaging reveals nothing more than the unit itself and a brief graphical instruction sheet. The four AA batteries are already installed, with a plastic tab separating them from making contact; you’ll need a Philips screwdriver to remove the four screws on the bottom to get at the battery compartment and remove the tab. A temporary plastic sticker on the front of the Wind Gauge also provides guidance to not twist the upper and lower halves or place fingers inside; the unit has no moving parts, but in fact uses four ultrasonic transducers to measure wind speed and direction. A standard 1/4” camera mounting screw on the bottom allows the Wind Gauge to be installed on many mounting devices; Netatmo will be selling a mount specifically made for the Wind Gauge, although pricing and availability for that component has not yet been announced.
Installing the Wind Gauge may be seemingly as simple as placing it outdoors, but for best accuracy Netatmo recommends that it be placed at least 4 feet above the top of your roof, so if you’re a serious weather enthusiast — a category that probably includes everyone who would pay $100 for an Internet-connected Wind Gauge on top of a $179 Weather Station — you’ll probably want to take the time and effort to install it properly. For the purposes of accurate wind direction you’ll also need to ensure that the arrows on the top and bottom of the Wind Gauge are pointing to the north.
Pairing the Wind Gauge with your system follows the same process as setting up your Netatmo Urban Weather Station in the first place, or adding any other accessory such as the Rain Gauge or an additional indoor module. The Wind Gauge communicates through the main indoor Netatmo base station, and the iOS app will walk you through the steps of pairing the module. As we’ve noted in our other Netatmo reviews, the user experience continues to be great, with a reasonably easy setup process, although the Wind Gauge has an additional small caveat due to the way it’s designed —you’ll want to wait to install the batteries until you’re ready to pair the device, as it seems to only go into pairing mode for the first 30 seconds or so after the batteries are installed. So if you’ve jumped the gun, it’s an additional hassle to get out the screwdriver again and undo the four screws on the battery compartment just to reset the device. It’s a minor problem, however, and we assume most users will follow the instructions and go through the pairing process within a more reasonable time frame.
Beyond that, however, as with Netatmo’s base weather station and rain gauge, the whole system very much just works transparently once everything’s paired. The main station collects data from up to three indoor modules, a Rain Gauge, and a Wind Gauge, and sends all of that data securely to Netatmo’s servers via a Wi-Fi Internet connection, and the Netatmo iOS app accesses data from there. As a result, there’s no need to be in proximity to any of the devices to get readings or notifications, and no concern about configuring other gateways, hubs, or routers to provide remote access when you’re away from home. We’ve had a Netatmo system of one outdoor and three indoor stations in use during the past three years and it’s really something you don’t need to think about other than to change the batteries about once a year. The Wind Gauge is much the same as the Rain Gauge in its approach — just mount it outside somewhere that it can pick up the wind, and it will just report data without any further effort required on your part. As with other weather data, wind information will be sent privately to Netatmo’s cloud servers once every five minutes whether the app is running or not, so it continues to work in the background with no user intervention required. In addition to the iOS app, the data can also be viewed from any web browser by logging into your account on Netatmo’s site.
Netatmo’s iOS app is one of the most well-designed weather apps we’ve seen, and as with the Rain Gauge, the addition of the Wind Gauge just adds a third panel of data to the outdoor section at the top, showing your wind direction, speed, gusts, and maximum wind speed for the day. The main outdoor weather panel will also display a more accurate “Feels Like” temperature with actual, on-site wind data to factor into its calculations, rather than simply relying on local weather reports. Turning the app into landscape mode presents the usual series of weather charts, so you can view your record of wind speeds over time, and a Today extension lets you see all of your weather data — including wind reports — from your Notification Center. Push notifications can also be configured for wind data, much like other Netatmo readings, with default notifications for very strong winds (over 40 mph), storm winds (over 53 mph), and violent storm winds (over 68 mph).
While Netatmo doesn’t provide any HomeKit support or direct integration with other accessories, it’s also compatible with the third-party IFTTT service, allowing actions to be indirectly triggered when certain levels are reached — for example, an IFTTT-compatible garage door opener could be activated when high winds are detected. We’d prefer to see direct integration — and especially HomeKit support — but we appreciate the IFTTT option, which can also trigger other actions such as creating calendar entries and sending emails.
Much like the Rain Gauge, Netatmo’s Wind Gauge is a great idea for somebody who wants to track this information, and it does its job very well, sitting there and reporting data in the background with nothing required other than an occasional battery change (Netatmo claims a set of AA batteries should last 1-2 years depending on outdoor temperatures). However, as with Netatmo’s other products, we’re still left with the detraction of the cost of entry — Wind Gauge is a $100 add-on to a $179 system, which brings the total cost of the solution up to nearly $280, and if you throw a Rain Gauge in there as well, that takes the price for a “complete” system up to $360, not even including the possibility of extra indoor modules. If you already own a Netatmo Urban Weather Station and are serious about tracking weather conditions, then picking up the Wind Gauge isn’t going to be a tough call, as it’s a great addition that makes an already excellent weather monitoring system more complete. Ultimately, however, the Netatmo system continues to be priced at a level that only serious weather or gadget enthusiasts are likely to be able to justify.