As the last entry to this series of smart sprinkler controller products, we will cover the Rain Bird ST8I-WIFI. Rain Bird is admittedly, a fairly unknown brand, especially when compared to Orbit, Rochio, or RainMachine. However, the ST8I-WiFi is actually pretty popular with a lot of positive reviews, so it is worth considering. This entry will be our Rain Bird ST8I-WiFi review.
The ST8-WIFI Timers has similar core features to other products we have reviewed before, such as Orbit B-Hyve. It can control the sprinklers through a Wi-Fi connection or manually with the onboard control panel. It is, admittedly, not as beautiful and modern as say, the Rochio 2nd Gen. The physical design does look a bit obsolete, comparable to that of the Orbit B-Hyve, with similar monochromatic LCD monitor and physical buttons.
As the name ST8I suggests, it features an 8-zone functionality. What’s really nice about the ST8I Wi-Fi, however, is the ability to use rain sensor (purchased separately), which, in our opinion, is more accurate compared to weather forecast-based technology.
So, how will it fare against other products we have reviewed before? Let us begin the Rainbird WiFi controller review by discussing its core features.
Rain Bird Features
8-Zone, Master Valve Available
The RainBird ST8I-WiFi can control 8 different zones, or 7 when you use the master valve connection. It is decent enough for a small to mid-sized lawn, and can have 6 different start time control per zone. There are also four different watering days options based on cycles (every 1 to 14 days), ODD/EVEN calendar days, and fully custom. A very nice overall zone control.
Easy Wiring and Installation
As mentioned, for a smart, Wi-Fi enabled sprinkler controller, ease of installation is the norm. The Rain Bird ST8I-WiFi installation process is fairly easy with a very comprehensive guide for both 1/2″ and 3/4″ conduit (a nice touch). To mount the RainBird WiFI module onto your wall, it will only need two mounting screws (included), but it feels quite secure.
As with its competitors, the RainBird ST8I-WiFi can fine tune the watering schedule by pulling weather forecast data for your location. However. the weather data function of the ST8I-WiFi is pretty basic, and not as accurate as, say, NOAA-based weather data found on the RainMachine Touch HD-12. Yet, it is still pretty decent and the ST8I-WiFi is still reliable to save water during rainy days.
Rain Sensor Input
Due to the limited weather data functionality, there is a rain sensor input on the RainBird ST8I-WIF. So, you can use a rain sensor to enhance its accuracy. This is actually a very useful feature, as many other products, including some of those we have reviewed before, don’t have any input for additional sensors.
The RainBird app is quite decent. It’s not as groundbreaking as that of Rochio’s, nor as beautiful as SkyDrop’s, but it is pretty intuitive and very decent in doing its job. The core features like customizing and monitoring zones, managing schedules and watering delay are there. There are also optional notifications such as freeze warnings, watering delay, and watering events.
The RainBird ST8I-WiFi actually has pretty decent scheduling features. As usual, you can set zone-based scheduling for their start times, run times, and watering days, which are all fully customizable for each individual zone. There are 6 different start times you can set for each zone, and four different watering days options. So, you can basically fine-tune the schedule until you find the one that will fit your lawn perfectly.
Our Review of RainBird ST8I Review
Installing the RainBird ST8I-WiFi is fairly simple, especially if you already got an existing sprinkler controller. The guide included in the box is pretty comprehensive, and there is a guide for both 1/2″ and 3/4″ wiring conduit, so it will also be helpful when you hire a professional to install new wiring.
There are only two included screws in the package to secure the RainBird unit to the wall. However, it is pretty decent and secure, so we won’t complain about that. You can use any wire gauge with the RainBird ST8I-WIF, where you can secure them to the cross-head screw terminals. So, it is pretty flexible with installation, which is definitely a plus point for RainBird ST8I. One thing to note, you will need 2 AAA batteries to maintain the internal memory of the RainBird ST8I. The first two batteries are included and should last for several months.
As usual, we then need to download the RainBird app, and set up the WiFi connection. The process is fairly straightforward, although we did have several hiccups during the process because we forgot to change our Wi-Fi to 2.4 GHz instead of our usual 5 GHz. The RainBird ST8I doesn’t feature dual-band Wi-FI function, so it’s a thing to keep in mind before purchasing.
After the initial setup, the RainBird works really well during our tests. However, there is one major downside. You have to delay the watering schedule manually when it’s about to rain (according to the forecast of the app), and it won’t adjust automatically. It is, in our opinion, quite a major flaw for a ‘smart’ sprinkler controller, since it won’t be fully automated.
However, the RainBird ST8I does feature a very rich scheduling function, and you can fine tweak almost everything to work exactly to your needs.
Pros and Cons
Here are what we liked and disliked from the RainBird ST8I.
- Affordable, one of the cheapest options in the market
- Very sturdy build with rich onboard control
- Rain sensor input (purchased separately)
- Decent app
- Very rich scheduling features
- No third party integration
- Manual delay on rain forecasts
- No 5 GHz WiFi support
The major downside of the RainBird ST8I WIF is the lack of third party integration. In our opinion, integration to other smart home devices and especially a smart home system is very important for any devices nowadays. Other devices we have reviewed, such as Rochio 2nd Gen, RainMachine, and even Orbit B-Hyve all have some forms of third party integrations.
However, as a standalone smart sprinkler controller, the RainBird ST8I WIF is actually really good, especially with its really rich scheduling features. Being very affordable, it is an excellent choice for those looking solely for a smart sprinkler system, and not integration with smart home systems.