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Hive Active Heating 2 review: Not quite at the top of its game

Computer Shopper
3 Dec 2019
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
249
inc VAT

A decent smart heating system that can expand to lighting and beyond, but you get more features and expansion options elsewhere

Pros 
Attractive design
Impressive range of products
Sophisticated accompanying app
Cons 
Other systems allow for more customisation
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Active Heating 2 is the successor to Hive’s first, rather basic-looking system. As well as being nicer to look at, Hive has been expanding the system’s capabilities, with sensors, smart lighting and even cameras now feeding into the single app. Hive, like Nest, is more of a complete smart home system rather than a standalone device.

Hive Active Heating 2 review: Design

Design, undoubtedly, was largely responsible for Nest’s success. The circular smart thermostat is a beautiful thing, hewn from metal and glass – something you wouldn’t mind having on show in a modern, minimalist living room. The Active Heating 2 is very different, but attractive nonetheless.

Its mirrored front faceplate looks the part much more than the old plain-white plastic affair of the first generation, and you can even buy coloured plastic frames to replace the standard white one to match the colour scheme of your room.

The thermostat connects wirelessly to the boiler relay, which is only capable of simple on/off commands, and there’s currently no OpenTherm support for boiler modulation.

The thermostat looks great even before you touch anything, but when you press either the central knob or the buttons below it, everything lights up in attractive candy colours, shining through the chrome finish in a satisfyingly high-tech manner.

The beauty of the Active Heating 2 is not just skin deep, however. It presents an interface that’s well designed enough that you should be able to use it without having to refer to the manual. The only thing that isn’t obvious from the word go is what the two buttons on the top of the thermostat do. It turns out they’re used to deliver a quick boost for your hot water or central heating systems.

Hive Active Heating 2 review: Accompanying app and features

However, the Active Heating 2, like most other smart thermostats, isn’t primarily designed to be operated by walking up to it and twiddling its knobs and prodding its buttons. It’s meant to be operated mainly from the smartphone companion app, which works with both iOS and Android devices.

This has been redesigned for the Active Heating 2, and it works very well. Using the app you can apply a quick boost to your heating, set up the schedule – up to six heating ‘events’ can be defined per day – and set up and activate Holiday mode. Holiday mode essentially puts your heating and hot water in frost protection mode – off, unless the temperature in your system falls below a preset level – for the period that you’re away.

Where smart heating systems come into their own, however, and where Nest generally wins over the competition, is proactivity. The Nest thermostat uses a motion sensor to learn when you’re in the house and when you’re not, and tweaks your heating schedule accordingly, so you aren’t heating your house when you’re not there.

The Active Heating 2 can also tell when you’re in or out. It uses GPS data from your phone rather than a motion sensor; however, it doesn’t learn from that information. Instead, the Active Heating 2 will alert you when it senses that you’ve ventured a certain distance from home and you’ve left the heating on, or when you’re on your way home and the heating has yet to be switched on.

Hive can learn how your home heats up, and can then automatically adjust your schedules to pre-heat your home so that it’s at the right temperature when you want it.

You can control up to three heating zones, but Hive currently doesn’t have individual radiator valves for room-by-room control.

Rather than just being used for your thermostat, the app can also control other Hive smart devices. These include motion sensors, smart lights, door/window sensors, smart plugs and cameras. As well as giving you direct control over each device, you can set up Actions to control things automatically – turning on a light when a sensor detects motion, say, or turning off the heating when you leave home.

Hive Active Heating 2 review: Other features

The range of products is impressive, with colour-changing lightbulbs, for example, competing with the likes of Philips Hue. The larger problem is that there are currently no direct controls, so you can’t buy a remote light switch to operate your lights; you have to rely on the app or use a voice assistant.

It’s good to see that both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are supported, giving you full control over both the thermostat and other connected devices.

Hive Active Heating 2 review: Verdict

Hive has improved dramatically since its launch and it’s nice to see the firm expanding the line-up of connected devices, so that the system is about more than just heating. If you can get the thermostat on a good deal, perhaps through your heating provider, then it will do a good job for you.

Yet, for all that, the system isn’t quite at the top of its game. For the likes of lighting, you’re better off with a fully-fledged system, such as Philips Hue. When it comes to heating, the Nest Learning Thermostat provides a better experience and has more advanced controls. If you want smart radiator valves, look at the Honeywell Evohome or Tado systems instead.

Key specifications
Remote thermostatYes
Hot water supportYes
Individual radiator controlNo
OpenTherm supportNo
Voice assistant supportAlexa, Google Assistant
IFTTTYes
WarrantyTwo years RTB
Price£249

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