The web-enabled Orbit irrigation computers are a comparatively inexpensive alternative to the irrigation computers from established providers such as Hunter, Rain Bird or Racchio. In this article I put the Orbit B-hyve Smart Outdoor to a practical test and took a closer look at its performance data and the Orbit B-hyve software. I also compare the Orbit B-hyve Smart Outdoor with the two previously tested competitors Hunter Pro HC and Rain Bird ESP-TM2.

Orbit is a US provider of irrigation products that is particularly popular with its irrigation computers. Orbit has a number of computers in its range of both web-enabled and classic irrigation computers without a web connection. The web-enabled computers all use the same B-hyve software.

As with all other alternatives, you need a WiFi connection to use the computer. With the Orbit smart hose timers, an additional WiFi hub is required to connect the devices to the WiFi. It is possible to connect several computers to one hub. The other smart Orbit computers, including the one described here, have WiFi functionality integrated as standard.

In addition to access via WiFi, the computer can also be accessed via Bluetooth. It is controlled via the B-hyve app, which can be downloaded free of charge for Android and Apple iOS devices via Google Play or the Apple App Store. Alternatively, access from the desktop computer via the web browser at my.orbitbhyve.com is also possible.

Orbit smart irrigation computers – Range of products offered

Below is a brief overview of the web-enabled Orbit irrigation computers currently available on the market:

Orbit 21005 B-hyve Bluetooth Hose Faucet Timer, Gray
Orbit 24634 B-hyve Bluetooth Hose Faucet Timer
Orbit B-hyve 4-Zone Smart Indoor Sprinkler Controller
Orbit 57946 B-hyve Smart Indoor/Outdoor 6-Station WiFi Sprinkler System Controller, Compatible with Alexa
Orbit 57985 B-hyve XR Smart 8-Zone Indoor/Outdoor Sprinkler Controller, Compatible with Alexa
Zones
1
1 to 4 outputs depending on the model
4 or 8
6 or 12
8 or 16
Indoor/Outdoor
Outdoor
Outdoor
Indoor
Outdoor
Outdoor
Additional gateway necessary?
Integrated water flow meter?
Programs and start times
3 programs with 4 start times each
4 programs with 4 start times each
4 programs with 4 start times each
4 programs with 4 start times each
4 programs with 4 start times each
Orbit 21005 B-hyve Bluetooth Hose Faucet Timer, Gray
Zones
1
Indoor/Outdoor
Outdoor
Additional gateway necessary?
Integrated water flow meter?
Programs and start times
3 programs with 4 start times each
Price
Orbit 24634 B-hyve Bluetooth Hose Faucet Timer
Zones
1 to 4 outputs depending on the model
Indoor/Outdoor
Outdoor
Additional gateway necessary?
Integrated water flow meter?
Programs and start times
4 programs with 4 start times each
Price
Orbit B-hyve 4-Zone Smart Indoor Sprinkler Controller
Zones
4 or 8
Indoor/Outdoor
Indoor
Additional gateway necessary?
Integrated water flow meter?
Programs and start times
4 programs with 4 start times each
Price
Orbit 57946 B-hyve Smart Indoor/Outdoor 6-Station WiFi Sprinkler System Controller, Compatible with Alexa
Zones
6 or 12
Indoor/Outdoor
Outdoor
Additional gateway necessary?
Integrated water flow meter?
Programs and start times
4 programs with 4 start times each
Price
Orbit 57985 B-hyve XR Smart 8-Zone Indoor/Outdoor Sprinkler Controller, Compatible with Alexa
Zones
8 or 16
Indoor/Outdoor
Outdoor
Additional gateway necessary?
Integrated water flow meter?
Programs and start times
4 programs with 4 start times each
Price

The first two models are irrigation computers that can be connected directly to the tap and through which the water runs. The last three, including the B-hyve Smart Outdoor presented here, are irrigation computers for switching external solenoid valves. In contrast to the cheaper B-hyve Smart Indoor, the outdoor version is weatherproof, so it can also be installed outdoors. The more expensive XR model also supports the modern Dual WiFi radio standard.

For the two hose timer computers you need an additional WiFi hub in order to be able to connect them to the WiFi; this is not necessary for the three other models.

Package contents

In addition to the computer, the box contains a thin operating manual, an information sheet and a small bag with a screwdriver, two keys with which the computer can be locked if necessary, as well as screws and dowels for assembly.

Unlike the Rain Bird and Hunter computers tested, the power cable is included with the Orbit and is already permanently connected.

Package contents B-hyve Smart Outdoor

Back of computer with mounting holes

Side view with outlets for cable entries

With the lid open

After opening the inner lid you gain access to the connection options

The connections in detail (this model has 6 zone connections)

Open battery compartment with 3V battery included

Hardware

Following is an analysis of the structural features of the Orbit B-hyve Smart Outdoor:

Orbit 57946 B-hyve Smart Indoor/Outdoor 6-Station WiFi Sprinkler System Controller, Compatible with Alexa
Zones
6 or 12
Indoor/Outdoor
Outdoor
Sensor connection
1 (for normally closed sensor)
Connection for master valve/pump start circuit?
Can it be controlled directly via the computer?
Yes (program creation and basic functions, but no Smart Watering settings)
Lockable?
Additional WiFi module required?
Additional gateway necessary?
Price
Orbit 57946 B-hyve Smart Indoor/Outdoor 6-Station WiFi Sprinkler System Controller, Compatible with Alexa
Zones
6 or 12
Indoor/Outdoor
Outdoor
Sensor connection
1 (for normally closed sensor)
Connection for master valve/pump start circuit?
Can it be controlled directly via the computer?
Yes (program creation and basic functions, but no Smart Watering settings)
Lockable?
Additional WiFi module required?
Additional gateway necessary?
Price

Housing

The B-hyve Smart Outdoor has relatively compact dimensions at 8.7 inches wide, 6.3 inches high and 3.3 inches deep; the housing of the competitor product Hunter Pro-HC, for example, is significantly larger. As with the competition, the case makes a high-quality and stable impression. Nothing wobbles, the door doesn’t hang crooked and opens cleanly. The lock is rather simple and will certainly not withstand professional break-in attempts. However, that is not the usual purpose of such a lock, where the main aim is to prevent children from playing around on the computer or an unfavorable neighbor from disturbing something in passing.

The B-hyve Smart Outdoor is, as the name suggests, suitable for outdoor use. If an indoor model is enough for you, Orbit offers a slightly cheaper alternative with the B-hyve Smart Indoor (Amazon Link) (available for 4 or 8 zones).

Number of zones

A 6 and a 12 zone model is offered. The price difference is not too big. Therefore, if it could be tight with 6 zones or if future expansions are planned, it is better to go for the larger model straight away. The 12 zones should be sufficient for 99% of private users. If not: Of the smart competitors, the Hunter Pro-HC models offer up to 24 zones and the OpenSprinkler even offers up to 72 zones.

Connection option for sensors

There is a sensor connection for a normally closed sensor. Not only sensors offered by Orbit, but also all competitor products that work according to the normally closed principle can be used on the connection. The type of sensor is not restricted, so not only a rain sensor can be used, but also a soil moisture sensor, for example.

The two poles to which the sensor is to be connected are bridged by default with a jumper. If you do not use the sensor connection, it must remain in place, otherwise the computer will assume that the sensor has interrupted the irrigation!

The rain sensor can be activated by pressing the rain delay button for five seconds. It can also be deactivated again in the same way, for example to bypass the sensor if it is not yet dry again but water is still needed again.

Battery

The purpose of the button cell contained in the computer is to ensure that the computer does not lose the time and date when it is unplugged. The programmed settings are saved in non-volatile memory regardless of the battery.

Manual watering

Manual watering can be started with just a few clicks: use the selection wheel to switch to “Manual”, select the zone, set the time and start watering. Alternatively, you can also manually select a specific program.

Rain delay function

The computer has a practical rain suspend function with which you can suspend irrigation for 1 to 32 days at the push of the “Rain Delay” button. This can be an advantage, for example, if you are renovating the garden and therefore do not want to water it for a while. Or if you exceptionally hold a children’s birthday party in the garden this week at the time when the watering is normally running. Irrigation then stops for the defined number of days and then continues again in the rhythm of the programmed irrigation program.

Master valve/pump start circuit connection

A master valve or a pump start circuit can be connected to the connection marked “Pump”. This connection is switched when each zone is activated and deactivated. This gives you the opportunity to install additional protection if the solenoid valves do not close properly.

Monitoring proper valve wiring

Orbit does not specify such a function in its product description, such as the milliampere sensor on Hunter or the automatic short-circuit detection on Rain Bird, which warn you of improper valve wiring. However, one of the automatic notifications states that it warns you if there are problems with the cabling. So there seems to be some monitoring.

Control/programming directly via the computer

The Orbit B-hyve Smart Outdoor can also be easily operated and programmed directly via the computer. This is done with the help of a selection wheel in the middle of which there is a confirmation button and the 4 other buttons “Back”, “Clear” “Prog A, B, C, D” and “Rain Delay”. You can store programs, carry out manual irrigation runs, activate irrigation delays and make seasonal adjustments. What cannot be set directly via the computer, however, are the extensive Smart Watering options; these can only be changed via the app or a web browser.

Display on the watering computer

Additional accessories required to make the computer WiFi ready

Nothing else is required to connect the computer to the in-house WiFi. So no additional WiFi module and no additional gateway. The computer also has a Bluetooth interface, which is particularly practical when setting up the device for the first time and allows you to access the computer via an app even without a WiFi connection.

Installation

The best way to start the installation is to download the app, which will then guide you through all the further steps. The B-hyve app is available for Android and Apple iOS devices and can be downloaded free of charge from the Google Play and Apple App Store. After starting the app, you need to create an account (“Create account” menu item). If you already have a B-hyve account, you can skip this step by logging in with an existing account,

The next step is to enter the name and email address information necessary to create the account and define a password.

Next, you can define whether you want to be informed about events such as irrigation that has taken place or irrigation that has been canceled due to rain delays. What is stored here is not set in stone and can easily be changed later in the program.

If you have purchased the device new, continue with “This is a new device”. Alternatively, there would be the option to continue by entering a code if you want to add a device that is already installed.

Now you have to select the device type that corresponds to your own product.

The computer must then be switched on by plugging in the power cable before continuing to the next point.

The app now finds the irrigation computer and displays it. If it is the correct one, i.e. the MAC address displayed matches the one specified on the inside of the computer, then you can confirm the displayed computer and the connection to the device will be established.

At this point I encountered a small technical problem during the test: the system indicated that the device was already being used in another account, even though I was installing it for the first time. Even after several attempts I couldn’t get to the next point. The only way to fix the problem was to exit the app and go through the installation process again. Then it worked without any problems and the message no longer appeared. This is just a tip if you have a similar problem!

The next step is to select your own Wi-Fi connection from the ones found and enter the Wi-Fi password required for access. This completes the installation. Finally, if necessary, the software contained in the computer is updated with a firmware update.

You now specify the address to be used for weather data use.

All you have to do now is wire the zone outputs with the solenoid valves as stated in the operating instructions to get the irrigation system ready to start (one pole of the solenoid valve to the zone output and a common pole to the com output).

The irrigation computer can now be programmed according to your own requirements. More on this in the next point.

Software

Below you will find an analysis of the B-hyve software used to control the computer. I will present the various functions and setting options of the Orbit B-hyve software in even more detail in a separate article:

Blog post: This is how the Orbit B-hyve software works

Orbit follows a computer-independent approach with its software, as does Hunter with the Hydrawise system: This means that all the possibilities offered by the B-hyve software can be used to their full extent on all B-hyve computers, regardless of the computer model used . In contrast to the Rain Bird software, which when operated via the app only allows what would also be possible when entered directly via the computer interface. You are only logically limited when things are not possible due to a lack of hardware requirements. For example, if the irrigation computer only has one zone output, then logically only one can be used in the program.

Key data on the B-hyve software:

Orbit 57950 B-hyve Smart Indoor/Outdoor 12-Station WiFi Sprinkler System Controller, Compatible with Alexa
Software system
B-hyve
App runs on
Apple iOS devices, Google Android devices
Accessible via web browser?
Setup wizard for initial setup?start circuit?
Type of programming
On a program basis
Programs
4 (only the Orbit B-hyve Smart Hose Timer has only 3)
Start times
4
Watering duration
1 to 240 minutes
Types of irrigation
Time-dependent watering plan or Smart Watering Autopilot (system decides independently when, how often and how much to water)
Definition of irrigation templates?
Local access without an internet connection?
Give access to other users?
Assigning different user authorizations?
Yes - access only to basic functions or to advanced functions
Additional functions for contractors?
Warning notifications?
Irrigation calendar?
Reports on irrigation, water consumption, weather, ...?
Connection of a flow meter?
Orbit 57950 B-hyve Smart Indoor/Outdoor 12-Station WiFi Sprinkler System Controller, Compatible with Alexa
Software system
B-hyve
App runs on
Apple iOS devices, Google Android devices
Accessible via web browser?
Setup wizard for initial setup?start circuit?
Type of programming
On a program basis
Programs
4 (only the Orbit B-hyve Smart Hose Timer has only 3)
Start times
4
Watering duration
1 to 240 minutes
Types of irrigation
Time-dependent watering plan or Smart Watering Autopilot (system decides independently when, how often and how much to water)
Definition of irrigation templates?
Local access without an internet connection?
Give access to other users?
Assigning different user authorizations?
Yes - access only to basic functions or to advanced functions
Additional functions for contractors?
Warning notifications?
Irrigation calendar?
Reports on irrigation, water consumption, weather, ...?
Connection of a flow meter?

Continuation

Orbit 57950 B-hyve Smart Indoor/Outdoor 12-Station WiFi Sprinkler System Controller, Compatible with Alexa
Define irrigation triggers?
In Smart Watering mode, triggers for suspending irrigation can be actively influenced; self-created programs cannot be influenced
Using local weather data?
Weather station selectable?
Updating weather data
No information, probably once a day
Integration of your own weather station possible?
Available at no extra charge via integration on the PWSWeather.com website
Seasonal adjustment definable per month?
Suspend watering x days?
Cycle and soak phases?
System decides automatically in Smart Watering mode, no manual setting possible
Lawn growth program?
Start watering run manually?
Define a sensor yourself?
Valve delays definable?
Voice control with
Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant
Ongoing costs?
None
Orbit 57950 B-hyve Smart Indoor/Outdoor 12-Station WiFi Sprinkler System Controller, Compatible with Alexa
Define irrigation triggers?
In Smart Watering mode, triggers for suspending irrigation can be actively influenced; self-created programs cannot be influenced
Using local weather data?
Weather station selectable?
Updating weather data
No information, probably once a day
Integration of your own weather station possible?
Available at no extra charge via integration on the PWSWeather.com website
Seasonal adjustment definable per month?
Suspend watering x days?
Cycle and soak phases?
System decides automatically in Smart Watering mode, no manual setting possible
Lawn growth program?
Start watering run manually?
Define a sensor yourself?
Valve delays definable?
Voice control with
Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant
Ongoing costs?
None

Below are further details on some of the points mentioned:

Access options

Access is possible via the app on Google and Apple devices. You can also log into your account using the web browser on your desktop PC at my.orbitbhyve.com and access the irrigation computer.

Different watering modes

If you create programs on your own, programming is done in the classic way on a program basis. If you activate “Smart Watering” instead and let the system water on autopilot, then the zone is defined in detail and there is no need to create a program. The system then decides independently on which day, at what time and for how long it will carry out irrigation runs. However, this freedom can be restricted with additional smart settings (exclude certain days or times from watering). You can also intervene in the logic of when irrigation runs are skipped by adjusting the underlying percentages and limit values. One drawback is that you cannot use smart watering logic with self-created programs, which is certainly possible in the Hunter Hydrawise system.

Programs/start times/watering duration

With 4 programs, 4 start times and a maximum watering time per run of 240 minutes, 99% of users will probably be satisfied. These things rarely represent a bottleneck in practice.

Use of irrigation templates

All created programs are also saved as templates and you can save additional ones. For example, it is possible to save your own program for newly sown lawns that you can then use as needed.

Local access to irrigation computers

The computer can be accessed via Bluetooth even without an existing WiFi connection. To do this you have to be in close proximity to the computer. However, this access requires a connection to the Internet, otherwise the app cannot be started. So you don’t need WiFi, but you do need web access on your cell phone to access the irrigation computer via Bluetooth!

Granting access to other users

In the program you can create a code that allows other users to access the irrigation computer. A distinction can be made between two authorization levels. The “Guest” access code allows the user to use the essential functions of the device; with the “Manager” access code the user has all rights. Unlike the Rain Bird system, a time limit on access is not possible.

Alert notifications

There are 4 different alert notifications available: Rain Delay, Watering Complete, Timer Error and Device Power Off. You can activate or deactivate these individually in the software. Compared to Hydrawise and the Rain Bird system, which allow 9 and 8 different notifications respectively, this functionality is currently rather modest.

Flow meter

A flow meter can only be integrated into the system by integrating a Flume Account; this is not possible directly via the irrigation computer and there are no warning notifications in the event of a leak or if irrigation cannot be carried out as planned due to a lack of water. This is better solved in the Hydrawise software, where practically every flow meter available on the market can be connected.

Use of weather data

Based on the location stored in the system, local weather data is used for Smart Watering mode. Unlike Hunter Hydrawise, it is not possible to trace which weather service is used and exactly which data is obtained. The local weather station used, however, is transparent and the user has the opportunity to select the desired station from the available stations. Weather stations from PWSWeather.com are available here. A very positive thing is the possibility of integrating your own weather station for free via PSWWeather.com, which costs extra with Hydrawise.

Define seasonal adjustment (per month)

The system does this automatically in Smart Watering mode. If you create a program yourself, then you have no option in B-hyve to store a seasonal adjustment for the different months. You can only increase or reduce the program runtime by a certain factor at the current time, so that the change takes effect immediately.

Suspend watering x days

You have the option at any time to suspend irrigation for 12 hours to 32 days.

Cycle and soak phases

In the Smart Watering Autopilot, the system independently divides the irrigation into irrigation and soak phases, so, for example, only irrigates for 20 minutes and then takes a 10-minute break to allow the water to completely seep in. If you define programs yourself, you have no option to use a cycle and soak phase function.

Conclusion and recommendation

At around 80 USD, the Orbit B-hyve Smart Outdoor is significantly cheaper than the Rain Bird ESP-TM2 with an additional WiFi module and the Hunter Pro-HC that I previously tested. With the Rain Bird ESP-TM2 + module you have to expect around 220 USD, with the Hunter Pro-HC it is in the 300 USD range.

You don’t notice this in the computer’s hardware: the case, like the competitors, makes a high-quality impression and is even lockable like the Hunter Pro-HC. It is also slightly smaller and more compact than its competitors. Compared to the high-end Hunter Pro-HC irrigation computer, the only thing missing is the second sensor output. The control and operation directly via the irrigation computer is, in my opinion, a little more user-friendly than with Rain Bird and Hunter, thanks to the comparatively large display screen and the selection wheel.

There’s also not much to complain about when it comes to software: In my opinion, the B-hyve system clearly outshines the Rain Bird Smart Watering System and offers far more options. Also, unlike the Rain Bird system, it can also be accessed via the normal web browser and there are no restrictions in the software depending on the computer model used, all B-hyve computers have all software options.

In comparison to the Hydrawise system from Hunter, B-hyve remains second in my opinion: Hydrawise offers much more precise and extensive options for using intelligent irrigation options tailored to your own ideas for irrigation. B-hyve’s Smart Watering mode carries out its automatic watering based on the irrigation and garden characteristics defined by the user for each zone. The whole thing happens in a black box that is incomprehensible to the user and the result in my test was not such that I was satisfied with it. Irrigation runs have been skipped far too carelessly and the system rains whenever it suits the system. But you can get these things under control with other smart settings that are a little more hidden in the system. Take a look at my extensive article on the B-hyve system! This ultimately results in a very useful autopilot. I still prefer the transparent and 1:1 comprehensible rules of Hydrawise, which, unlike B-hyve, can also be applied in manual mode. Hydrawise remains my favorite when it comes to intelligent weather control.

In comparison to Hydrawise, there is also no option to define sensors yourself. This is an important issue for those who plan to use sensors for irrigation control and for those who plan to use a flow meter.

Conclusion: Whether you like the B-hyve system more or prefer the one from Hydrawise is certainly partly a matter of taste. In any case, B-hyve has a clear advantage over the Rain Bird Smart Watering System and also over the Gardena Smart System. Especially when you put the performance in relation to the price, which is significantly lower than its competitors, the Orbit B-hyve Smart Outdoor really offers a lot for its money. A very good alternative if you want a good computer with smart watering functionality without having to dig too deep into your wallet.