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Lifewire / Andy Zahn
Superior build quality
Good mounting system
Versatile base station
The Ambient Weather WS-1002-WiFi Observer is a high-end weather station with a price to match.
The Ambient Weather WS-1002-WiFi Observer is a high end weather station that will appeal to hobbyists, gardeners, and homeowners alike. It features a wide variety of highly-accurate sensors housed in a rugged sensor array, and the data is collected and displayed on a clear and information-rich base station.
We tested the WS-1002-WiFi Observer to see if it has premium performance to justify its premium price.
We were immediately impressed by the build quality of the WS-1002-WiFi. Its components are constructed of tough, durable-feeling plastic, and the included mounting hardware is metal. This is a weather station clearly capable of standing up to the harsh conditions it is designed to monitor.
The sensor array is large, sleek, and professional in appearance. On top of the array is a rainfall sensor, anemometer (for measuring wind speed), and weather vane (wind direction), as well as the solar panel and UV/solar radiation sensors. Temperature and humidity readings are acquired from sensors located on the underside of the weather station.
This is a weather station clearly capable of standing up to the harsh conditions it is designed to monitor.
Indoor temperature, humidity, and barometer readings are taken from a separate, wall wall-mounted sensor. Readings are displayed both on the unit itself and on the base station, where they are incorporated into forecasts and graphs. This unassuming grey unit should provide more accurate readings than typical built-in sensors, but it also necessitates an extra step in the installation process.
The base station features a bright 6.25 x 3.5-inch LCD screen that clearly displays a wide range of data. The unit is constructed of tough plastic and can be wall-mounted or placed on a countertop, table, or windowsill using a fold-out stand.
USB, power adapter, and microSD card ports are located conveniently on the edge of the display. A row of highly tactile buttons provides easy and intuitive operation of the weather station.
Though by no means difficult, it was a somewhat involved process to set up the WS-1002-WiFi Observer. You will need a Phillips head screwdriver to access the various battery compartments and a wrench to mount the sensor array.
Though the sensor array runs off of a built-in solar panel, it needs backup AA batteries for times when it is not able to collect enough energy. We found that the battery compartment is difficult to open, so it is fortunate that these backup batteries only need to be changed every one to three years.
The sensor array was relatively simple to mount outdoors, though it did require a wrench and an appropriately-sized pole (not included). We appreciated the way the included mounting rods attached firmly to the sensor array, but the process was still a little confusing.
The indoor temperature/humidity/barometer unit clips into a bracket that must be screwed into the wall. It requires batteries that are easy to install with the help of a Phillips head screwdriver, but you should be careful with its placement as the installation will leave actual holes on your wall where you attach it.
The sensor array, indoor sensor, and base station quickly and automatically connect to one another.
The base station is powered either by batteries or by an AC power adapter, which easily plugs into the side of the device. It can be set on a table or other flat surface by extending the fold-out stand. We found the stand to be noteworthy for how secure and solid it felt. Alternatively, you can mount the display on a wall.
The sensor array, indoor sensor, and base station quickly and automatically connect to one another as soon as the batteries are inserted and the reset button is pressed on the sensor array. A bent paper clip is necessary to press the reset button in its small, recessed location underneath the array next to the status indicator light.
Setting the date, time, and units, is done using the control buttons on the lower side of the display.
We were particularly impressed by the clarity and viewing angles of the 6.25 x 3.5-inch Color TFT display. Many weather stations utilize outdated LCD display technology and have poor viewing angles, and are also relatively confusing to operate. We were easily able to read the WS-1002-WiFi’s screen from across the room, even in bright sunlight.
The modern screen technology enhances functionality as well. You can use the control buttons to adjust screen brightness, toggle the backlight, and select which graph to display (barometric pressure, indoor/outdoor temperature, and indoor/outdoor humidity). You can also switch between absolute and relative pressure, display various rainfall statistics, and view a detailed history of recorded data.
When accessing different menu systems, these buttons are used for navigation. Almost every aspect of the display can be customized, including set times for the backlight to be activated and disabled.
The WS-1002-WiFi includes a plethora of powerful sensors to give you an accurate reading of exterior conditions. You get temperature, wind speed, wind direction, and rainfall, as well as UV and solar radiation detection from the exterior array, and barometric pressure, temperature, and humidity from the indoor sensor array. We found that readings from these sensors were very accurate, especially after utilizing the system’s extensive calibration features.
With an advanced weather station like the WS-1002-WiFi, you can not only know exactly what conditions are at your location, but you can also make your own predictions based on accumulated data. Some of this is automated by the system itself, or by connected services such as Weather Underground, but you can also look at the data yourself and learn to make your own projections.
Where the WS-1002-WiFi really comes into its own is when it is integrated into your smart home system, allowing that system to have a better idea of its surroundings. This makes the systems especially useful for tasks like watering your lawn or garden, which, after the initial investment, can actually lower your water bill.
There’s a reason this weather station has “WiFi” in the name—by connecting the WS-1002-WiFi Observer to your home network, you can monitor your recorded data using the free Ambient Weather computer software, and remotely on Weather Underground and its mobile applications. We particularly appreciated the ability to connect directly to Weather Underground via the base station.
The base station also includes a microSD card slot for backing up weather recordings for later transfer to a computer.
As an added perk, the WS-1002-WiFi Observer is compatible with digital assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, as well as IFTTT. This gives you another way to receive update alerts and weather reports via voice command. Whether you are a weather hobbyist or a gardener looking to keep your plants optimally watered, the WS-1002-WiFi offers connectivity with a variety of robust, wireless software solutions.
With an MSRP of $319.99, the WS-1002-WiFi Observer is not cheap. And there are plenty of high quality, significantly cheaper weather stations that are cheaper and offer most of the functionality of the WS-1002-WiFi.
However, we have noticed that prices on these devices tend to fluctuate significantly, and as of the time of this writing, the WS-1002-WiFi can often be found in the $200 range. At this price point, it’s actually a great value.
With an MSRP of about $200, the AcuRite 01036M is the clear winner in terms of value. However, since prices of both products rarely sell for their full retail price, they tend to cost about the same.
The Ambient Weather WS-1002-WiFi Observer does everything the AcuRite does but better—better display, better build quality, and more accurate sensors. The only area in which the AcuRite is superior is with ease of setup.
The AcuRite 01036M is an excellent system for anyone on a budget, but for those who want the very best and don’t mind paying a premium price, the Ambient Weather WS-1002-WiFi Observer is the home weather station to beat.
Expensive, but worth the extra cost.
Though expensive and somewhat complex to setup, the Ambient Weather WS-1002-Wifi Observer is an extraordinarily powerful home weather station. Its Wi-Fi connectivity, superb display, and robust build quality make this an invaluable tool for anyone keen to monitor the ever-changing weather conditions around their home.