5.0 out of 5 stars
Is Inkbird’s WIFI remote as good as Fireboard and Thermoworks at half price?
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on 30 April 2020
I specialize in tech and BBQ reviews and first became a fan of Inkbird a a few years ago when they were not yet well known in the U.S. barbeque community. For three years I have relied on their superb IBT-4XS Bluetooth thermometer. Of the several remote thermometers I have reviewed, I always reach for Inkbird’s Bluetooth one because of its rock solid reliability. However, the BBQ world is truly moving toward WIFI. At $100, is this newly released IBBQ-4T as good as the top models from Fireboard and Thermoworks at less than half price? Read on:
QUICK SPOILER ANSWER:
Yes, the Inkbird is the absolutely the equal of the Fireboard and Thermoworks Signals—and is even better for convenience, calibration and battery life. Yet, like any piece of high tech, it has pros and (minor) cons. I’ll go over these in detail below comparing this Inkbird four probe WIFI IBBQ-4T vs. Thermoworks newly released four probe Signals, and the Fireboard that takes as many as six probes, a popular choice of many BBQ pros.
WIFI remote thermometers such as these excel at long “low ‘n slow” cooks. This type of remote is really geared toward smoked great “Q” such as pulled pork or brisket. Yet, this type is overkill for quick cooking steaks, burgers, or chicken. For faster grilling, an instant read thermometer is instead the ideal choice. For succulent smoked BBQ such as pulled pork, many long smokes cook can go overnight. Thus, beyond reliability, a huge feature is waterproofing as unexpected weather occurs often. The Inkbird has impressive iPx3 rain proofing, an essential feature unless you want to resort to using a Ziploc to protect your valuable WIFI remote base station.
For being the most famous of WIFI remote thermometers, at $229, it’s surprising that the Fireboard is not yet waterproof. You’ll need to spend an extra $55 for Fireboard’s waterproof case, bringing the total price to almost three times the cost of the Inkbird. Like the Inkbird, the Thermoworks also has waterproofing. With four probes, it costs $229, or 2.3 times the price of the Inkbird.
Few remote thermometers have this and Inkbird’s is the easiest to adjust I have yet found. Test your probes in boiling water and ice water and then use the phone APP to quickly adjust any of the four probe channels. My new IBBQ-4T was on the money and needed no adjustment out of the box. The competing Thermoworks can only be calibrated by shipping back to the company. Fireboard does have calibration adjustment but the company weirdly states “we do not recommend calibrating outside of a laboratory environment.”
COLOR CODED PROBES:
Newer barbeque remote probe designs are moving toward color coding the probe at both ends--the end that plugs into the base station, and at the side that probes the meat. Inkbird and Thermoworks both have this essential convenience feature. Their APPs also let you match the color chosen to be sure you don’t get temps mixed up when monitoring the APP. Surprisingly, no color coding is yet available for Fireboard.
I place the usability of the Inkbird APP just behind Fireboard, and about equal with Thermoworks. Yet, the InkBird Pro APP still easy to read, and relatively simple to customize. I’ll discuss minor convenience features that could improve later in this review. The APP for each brand let’s you maintain graphs for each cook, customize high and low temperature alarms, and also choose and customize names of meats you are smoking. The Fireboard graphing capabilities are the most sophisticated by far, yet overkill for many. As a so-called BBQ expert, I have been moderator for the largest pellet grill cooking site. However, I personally would never need the sophisticated graphing abilities of the Fireboard. The APPs for both Inkbird and Fireboard let you take and keep notes but Thermoworks does not.
PAIRING FROM BASE STATION TO THE APP:
All of these pair easily to Apple or Android devices. For the Inkbird, remember that you must be on a 2.4gHz WIFI network. It will not pair with a 5G network but that’s for the best because 5G networks have shorter range. Most modern WIFI routers allow you to set up both 2.4 and 5 gHz networks so be sure you activate 2.4 and you are good to go. (2.4 is typically the default network type for most routers anyway.)
The Inkbird’s is the easiest to use and read in sunlight by far. It has a great orange colored backlight you can set in the APP to stay on for any length of time. So if you are at the pit, and not looking at your phone, just press the front control button and you’ll be able to easily read the temp, in sunlight or in the dark. The design of the Inkbird is also the most compact. I especially like the built in magnet allowing it to stick to any metal surface such as the side of the grill. The Thermoworks Signals base station has very cluttered small numbers to try to decipher and the Fireboard looks like something from an engineering geek’s tool bench with a tiny window to view the temps. I like the Inkbird base station best for simplicity and ease of use.
CHARGING / BATTERY LIFE:
The days of wondering if your AA batteries can last through a 15-20 hour cook are over! The Inkbird’s rechargeable lithium battery is charged with its included USB cable and lasts an astounding 45 hours. It only takes two hours to fully charge. This blows away Thermoworks odd 12-hour charge time coupled with a battery that lasts 14-16 hours. Some of my pulled pork cooks go as long as 20 hours, so the Thermoworks battery design worries me.
For Inkbird’s battery, I did notice one small inconsistency though--for a highly accurate readout of remaining battery capacity, use only the APP which shows percentage remaining. The battery icon at the base station only gives only an estimate, not a true percentage, and is thus not fully accurate like the APP.
DO YOU NEED FOUR PROBE CAPACITY WIFI REMOTE INSTEAD OF JUST ONE OR TWO?
That’s a huge YES in my opinion. With WIFI all the rage these days many grills these days come with one or two WIFI probes. Yet serious barbeque folks like me need at least three ports: one for the temp inside the pit, and two more for different pieces of meat. For example, if you are going to bother to cook pork butt for hours, why not do two and vac seal the leftovers? By the way, vac sealed pulled pork out of the freezer tastes exactly like it did fresh off the smoker. Thus, you are likely to use at least two probes on every cook, and four often. I routinely use one for my bottom grate temp, one for top grate temp, and one each for two pieces of meat. Or, if cooking a “whole packer” brisket, be sure to place one probe in the “Flat” end and another in the “Point.” Temps in those two areas of a full brisket vary quite a bit.
SUGGESTIONS FOR FUTURE IMPROVEMENT:
For a first generation APP, Inkbird’s is quite good. Yet, there are some convenience gaps. Here are suggestions to make it better:
1) The APP let’s you create custom settings and temp ranges for each probe channel. For example, I made one called “Brisket” and another called “Pit Grate Temp.” However, I learned that if I create a custom setting in say, Channel 3, when I next use the APP, it remembers my setting name for that channel only. Also, all custom temps set for any cook are lost the next time the Inkbird is turned back on. Inkbird’s older APP for its Bluetooth remotes retains previous custom settings but this newer WIFI APP loses them.
For the next generation APP, please fix this to allow custom settings to be applied to any of the four probe channels—and remembered for future cooks.
2) More icon choices. Inkbird’s APP includes icons such as one of a cow, or another of a chicken, etc. For custom settings, the only choice is a default icon of charcoal briquettes. It’s not bad, but more choices would be a great addition.
3) A color coded cord wrap system to keep probes organized. This would work perfectly with the great color coding ability included with the IBBQ-4T.
4) Larger temperature readout numbers in the APP. The design of Inkbird’s earlier APP for Bluetooth remotes is nearly ideal in design, convenience and readability. Larger numbers would be a worthy improvement.
5) An included oven probe. All four included probes are the pointy end style that probes the meat. Inkbird also makes a $10 accessory oven/pit temp probe. The only difference is that the end is stubby, not pointy. Fortunately, Inkbird does include clips to use up your probes to monitor pit temp. Yet, it would be nice to instead have three pointy probes plus one stubby one. However, good to know that for $10 I can buy a stubby one. Pointy, or stubby, either style reads the temp inside your pit identically. Thus, real work difference is merely cosmetic.
None of these user-convenience suggestions are deal breakers for me. (But please add memory and more functionality to the custom settings ASAP.) No major changes are needed, Inkbird. As we barbeque fiends like to say, “You done good.”
DO YOU NEED TO UPGRADE TO WIFI? IS BLUETOOTH ENOUGH?
I was ready to give up on Bluetooth entirely a few years ago. Then I discovered Inkbird’s IBT-4XS, and recently the upgraded IBT-4XC model. Both have eliminated earlier frustrations of dropped connections and poor range. If you don’t need to monitor temps from a greater distance away, such as trips to the grocery, or a jog around the neighborhood, it’s worth considering the wonderful $50 Inkbird IBT-4XS or $65 IBT-4XC with waterproofing. However, neither has color coded probes or the longer range of this WIFI unit.
Having now purchased a few Inkbird models, I believe my new IBBQ-4T has at last made me a convert to WIFI’s many advantages. I was not willing to pay more than $200 for the other leading competing brands yet $100 for this model is a tremendous bargain for a sophisticated WIFI setup with four probes. Thus, I highly recommend it. It is working flawlessly for me so far. The Inkbird IBBQ-4T is the best balance of price, reliability and ease of use of any WIFI thermometer on the market I have yet reviewed.
Thank you for slogging through this ridiculously long review. Hope it has been of some small help.
HAPPY SMOKING TO YOU AND YOURS!
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