CNN Underscored: The Best Smart Garage Door Opener Controllers of 2021

Posted by STEER On October 21, 2021

While you’re probably still spending a lot more time at home, your family might regularly head out of the house for work, gym class or band practice. Smart garage door controllers bring home automation to the garage, giving you an easy way to manage access without having to spend all day programming remotes for your entire household. And if you often have that nagging feeling that you may have left the garage open, smart garage controllers give you an easy way to double-check the door or remotely close it, adding peace of mind for your family.

Smart garage controllers let you control your existing garage door opener via your smartphone or smart home setup. We installed the most popular garage controllers and extensively tested each model to find the best smart garage door controllers.

Best smart garage door controller overall: Chamberlain MyQ-G0401
The Chamberlain MyQ-G0401 is our top pick because it strikes the perfect balance between cost, features and simplicity.

Unlike most smart garage controllers, the Chamberlain doesn’t rely on a bird’s nest worth of wires in order to run. The hub and door sensor are both wireless (save for the hub’s power adapter), which makes installation a breeze. Thanks to the MyQ app and its in-depth video walk-throughs, it only took a few minutes to pair the hub to our garage door opener (the process is like connecting a standard garage door remote) and set up the controller. The Chamberlain was, by far, the easiest and quickest hub to install among the controllers we tested.

Installing the Chamberlain’s hub takes a little more work, since it needs a clean line of sight to the garage door opener — you can’t tuck the MyQ behind a shelf or inside a cabinet. Fortunately, Chamberlain includes a handy mounting plate (complete with screws and drywall anchors) for the hub to streamline the installation process. Simply install the plate close to the nearest power outlet (Chamberlain recommends installing it at least 6 feet above the ground, though we had to install in a less-than-ideal space between shelves roughly 5 feet up the wall and encountered no issues), screw the hub on and you’ll be all set.

Throughout our testing, Chamberlain’s quick performance and simple app design really impressed us. The Chamberlain opened and closed our garage door in around three seconds, putting it right in line with our competing garage controllers. The hub’s front LED light briefly flashes before it closes the door, giving your family an extra safeguard if you have kids or pets.

The MyQ app conveniently lays major features like your access history and automatic door close scheduling right at the bottom of the screen. As with all of our evaluated controllers, you can remotely monitor your door status and close or open the door from the app. You can also add authorized garage users like your family or give limited access to guests like a handyperson within the app.

The MyQ app has limited support for geofencing (the ability to trigger smart home routines — like opening a garage door — based on your location). MyQ geofencing is limited to Teslas, newer Mitsubishis and cars with Alpine Connect or STEER Tech hardware. But with the controller’s Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit and IFTTT compatibility, it’s possible to create something close to geofencing if you’re willing to build and troubleshoot your smart home routine.

We weren’t the biggest fans of the small advertising banner on the MyQ app’s homepage, which plugs other MyQ smart home products, but the rest of the app is thankfully ad-free.

The Chamberlain can also control up to two garage doors from one hub — you’ll just need to buy a second door sensor ($29.99). Most multi-door smart controllers either cost more than the MyQ or require you to run wiring across your garage, making the Chamberlain’s wireless and multi-garage door support huge pluses. You can also add video support with Chamberlain’s MyQ Smart Garage Camera ($149.99).

Best of all, the Chamberlain costs only $29.99. It’s one of the most affordable smart garage door controllers on the market and covers nearly every base (with the exception of Alexa support) for most smart home users.

Best multi-garage door opener: Genie Aladdin Connect
Genie brings its name-brand expertise in traditional garage door openers to the smart garage controller concept with the Aladdin Connect.

The Aladdin can control up to three garage doors at once, and Genie includes everything you’d need for any installation setup out of the box. With the included accessories (ranging from wire clips to bolts and drywall anchors), you can install the hub up by your garage opener’s mount or down near a door.
The Aladdin Connect’s hub can also be used as a standard garage control panel, thanks to its manual door buttons. The top section of the Connect has power and Wi-Fi status lights, while the bottom three buttons control each garage door. If you mount the hub down near ground level, you can get the best of both worlds: a normal garage control panel that also connects to your smart home. While we kept the hub up near the opener during our testing, Genie’s included 25-foot wire spool means that you can run wire from the ceiling to the ground or wherever else you’d like to install and still have ample leftover wire for other openers.

On the software side, the Aladdin Connect’s app is just as full-featured as its hardware. Using the app’s walk-throughs, we flew through the installation process and quickly connected the hub to our Wi-Fi network and the Aladdin’s door sensor.

The app is cleanly laid out, with a homepage that lists all your connected doors. The device setup section, which lists information including your Wi-Fi and sensor connection strength, was also a nice added touch. Wi-Fi connections can start to falter in your garage, and the app’s Wi-Fi indicator makes it easy to see if your Aladdin and Wi-Fi router are forming a reliable connection. We had no Wi-Fi problems in our test area (an attached garage around 30 feet from the router) but would recommend adding a Wi-Fi extender if you’re installing your controller in a detached garage that can’t get a reliable Wi-Fi signal.

Genie doesn’t have its own smart home product lineup, so you can’t connect the app to a camera. But with the Aladdin’s Alexa, Google Assistant and SmartThings support, it won’t be hard to find a compatible camera that you can build routines with to improve your garage security.

The Aladdin also lacks built-in geofencing support, but Genie recommends installing the app from third-party provider Yonomi if you want to build advanced smart home and geofencing routines. Yonomi’s geofencing tool is straightforward to use, as you’ll set a trigger location with your address and phone GPS, but Yonomi automatically adds a roughly 300-foot radius around your geofencing location.

With Yonomi’s wide geofence radius, your garage will open when you’re down the street from your house, but you’ll need to move your listed address around if you want more precise geofencing that keeps your door closed until you’re in the driveway. We also had problems getting Yonomi to consistently trigger geofencing routines until we added our local Wi-Fi network to the geofence location — the app uses your Wi-Fi connection status to confirm whether or not you’re home.

It’s easy to monitor garage access. You’ll access the door management tab by simply clicking the door from the app homepage. Unlike the management apps from some of the smaller manufacturers we reviewed, it was nice not not having to hunt through endless submenus to find each door setting.

You can use the Aladdin app to set schedule and duration-based rules to automatically close the garage during certain times or if it’s left open for too long. The Genie’s schedules are a handy fail-safe if someone in your family tends to be forgetful, but you can’t create a rule that opens the door within the app.

We understand why Genie limited its schedule features — it’s safer to make customers open the garage rather than let them do so automatically and run the risk of accidentally leaving it open, and the Chamberlain MyQ shares the same close-only restriction. But at the same time, competitors like Nexx allow users to set open and close rules on a garage door. While the utility is pretty limited, an open rule could potentially be useful if you’d need to regularly let someone like a home care worker into your garage but don’t have an easy way to give them guest access.

Genie’s virtual key system also lets you give full garage access to family members or limited access to guests. For example, you could give a dog walker a temporary virtual key that’ll let them into the garage only during their shifts.

It typically took the Genie app around five seconds to open the garage door, which wasn’t bad, but it was slightly slower compared to other controllers. At 5 inches by 5 inches, the Genie is also fairly large compared to the competition. While the Genie’s door buttons are a plus if you’re planning on mounting the Genie near an interior door, the added bulk can be tricky if you’re trying to discreetly mount the controller or if you’re working with limited ceiling space.

Best for advanced smart homes: iSmartGate Pro
At $179.99, the iSmartGate Pro definitely isn’t the most affordable smart garage controller, but it offers a bevy of features for power users who know how to tinker with their smart home setup.

On the outside, the iSmartGate has a clean, Ring-like circular design that includes Wi-Fi, power and wall sensor sync indicators. On the side and back, you’ll find a USB port and wire terminals for up to three garage door openers and sensors. You’ll need a flathead screwdriver to secure or loosen the wire ports, and they’re a minor inconvenience compared to the simpler push terminals found on competitors like the Genie Aladdin.

Surprisingly, iSmartGate includes only two pieces of double-sided tape to secure the hub and door sensor. Although the iSmartGate’s backside has a notch for a hanging screw, we would’ve preferred a more secure mounting solution considering the iSmartGate’s premium price point.

That said, we liked the iSmartGate Pro’s waterproof door sensor. Although the pillbox-sized sensor is bigger compared to other wireless door sensors, its watertight seal comes in handy if you’re mounting the iSmartGate to an outside gate or if you live in a humid area.

The iSmartGate has quirks like the app needing several seconds to connect to the hub every time you open it up, but after that you’ll be taken to the app’s homepage. Once there, you’ll have quick access to a door control button and an event log that shows when it’s been opened or closed.

All of the iSmartGate’s controls are hidden on its settings page, which leads to a little bit of clutter. The iSmartGate has standard features like multi-user support and door status push notifications alongside video and Ethernet adapter settings. We prefer the approach taken by competitors like Genie and MyQ with apps that keep the most important features front and center for users.

But design missteps aside, the iSmartGate’s biggest advantages compared to the competition are under the hood. The controller supports HomeKit, Google Assistant, SmartThings, Alexa and IFTTT, so it’s compatible with virtually any smart home setup. Although this coverage leads to some weird functionality gaps (you’ll manage multiple users in the iSmartGate app, but door scheduling is done through IFTTT), it also means that the iSmartGate Pro can be a versatile smart home hub.

Using IFTTT, you can easily create geofencing routines off the iSmartGate that’ll automatically open your garage when you drive up to the house (or close after you drive away). The iSmartGate also supports video cameras if you want to remotely monitor your garage. You can use your own IP camera if you pay $29.95 for a three-year video streaming license (which also comes with 1GB of cloud storage), or purchase an iSmartGate camera, which comes with a free one-year license.

We’d recommend considering the iSmartGate Pro if you’re searching for a three-door controller that needs to work with multiple smart home platforms.

How we tested
To find the top smart garage door opener, we fully installed each unit in our home garage to see how easy they were to set up and use. Garage door controllers have two main parts: a door sensor that detects whether a door is open or closed along with a hub that connects to your garage opener and home network. We also installed each developer’s app and evaluated its available tutorials, smart home platform support and garage management tools.

Read on for a full breakdown of our testing criteria:

Installation: We preferred controllers that simplified the installation process by skipping physical wiring whenever possible and going wireless. Garage controllers with wireless doors sensors and hubs earned top marks, followed by controllers with wired hubs and wireless sensors.
Included tools: We prioritized controllers that included everything you’d need for a secure installation out of the box. Controllers with drillable or mountable hubs offer the most security, followed by controllers that included zip ties. However, we docked hubs that only came with double-sided tape. Sensors are light and can easily be held with tape, but hubs typically have to stay high above the ground. Considering the weather conditions within a typical garage, a hub that’s drilled or bolted to a wall will hold up better than one that’s held in place only with tape.

App support
Smart home compatibility: We preferred controllers that supported the main smart home platforms like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit and SmartThings. IFTTT support wasn’t weighed as heavily as the main smart home platforms, but we still considered the service to be an added benefit for controllers that included it.

Multi-user/schedule support: Multi-user support lets you easily grant garage access to family members or guests. With schedules, you can automatically open or close the garage door at specified times. We prioritized controllers that included both features in their support app.
App quality: With most smart garage controllers, you’ll have to use the manufacturer’s included app during the setup process. We gave extra credit to manufacturer apps that included features like easily accessible menus, garage management tools and thorough setup instructions.

Performance and controls
Opening time: The controller hub acts as a go-between from your smartphone/smart home speaker to the garage opener. All of our evaluated controllers took around three to five seconds to open and close, but we noted when controllers exceeded this mark.
Door support: Smart garage controllers support one, two or three garage doors. Cost and the number of doors your controller can manage typically go hand in hand, but we noted when affordable openers included multi-door support.

Other smart garage door controllers we tested
iSmartGate Lite ($119;
The iSmartGate Lite is virtually identical to the iSmartGate Pro, but the controller can only control one door instead of three doors. You’ll also lose the Pro’s customizable opening/closing music, tiltable door sensor and front LED light that flashes when you enter or leave the garage. The Lite includes a two-piece sensor kit that’ll require you to install a sensor onto your garage wall and a Kit Kat-sized magnet on your garage door.

Otherwise, the Lite comes with the same iSmartGate app and smart home platform support for HomeKit, Google Assistant, Alexa, IFTTT and SmartThings. At $119 for a single-door controller, the iSmartGate isn’t as great of a deal as the three-door controller Aladdin Genie ($59.99) and two-door controller Chamberlain MyQ ($29.99). But if you need a hub that works with multiple smart home platforms, the iSmartGate’s compatibility list can’t be beat.

Meross Smart Garage Door Opener ($49.99;
The Meross is fairly affordable, but it’s not the most elegantly designed controller. This unit is a small rectangular plastic box with wires coming out of either end that’ll connect to USB power, your garage opener and door sensor.

Plus, the Meross is the only controller we reviewed that didn’t come with a wireless door sensor. You’ll have to physically connect the sensor to the opener via a lengthy cable that you’ll run across your ceiling or opener cable belt.

For smart home gadgets, we generally prefer wireless over wired gadgets for convenience’s sake. Wireless sensors eliminate cable clutter that can potentially get tangled up with your garage door. During our testing, a tiny bit of cable slack got caught when the door opened and knocked the entire cable out of alignment. You’ll need to make sure the Meross’ sensor cable is securely tied down and won’t get pulled out of place by your garage opener’s door or chain track.

That said, the Meross was also the fastest controller we tested, and the Meross app instantly opened or closed the garage door. By comparison, all of our other garage door controller picks had wireless door sensors, but processing commands typically took around three to five seconds. The Meross may not be as easy to install as models that use a wireless sensor, but it makes up for it in performance if you’re willing to route the sensor wire across your garage.

The Meross also comes with HomeKit, Alexa, Google Assistant and SmartThings support, although it’s one of the few controllers that lacks integrated multi-user support. To control a controller across multiple phones, Meross suggests logging in to a single account from each mobile device. It’s far less secure compared to competitors like Genie and Chamberlain, which have integrated tools for adding and removing guest users without needing to share your password.

Nexx NXG-200 ($79.99;
The Nexx NXG-200 won’t necessarily win any beauty contests with its plain black box and sizable external Wi-Fi antenna. But it checks off all of our boxes for a smart garage controller: wireless door sensor, multi-user support and customizable door schedules along with Alexa, Google Assistant, HomeKit and SmartThings compatibility. It’s also a relatively quick performer — when we sent an open or close command to the Nexx app, it took only a few seconds for the garage door to respond.

However, the Nexx’s price tag is the controller’s only hiccup. The single-door opener is one of the few sub-$100 controllers with Alexa, multi-user and scheduling support. But at $79.99, the Nexx’s price and features awkwardly fall between our top controller picks.

The Nexx is $20 more expensive than the Genie Aladdin Connect, which supports Alexa and can work with up to three doors. And if you just need a single-door controller, the Chamberlain MyQ is far more affordable than the Nexx at only $29.99. However, the Nexx is compatible with more smart home platforms compared to the Genie (Alexa, Google Assistant, SmartThings) or MyQ (Google Assistant, HomeKit, IFTTT). The Nexx could be worth snagging if you use a mix of smart home platforms that neither of our top choices cover.

Read the original article on CNN Underscored here.