Testing and Reviewing the Smoke X4 RF Meat Thermometer
ThermoWorks is an established player in, well, anything that has to do with temperature. Chefs and foodies alike swear by their line of temperature tools. Several years ago, ThemoWorks set their sights on the BBQ industry, and BBQ has never been the same. We’re big fans here, and we wanted to be the first to put their latest version of the Smoke to the test. As with all our reviews, we never offer a free pass to any of our subjects. We aim to be fair-minded and thorough.
We put the Second Generation RF Smoke X thermometer through a complete series of tests, including accuracy, distance, durability, and overall performance.
This is the breakdown of everything you need to know.
About the Second Generation Smoke Thermometer by Thermoworks
The original Smoke, which was released in early 2016, boasted 300 feet of wireless connectivity via RF transmission. Today, we’re looking at the Gen 2 Smoke which advertises an RF range of over a mile.
This second generation Smoke X comes in two versions — the X2 and the X4. The X2 supports two probes, one for ambient temperature and one for meat. The X4 supports four probes, one for ambient temperature and three for meat.
Both units have two modules. The transmitter, or base station, connects directly to the thermometer probes and sits by your smoker. The receiver is a pocket-sized device you can carry with you to monitor temperatures.
- Features four channels on 3” x 2.3” screen with a an overall size of 4.6” x 3.5”
- The screen features temperature readings for all four channels, their low and high alarm settings and a record of the highest and lowest temperatures reached throughout the cook.
- Four probe ports and a USB3 port for integrating various connections like DC power or the Billows unit
- Readings advertised as accurate to ±1.8° without calibration
- Alarm features four volume modes, including mute
- Other buttons are: a backlight, Fahrenheit/Celsius display, calibration, and RF transmission on/off
- Runs on 2 AA batteries (advertised at 300 hours of lifetime)
- All settings and configurations are made from this base
- It can be used as a stand alone device by just turning off the RF transmission
- Two magnets and a foldout stand are located on the back
- Features a four channel display on a screen of 2.3” x 1.8” with an overall size of 4.4” x 2”
- Includes two buttons: light and volume
- Volume has four sound settings, including mute
- Multiple receivers are capable of syncing to a device to a single transmitter.
- Runs on 2 AA batteries (advertised at 1,800 hours of lifetime)
- Like the transmitter, two magnets located on the back for mounting
The SmokeX4 comes with four ThermoWorks ProSeries thermistor probes. Also included is a grill clip for the ambient probe, colored probe rings, and a neck lanyard for the receiver.
Testing & Results
All in all, evaluating ThermoWorks against the rest of the market is always a little lopsided. ThemoWorks has their own in-house R&D lab so they are constantly pushing the limits in the name of being a few seconds faster and a degree or two more accurate. And since the market is willing to pay a little more for their products, they can use top-of-the-line materials.
So, the question, as with most of ThemoWorks thermometers, is not: “Is the device top tier?” instead it’s: “Is it worth the extra asking price?”
As with all ThermoWorks products, shipping happens like Jimmy John’s — Freaky Fast. We unboxed the device and the build quality was evident: two heavy units in hard plastic cases with an industrial feel.
Perhaps the most impressive trait was the initial setup, because there wasn’t any. With batteries preloaded, we yanked out the plastic tabs that covered the battery terminals, and we were off. Since both devices were already communicating to each other we skipped past any normal syncing, paring, or configuring phases and moved onto testing for accuracy.
TheremoWorks advertises their Smoke X4 with accuracy of ±1.8° straight out of the box. It passed as advertised. We tested a probe in an ice bath, and got a reading of 32.7°. We repeated the test with another probe and got the same result.
How it worked
The displays were easy to read, and data was well organized in a way you’d expect it to be.
The receiver unit includes the same information the base does, except for the high/low temperature history.
All four ports and the USB-C are lined up down the right side of the base.
You can plug into any of these ports with any of ThermoWorks ProSeries thermistor probes, including their waterproof sous vide probe.
The X4 includes three ThermoWorks Pro-Series High Temp angled six inch meat probes and one Pro-Series High Temp Air Probe for monitoring the internal pit temperature. Both probe styles have a 47″ cable length. These are good probes; each retails for around $18 on the ThermoWorks website. However, like with most probes, you’ll need to take precautions: don’t expose it to direct heat, don’t pinch the cables, and be careful when you wash them as they’re not completely waterproof.
Hooking it up to Billows
The USB-C port allowed us to hook up the Billows fan.
Since the Billows unit doesn’t have an onboard controller, it requires pairing with either Signals or Smoke (X2 or X4). This means that, if you own the Smoke, you’ll get the ability to BBQ on cruise control for an extra $60. Most automatic temperature control devices end up costing about $300 between the controller and fan. While Billows isn’t the perfect device for maintaining pit temperature, it does a good-enough job for the add-on cost of $60.
When hooking up the Billows unit you’ll need to make sure that your ambient probe is plugged into channel 4. The Billows comes with the power adapter, splitter, and cable, which is everything you need to power the Billows and connect to the base. Again, there was no syncing needed. Billows was automatically detected upon hooking it up, indicated by the fan coming on and a fan icon appearing in Channel 4.
From here, we threw the meat on the smoker, attached Billows to the smoker, probed it with two of the three meat probes, set our ambient probes in the smoker and mounted the base to the top portion of the smoker.
The magnets were strong enough to hold the heavy base on the cylinder smoker.
As we were setting up the device for smoking, alarms started going off. Now, the only thing worse than a quiet alarm is a loud one you can’t turn off or easily disable. Fortunately, both the base and transmitter have a clearly marked volume button so it can easily be turned down or muted entirely.
Next, test the range.
There were no problems receiving a signal on the receiver from the base anywhere throughout the house; so we took to the streets. First, across the street then past one house, two houses, till we reached about six houses down and about 1000 feet.
This positioned the base transmitting between several brick walls and houses; we counted this a win. However, we lost signal when turning the corner off our street, about 1000 feet away. We never tested the range in an open field without obstructions for the sake of Geekdom, but maybe we will.
The receiver updates every 30 seconds. A signal icon flashes in the top-left corner when an update comes in. We would prefer a shorter delay between transmissions, but for BBQ it’s a nonfactor. I love the fact that ThermoWorks worked in a lanyard so you can wear your BBQism around the neighborhood. Nothing says you’re serious about the brisket you woke up at 3 A.M. to start than a solid orange device hanging from your neck.
Turned to max, the alarm is loud enough to hear anywhere in the house. Battery life is plentiful, you don’t need to worry about leaving the device on all day.
There’s not much else to report here — everything worked as advertised.
Results: Why the Smoke X is the Best RF Meat Thermometer
RF Thermometer VS WiFi or Bluetooth
Somebody on our Facebook page asked,
“Why would I spend over $100 for a thermometer that wasn’t WiFi, or the very least Bluetooth?”
Awesome question. I went on for about two paragraphs there, but here’s the important part:
For as many times as I have spent frustrated with pairing, syncing, downloading updates, glitches, crashes, and endless other network problems; it was nice to turn something on and have it work.
For Pete’s sakes, I just wanted to check to see if the pork would kill us or not.
Here’s the thing. I love the idea of monitoring my brisket from my buddy’s house via Wi-Fi from my phone. Not to mention the data logs that I get from cloud-based thermometers are amazing for perfecting recipes and cooking methods. So don’t get me wrong — I’m a big fan of these types of devices, but it’s all about context. When I’m camping or just sitting on the couch while the smoker does its thing, what I need is a simple device that displays temperatures. I don’t need a lock screen, application crashes, pairing glitches, or internet problems getting in the way of seeing those numbers.
ThermoWorks 2nd Generation Smoke, offers all the reliability of the ThermoWorks brand, with endless connectivity range and practically zero points of failure.
While there are other devices on the market that have proven to be accurate, and offer wireless technology, none of them advertise this type of range.
If you are looking for something with Wi-Fi capabilities, check out our ‘Best Of’ roundup here.
Smoke the II, is a caterer’s and chef’s dream; and the reasons are the same as those that make it ideal for the average Joe.
The transmitter is stand-alone, and when using the receiver, you need not worry about factors like WiFi, Bluetooth limitations, mobile devices, or, for the most part, transmission distance. Since we were able to get signal from about 1,000 feet in a dense neighborhood before, it is not likely you’d be out of range at any restaurant, event hall, outdoor tent gathering, or most any other venue. The thing that makes this a home run for commercial use, aside from ThermoWorks’s reliability, is receiver connectivity. Multiple receivers can be configured to connect to a single transmitter. This is the unveiling of the Apple XX with mic drop for anyone in food service.
Having something that works right out of the box without syncing, pairing, or even putting in batteries is great. Temperature is right on the money without calibration. This is a big win for us. We’ve tested at least 10 thermometers, and this is a good win across the board here. See, the biggest issue with high-end thermometers is they are difficult for anyone who is not tech savvy to operate. Even if you are tech savvy, do you really want to wait for the app to update or the device to pair via Bluetooth to get a reading on the turkey?
With the longest RF transmission range of any other meat thermometer on the market, combined with the fact it’s accurate, well designed, and easy to use you can’t do any better when searching out “best RF thermometer”. If you’re looking for a budget RF thermometer, we used the Maverick RF thermometer for a good while back in the day — ergonomically, it’s not the Smoke Gen 2, but there’s value to be had. Problem is, for just about the same price as the latest Maverick you can pick up the original Smoke, which is a better overall product.
There are a few knocks. It’s not cheap, it’s not waterproof (and at this time it does not have a waterproof case), it has a 30 second delay in transmitting from base to receiver, and while the large screen is nice, it’s not unbreakable.
So back to the original question: Is Smoke the II worth the extra asking price? For me it’s a yes.
When it comes to a thermometer, I want the best. I don’t want to mess around with something that’s constantly going out of range, needs to be plugged in, requires new batteries every time I complete a 10 hour cook, a screen that’s hard to read when not looking at it straight on, and having to hit the button 10 times just to get to the setting I want to manipulate. For all these reasons, the Smoke X4 is worth the extra $60-$100 over the next-best option like the Maverick or the original Smoke (especially if you’re thinking of playing around with a thermostatic fan and eventually buying the Billows).