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Rachio 3 vs 3e (2021): Which Is The Better Smart Sprinkler Controller?

Having an in-ground sprinkler system in your lawn is not the only thing you’ll ever need to think of to keep it green and beautiful. For one, you’ll need to make sure that you’re not wasting water in accordance with your city’s watering ordinances. You’ll also have to ensure that you’re not sprinkling water when it’s raining. A smart sprinkler controller like Rachio can help you with these tasks. Check out the features of the Rachio 3 vs those of the Rachio 3e and see which sprinkler controller will be best for your lawn.

Rachio 3 vs 3e Comparison Chart

ModelRachio 3Rachio 3e
 Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller, 8 Zone 3rd Generation, Alexa and Apple HomeKit Compatible with...Rachio 8ZULWC-L R3e Generation: Smart, 8 Zone Sprinkler Controller, Compatible with Alexa, Gen, Gray
PriceCheck PriceCheck Price
Zones8 zones and 16 zones8 zones
Wi-Fi Network2.4 GHz & 5 GHz2.4 GHz & 5 GHz
Rain and Soil Sensor CompatibilityYesYes
Intuitive SchedulesYesYes
Rain, Freeze, and Wind SkipsYesYes
Hyperlocal Weather Intelligence PlusYesNo
Rachio Wireless Flow Meter CompatibilityYesNo
Dimensions9.1” x 5.5” x 1.4”9.1” x 5.5” x 1.4”
Weight1.05 lb1.05 lb
Warranty2-year Limited Warranty2-year Limited Warranty

Rachio 3 and 3e Differences in Design

In terms of design, only the color of the unit is the difference.

Rachio 3 and Rachio 3e packages
Rachio 3 (left) and Rachio 3e (right) packages.

The Rachio 3 and 3e are third generation Rachio smart sprinkler models and the design of the units is clearly an upgrade of the second generation model. The size and color of the Rachio 3’s plastic enclosure is the same as the 2nd gen but it now has a round button that can be used to manually control the device. There’s also an LED light bar that serves as an indicator of the current zone being watered.

Meanwhile, the Rachio 3e has the same hardware and dimensions as the Rachio 3 except that it’s gray in color. Also, the Rachio 3e can only cover 8 zones so there are only the numbers 1-8 under the light bar while the 16-zone Rachio 3 has numbers 1-16 on it.

Rachio 3 and Rachio 3e Features

Rachio 3e is offered as a budget-friendly alternative to the Rachio 3 so it has fewer special features.

Rachio smart sprinkler controller features
The Rachio 3 and 3e can be conveniently managed with the Rachio app that’s available for iOS and Android devices.

The Rachio 3 is Rachio’s flagship smart sprinkler controller. It’s loaded with features that can be conveniently managed and customized anytime and anywhere through the Rachio app.

  • Weather Intelligence Plus – Rachio smart sprinkler controllers have always had the standard Weather Intelligence feature that bases its data on the National Weather Service Station. However, only the Rachio 3 has the premium Weather Intelligence Plus feature that also bases its data on satellite, radar, atmospheric flight, and other climate data sources. This means having an intuitive water schedule based on more precise weather data.
  • Flex Daily Schedules – Rachio 3 checks factors such as moisture levels, hyperlocal weather forecasts, and unique zone characteristics an hour before watering. This way, you’re assured that each zone gets the right amount of watering it needs.
  • Yard Mapper – You can customize sprinkler heads in your zone boundaries to get a better water usage report.
  • Wireless Flow Meter – This feature works with the Yard Mapper feature in providing water usage data. In addition, it can identify leaks or blockages and alerts the device to shut-off watering in that specific zone.
  • Apple HomeKit integration – You’ll definitely love the Rachio 3 if you’re a heavy Apple HomeKit user.
  • Future Premium Software Features – Expect to get future software upgrades with the Rachio 3.

Unfortunately, the features highlighted above cannot be found in the Rachio 3e. Still, the Rachio 3e has the standard features that Rachio fans have loved in the Rachio 2nd gen model. It has the standard Weather Intelligence feature that’s not so bad at all with its rain, freeze, wind, and saturation skip ability. And like the Rachio 3, the Rachio 3e is EPA WaterSense Certified so you can still save up to 50% on outdoor watering usage.

Rachio 3 and 3e Compatible Devices

Rachio 3 and Rachio 3e have the same compatible devices except for one.

Rachio device compatibility
Rachio 3 compatible devices. Only the Apple HomeKit is not compatible with the Rachio 3e.

Owners of smart homes will be happy with the fact that the Rachio 3 and 3e are compatible with a lot of smart devices. Only the Apple HomeKit is not compatible with the Rachio 3e.

  • Amazon Alexa
  • Google Assistant
  • Nest
  • SmartThings
  • IFTT
  • Alarm.com
  • Apple HomeKit

Rachio 3 and 3e Ease of Installation

Both units can be installed easily even without the help of a pro.

The Rachio 3 and 3e can be installed in only 3 steps.

DIY installation is possible with the Rachio 3 and 3e. There’s an available set-up guide in the Rachio app and connectors are all one-touch. A typical installation will take up to 30 minutes only.

  1. Replace your old sprinkler controller. A handy mounting template is also available.
  2. Plug the existing sprinkler controller wires into the Rachio 3/3e unit. Terminals are easy-press so no screwdriver needed!
  3. Check the Rachio app’s set-up guide. You’ll need this to connect your controller to your home’s Wi-Fi system. Then, you can continue with customizing your zones and watering schedules.


Your choice will depend on your budget and feature preferences.

The Rachio 3 is definitely the flagship Rachio smart sprinkler controller model and you should get it if you’re willing to spend extra bucks. It’s the perfect choice if you want precise control of your sprinkler system. The Rachio 3 16-zone model is also best for those with huge lawns.

Meanwhile, the Rachio 3e is for homeowners with medium-sized lawns. If your only goal is to save water and have a watering schedule, this is already a good budget-friendly option for you.


📌 Can I install my Rachio controller outside my home?

For outdoor installations, a Rachio Weatherproof Enclosure should be purchased separately.

📌 Can I have a sprinkler professional my Rachio controller?

Yes, you can find a certified Rachio Pro in your locality through the Rachio website.

📌 Is the Rachio app also available via web?

Yes, the Rachio app can also be accessed through your desktop computer’s browser.

📌 Can my family members or gardener have access to my controller?

Shared Access feature is available and you can customize the levels of access with whomever you’d like.

Last update on 2021-07-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Mauie Flores

Senior Editor at Compare Before Buying, blogger and content creator passionate about writing, music, and good food.