Ambient Weather WS-1001-WIFI/1200-IP/1400-IP Observer Reviews
Ambient Weather produce three solar powered mid range weather stations that all use exactly the same outdoor weather array with identical sensors.
- The WS-1001-WIFI Observer
- The WS-1200-IP Observer
- The WS-1400-IP Observer
What’s the difference between all 3?
The WS-1200-IP is exactly the same as the WS-1001-WIFI, it uses the same indoor display console.
The ONLY difference is the way it sends the information to the internet.
The WS 1001-WIFI sends its data to the indoor console and then to the internet wirelessly without using any Ethernet ports.
The 1200-IP sends its data to both the indoor console and directly to an Observer-IP module that is plugged in to the Ethernet port on your router.
The WS-1400-IP uses exactly the same method as the 1200-IP but it doesn’t contain the indoor display console, you would use the Weather Underground App on a Tablet/PC or phone.
The Outdoor weather array transmits:
- Outdoor Temperature
- Wind speed
- Wind direction
It goes the extra mile by also transmitting UV and solar radiation values.
Unlike the more expensive Vantage Pro 2 from Davis, you do not need to purchase any additional equipment to send the data to the internet, it works straight out of the box.
This direct internet connection means you don’t need a PC to be on 24 hours a day.
Internally it measures:
- Barometric pressure
- Indoor temperature
- Indoor humidity
The latter 2 are only available to be viewed through the weather underground App and not through the Ambient display console.
By their very nature weather stations need to be of solid build quality to withstand the harshness of the weather.
The outdoor unit is lightweight and feels more like a toy than something that will provide meaningful data. The wind gauge is especially disappointing, it is very flimsy and tends to spin around a fair bit.
We didn’t have high hopes that it would be a long term solution, however ours has been up over two years and has taken everything thrown at it and its still standing. I would be concerned if I lived in an area that had harsher weather though.
Expected lifetime: 5 years.
It has a bubble at the top to ensure it is installed level but this prevents the fitting of any kind of bird deterrent. So if you are unlucky enough to have many bird visitors, you may find more cleaning is needed to ensure it maintains its accuracy, which depending where it’s mounted can be a pain.
It is worth connecting the unit to the console first before installing the outside hardware. You don’t want to find out there’s a problem after dragging it onto a roof or up a pole!
It instantly connected to the main console and asked for our WIFI details.
We created an account on Weather Underground and registered the station, we were then assigned a station ID.
Weather Underground checks new stations against existing local ones to ensure the data you provide is accurate, this can mean up to a 24 hour wait before you can view the station online.
Unfortunately all three stations will only connect to weather underground out of the box. If you want to connect to other cloud services such as CWOP, PWSweather etc, you will need to purchase an additional weather bridge. It is worth checking for a firmware update at this point too.
This part took around 30 minutes and was very straight forward.
Ambient claim a line of sight rating of 300 feet although this is reduced when passing through walls and other objects. We installed ours around 75 feet away so I can’t test these claims but it has performed fantastically with no connection problems at all.
Bad weather will reduce this maximum, so as a general rule you should consider reducing the official maximum distance by two thirds to 100 feet maximum to ensure a stable connection.
There’s nothing worse than installing a weather station and finding it loses connection during bad weather!
Two U bolts (for a one inch pipe) and two steel mounts are included to give a variety of mounting options. Ambient sells additional tripods and poles if needed.
The bubble level at the top ensures that the sensor array is easily leveled which is vital for wind accuracy. This works great if it’s being installed on a roof as it’s much easier to see when you are stable. But if it’s going on a pole it can be difficult to see especially when you are balancing at the top of a ladder! Take an additional level up to be sure.
The outdoor array is powered by 3 included rechargeable batteries that recharge using the sun.
Overall, the lightweight outside array is easy to install.
An enormous amount of data is available via the display unit.
- Barometer, temperature & humidity graphs.
- Wind direction & Speed
- Wind Gust
- Wind Chill
- Temperature (indoor & outdoor)
- Humidity (indoor & outdoor)
- Dew Point
- Heat Index
- Date & Time
- Sunset & Moon Phase
- UV & Solar Radiation
- Low Battery Indicator
However, the sheer amount of information makes the display feels cluttered so we wasted a lot of time looking for different features. It does get easier over time but it would have been nice to be able to customize it by removing features we didn’t use.
The display unit itself feels cheap and lightweight and depending on how you use it can cause some problems. If you try to operate the unit from its stand it can slide away due to its weight, rubber feet would have really helped. It does work well if you mount it to a wall though.
Decide to relax, sit back in your favorite chair and catch up on the latest weather trends?
You can, but you have to be plugged into a power outlet as the display has no battery and will turn off if unplugged. In this day and age it does feel rather antiquated and a deal breaker for some.
However, the TFT display is bright and clear and has plenty of options.
Settings include the ability to calibrate sensors, change back light levels, and to shut off the display between certain hours. Changing settings might take a while due to the clunky buttons as the screen itself isn’t touchscreen.
Once you have access to your station through Weather Underground, you can use their app via tablet, phone or PC.
It’s all very well being easy to set up and have a nice looking display. But the real test of a weather station is how accurate it is.
The Citizen Weather Observer Program (CWOP) collects weather station data provided by enthusiasts throughout North America and the world. Over 800 organizations utilize this data including:
- NWS Weather Forecast Offices
- Department of Homeland Security
- Kennedy Space Center
- National Center for atmospheric Research
- NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
And many more…
CWOP recommend minimum sensor accuracy levels to ensure that data sent to them is valid. While weather stations of a lower price may not conform to these levels, it gives us a great way to strip out the marketing and make real world comparisons between each weather station.
There are two components to ensuring accurate weather readings.
- How good the site is where the weather station is set up. Provide a poor site and accuracy levels will be poor even if the station used has high quality sensors.
- The quality of the sensors used.
In an ideal world the weather station will have sensors that can be sited separately. This allows each one to be at the optimum level to provide accurate readings. Unfortunately this luxury only occurs as price goes up, so for those on a budget, compromises have to be made.
On the WS-1001/1200/1400 all of the sensors are built into a single unit. This means that while we can follow recommended siting guidelines for most sensors accurately, the anemometer will be too low to give out accurate data.
So let’s see how well it does compared to CWOP recommendations.
As long as the sensor is properly sited, there are only two things to concern us to maintain an accurate reading.
- In order for a temperature sensor to record correctly it must be enclosed in a radiation shield. This shield needs to be properly sized to ensure proper airflow, otherwise temperature will be recorded as too high (this is a common complaint from users of low cost weather stations!)
- The accuracy level of the temperature sensor
The radiation shield is an adequate size and performs well within its sensor range.
The sensor range is ±2F, so for an actual temperature of 16 F, it can show a reading between 14 F to 18F. Obviously a fairly wide range, but the same as similar mid range weather stations.
Wind speed & Direction
As we cannot site the anemometer at the recommended height of 10m due to the all in one nature of the weather array, we can expect it to under report wind speed by on average 30%
A spinning cup type of anemometer is used which works fine unless it’s icy. The only way to avoid the susceptibility to fail during icy weather is to purchase a weather station that uses a sonic anemometer, however they are only available on higher priced stations.
The wind vein is fairly flimsy and doesn’t provide much confidence. Originally when these units were shipped the user had to assemble it. However, due to the difficulty for some users, Ambient listened and now assemble these themselves prior to shipping
CWOP states that the most important factor when assessing an anemometer’s quality is its accuracy rating. It recommends 5% or better, this station only achieves a 10% rating so it could be better, but not bad for a station of this price.
CWOP recommends a reporting range of at least 0 to 100 mph or greater – the WS-1001/1200/1400IP achieves this with no problem.
Wind speed benefits from a weather station that can measure it using fast sampling. If you are only taking an average every minute or so the unit isn’t going to be representative of what’s happening in real time.
The WMO defines a gust as
“the maximum observed wind speed over a specified time interval”
This is usually 3 seconds.
Wind speed is sampled over a 16 second interval where it reports the highest speed over that period. This means that it can potentially miss out on many gusts and changes in speed.
As a comparison, mid ranged Acurite stations sample every 4 seconds while the Davis Vantage Vue measures wind speed every 2.5 seconds – this is a huge difference in accuracy and something to bear in mind.
Measuring rain, drizzle, sleet and hail requires accurate placement of equipment. Too close to buildings or other obstructions will cause “rain shadow”, too low off the ground will result in “Under catch”. Both will vastly under report precipitation.
Once properly cited at 3 or 4 feet off the ground you should expect accurate measurement as long as the rain gauge isn’t too small or shallow. The Ambient rain gauge is fine and able to measure precipitation accurately.
The most important specification to look for in rain gauges is Data Resolution.
Ambient matches the CWOP recommend a resolution rate of 0.01 inches.
Humidity (the amount of water vapour in the air) is calculated via dew point based on relative humidity and temperature.
Its ability to do this accurately is based on 3 factors.
- Data resolution: WS-1001/1200/1400IP achieves the recommended rate of ±1%
- Accuracy rating : ±3% or better. The WS-1001/1200/1400IP has a rating of ±5%, decent for a station in this price range.
The final factor is the most important one.
- Relative humidity: CWOP recommends a range of 0-100%. The WS-1001/1200/1400IP has a range of 10-99%.
It sounds pretty close and for most people it won’t be a problem. However, slight variations in this range can have a dramatic effect on the calculated dew point.
If the temperature is 52F and the relative humidity is 10%,
The dew point will be -2.9F.
What if the temperature is 52F and the relative humidity is actually 5%, but the WS-1001/1200/1400IP reports 10 % (Remember the range is 10-99% on this unit),
The dew point will be -16.8F!
A big difference!
This will only effect someone if they live in a very dry area, but worth keeping in mind.
UV and Solar Radiation
These measurements are very welcome in a station of this price.
Who doesn’t like more stats?
No other stations measure these apart from the vastly more expensive Davis Vantage Pro 2.
The offerings from Ambient are accurate to within 15% while the Davis option has an accuracy rating of ±5%.
This is an outstanding feature at this price range.
Which To Choose?
If you only have access to WIFI or have no spare Ethernet ports on your router then the 1001 is the only choice.
If you use your internal WIFI network a lot streaming audio/video or you have many users sharing the connection then consider going for the 1200-IP.
Both are very similar in price and in most cases just get the cheapest.
If you will only ever be using the Weather Underground App and have no use for the display console, then the 1400-IP is brilliant value at nearly half the price.
Ambient Weather have produced three very good weather stations at a good price. The ability to measure UV and solar radiation is fantastic value and is a huge selling point at this price range.
If you are happy to access the weather data through a tablet, you can ditch the display console and reduce the price by half by looking at the 1400-IP
You should buy this if:
- You want a system that is easy to set up
- You recognize the value of spending more than the entry level systems to ensure a greater chance of it lasting more than a year or two.
- You want to access your data through the internet from anywhere
- You don’t need to expand the system with additional sensors
Our guide to choosing the best weather station is here.