The world of smart home hubs continues to expand as every major tech giant puts pedal to metal and seeks to surpass the competition. Who owns this space may just own the digital home — and everyone from Google to Apple to Samsung is trying to find that perfect combination of affordability and functionality that will convince consumers to buy.
Smart home hubs are a glimpse to the future, displaying how the interconnectedness of things is making its way to our immediate environment. Everything from TV to refrigerators and thermostats can be monitored and altered with the best smart home hubs at the click of a button, or by using a simple voice command. If you’re currently shopping for a hub but don’t know what makes the ideal product, we’ve got you covered. Here are the best smart home hubs in the market based on price and capabilities. Don’t know where to even begin? Start by reading our guide to building smart apartment, which walks through choosing smart lights, picking a hub, automating your home, and more.
We had the opportunity to test the latest in the Amazon Echo family, the Echo Plus. The smart home incorporation means we no longer need a bridge to connect Alexa with the rest of our smart home devices, and after a few Amazon updates, Alexa is now more capable than ever. The digital assistant can now recognize individual voices and answer or relay commands and preferences based on these user preferences.
We can now bundle devices in order for Alexa to micromanage them individually or in tandem with one another. For example, with the new Routines feature, by simply saying “Good morning, Alexa” our digital assistant can turn on the bedroom lights, start that oh-so-necessary first cup o’ coffee, and relay our daily flash briefings as we get ready.
Nonetheless, the Echo Plus does have its downfalls. Like the Echo, the Echo Plus still has rather lackluster sound quality meaning the device isn’t necessarily the best for blasting our favorite playlists. Outside of the most ardent of audiophiles, though, the sound system is solid enough for most.
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While the bulk of hubs often have the general aesthetic appeal of a low-profile brick, the Securifi Almond 3 Smart Home Wi-Fi System is one of the most handsome hubs we’ve seen. But this unit is more than a pretty face — the Almond 3 flat-out performs.
The unique, resistive 3-inch color touchscreen allows folks to easily access virtually all of the settings. This also helps to streamline the already straightforward setup process. (There’s also a built-in stylus for those with, we’ll say, “less agile” digits. The Almond 3 utilizes multiple access points around a space, extending the Wi-Fi signal so devices can switch to stronger signals automatically as we move about the home or office. On the 5GHz band, the mesh network system worked seamlessly with our gadgets, however, the 2.4GHz channel, on the other hand was a different story altogether.
Seeing as the Almond can use any Wi-Fi connected device to establish triggers via the IFTTT applet, the unit is a solid bet even if you currently don’t have a home brimming with smart home products. The Almond 3 has Alexa support and once this has been connected the digital assistant can relay set the parameters for that “date night” — dimming the lights and setting the thermostat on command.
That’s the good news — here’s the bad (if not all-out ugly) with the Almond 3. During our testing, we found that in larger homes, or multifloor homes, a lone Almond 3 offers spotty Wi-Fi. Simply adding a second hub on the main floor shored up the erratic connections, though. Similarly, with just two Ethernet ports for connected devices, some individuals will be left literally wanting and needing more.
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The VeraPlus is a fan-favorite that offers a variety of security features plus compatibility with a number of other smart home devices.
The device can be used to lock your door, turn your lights on and off, set your thermostat so it changes automatically based on the temperature. You can also use it to view cameras on your phone from everywhere, while also controlling over 200 sensors, locks and lights.
You can connect to the hub through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth LE, Zigbee, and Z-Wave. The Vera Control works with a wide variety of products, including the Nest, Schlage, Yale, Kwikset, and First Alert. Your phone and laptop can connect and interact with the VeraPlus, setting up and operating from everywhere.
It is a more advanced version of its predecessor, the Vera Edge, harnessing more protocols, memory and processor power.
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This company may not have decades of success and a big name behind it like the Googles and Apples of the world, but its smart home hub game is on point. The Wink Hub 2 is an improvement over its predecessor, linking together smart products from various companies to give you a comprehensive hub experience.
The gadget connects to your phone’s free Wink app and it has a simple install process that will get you going in a heartbeat. You can connect to your smart devices by plugging the Wink Hub 2 to an ethernet port or logging in via Wi-Fi, and it comes equipped with a durable and powerful processor. It also offers plenty of memory to make your smart home connections transpire in a quick and efficient manner.
Much like other top smart home hubs, the Wink Hub 2 can connect with iOS, Android, and Apple Watch devices. It can also be linked together with Alexa’s voice-activated features. One of the most attractive elements of the hub is its design, which is compact and sleek, making it easy to place next to your TV.
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For a similar price to the Wink Hub 2, you can get the Harmony Hub from Logitech, which works at lightning speed, turning on in 30 seconds. The device is ideal for those with a penchant for home entertainment as it has controls for eight home entertainment gadgets, plus it works with more than 270,000 devices.
Smart televisions, cable boxes, Apple TV, Blu-Ray players and a variety of consoles can all work alongside the Harmony Hub. The back of the hub includes IR mini blasters that helps extend the coverage area of the device. It uses Bluetooth connectivity to link with your devices, but it also comes with a USB port in case your phone doesn’t offer Bluetooth. (Hey, it’s possible.)
The Harmony App connects with iOS or Android smartphone and tablets, supports Alexa, giving you access to channels, movies and 50 customizable Favorites. Couples would enjoy this device as it can create a perfect home movie environment, dimming lights — or smart lamps — and connecting with stereo systems for your TV-watching purposes.
The Harmony Hub very portable, making it easy to set the device down in closed cabinets. There’s a $246 version of this device which is more comprehensive and is compatible with more devices and entertainment systems.
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Following the fiasco that was the Samsung Galaxy S7, the electronics giant has been making amends with a slate of impressive new products. The recent release of the Galaxy S8, for example, rewarded wary customers with a slew of impressive features and a beautiful design. But meanwhile, Samsung’s been making strides in other areas, including the very smart SmartThings Smart Home Hub.
Advertised as a “brain” for your smart home, the Samsung product connects to a number of gadgets around the home. It can control the usual speakers, lights and gadgets, but it can also improve your home security and comfort by adjusting your thermostat, locking your home, and notifying you of any unusual activity picked up by motion sensors.
Much like the Echo Dot, the SmartThings hub is a bargain at $50 as it learns more about your home based on what you’re doing. Some may find it intrusive, but it’s pretty neat that the hub knows what to do when you’re asleep, awake, or away from your home. The SmartThings app is compatible with iOS (8.1 or later), Android (4.0 or later), and Windows Phone (8.1 or later).
It does have its limitations as you need to plug it in to an Internet-connected router through a Ethernet cable. If you’d like a (pricey) smart home hub from Samsung that also serves as a Wi-Fi router, check out its AC1300 Smart Wi-Fi System.
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The beauty about the variety of smart home hub offerings in the market right now is the fact that you can take your pick based on your needs. While the Echo Dot offers affordability and the Harmony top entertainment features, the Wally Starter Kit is ideal for those who prioritize safety and security in the home or in a business environment.
Wally connects to your smart devices via Wi-Fi, notifying you via an alarm, text message, email, phone call or push notification when something goes awry. If it detects a water leak, the device will make sure you know about it. It will also help you find a plumber nearby, sharing their rates with you.
The Wally product can also monitor temperatures in order to help you avoid freezing pipes and other hazards. It also examines humidity levels to prevent mold from forming before it does, and it can also shut out running water when it detects a leak. Retailing for $100, the Wally Starter Kit has all your bases covered if you’re looking for a safety product to complement your entertainment hubs.
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Update: We added the Amazon Echo Plus and Securifi Almond 3.