Smart home hubs serve as bridges that allow us to connect our devices to each other. Everything from TVs to refrigerators and thermostats can be monitored and controlled with the best smart home hubs at the click of a button or a simple voice command.
If you’re currently shopping for a hub but don’t know where to begin, we’ve got you covered. After reviewing years’ worth of the latest smart devices and how smart home hubs have changed to accommodate them, we’re ready to make some suggestions about what models are right to buy, starting with the feature-packed Nest Hub Max!
Google Nest Hub Max
The Nest Hub Max is a smart display packed full of features, thanks to Google’s experience with previous smart hubs like the Google Home. The touchscreen display on its own is a great way to read the news, watch videos, play interactive games, or show a rotating gallery of your favorite photos. But that’s only a tiny part of what the Nest Hub Max can do: With the help of the built-in Google Assistant, it can connect to compatible smart devices around your home and form scenes that involve adjusting lights, playing music, reporting the news, checking your calendar, and many other things. You can control all of this with Google Assistant voice commands.
And there’s still much more. The display includes a camera that can recognize faces and switch profiles based on who in the house is using the hub. That camera can also handle video calls and intelligently frame you as you move around in front of the display while having a conversation. That cam can also act as a security camera wherever you put the Hub Max, and you can log on with your mobile device and look through the cam whenever you need to (as well as receive certain alerts if you want to). The impressive speakers in the back can play music on demand, too.
So when it comes to the latest smart hubs, the Nest Hub Max has learned and incorporated features from everything that has come before into one impressive unit. The one thing to note with the Nest Hub Max is that Nest smart devices have had a rough 2019. The Works with Nest program has been discontinued, and some devices may have lost compatibility with Google Assistant. Google is slowly rebuilding Nest compatibility with a newer program, but it will take time. The Hub Max is the best choice if you already have a lot of Nest devices in your house, or if you look up your smart devices and make sure they are Google Assistant compatible for 2019 and beyond. A little research may be needed!
Samsung SmartThings Hub
This third-generation SmartThings Hub is packed with more features than earlier models as Samsung tries to compete by offering people a little bit of everything. In this case, “everything” includes compatibility with devices from over 40 different brands, the ability to route alerts from security devices to your phone, and the option to set up routines that can automatically control a variety of smart devices in certain situations (morning prep, etc.).
It’s also compatible with all earlier versions of SmartThings tech, so if you’ve been buying Samsung devices for a while there’s no need to worry about full support. The hub also includes compatibility with older protocols including Zigbee, Z-Wave, and cloud-to-cloud options, so even particularly niche or old smart devices have a better chance of working.
And there’s still more: The Hub is compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant voice commands as well. Plus, Samsung has created a new setup process to make onboarding easier, and released a newer, sleeker version of the SmartThings app to control it all with. This hub option has never looked better — and it’s still one of our most affordable picks!
Echo Show (2nd generation)
The Echo Show is the Alexa version of a smart display that can access and control smart devices throughout your home. The second-gen Show greatly improves on-screen quality and sound, making it a useful entertainment device. However, it also adds Zigbee compatibility for connecting to smart devices, an excellent option that makes it easier to control more unique or older smart devices that may not work on other channels.
Alexa also is compatible with modern smart devices, including lights, cameras, thermostats, smart outlets, and much more. You can search for and link these devices using the Alexa app on your mobile device.
Logitech Harmony Home Hub
Logitech’s Harmony Hub can do a lot (it works with over 270,000 possible devices), but you’ll especially appreciate this slim hub if you have a lot of entertainment 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 help 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 smartphones 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 is very portable, making it easy to set the device up in closed cabinets.
Securifi Almond 3 Smart Home Wi-Fi system
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 they 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 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 multi-floor 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.
Wink Hub 2
Design aside, the specs for the Wink Hub 2 may look a lot like the third-gen Samsung SmartThings hub. Wink’s version offers support for a wide variety of smart devices from brands like Nest, Philips, Ring, Yale, and Arlo. It’s controlled via a central app, and supports many different smart protocol options, plus compatibility with Google Assistant and Alexa. Capabilities like alerts, schedules, and automation options are all here.
However, there are key differences, too. While the Wink Hub 2 does support over 400 different devices, it doesn’t appear to quite match the broad brand compatibility that the SmartThings Hub has. However, the Wink Hub 2 has a different talent: It supports even more alternative protocols than Samsung does, including ZigBee, Z-Wave, Kidde, Lutron Clear Connect, and others. If you want to be absolutely sure that your smart devices will work with a hub even if they have off-the-wall communication requirements, this is a good choice to consider!
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