Wink Hub review

Wink is great at connecting your smart devices, if you can find any it works with

The inexpensive Wink Hub hides anywhere in your home and shows great promise – but lack of compatibility holds it back.
The inexpensive Wink Hub hides anywhere in your home and shows great promise – but lack of compatibility holds it back.
The inexpensive Wink Hub hides anywhere in your home and shows great promise – but lack of compatibility holds it back.

Highs

  • Works with dozens of products already on the market.
  • Hub does not have to be wired to home router.
  • Straightforward, easy to follow app.

Lows

  • Support for some popular products such as Nest missing.
  • Does not work with hidden networks, raising security issues.

DT Editors' Rating

The trick with technology has always been a matter of coordination, never more so than in the arena of smarthome products. Wink is yet another contender trying to link the wide world of multifarious, do-it-yourself, connected-home products, from door locks to surveillance cameras to lights, in a single interface. So far, its success is a mixed affair.

We were disappointed at how few devices could be integrated the Wink app.

Backed by partners such as Home Depot, Wink uses an app to connect with devices from brands such as GE, Schlage, and Lutron. For products that can’t communicate directly with the Android or iOS app, there’s the $50 Wink Hub, a standalone router that acts as a bridge between those products and a home Wi-Fi network. There are no monthly fees, and the company claims the system already works with over 60 different products.

The Wink Hub, which is occasionally available for next to nothing as part of various promotional bundles with compatible products, supports several wireless standards, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, Zigbee, and ClearConnect. In theory, that should enable it to work with heretofore incompatible products, such as cameras that use Wi-Fi and thermostats that connect using only Z-Wave. The primary criteria, then, is the number of products it works with — giving consumers the most options — and how simple it is to deploy and operate.

Installation and Setup

The glossy white Wink Hub has the all the design flourish of a simple kitchen appliance. Standing vertically about the size of paperback book, you can hide it just about anywhere there’s an available power outlet. Unlike some other hubs, it does not need to be plugged into an Ethernet port on a router. This is a distinct advantage; it allows owners to place it just about anywhere it can make a Wi-Fi connection to their home network.

The free Wink app takes you through the process of logging the Hub into your home Wi-Fi network and adding any compatible devices. Two important qualifications should be noted. First, the Hub will not work with 5-GHz Wi-Fi networks, which should not be a major issue for most homes using dual-band routers. The second issue is more serious in terms of security.

The Wink Hub is not able to work with networks that do not broadcast their SSID. This is a basic but significant security issue, since it’s recommended that home networks not entice hackers by broadcasting their IDs. It’s even more of an issue when it comes to smarthome devices, such as cameras and door locks. It’s a rookie programming mistake — one Wink promises to correct with a firmware update “in the next few weeks.”

The rest of the installation was relatively painless. We added a lamp with a GE Link LED bulb (which flashed to acknowledge it was connected), a Dropcam Pro camera, and a Zwave thermostat within a few minutes. Wink also has a barcode scanning option to easily input information on new additions.

Living with the Hub

As straightforward as the Wink installation was, we were disappointed at how few devices could be integrated into its app. For example, while it works with the Dropcam Pro, it cannot control the earlier model. And while Schlage is one of the 15 brands the app and hub work with, it works only with the touchscreen deadbolt lock — not the specific model we had installed.

Wink also does not work with the popular Google-owned Nest products. And although Wink cites Chamberlain’s MyQ remote garage door opener as a compatible product, the Android app did not offer it as an option and the Hub did not see the device.

The company says it has now added support for our garage door opener but did not do so until after our testing was completed. Wink compatibility is clearly still a work in progress.

In spite of these shortcomings, the Wink software worked well with the devices it did support. Each can be scheduled to be adjusted at specific times or grouped together under the Robots option to perform coordinated tasks. We quickly linked the GE light in the living room, for example, to go on whenever the Dropcam detected motion out the front window. If you have a compatible lock, Wink enables you to coordinate other smarthome stunts, such as turning on the lights and shutting off your security cameras as you approach the house.

Conclusion

Wink shows a lot of promise. The company says it will work with Android Wear and plans to introduce a standalone home controller, the $300 Wink Relay, before the holidays. Depending on how quickly it can add support for more devices, it may gain more traction.

On the other hand, it took Logitech years to build up a useful database of products to work with its universal remote control. And there is a lot of competition in the DIY smart home market. Lowe’s has its Iris Smart Home system; there’s the SmartThings hub (now owned by Samsung), and companies such as Logitech and Belkin also have competing systems already on the market. Furthermore, there’s the dual spectres of Google and Apple lurking in the wings hoping to wrest control of the Interent of Things. We’d like to see as much competition as possible, so we’re hoping Wink and other can build out support quickly.

Highs

  • Works with dozens of products already on the market.
  • Hub does not have to be wired to home router.
  • Straightforward, easy to follow app.

Lows

  • Support for some popular products such as Nest missing.
  • Does not work with hidden networks, raising security issues.
Product Review

Making a smart home can be a DIY job, but security should be left to the pros

Sure, you can DIY a smart home system, but when it comes to security, you should seriously consider professional monitoring and service. That’s where Vivint comes in. Is it worth the lofty price?
Computing

Think someone's leeching off your Wi-Fi connection? Here's how to find out

It's important to find out immediately if anyone is stealing your bandwidth. Here's how to tell if someone is stealing your Wi-Fi using a few simple tools, along with some suggestions on improving security.
Computing

Fix those internet dead zones by turning an old router into a Wi-Fi repeater

Is there a Wi-Fi dead zone in your home or office? A Wi-Fi repeater can help. Don't buy a new one, though. Here is how to extend Wi-Fi range with another router you have lying around.
Smart Home

Want a smarter home? Ditch the keys with these great smart locks

A good smart lock should offer a combination of security and convenience. Fortunately, these devices keep your home protected, your family safe, and your belongings secure from possible intruders.
Smart Home

Abode Systems upgrades its smart home gateway with new chip and Z-Wave Plus

Palo Alto-based Abode Systems is adding an upgrade to its popular smart home starter kit by replacing its central gateway with a second-generation version that supports cellular backup and enhanced Z-Wave support.
Smart Home

Put away that sponge and let us help you pick the best dishwasher for your buck

Tired of doing dishes by hand? Take a look at our picks of the four best dishwashers currently available and let a machine do the dirty work for you. They’ll do a much better job, anyway.
Smart Home

You can play NPR’s ‘Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me’ on your smart speaker

You can play "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" on Amazon Echo speakers or Google Home devices with the new Wait Wait Quiz. It's hosted by Peter Sagal and Bill Kurtis and will be updated every week with new questions.
Smart Home

Walabot Home, a device aimed at keeping seniors safe, expands its capabilities

When you have to be away from your elderly family members, Walabot Home can serve as your surrogate. This device can detect when your loved one falls and will call for help — no wearables or user input required.
Smart Home

Allergies acting up? Thes best air purifiers on the market can offer relief

Indoor air is often more contaminated than the air outside, which can cause an array of health issues over time. Luckily, these air purifiers can easily rid your home or office of unwanted allergens and contaminants.
Smart Home

Hackers hijack Nest camera, issue fake warning of North Korea missile attack

A Nest security camera hijacked by hackers who used the device to issue a fake warning about an incoming North Korean nuclear missile attack heading toward Los Angeles, Chicago, and Ohio.
Smart Home

Starbucks coffee delivery lands in 6 more cities via Uber Eats

Starbucks is in the process of expanding its coffee delivery service far beyond Miami. Available via the Uber Eats app, the service has just launched in San Francisco, with five additional cities joining in the coming weeks.
Smart Home

Sing with Freddie Mercury with the ‘Ay-Oh with Bohemian Rhapsody’ Alexa skill

20th Century Fox announced a new Alexa Skill for Freddie Mercury fans. To celebrate the digital release of Bohemian Rhapsody and a National Day of "Ay-Oh," fans can download the Ay-Oh with Bohemian Rhapsody Skill.
Smart Home

Instant Pot Duo vs. Lux: Which multicooker is really better?

The Instant Pot Duo and the Instant Pot Lux are two of Instant Pots' best-selling models and both are great options. But what’s the difference between the two? Which one is better? Let's break it down.
Smart Home

Amazon confirms it has 10,000 employees working on Amazon Alexa

Amazon has 10,000 employees who work on Alexa development. Thousands of people focus on building Alexa's knowledge base while others work on Alexa's personality, machine learning, interaction, conversational skills, and other features.