Best Smart Home Hub 2018

Best Smart Home Hub 2018

Our Top 5 Smart Home Hubs

 

What is The Best Smart Home Hub?

We believe that the Samsung SmartThings is the best smart home hub in 2018. This is due to having the greatest smart device compatibility, connection methods, and a unique battery backup which makes it the most reliable smart hub. The role of a smart home hub is to bring a versatile range of products under one system. Accordingly, we consider the extensiveness of devices and brands that can connect to the smart hub as the most important factor in our decision. For us, the SmartThings tick the boxes. However, our other best smart home hub options may actually be a better choice for you as they all offer unique benefits that purchasers may find appealing. The best smart hub for any user is the one that connects to their current devices and any devices they may wish to connect in the future.

Best Smart Home Hub
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Our Other Hub Picks

We believe the Amazon Echo Plus and Google Home are the best smart home hubs with inbuilt voice recognition and speakers. There is very little in it between these two, so we gave them the same ranking. What is interesting is that these are actually compatible with Samsung SmartThings. Yes, you read that right, smart hubs can be compatible with each other – strange isn’t it. The best smart home hub option, given it is within your budget, is to hook up an Echo Plus or a Google home to SmartThings. This will give you the voice recognition technology and speakers of the former with the extensive compatibility of the latter. The Amazon Echo Dot gets our best smart home hub budget pick as it is about half the price of the others yet still matches the device compatibility of the Echo Plus. The Wink 2 is the best smart home hub for the slightly less tech savvy or those who are not fussed about extensive features. The Wink 2 is a very smooth, simple and easy to use device, but this does come at the cost of limited features.

-Samsung SmartThings is the best smart home hub due to its wide compatibility.

-Amazon Echo Plus & Google Home are better for entertainment.

-Amazon Echo Dot is the best smart hub budget option.

-Wink 2 is the easiest to use.

 

Best Smart Hub for AlexaBest Smart Home Hub for easy useBest Budget Smart Home Hub

Hub Compatibility Table

As mentioned, the smart home hub exists to connect devices and we look principally to review the main factors that achieve this goal. Compatibility, connectivity and the user interface are the clear considerations that hold up the best smart home hubs overall quality. There is no one size fits all approach to choosing the best smart home hub as it is defined by purchasers expectations and needs. Below we have made a table to show the compatibility of our five best smart hub options with some of the top brands:

As you can see, there isn’t that much in it between these best smart home hub options. You may want to base your purchasing decision on other criteria such as price, ease of use, virtual assistant, speaker quality or other features.

PLEASE READ – The nature of smart home hubs is that they evolve by adding compatibility with more brands on a continuous basis so the lists are below are subject to change. These are brands listed in certain product categories so it is necessary to check each individual product too.

Why get a smart hub?

If you decide to purchase a smart home hub then your goal is simple; bring all your smart home devices under one controlled and collaborating system. All your smart home devices are unique pieces of equipment, but on their own, they can’t connect with each other. They all speak similar or the same languages, through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or Zigbee. They just need a coordinator to hook them all up together to simplify their use and enable IFTTT features (which will be explained further down). If you have a smart thermostat, smart meter, smart lighting system, a robot vacuum and many other devices, you will have an annoying amount of different interfaces to control each one. A smart home hub will take control and let you operate your smart home in a single app. For those serious about smart home technology and in particular IFTTT (If This Then That), a smart home hub is a must!

IFTTT & Smart Hubs

If This Then That (IFTTT) is an online, web-based service that lets smart home users create algorithms for their devices which are known as “applets”. IFTTT pretty fantastically improves the practicality of your smart home although it is slightly gimmicky. An example may be to turn on your Robot Vacuum when your smart home security system detects no one is home. These can be highly creative and we believe IFTTT is what smart homes will head towards in the future. The best smart hub options all have the potential to use IFTTT.

Dedicated Smart Hubs vs Entertainment Hubs

Some hubs, such as the SmartThings, are known as dedicated smart home hubs. They have been built and designed purely to act as the control point for your smart home ecosystem. The bigger tech players such as Amazon, Google, and Apple sell entertainment systems that incorporate a smart hub, voice assistant, speakers, online music libraries and many, many other very neat add-ons. Our comparison will most highly rate the smart home control element of these smart hubs, rather than the entertainment side. We crowned the Samsung SmartThings the best smart hub following this logic. For you buyers, you will want to consider if these entertainment hubs are more suitable, as they are more expensive then dedicated hubs.

-Dedicated hubs such as Samsung SmartThings & Wink Hub 2 are cheaper.

-Entertainment hubs such as Echo Plus & Google Home have speakers and voice assistants (& more!).

 

Best Smart Home Hub 2018

Samsung SmartThings – The Best Smart Hub

The SmartThings hub aligns the most closely with smart homes, and our logic in giving it the title of best smart home hub primarily reflects its compatibility with the widest range of products. When it comes down to it, the quality of your smart devices solely comes from each product and your hub is there to just host them on your smart home network. It can be looked at like a sports coach which brings players together and makes them speak the same language so they can perform exceptionally as one team. It is this simplicity which reaffirms our preference of the Samsung SmartThings.

Samsung SmartThings Ratings

Design & Features

Best Smart Home Hub

As you can see from the image below, the design of the Samsung SmartThings is a clean minimal white. Smart home hubs don’t need to be flashy and we love this simplicity. The hub weighs 7.68 ounces and measures 4.2 x 4.9 x 1.3 inches.

The standout feature of the Samsung SmartThings is without a question, the battery backup feature. If you have all of your devices set up to work in an automated cycle, then the best smart home hub will keep them continuing for around 10 hours after losing power. The hub as per standard requires a wired ethernet and power connection. The Hub v2 also has an additional two USB ports as Samsung intends to expand their products later down the line. Another new useful feature that comes with the Samsung SmartThings Hub v2, is displaying security camera feeds. It will allow users to view your cameras in real time via the SmartThings app. Note that it will be a paid premium feature.

-Simple clean white design

-Very small size

-Battery backup for 10 hours

-View your security cameras on SmartThings app

Price

The best smart home hub comes with a reasonable price tag of around $90-$100. The more expensive Echo Plus and Google Home, are more than smart hubs as they come packed with a host of other features. For a dedicated smart hub, this is pretty a standard price as models such as the Wink Hub 2 cost around the same.

Combine for the ultimate combination

For the ultimate combination and the true best smart hub, add in the Amazon Echo Plus or Google Home and connect it to the SmartThings. This would give you the best smart home hub capabilities due to extended compatibility as well as the associated benefits of voice recognition, online music libraries and the fun of Alexa skills.

-Sync your SmartThings and Echo Plus for the best smart home hub

Compatibility

Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Apple Watch, Garmin Watches, Amazon Echo, Amazon Echo Dot, Google, Home, LIFX, Philips Hue, Sengled, Fibaro, Aeotec, Netgear, Ring, Yale, Bose & More…

Pros

-Easy Setup

-Best smart hub compatibility

-Battery backup

-IOS, Android

-Wi-Fi, Zigbee, Z-Wave

-IFTTT

Cons

-Smartphone control only

 

Amazon Echo Plus – Best Smart Hub for Smart Home Voice Recognition 

The Amazon Echo range has perhaps become the best known smart hub. At the top of this range, you have the Amazon Echo Plus, a quite frankly outstanding piece of home entertainment. Realistically this may be the best smart home hub for most people as it has good compatibility but also a  fun inbuilt voice recognition software called Alexa, which you have probably heard of! Welcome to the life of “couch potatoism”. “TV on! Volume 18! Lights off! Set temperature to 68 degrees!”…… yeah you get the idea. It takes victory over the Google Home as it has smarter home related features known as Alexa skills.

Design & Features

The Echo Plus is a relatively large smart hub which will be more likely to split the opinions of buyers. It measures 9.2 x 3.3 x 3.3 inches and comes available in black or white. Compared to other pieces of tech and furniture it certainly stands out a bit both physically and mentally. Yes, I am of course referring to Alexa, Amazons state of the art voice recognition and assistant AI. Alexa is your portal to your smart home but also your home entertainment. Using your voice you can do many, many things. When you say “Alexa”, the blue ring at the top of the echo plus turns on in a circling fashion.  All you need to do is fire a command and at that point, the world is your oyster, well maybe not quite. Here are a few neat things you can ask Alexa to do:

-Play any song on Amazon Music or Spotify (free and subscription services available)

-The weather forecast

-Call Mom

-Dim the lights

The style of the Echo Plus as a smart home hub is a contrast to the SmartThings. The SmartThings app on IOS and Android is the gateway to your smart home. With the Echo Plus, it is your voice. There is something a little gimmicky and novel about voice recognition technology but is undoubtedly cool. The Alexa app does give a smartphone interface that offers the best of both worlds. Finally, we must mention the speaker which is of a pretty good standard and connectable by Bluetooth. It is comprised of a 2.5-inch woofer and 0.8-inch tweeter to give weight to all frequencies. There are many better speakers out there at this price range but very few have the option of Alexa.

Price

The Echo Plus is normally $150 on Amazon. The $50-$60 jump up from other dedicated smart home hubs is quite clearly explained by the speaker and Alexa integration.

Compatibility

Samsung SmartThings, Logitech Harmony, Wink Hub 2 Philips Hue, LIFX, TP-Link, Hive, Osram LIGHTIFY, Yale, Arlo, TP-Link, Kwikset, August, Netgear, TP-Link, Belkin WiMo, Hive, Honeywell, Tado, Neatmo, Neat learning, ecobee & More…

Pros 

-Easy Setup

-High compatibility

-Inbuilt speaker

-IOS, Android, Fire

-Wi-Fi, Zigbee, Z-Wave

-IFTTT

Cons

-Voice recognition poor at times

-Less entertainment value than the Google Home

 

Google Home – Best Entertainment Smart Hub

The Google Home is a very similar device to the Echo Plus, and there was very little in it between these two. Where the Home exceeds is its voice recognition quality, extensive music database, the ability to answer the quirkiest of questions and can control your Chromecast. Googles products are at the top of their game and with the Home, you can access their toolbox of services, although at this stage they could perhaps be better integrated. All in all, the Google Home is a very solid smart home hub that connects well with some of the best entertainment services available for your home.

 

Design & Features

Google HomeThe Google Home has a more sophisticated look t it than the other models in our best smart home hub list. We personally feel that this is perhaps the only design that we would like to give an obvious place in our home as it has the feel of a real piece of art or furniture. A dedicated smart hub such as the Samsung SmartThings was not designed to be a core piece of a room, more equitable to a router perhaps. Entertainment hubs are a piece of furniture that are there to be noticed. Especially as they are designed to be spoken too! The Google Home is a slightly smaller and squatter device than the Echo Plus, with a diameter of 3.8 inches and a height of 5.6 inches. Google also sells customizable bases for the Google Home which come in a red, black and copper coloring schemes.

The Homes integrated Google Assistant is the interface for all your hubs features. Many of these features mirror what you get with Amazons Alexa, and are principally broken down into many categories. Here are a few of them:

-Facts & Info

-Food recipes

-Sports scores & live updates

-Translation

-Dictionary

The Google Home also offers a fantastic range of audio based features, which is why we believe it is the best smart hub for entertainment. For music, you have access to free music from Spotify and youtube, with the options of also getting subscription services such as Spotify Premium, Google Play Music, and Deezer. Overall, the Google Home speaker quality isn’t quite as good as the Echo Plus, although it is very close between the two. This may not even matter if you plan to sync your smart hub to a bigger sound system anyway. Google Home also gives you breakdowns of the latest news and plays your favorite podcasts, radio stations, and audiobooks.

As I said previously, the features of the Echo Plus and the Google Home are pretty identical. So with the Google Home, you get many of the standards like hands-free calls, reminders, timers, alarms and weather and many more. And just like Alexa, you get voice control of your smart home which includes the same protocol “Ok Google, turn on the lights”.  The Google Home does have a nice added perk of controlling TV streaming through Chromecast. Given how outstanding Googles services are and the direction the company is heading in, I highly expect that in the coming years they will offer the best smart home hub.

Price

Google Home currently costs around $130, making it marginally cheaper than the Echo Plus. If you’re torn between our two best smart home hub options with voice recognition, then I wouldn’t let a $20 difference be the deciding factor in your purchase. This is small cost differences for such a functional and impressive piece of tech.

Compatibility

Samsung SmartThings, Wink, Lutron Connect, Philips Hue, LIFX, TP-Link, Hive, Osram LIGHTIFY, Emberlight, iDevices, Universal Devices, Mobilinc, Geeni, Deako, Yale, Arlo, Kwikset, August, Netgear, Belkin WiMo, Hive, iDevices,  Obilinc, Nest, Honeywell, Lowes Iris, Lutron Caseta, iHome & More…

Pros

-Easy Setup

-High compatibility

-Best smart hub music database

-Integrated Google tools

-Inbuilt speaker

-IOS, Android

-Wi-Fi, Zigbee, Z-Wave

-IFTTT

Cons

-Features not available in all regions

-Less third party support

 

Wink Hub 2 – Best Easy to Use Hub

Your smart home journey with the Wink 2 is effortless from start to finish. Installing the Wink 2, adding devices and using the app is the simplest with the Wink 2. This is the best smart home hub for people less fussed about getting into more technical or nitty-gritty side of home automation. That said, a simpler user interface comes with the tradeoff of less functionality. You can do a lot with the Wink 2, but in our opinion, it is secondary to our top 3 picks.

Design & Features

Wink Hub 2Just like the Samsung SmartThings, the Wink 2 is a dedicated hub not designed to be a flashy piece of equipment. The approach to its design is very similar to our best smart home hub pick, in regards to being white and minimal. It measures 7.25 x 7.25 x 1.25 inches.

The selling point of the Wink 2 is a simple approach to everything. As a dedicated smart hub, it uses the easy to use Wink app which lets you control your smart home ecosystem. The app breaks down your smart home devices into categories such as lights, cameras, locks, and thermostats and gives live updates about their use. From there you can control, set up home automation (IFTTT), monitor and schedule your devices. Like with other dedicated smart hubs, the Wink 2 does not have inbuilt voice recognition but does allow the option to be paired with those smart hubs that do.

The Wink Hub 2 does lag in compatibility slightly to the other brands. For example, if you use LIFX smart bulbs you will want to steer clear of the Wink 2 as it doesn’t currently support them. That said, it still covers many of the major brands and whether this is important at all mostly depends on what smart devices you have or may consider purchasing in the future.

Price

The Wink Hub 2 is usually around $100. Given this is in the same price category as the Samsung SmartThings, we highly recommend that you go with our best smart home hub pick. The only scenario where it may be better for you is if you want as simple of an experience with your smart home hub as possible.

Compatibility

Amazon Echo, Echo Pus & Dot, Aeon Labs, Centralite, GE, GoControl, Leviton, Lutron, Osram LIGHTIFY, Philips Hue, Sengled, ZooZ, August, Canary, Dropcam, Fibraro,  Kwikset, Linear, Nest, Monoprice, Carrier TP, ecobee3, Honeywell, Nest

Pros

-Easiest Installation

-Simple to add devices

-Easiest App

-IOS, Android

-High Compatibility

-Wi-Fi, Zigbee, Z-Wave

-IFTTT

Cons

-Less Functional Depth

-Unreliable Wi-Fi at times

Amazon Echo Dot – Budget Pick

The Amazon Echo Dot is an absolute bargain for under $50 dollars. With this small piece of equipment, you get practically all the functionality and compatibility of its older brothers, the Amazon Echo and Echo Plus, minus the larger speaker. The small speaker built in is suitable for using Alexa but not ideal for music. All in all, this is a great product; highly sophisticated for such a small size and price tag. The Echo Dot is the best smart hom hub option for those ona budget.

Design & Features

Amazon EchoThe Echo Dot is the most compact smart home hub in our top 5 list. It looks like someone has just taken a slice out of the Amazon Echo. It measures just 1.3 x 3.3 x 3.3 inches and comes in an option of black and white. Its voice recognition plays out exactly the same as the other Echos, just open up with “Alexa” and the blue ring lights up in a circling fashion.

The Echo Dot is just a compact version of the Echo Plus, just without the same quality and size of the speaker. The Echo Dot has a 0.6-inch speaker which is suitable for listening to Alexa but not suitable for listening to music. You will want to be sure to plug it into a bigger speaker. The Echo Dot has a version of Alexa that is practically the same as the Echo Plus, and this voice recognition will be your interface for your features and smart home. You still get access to the same music services such as Spotify and Amazon Music, with the same ability to control them using your voice. It too has the Alexa Skills and Blueprints, meaning you can easily increase the scope of what you can do with your voice assistant. This includes ordering an Uber or pre-designed takeout options. Finally, the Echo Dot has the same compatibility and options to control your smart home with as the Echo Plus.

Price

The Echo Dot costs a pretty amazingly cheap $50, which is why it is our budget option in our 5 best smart home hub rankings. Many individuals believe that this is enough of a reason to buy it over the Echo Plus. For the extra $100 that the Echo Plus costs, you are really paying for the speaker.

Compatibility

Samsung SmartThings, Logitech Harmony, Wink Hub 2 Philips Hue, LIFX, TP-Link, Hive, Osram LIGHTIFY, Yale, Arlo, TP-Link, Kwikset, August, Netgear, TP-Link, Belkin WiMo, Hive, Honeywell, Tado, Neatmo, Neat learning, ecobee & More…

Pros

-Easy Setup

-High compatibility

-Cheap

-IOS, Android, Fire

-Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

-IFTTT

-Small

Cons

-Voice recognition poor at times

-Speaker quality limited

Final Word

The split nature of dedicated and entertainment hubs makes choosing the best smart home hub a more complex task than that of other smart products. This article has hopefully provided you with a useful range of suggestions of smart hubs that all offer their own benefits. For a medium priced dedicated smart hub, go for the SmartThings or Wink 2 if you want something straightforward to use. The Amazon Echo Plus and Google Home are both great entertainment hubs that offer their unique added perks. With our budget pick; the Echo Dot, it is hard to go wrong at a mere $50, although note the speaker isn’t fantastic.

We hope you enjoyed this article and recommend reading our Compare Roomba Models post if robot vacuums are of interest to you.

 

Comparison Table

 RatingCommentCompatibility RatingConnection MethodIFTTTIn-Built SpeakerBattery BackupUnique FeatureValueCheck Price
Samsung SmartThings100Most compatible smart hub10Wi-Fi, Zigbee,
Z-Wave
YesNoYesBattery Backup8Amazon
Amazon Echo Plus98Best Alexa smart hub9Wi-Fi, Zigbee,
Z-Wave
YesYesNoOriginal Alexa hub8Amazon
Google Home98Best entertainment smart hub9Wi-Fi, Zigbee,
Z-Wave
YesYesNoIntegrated Google tools8
Wink 295Easiest smart hub to use9Wi-Fi, Zigbee,
Z-Wave
YesNoNoEasiest to use7Amazon
Amazon Echo Dot94Budget smart hub9Wi-Fi, Zigbee,
Z-Wave
YesYesNoPortable10Amazon

 

 

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