As smart home gadgets proliferate — from lights and digital locks to security cameras and thermostats — it can help to have a centralized method to control them all. Smart home hubs offer this functionality, as they can connect all of your devices to the cloud and give you one app that acts as a sort of universal remote. Additionally, a hub provides the ability to automate your gadgets. So, for example, when you unlock your door, the lights in your entryway will automatically turn on, and the thermostat in your home will be set to the temperature you like.
However, the smart home category as a whole is still in its infancy, so not only is there a lot of confusion around what gadget will work with what hub, but the companies that make the hubs themselves are still working out the kinks. We reviewed the top smart home hubs, and all of them had issues, such as a confusing app or complicated setup process.
Smart home hubs as stand-alone devices may not last long. Increasingly, gadgets such as the Nest Learning Thermostat, the Logitech Harmony Elite remote control, the Almond Router—even Samsung's newest Smart TVs—can act as a bridge between your other smart home devices and the cloud. And, with the advent of Apple's HomeKit and Google's Thread, all you may need in the future is your smartphone.
But if you're looking to get all your devices connected today, the Samsung SmartThings hub is your best option, as it connects to a wide variety of products, and is fairly easy to set up and use. If you don't have a lot of smart home gadgets—say, just a thermostat and some LED bulbs—then the Amazon Echo ($179) or the Echo Dot ($49) may be a better choice. If you want the ability to search for anything by voice in your home, then the Google Home ($129) could be your best bet, though its integration with other smart home devices is still in its infancy. However, it can automatically stream content to Google Cast-enabled televisions, something Alexa can't do.
Wink recently announced the second generation of its hub, the $99 Wink Hub 2, which also can work with a wide gamut of smart home devices, and can also be controlled using Amazon's Alexa. It's now on sale at Amazon and Home Depot.
Check out our summary of all the smart home hubs we've reviewed below, and tell us in the comments whether you've tried one of these devices or whether you see the need for one.