Amazon Echo Hub hands-on: Smart home central

Amazon Echo Hub
(Image credit: Future)

While smart displays such as the Echo Show 8, Echo Show 10, and Echo Show 15 all have allowed you to control your smart home devices. none of them have acted as a dedicated hub for all your connected cameras, lights, and locks.

We had a chance to check out the new Amazon Echo Hub, which is tightly focused on helping you manage your smart home devices. It was announced at the 2023 Amazon Devices & Services event, held in Arlington, VA. Here's our first impressions of the new gadget.

Amazon Echo Hub: Price and expected availability

The Echo Hub will cost $179.99 / AU$329 on Amazon; Amazon has not yet announced when it will be available other than "later this year," but you can sign up to be notified. 

Amazon Echo Hub: Design

Amazon Echo Hub

(Image credit: Future)

The Echo Hub is a lot smaller than I thought it would be; it's essentially a very slim 8-inch tablet, which can be either wall-mounted or propped up on a desk using an attachment. 

The device itself measures 7.9 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches, and has an 8-inch display with a resolution of 1280 x 800 — very similar to Amazon's other tablets and smart displays of that size. The rear of the Echo Hub has a small recess for its power cable, so you can flush-mount it to a wall over an outlet. Its USB-C port also lets you use Power over Ethernet, should you have that available. However, it has to be plugged in at all times.

The right side of the Echo Hub has three buttons: One to mute its microphone, and two more buttons to control the volume. 

At the bottom of the Echo Hub's bezel is a three-microphone array, while an infrared proximity sensor sits at the top. Unlike Amazon's other smart displays, the Echo Hub does not have a camera, so you can't use it for video calls as you can with its other devices. However, it does have a set of speakers (albeit tiny ones) so you can at least talk with those you see on the other end of your video doorbell.

The Echo Hub can connect via Wi-Fi (802.11ac), Bluetooth, Thread, Matter, and Zigbee, and has Amazon Sidewalk built-in, too.

Amazon Echo Hub on table

(Image credit: Future)

Amazon Echo Hub: Interface

Amazon Echo Hub

(Image credit: Future)

As the Echo Hub is focused on smart home controls, its display is dominated by widgets to control your devices. The center of the display has widgets for groups of devices, which can be grouped by room or device type. So, you can have a widget for all the smart home gadgets in your living room, or a widget for all your security cameras.

Along the bottom of the display are icons for device types: lights, locks, thermostats, and so forth. If you have a smart speaker, one of the icons will display the music that's playing. And, on the left, there's a column that lets you access the devices you've grouped by room, as well as your Alexa routines.

Just like Amazon's other smart displays, the Echo Hub also has streaming apps like Max, Prime Video, recipe suggestions, and anything else you might see on another smart display. However, I have a feeling that it probably won't be used for things other than controlling smart home devices, as its tiny speakers aren't going to provide the same sort of audio oomph you'd get with larger smart displays. 

Where a device like the Google Nest Hub is smart home-focused — but still lets you do other stuff — the Echo Hub is much more purpose-built for one thing. However, it will let you control other Alexa-related things, such as your calendar and shopping list, and view them on the screen.

When no one is near the Echo Hub, its display will show things like your family photos, but when you approach the device, its proximity sensor will switch to showing you smart home controls - similar to what you get with the Echo Show 15.

During my brief hands-on demo, the Echo Hub seemed a bit laggy when opening screens and menus, but we were seeing an early sample, so I would expect the finished product to be much more responsive. 

Alexa Map View

(Image credit: Future)

Coming some time after its launch, the Echo Hub will also support Alexa's new Map View, which shows all your smart home devices laid out on a map of your home. For those who have a ton of smart lights and devices, it's really handy for remembering which gadget is in which room — and controlling them all from one place.

Amazon Echo Hub vs. the competition

With the Echo Hub, Amazon is branching into a market that has thus far been dominated by professional installers. It's much more compact — and less expensive than the $249 Echo Show 15, which has more capabilities, such as built-in Fire TV. A closer comparison to the Echo Hub might be the Brilliant Control Panel, which starts at $399; that device also lets you control all your smart home devices, check in on your security cameras, and even works as an intercom, thanks to its built-in camera (it also has Alexa and Google Assistant built in). 

It's a good response to Google's $499 Pixel Tablet and $229 Nest Hub Max, both of which 

Amazon Echo Hub: Outlook

Amazon Echo Hub

(Image credit: Future)

The Echo Hub isn't really delivering anything you can't get with some of Amazon's other smart displays. However, it's giving a much more tightly focused product geared towards those who just want a smart home controller. While I wish it had a camera built in, it looks like it will be useful for those who are looking for an easier way to control all their smart home devices. 

Mike Prospero
U.S. Editor-in-Chief, Tom's Guide

Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.