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The best smart home hubs of 2021

Best smart home hubs

The best smart home hubs make it easy for all of your smart home devices to work with each other. If you have smart lights, smart locks, and a smart thermostat, a smart home hub will let you connect them, so that they work in concert with each other. For example, when you leave your house, a smart home hub can tell your lights to turn off, your locks to shut, and your thermostat to lower the temperature. 

That's just one of the things a good smart home hub can do, but some are more capable than others. That's why we've tested the leading devices on the market to let you know which is best.

What are the best smart home hubs?

For years, our favorite smart home hubs has been the Samsung SmartThings Hub, not so much for the hardware, but for Samsung's SmartThings platform, which makes it easy to connect Zigbee, Z-Wave, and other devices. It even has a home monitoring component, which can send you an alarm, record video, turn on lights, play sounds, and unlock your doors in the event of a smoke or fire alarm. And, it now works with Nest products, something it's been missing for years. 

However, Samsung is no longer making its SmartThings Hub, so to use its SmartThings platform, you'll need the Aeotec Smart Home Hub ($125) or another SmartThings-compatible hub. 

The 4th-generation Amazon Echo will probably appeal to more people, as it doubles as a smart speaker. It lacks Z-Wave, but has Zigbee, Bluetooth and Amazon Sidewalk. Amazon's Alexa app allows you to create routines that can activate your smart home devices through triggers, such as you leaving or arriving home. Alexa Guard can also turn on smart home devices if your Echo hears a fire alarm or a window breaking. And, because the Echo is a smart speaker, you can also control your smart home devices by talking to Alexa. 

Read on for all the best smart home hubs.

The best smart home hubs you can buy today

Best smart home hubs: Amazon Echo (4th-gen)

Amazon Echo (4th-gen) (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

1. Amazon Echo (4th gen)

Best smart home hub for Alexa users

Size: 5.7 inches (diameter) | Wireless: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, Sidewalk | Ports: 3.5mm audio | Battery Backup: No

Sleek spherical design
Great smart home skills
Audio in/out port
I wish it had a clock
Audio not as good as Sonos One

With Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Zigbee, the Amazon Echo (4th generation) is the best smart home hub for most people. Thanks to its multiple radios, it can connect to a huge number of low-power smart home devices, and Alexa's routines are pretty sophisticated, letting you use a number of triggers to automatically activate other smart home devices. It also works with Alexa Guard, which will listen for glass breaking and smoke alarms, and can turn on your lights and notify you in the event of an emergency.

The 4th-generation Echo also supports Amazon Sidewalk, a very new low-power, long-range networking protocol, which will work with things such as Tile trackers and smart lights over much greater distances. 

Read our full Amazon Echo review.

best smart home hubs: Samsung SmartThings

Samsung SmartThings Hub v3 (Image credit: Future)

2. Samsung SmartThings Hub v3

The best pure smart home hub

Size: 5 x 5 x 1.2 inches | Wireless: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, Z-Wave | Ports: Ethernet, USB | Battery Backup: No

Wi-Fi makes installing this hub easier
Allows for more automation than other hubs
Works with Zigbee and Z-Wave devices
Works with Nest

The third-generation Samsung SmartThings hub is one of the best smart home hubs because it has both Zigbee and Z-Wave inside, so you can connect to hundreds of devices, more than most other hubs. What's more, the SmartThings app is loaded with functionality, which lets you create a wide range of different scenarios for all of the gadgets in your home. Best of all, SmartThings now works with Nest products, making it a truly complete smart home hub.

Samsung is no longer making the hardware for its hubs, but other companies are making SmartThings-compatible hubs. Stay tuned for our review of these third-party SmartThings hubs.

Read our full Samsung SmartThings review.

best smart home hubs: Apple HomePod mini

(Image credit: Future)

3. Apple HomePod mini

The best smart home hub for HomeKit

Size: 3.9 inches (diameter), 3.3 inches tall | Wireless: 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, Thread | Ports: None | Battery backup: No

Great audio for size
Competitive price
Attractive design
Limited child controls
No physical microphone button

We actually think that Apple's HomeKit smart home platform is better than Google's. Even though HomeKit supports fewer devices, it allows for greater complexity when creating smart home routines. And, we don't have to worry as much what Apple is doing with our data.

The HomePod mini is not only an affordable smart speaker, but it also acts as a HomeKit hub, letting you connect locks, lights, and other low-power devices directly to it. The HomePod mini also has Thread built in; while there are relatively few smart home gadgets that have this technology, we expect it to increase in popularity, as it's supported by both Apple and Google.

Read our full Apple HomePod mini review.

Best smart home hubs: Amazon Echo Dot with Clock

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

4. Amazon Echo Dot

Best smart home hub on a budget

Size: 3.3 inches (diameter) | Wireless: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth | Ports: 3.5mm audio | Battery Backup: No

Inexpensive
Nice design
Vastly improved audio
Can't change its look
Doesn't get loud

At just $49, the Echo Dot is half the price of most of the other best smart home hubs, making it an inexpensive investment for those just getting into smart home automation. While it lacks Zigbee or Z-Wave, if your smart home devices have Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, this shouldn't be a problem. 

And, via the Alexa app, you can create some surprisingly powerful routines; we especially like Alexa Guard, which can activate smart home devices if it hears fire alarms or glass breaking.

You can purchase the Amazon Echo Dot in a few flavors: The 4th-generation Echo Dot costs $49, the 4th-generation Echo Dot with Clock (our personal favorite) is $59, or the older (and flatter) 3rd-generation Echo Dot, which now costs $49.

Read our full Amazon Echo Dot review.

best smart home hubs: Hubitat Elevation

Hubitat Elevation (Image credit: Future)

5. Hubitat Elevation

Best smart home hub for power users

Size: 2.5 x 2.5 x 0.5 inches | Works With: Zigbee, Z-Wave, IFTTT, Wi-Fi | Ports: Power, Ethernet | Battery Backup: No

Works with Zigbee and Z-Wave devices
Allows for complex interactions between smart home devices
All smart home logic stored locally
Steep learning curve
Hub has to be plugged into router

Because of its steep learning curve but incredibly granular controls, the Hubitat Elevation is the best smart home hub for power users. Homeowners who want to create incredibly specific rules and situations for when their smart home devices activate will appreciate all that you can do from within Hubitat's web interface. 

The Hubitat Elevation itself is very small — the size of a thick coaster — but packs in both Zigbee and Z-Wave antennas. However, it lacks Wi-Fi, so you'll have to plug it into your router in order to use it. When we first reviewed the Hubitat Elevation, it lacked a smartphone app, so you had to control everything through a web interface. Since then, the company added a mobile app for both Android and iPhones, making it easier to monitor your smart home on the go.

Read our full Hubitat Elevation review.

Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd gen)

Amazon Echo Show 10 (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

6. Amazon Echo Show 10

Alexa smart home hub with a big display

Size: 9.7 x 6.9 x 4.2 inches | Works With: Zigbee, Nest, Philips Hue, SmartThings, IFTTT, WeMo, Honeywell | Ports: microUSB | Battery Backup: No

Excellent audio with bass
Convenient smart-home hub
Two-way doorbell and camera audio
Very large
Expensive

One of the best smart home hubs and smart displays in one device, the third-generation Amazon Echo Show 10 can now turn to face whoever is asking Alexa questions. It ensures that you get the best view of the screen, but as a result, requires a lot more room than previous models. 

Like the Amazon Echo Plus, the Echo Show has Zigbee built in, so you can connect smart home devices directly to the Show. It also has Amazon Sidewalk, a new networking technology that connects low-power devices to the Internet at greater distances (products with Sidewalk are few and far between. However, at $249, it's one of the more expensive smart home speakers around. We'd recommend purchasing it for its other features before considering it as a smart home hub.

Read our full Amazon Echo Show 10 review.

best smart home hubs: Apple TV 4K

Apple TV 4K (Image credit: Future)

7. Apple TV 4K

A HomeKit smart home hub with a streaming TV platform

Size: 3.9 x 3.9 x 1.9 inches | Works With: HomeKit | Ports: Ethernet, HDMI, microUSB | Battery Backup: No

Fantastic 4K HDR content
Intuitive home screen
Simple iOS and macOS integration
Fiddly remote
No digital audio or USB ports

Apple's HomeKit smart home platform isn't as popular as Google's or Amazon's, but it is very powerful for what it offers, namely, a fairly sophisticated setup of interactions between your smart home devices. However, these devices all have to be connected through a smart home hub. 

While you can use a variety of Apple products as a HomeKit hub—an iPad and the HomePod also work—the Apple TV 4K is the least expensive method. Plus, it's one of the best streaming devices around, letting you watch 4K HDR content from a large number of sources via an easy-to-use interface. We're not fans of its remote, though.

Read our full Apple TV 4K review.

best smart home hubs: Samsung SmartThings Wifi

Samsung SmartThings Wifi (Image credit: Samsung)

8. Samsung SmartThings Wifi

Smart home hub and mesh router in one

Size: 4.7 x 4.7 x 1.6 inches | Works With: Wi-Fi, Zigbee, Z-Wave, SmartThings | Ports: Ethernet | Battery Backup: No

Excellent performance
Home automation hub
Mesh extensions available
Requires two apps
Short range

Available in a three pack for $289 (or $120 per device), the Samsung SmartThings Wifi is the best mesh Wi-Fi system we've reviewed at this price. But more than just a mesh router, the SmartThings Wifi also acts as a smart home hub, letting you create automations for connected home devices, such as timers for smart lights and powered window shades, and deep integration with Samsung's own smart home products.

It's one of the best mesh Wi-Fi  options for anyone who is into home automation, and an economical way to fill just about any home with Wi-Fi while satisfying demanding users.

Read our full Samsung SmartThings Wifi review.

best smart home hubs: Apple HomePod

Apple HomePod (Image credit: Future)

9. Apple HomePod

HomeKit smart home hub and smart speaker in one

Size: 6.8 inches x 5.8 inches (diameter) | Works With: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth | Ports: None | Battery Backup: No

Excellent audio quality
Attractive design
Can stream only from Apple Music (other services require AirPlay)
Siri is very limited compared with Alexa and Google Assistant
Expensive

The Apple HomePod's smart speaker sounds fantastic, thanks to its multitude of speakers and microphones, which automatically tune the HomePod to whatever room it's in. While bulky, it's a fairly attractive device, and the top lights up in a rainbow of colors when you activate Siri.

When it comes to smart home devices, there are relatively few that work with HomeKit when compared to Alexa and Google Assistant. However, Apple has built a pretty robust set of features that allow you to control those devices based on your location, time of day, and more. In fact, you can do more with HomeKit than you can with Google Assistant. 

However, this is a pricey speaker, and Siri as a virtual assistant is on the whole more limited than Alexa and Google Assistant. And, the HomePod's silicone base can stain some wood furniture.

As of March 2021, Apple has discontinued the HomePod; while it will continue to support the product, availability is limited to remaining inventory.

Read our full Apple HomePod review.

best smart home hubs: Google Nest Hub Max

Google Nest Hub Max  (Image credit: Future)

10. Google Nest Hub Max

A great smart display, but limited smart home hub capabilities

Size: 9.9 x 7.2 x 4 inches | Works With: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Thread | Ports: None | Battery Backup: No

Great display
Excellent audio
Lots of entertainment options
Good camera for video chats
Google Home has limited smart home capabilities

The Google Nest Hub Max is an excellent smart display: It has a spacious 10-inch screen which can be used for watching YouTube and Netflix, looking up recipes, news, and more; its dual speakers are powerful; and its 6.5MP camera is great for Google Duo video calls, and will even "follow" you as you move across the room.

Connectivity-wise, it has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Thread, a new smart home networking protocol that Google has been trying to popularize for a few years. The Nest Hub Max's display can be used to view live footage from Google Assistant-compatible home security cameras, video doorbells, and baby monitors, and on-screen controls let you adjust smart light levels. However, as a smart home platform, Google Home doesn't have nearly the same sophistication as Alexa or HomeKit.

Read our full Google Nest Hub Max review.

How to choose the best smart home hub for you

When choosing a smart home hub that's best for your needs, you first have to ask yourself what you want to do with it, and what you want to control. If all you have is one set of smart lights, then you probably don't need a smart home hub. But, if you have smart lights and a smart lock, and want the lights to turn on when the lock opens at night, then you might need a smart home hub.

Consider the products you want to connect. If they're all on Wi-Fi, then you can use a smart home hub like the Amazon Echo Dot, and use the Alexa app to control everything. If you have other types of devices — Zigbee and Z-Wave, for instance — you'll need to purchase a smart home hub that can receive those signals. 

How we test smart home hubs

Testing smart home hubs involves us installing the hubs in a real-world scenario, and seeing how well they perform. How easy is it to set up, both in terms of the hardware and the software? How simple is it to connect other smart home devices to the hub?

After that, they key to any smart home hub is determining how complex you can make the interactions between various smart home devices. For instance, if a hub only lets you create rules based on the time of day or when you speak a command, then that's pretty limited. The best smart home hubs will let you do much more, such as changing their status based on your location or what happens when another smart home device turns on or off.

We look to see how sophisticated we can make these rules and routines, and the ease with which we can create them. Lastly, we test the routines we create to see how well they work.

  • mprospero
    Archived comments are found here: http://www.tomsguide.com/forum/id-2864237/smart-home-hub-bad.html
    Reply
  • smarthometrends20
    Among all the hubs, we found the Echo Dot as the best bet. Low cost and absolutely amazing range of functionalities provided!
    Reply
  • Bob_127
    I wouldn't call the Alexa product line a "hub" as much as an interface. Each smart device needs some other device that Alexa can send commands to. As far as I know, Alexa doesn't communicate directly with any smart plug, outlet or thermostat.
    Reply
  • mprospero
    @Bob - Actually, there are a number of devices that Alexa can directly send commands to - if a device can connect via Wi-Fi to your home network, it generally doesn't need any other intermediary.
    Reply
  • Bob_127
    But that is not a hub. It is still an interface. Sounds like you're talking about devices that don't require a hub.
    Reply
  • Old_Mustang
    Agree with Bob_127. Alexa, Dot and Google Home are not hubs. They are Virtual Assistants or Smart Speakers. Refer to the recent review from Dealerscope mag.
    http://www.dealerscope.com/post/amazon-alexa-vastly-overrated-smart-speaker/#ne=14b1cdaef539c770e3293027e294a4c5utm_source=dealerscope-todayutm_medium=newsletterutm_campaign=2017-06-29&utm_content=amazon+alexa+is+vastly+overrated+as+a+%E2%80%9Csmart%E2%80%9D+speaker-2
    IOT Agenda (TechTarget) defines a hub as "…a hardware device that connects the devices on a home automation network and controls communications among them". Neither Google nor Echo have ‘devices’ directly connected to them like the Wink or Smartthings. Nor does either the Google Home or Echo/Dot directly control communications. They are initiating the apps commands indirectly. Example: As stated Wi-Fi devices do not directly connect to either Google Home or Echo/Dot. They actually connect to the user's router which then connects to the Wi-Fi device service provider (cloud) which then connects to Amazon Echo or Google Home platform (cloud) and, provided the service provider has certified their products and app on the Amazon Echo or Google Home platform, will allow the Echo/Dot or Google Home to pass the verbal commands to the service provider which in turn translates the verbal commands to the app commands and send the commands to the router which then sends the commands to the device. None of this action is completed by Echo or Dot or Google home directly. Conversely, Smartthings and Wink have devices connected directly to them and issue commands (from the app) directly to the device. This is what a hub does.
    The Echo/Dot and Google Home are simply indirect means for the user to initiate commands rather than using the service provider’s app directly. And, if the internet goes down, Echo/Dot and Google can’t even do that. Whereas SmartThings (V2) can still execute scheduled events and/or automations even if the hub is off line.
    Don’t get me wrong, I love my Echo and Dots (I have 4). So does my wife. In fact, if I got a divorce, I would get the house but the Echo/Dots would have go with her. Both Google Home and Echo/Dot work well with SmartThings, Wink and other hubs. But they are not hubs.
    Greatly appreciate your reviews, but I feel in this case you may be confusing your readers by grouping all these together as ‘hubs’. My 2 cents.
    Reply
  • bdave
    The Samsung SmartThings Hub #1 Really! 1st off the hub runs in the ST Cloud, Do I really want to put things like my front door lock "In the Cloud"? Then I read after that realization that it's confirmed the software is full of security holes. Now you enter the Lat / Lon Coords. when you setup the hub so the hackers know exactly which house the front door will be unlocked at the push of a button AND possibly with the right sensors attached the hub will know when the house is empty. OK enough of that!
    The programming on this hub is supposed to be easy enough for a "homeowner" to program it. Well I've done significant programming in the past and the programming for Smart Apps and Devices is extremely difficult! Written in Groovy, a Java based language that's "Full of beans". I pulled examples out of the documentation (with their convenient copy button) and it didn't function! It just spit out multiline error messages mostly unreadable! One Single error message can be 3 lines with long path statements to the Java code called. You must scan it for one keyword from your code, NOT simple and "Groovy" for a beginner. Just to send an "HTTP get" out you have to choose between two families of commands one limited to inside your LAN and another limited to outside your LAN, totally different commands??? I've used a Vera awhile back and it was a hub that would talk to devices ALL local, actually worked but too basic, and programmed in LUUA. what is available?
    Reply
  • tbeckwith79
    Totally left off VeraPlus and VeraSecure which are superior to SmartThings in many ways.
    Reply
  • onlinesportstudio
    I Use AppleTV as A HUB with HOS Smart Home All In One App, This Allow Me To Control All Home Automation Devices From Apple HomeKit, digitalSTROM, BACnet, KNX as Well as MY SONOS Speakers and Philipps Hue using SIRI Remote Control Voice Commands.
    Reply
  • TJohn
    Industry run amok. again. all these hardware vendors and hubs and no unifying protocols. App fatigue. You have to have an app for every brand of control. It is insane. I am holding off spending any more until the industry software catches up with the hardware and some standards (remember token ring? Betamax)
    Reply