You'll want one of the best smart home hubs if need a way to control all your smart home devices from one interface. Whether you own a smart lock, smart lights or a smart thermostats, a hub helps you keep your IoT ecosystem in order.
While many smart home devices increasingly have Wi-Fi built in, there are still a fair number of smart locks, smart lights, and door and window sensors that use Zigbee, Z-Wave, or Bluetooth, and need to connect directly to a smart home hub so that you can control them from your phone.
Also, a good smart home hub can allow your various smart home devices to "talk" to each other and interact without you having to do anything.
For example, a smart home hub can know when you're arriving home when it senses your smartphone, and automatically open your garage door, turn on your lights, change the thermostat, and even turn on your smart speaker to your favorite station.
But it's more than just convenience; a smart home hub can be used for security and safety measures, too. If a smoke detector activates, a smart home hub could turn on your lights, helping show you the way out.
Another advantage to using a smart home hub with Zigbee or Z-Wave devices is that you can still control them locally if your Internet connection goes down; it also makes it more secure, as commands don't have to travel up to the cloud and then back down to your home.
What are the best smart home hubs?
Our favorite of all the best smart home hubs is the Samsung SmartThings Hub v3. At less than $70, it's one of the more expensive smart home hubs, but worth the cost. Because it has both Zigbee and Z-Wave antennas, you can pair it with a huge range of smart home devices. From within the app, you can create dozens of scenes and automations, and you can even add other family members so that they can personalize settings to their liking. 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.
The best smart home hub for those on a budget is the third-generation Amazon Echo Dot, which costs less than $50. While you can't connect any smart home devices directly to the Echo Dot — you have to do everything through Wi-Fi — 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 Dot hears a fire alarm or a window breaking. And, because the Echo Dot is a smart speaker, you can also control your smart home devices by talking to Alexa.
We're still testing it, but a candidate for one of the cheapest smart home hubs is the Ezlo Atom. This $29 device is no bigger than a USB drive, but allows you to connect to Z-Wave devices and control them through the Vera app, available for Android and iOS. However, you'll need to provide your own power plug.
Though it's not on our list of the best smart home hubs, the Wink hub is adding a monthly subscription fee to its service. If you're a Wink user, and wish to continue using its products, you must sign up for a $4.99 monthly subscription, which you can cancel at any time.
The best smart home hubs you can buy today
1. Samsung SmartThings Hub v3
The best smart home hub overall
Size: 5 x 5 x 1.2 inches | Works With: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, Z-Wave | Ports: Ethernet, USB | Battery Backup: No
The third-generation Samsung SmartThings hub is our top pick of all 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.
This version of the SmartThings hub has Wi-Fi built in, so you no longer have to plug it in to your router. That means you can place it in a location that's optimal for connecting it to all your smart home devices. However, it no longer has battery backup, but chances are, if your power goes out, you won't be able to turn your lights on anyway.
Read our full Samsung SmartThings review.
2. Amazon Echo Dot
Best smart home hub on a budget
Size: 3.9 inches (diameter) x 1.7 inches | Works With: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth | Ports: 3.5mm audio | Battery Backup: No
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, Amazon has partnered with a number of other smart home device makers to make it easy to connect their products via Wi-Fi. 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.
The third-generation Dot has a larger and more powerful speaker than the previous model, and it has an updated design with a more attractive cloth cover. In addition to turning your lights and other devices on and off, the Dot can also read news headlines, weather reports, sports scores, and a host of other things.
Read our full Echo Dot review.
3. 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
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.
4. Amazon Echo Plus (2nd Gen)
Alexa-enabled smart home hub
Size: 5.9 x 3.5 x 3.5 inches | Works With: Zigbee | Ports: 3.5mm audio | Battery Backup: No
From the outside, there's not much that distinguished the Amazon Echo Plus with the Amazon Echo. They're roughly the same size and shape, are covered in a fabric-like mesh, and have buttons on the top for controlling volume and Alexa.
However, inside the Amazon Echo Plus is a Zigbee radio, which lets you connect other Zigbee devices directly to the Echo Plus. These can include such things as smart locks and lights, and Amazon has taken steps to make linking these devices more easily. Chief among them are Philips Hue lights.
While the level of smart home interactions through Alexa isn't as sophisticated as you'll find with SmartThings or Hubitat, they should be more than sufficient for the majority of smart home owners.
Read our full Amazon Echo Plus review.
5. Amazon Echo Show
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
One of the best smart home hubs and smart displays in one device, the second-generation Amazon Echo Show improves upon the original in every way: The screen is bigger and brighter, the design is much more attractive, it has a better camera for video calls, the audio is richer, and you can do more with its display.
Like the Amazon Echo Plus, the Echo Show has Zigbee built in, so you can connect smart home devices directly to the Show. However, at $229, 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 review.
6. Apple TV 4K
Best HomeKit smart home hub
Size: 3.9 x 3.9 x 1.9 inches | Works With: HomeKit | Ports: Ethernet, HDMI, microUSB | Battery Backup: No
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.
7. Samsung Connect Home
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
If you're looking for a Wi-Fi router and one of the best smart home hubs in one device, Samsung's Connect Home Hub is the way to go. This mesh router has Samsung's SmartThings Hub built in (which means you get Zigbee and Z-Wave), and offers good throughput and coverage for your Wi-Fi devices.
Samsung offers two versions: the Connect Home (which offers speeds up up to 866 Mbps/5GHz and 400 Mbps/2.4GHz), and the pricier the Connect Home Pro (1733 Mbps/5GHz and 800 Mbps/2.4GHz). In our tests, the Connect Home Pro had no problem pushing its signal through walls, though top speeds are limited if you're using SmartThings.
Read our full Samsung Connect Home Pro review.
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
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.
Read our full Apple HomePod 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.