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The best smart home hubs of 2020

Best smart home hubs

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

best smart home hubs: Samsung SmartThings

Samsung SmartThings Hub v3 (Image credit: Future)

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

Wi-Fi makes installing this hub easier
Allows for more automation than other hubs
Works with Zigbee and Z-Wave devices
Still missing Nest integration
Difficult to upgrade from older hub

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.

best smart home hubs - Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon Echo Dot (Image credit: Amazon)

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

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, 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.

best smart home hubs: Hubitat Elevation

Hubitat Elevation (Image credit: Future)

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

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.

best smart home hubs - Amazon Echo Plus (2nd Gen)

Amazon Echo Plus (2nd Gen) (Image credit: Amazon)

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

Great audio
Friendly design
Easy to set up
Temperature sensor
Limited smart-home features

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.

best smart home hubs - Amazon Echo Show

Amazon Echo Show (Image credit: Future)

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

Excellent audio with bass
Convenient smart-home hub
Two-way doorbell and camera audio
Clunky browsing experience
Nasty screen glare

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.

best smart home hubs: Apple TV 4K

Apple TV 4K (Image credit: Future)

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

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 Connect Home

Samsung Connect Home (Image credit: Samsung)

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

Simple setup
Home automation hub
Mesh extensions available
Not a lot to adjust or configure
Can't use an iPad for set up
Can be expensive

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.

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.

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.

  • 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