If you're looking to outfit your house with smart lights, digital locks, security cameras, thermostats, and more, then you're going to need a smart home hub to connect them all together. Based on our extensive testing the Samsung SmartThings hub ($99) is your best option. Not only does it work with a wide range of devices, but its logic lets you set up fairly robust rules to trigger devices. Our favorite budget option is the Amazon Echo Dot ($49); while not a hub in the traditional sense, you can link lots of smart home devices in the Alexa app, and then trigger them using the Dot.
Why You Need a Smart Home Hub
As smart home gadgets proliferate, 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.
Apart from automation, a smart home hub is most useful when you have a lot of smart home devices that use Z-Wave, Zigbee, WeMo, or Bluetooth, rather than Wi-Fi. These radios are found most commonly in smart locks and door and window sensors. Their low power requirements mean that the devices can be small, and last years without you needing to change the battery. However, they need to connect to a smart home hub in order for you to control them remotely from your smartphone.
Why You Might Not Need a Smart Home Hub
Many smart home devices, such as smart plugs and switches, have Wi-Fi built in, or, in the case of Philips Hue bulbs and the August Smart Lock Pro, come with a Wi-Fi bridge, which lets you control them remotely without the need for a smart home hub.
Also, both Amazon Alexa and Google Home let you automate control of various smart home devices in so-called Routines, a set of pre-programmed actions that will activate at a pre-set time, or when you say a particular phrase. Here's how to set up an Alexa Routine, and how to set up a Google Home routine. In many cases, some smart home devices will even talk to each other, obviating the need for a hub entirely. For example, if your Nest Protect thermostat senses smoke, you can have it turn on your Philips hue lights and unlock your door. Or, the Nest Learning Thermostat can turn off your lights and close your blinds when it enters Away mode.
Smart Home Hub News (April 2018)
- If you're looking for a Wi-Fi router and smart home hub in one, Samsung's Connect Home Hub mesh router has its SmartThings hub built in.
- The Hogar Milo could be the Google Home equivalent of the Echo Plus; this new smart speaker has Zigbee, Z-Wave, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth built in, so you'll be able to connect smart home devices to it, rather than going through a third-party hub first. The Milo will be available for $149, but a shipping date has not been announced.
Other Hubs We Reviewed
See Also : 51 Best Amazon Alexa Skills