Best Smart Home Hubs of 2018

Product Use case Rating
Samsung SmartThings v.3 Best Smart Home Hub 3.5
Amazon Echo Dot Best Budget Smart Home Hub 5
Google Home Best Google Home Hub 4
Apple TV 4K Best HomeKit Hub 3.5

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 v3 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. Still, there areas where it can be improved.

Our favorite budget option is the Amazon Echo Dot ($49); while not a hub in the traditional sense—you can only control devices connected to Wi-Fi— you can link lots of smart home devices in the Alexa app, and then trigger them using the Dot. Plus, the third-generation Dot has much improved audio over the previous model.

Latest News & Updates (November 2018)

The third-generation Samsung SmartThings hub can connect to hundreds of devices — more than most other hubs — and lets you create a wide range of different scenarios for all of the gadgets in your home. The newest version of the hub has Wi-Fi, which means you have more flexibility in where you can place it in your house, but it's lost its battery backup, so you won't be able to control connected smart home devices if the power goes out.

At just $49, the Echo Dot is half the price of most other hubs, making it an inexpensive investment for those just getting into smart home automation. However, it can control a wide variety of devices. 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.

This Amazon Echo competitor also has a built-in speaker, can respond to voice commands, and can both control smart home devices and stream music. But where the Google Home separates itself is its integration with Google Assistant, which lets you search for everything and anything. Plus, if you also have a Chromecast, you can control it via voice through Google Home.

MORE: Amazon Alexa Guide: Tips, Tricks, and How-Tos

Although its primary purpose is to stream content to your television, the Apple TV also serves as a gateway for a small but growing list of smart home gadgets. If connected through the Apple TV, you can manage HomeKit-compatible devices remotely from your phone, and even use Siri to control them, too. And finally, the Apple TV 4K supports 4K content.

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.

Which Smart Assistant Is Best?

When setting up a smart home, one of the first things you should think about is the voice assistant you wish to use to control your appliances. We compared Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri across a number of categories to determine which is the best.

Other Smart Home Hubs We Reviewed

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. We liked its ease of setup, its fairly speedy throughput, and the ability to expand its reach with extenders. Samsung offers the Connect Home (which offers speeds up up to 866 Mbps/5GHz and 400 Mbps/2.4GHz), or the Connect Home Pro (1733 Mbps/5GHz and 800 Mbps/2.4GHz).

as well as the Connect Home Pro

Apple's smart speaker sounds fantastic, thanks to its multitude of speakers and microphones, which automatically tune the HomePod to whatever room it's in. However, Siri can't do nearly as much as Alexa and Google Assistant, and HomeKit lags when it comes to smart home device integration.

The second-generation Echo Plus is larger, and delivers a much larger sound, than other Echo smart speakers. The plus also has a built-in Zigbee radio, which lets so-equipped smart home devices (such as Philips Hue lights) connect directly to your network—no bridge needed. The Plus sounds great, and connecting smart devices was a cinch, but it lacks the more complex interactions you can get with other hubs, and it doesn't yet support Z-Wave devices.

Slim and sleek, Wink's second-generation smart home hub connects to a large number of smart home gadgets: Alexa, Google Home, Z-Wave, Zigbee, Lutron Clear Connect, and Kidde devices. It will also connect to Bluetooth LE, and has built-in support for Google's Thread interface. Plus, Wink added a more powerful processor, eight times the amount of memory, as well as 5GHz Wi-Fi and an Ethernet port. As with the original Wink Hub, the Hub 2's intuitive interface is good for those dipping their toes into smart homes, but power users may be put off by its lack of advanced features.

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  • smarthometrends20
    Among all the hubs, we found the Echo Dot as the best bet. Low cost and absolutely amazing range of functionalities provided!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    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.
  • 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?
  • tbeckwith79
    Totally left off VeraPlus and VeraSecure which are superior to SmartThings in many ways.
  • 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.
  • 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)
  • echoalexatech
    can I connect amazon echo plus with google home speakers, as i think buying separate hub for google home is not what i want
  • albrightkw1121
    Which of these hubs don't require you to be connected to a cloud or internet?I have to agree with BDAVE for security concerns.
  • Mark_373
    How about reviewing the Logitech Harmony Hub next time? It looks like it does more than some of your other choices and is competitively priced.