The more smart home devices you add to your home, the more you're going to need one of the best smart home hubs. A smart home hub acts as a centralized spot from which you can control all of your various devices, be it lights, locks, garage door openers, thermostats, cameras, and more.
More importantly, a smart home hub lets you connect all those smart home devices together. For instance, when you lock your smart lock, a smart home hub can tell your lights to turn off, and your thermostat to go into eco mode. It's a key gadget for creating an automated smart home.
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 smart home hubs on the market to let you know which is best.
The best smart home hubs
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. It also connects to scores of smart home devices; you'll want to check out our list of the best Alexa compatible devices when putting together your smart home.
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.
For years, the Samsung SmartThings hub was one of our top picks for the best smart home hubs because it had 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 and Matter products, making it a truly complete smart home hub.
However, Samsung is no longer making its SmartThings Hub, so to use its SmartThings platform, you'll need the Aeotec Smart Home Hub, which replicates all of the same functions. It's essentially the same hardware, but with a different logo on the front, and in our testing, it worked just as well.
Read our full Aeotec Smart Home Hub review.
We actually think that Apple's HomeKit smart home platform is better than Google's. Even though HomeKit supports fewer devices (check out our list of the best HomeKit 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. As of iOS 16.1, it has been updated to support Matter, too.
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.
In addition, the HomePod mini has temperature and humidity sensors, which Apple activated in January 2023; you can use these sensors to create automations in HomeKit.
Read our full Apple HomePod mini review.
At just $59, the Echo Dot with Clock 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, it also works with Matter and as an extender if you have an eero mesh Wi-FI router.
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.
If you want to save a few bucks, the 5th-generation Echo Dot — sans clock — costs $49, and the older (and flatter) 3rd-generation Echo Dot now costs $49.
Read our full Amazon Echo Dot with Clock review.
The Apple HomePod (2nd generation) looks much like the original, but inside, it's had a few upgrades to make it more future-proof for the smart home. For starters, it supports the Matter smart home standard, so it should be easier to connect and control a greater range of smart home devices. And, the HomePod 2 also has temperature and humidity sensors, which can be used to create automations in HomeKit.
Coming this spring, an update to the HomePod will enable it to listen for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and send you an alert if it hears an alarm. We found that the HomePod 2 sounded every bit as good as the original — it's one of the best smart speakers — but its high price of $299 may turn off those who aren't invested in Apple's ecosystem.
Read our full Apple HomePod (2nd gen) review.
The Starling Home Hub does one thing, and does one thing well: It connects Nest devices — such as the Nest Learning Thermostat and the Nest Protect — to Apple's HomeKit smart home platform. (Sadly, Apple and Nest have never played well together). This means if you're using Apple's smart home platform, you can use some of the best smart thermostats and best smart smoke detectors.
Even better — the Starling Hub also lets you view your Nest security cameras in the Apple Home app, and even use HomeKit secure video for supported Nest cameras — the Nest Cam (wired), Nest Cam (battery), and Nest Cam with Floodlight. However, you'll need to subscribe to Nest Aware, so the costs can add up. Starling also released an iOS app, so you no longer have to use a web interface to adjust settings or connect new devices.
Read our full Starling Home Hub review.
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.
Hubitat relased a new smart home hub: the Hubitat Elevation Model C-8 ($149) features Z-Wave Plus 800 and Zigbee 3.0. In addition, it has two external Antennas, has both Wi-Fi and Ethernet, and will run off a USB-C power supply. The company is also offering free migration from its older C-5 and C-7 hubs.
Read our full Hubitat Elevation review.
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. 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.
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.
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.
However, if you want full smart home support, you'll need to get the $149 Apple TV 4K; in addition to an Ethernet port, this is the only model that has support for Thread and Matter, the new smart home standard.
Read our full Apple TV 4K (2022) review.
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. And, the best Google Home compatible devices are nearly as numerous as those that work with Alexa.
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
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.
For most people, the best smart home hub will be the 4th Generation Amazon Echo. You can connect it with other smart home devices via Wi-Fi, Zigbee, Bluetooth and Amazon Sidewalk, and, through the Amazon Alexa app, you can 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. It's also been updated to support Matter.
If you're looking for more deeper integration among your smart home devices, the best option is the Aeotec Smart Home Hub, which works with Samsung's SmartThings platform. It allows for more granular control from one device to another, and lets you create more sophisticated routines. It's also very easy to use, and will be updated to support Matter this year.
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, or Z-Wave?
Every smart home device will use some sort of wireless technology to communicate with others. Smaller devices, such as door and window sensors and motion detectors, will generally use Zigbee or Z-Wave, as they're low power, and don't need to transmit a lot of data. That's why these sensors can be built so small; however, they need to link to a bridge (such as a smart home hub) if you want to connect them to the internet. Traditionally, smart locks have also used this technology, but increasingly are switching over to Wi-Fi. You can read our explainer on Zigbee, Z-Wave, Thread and WeMo for a deeper dive.
Larger devices, and those that can draw from a steady power source, generally use Wi-Fi, as it can transmit more data, and doesn't require a bridge or a hub. Devices in this category include home security cameras, smart thermostats, and video doorbells.
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.
A new connectivity standard called Matter is coming online this year. This protocol, which has been endorsed by Amazon, Google, and Apple, among many others, promises to make linking smart home devices far simpler. It also will potentially make many more smart home devices available to HomeKit owners, which has been one of the friction points for Apple's smart home platform. However, not all current smart home devices will support Matter, so if you want to use it, you may have to purchase new equipment.
Smart home hub FAQ
What does a hub do in a smart home?
When you have a lot of smart home devices, you want to be able to control them from one place. A smart home hub can talk to all of those devices, so that you can use a single app to control everything. What's more, a smart home hub will let you create interactions between your various smart home devices. For example, you can program your smart lights to turn on automatically if you unlock your smart lock, or open your garage door.
What smart hub works with Nest?
The Nest Hub Max can be used to control all Nest products, such as the Nest Learning Thermostat, the Nest Cam, and the Nest Doorbell. If you want something that can work with Nest and other products, then we recommend SmartThings, which lets you do a lot more than you can with Google Home alone.
How we test smart home hubs
We test every smart home hub by installing them in a real-world scenario (our house, to be exact). The first criteria is to determine how easy they are to set up; those aimed at novice smart home users should be simpler to understand than advanced smart home hubs.
We also look at the number of devices that can connect to a smart home hub. After all, if there aren't that many things that can work with a hub, its usefulness is rather limited.
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.
For more information on our testing methodology and ratings, please check out the Tom's Guide how we test page.
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.
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?