Samsung Connect Home Pro Review: Smart Home for Your Whole Home

Easy to set up, the Connect Home Pro router can fill a small home with Wi-Fi data while controlling  a wide variety of home-automation devices, In addition, it can increase its coverage with optional mesh extenders. Samsung also sells the Connect Home extensions that set up a mesh network and have two lanes of data traffic available instead of the Pro router's four. Either way, you'll need to use a phone to configure it, and there's not much to customize.

Costs and What’s Covered

Samsung's Connect Home Pro router sells for $199, while each Connect Home mesh extension adds $100. That puts a base router and extension in the same neighborhood price-wise as the Netgear Orbi, which comes with a similar pair of units. Samsung also sells a three-pack of mesh extensions for $250, matching Orbi's pricing, but for four units.

A single Connect Home Pro is rated to fill 1,500 square feet and adding three Connect Home mesh units can raise that to 4,500 square feet. Need more? The Connect Home scheme can work with up to five mesh extensions for a maximum coverage of 7,500 square feet, according to Samsung. For extra flexibility, the Connect Home and Pro units can be daisy-chained with Cat-6 cables or wirelessly.   

Design

With heavily rounded corners, the white Connect Home Pro looks a lot like the Eero router, but at 3.1 x5.8 x 5.8 inches, it's three times larger. It can sit horizontally or vertically on a shelf or table. Although there's no way to easily wall-mount any of the Home Connect gear, the gear is light enough to be attached with hook-and-loop fabric fasteners or double sided foam tape.

Connect Home Pro has a single LED up front to telegraph status: flashing green means it's setting up, and when it becomes solid green everything is connected. Red means that something's wrong. There's nothing like the displays on the F-Secure Sense and Amplifi HD, and you can't turn the Connect Home Pro's light off.

Inside, there's a fan.  The units get warm to the touch, but never got above 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The internal quartet of antennas can't be aimed or replaced with high-gain versions. On the downside, when the SmartThings hub is used to connect with IoT devices, one of the 2.4GHz antennas is diverted to connect with them.

Got a home with lots of thick walls? Samsung's Connect Home Pro can push a strong signal through them, extending range and raising throughput in older buildings.

In addition to a power port and reset button, Connect Home Pro has a pair of gigabit RJ-45 connectors: one for your broadband modem and the other for connecting to a downstream network. For those expecting three or four LAN connections, this might be a disappointment, but you can use a LAN switch with the gear. It lacks a USB port for a hard drive or printer.

Specs

Wi-Fi Spec: 802.11ac/Dual Band
Number of Antennas/Removable:
4/No
Ports:
2 Gbps LAN

Processor/Memory/Storage:
1.7GHz dual core/512MB/4GB
WiFi Chip:
Qualcomm IPQ8065

Peak 802.11ac performance:
634.5Mbps (at 15 feet)
Range:
70 feet

Size:
3.1x 5.8x 5.8 inches

MORE: Best Wi-Fi Routers 2018

Performance

Under the skin, Samsung's Connect Home Pro router is a 4X4 802.11AC device that is rated at a maximum throughput of 733Mbps using the 5GHz channels, and 800Mbps for 2.4GHz transmissions. This drops to 600MHz when you're using the Connect Home Pro's home automation abilities.

The router is technologically up to date with MuMIMO technology that allows many users at home to grab data, watch movies or play online games. Its explicit beamforming tailors the transmissions to the receiving device for top throughput.

Using ixChariot software to simulate a home network in our Utah test facility, the Connect Home Pro in stand-alone mode had a throughput of 618.8Mbps at 5 feet, but topped out at  634.5Mbps at 15 feet. This is more than 100Mbps above the Portal WiFi's 513.4 and 469.6Mbps at 5 and 15 feet, respectively.  

This throughput drops to 495.6Mbps at 50 feet, well ahead of Portal WiFi's 405.9Mbps. At 100 feet and beyond, Samsung's equipment falls behind with throughput of 354.8 and 311.2Mbps at 100 and 150 feet, compared with Portal WiFi's 384.1 and 358.8Mbps at the same distances. Eero was even farther behind at 229.9Mbps at 150 feet.

I plugged in the Connect Home Pro router and allowed the app to scan for it. It took all of 8 minutes to configure the router.

With its mesh extensions connected, Samsung Connect Home Pro network moved 424.5 and 286.5Mbps for single- and double-hop topologies. With all four devices connected, the system delivered 141.2Mbps to the network extremes. By comparison, Eero could  muster only 117.6Mbps at the edge of a three-device mesh network.

Got a home with lots of thick walls? Samsung's Connect Home Pro can push a strong signal through them, extending range and raising throughput in older buildings. It was able to deliver 548.9 and 578.3Mbps after passing through a metal wall and soundboard – more than 100Mbps higher data speeds than Portal WiFi or Eero.

At my 3,500-square-foot home, Samsung Connect Home Pro came up a little short, with about one-third remaining unconnected. It had a range of 70 feet. It did a good job of distributing everything from streaming movies to online apps and successfully passed my saturation test. While I watched video on my MacBook Air and listened to internet radio station on a Samsung Tab Pro S, I moved data onto and off a LAN storage system with a Microsoft Surface 3 tablet. The audio and video were smooth and artifact-free.

Setup

Getting the Connect Home Pro and Home devices linked and distributing Wi-Fi data starts with getting the Android or iOS app, but there are two catches: You can't use an iPad or Android tablet – the app is smartphone-only – and you need a live internet connection. Plus, you can't connect with a PC or Mac by using a web interface.

Using a Samsung Note 8 phone with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned on, I plugged in the Connect Home Pro router and allowed the app to scan for it. The app found it on the first try and automatically did the set-up.

At the end, the app inserted my personal network name and password. It took all of 8 minutes to configure the router.

Home Automation

The Home Connect Pro is fully in the Internet of Things era with the ability to link with and control Zigbee, Z-Wave and Samsung SmartThings home automation devices. These include door locks, burglar alarms and smoke alarms.

Happily, you can use a secure link for IoT devices, and the app worked well with a SmartThings power outlet switch. With the app, I remotely turned the power on and off, but couldn't dim a light.

In less than a minute, I was able to program the software to turn the light on and off at sunset and sunrise. There are other conditions available, like exact time of day, device status and location, as well as Scenes that can combine actions.

On the downside, the IoT device needs to be within about 20 feet of the router or a mesh extension to work.

MORE: Modem vs. Router: How They're Different and What They Do

Configuration

The Connect interface is bright and open, but because of its phone-only restriction only runs in portrait mode. It can set up a guest network, change the network name and password, as well as choose between a static IP addressing and DHCP automatic IP addressing. It can run in stand-alone or bridge mode, but that's about it.

In addition to not being able to have separate 2.4- and 5GHz network names and running only in IP V4, a Connect Home Pro network can't optimize channel width. It has a network traffic monitor that shows the connection's current speed that could help troubleshoot online problems.

Happily, Samsung includes a full manual that has helpful instructions. The product page on Samsung's site also has tips, instructions and a well-stocked forum.

Its security is adequate with WPA2 encryption, but unlike many of its peers, the Connect Home Pro lacks a separate firewall. It does without the deep-packet inspection and website monitoring of Norton's Core and cannot quickly connect to clients with Wireless Protected Setup (WPS). Its firmware updates are encrypted for maximum security.

Compared with other mesh networks, Connect Home Pro is a little behind the times. It can't filter content based on objectionable material, but can restrict the time the network can be used by children and adults. The gear comes with a one-year warranty, well behind Portal WiFi  three years of coverage.

Bottom Line

If you have a bunch of home automation sensors scattered throughout your home, Samsung's Connect Home Pro can integrate controlling them with reasonably powerful Wi-Fi. We loved the ease of setup it offers, even if we wish it had more customization options.

Compared with the Netgear Orbi — the best performing mesh router we've seen — the Samsung Connect Home Pro falls short in customization options and pure performance. You'll need a combination of the Connect Home Pro router and the three-pack of mesh extensions to match the performance offered by the Orbi's basic two-device system. But even if it doesn't replace the Orbi as our top pick, the Samsung Connect Home Pro is an effective way to fill even the most grandiose mansion with wireless data.

Credit: Samsung