- Protocol: Bluetooth, WiFi
- Voice Control: Amazon Alexa
- AC-power, no battery backup
- Range: 30 to 40 feet
- Alexa app for iOS, Android, and Fire
- 90-day warranty
At under $50, the Amazon Echo Dot is a smart home hub for the budget-conscious consumer. This voice speaker doubles up as a smart hub, connecting with smart lights, smart locks, smart thermostats and more from brands like Philips Hue, Ecobee, Nest, Wink, and Honeywell. You can even make voice calls through the Echo Dot.
The speaker itself comes with over 50K “skills” built-in, including music from Pandora, Spotify, or Amazon Music, integrations with popular services like Lyft, and fun games like Jeopardy!
One of these skills is Sleep and Relaxation Sounds, which transforms your Echo Dot into a full-blown white noise library, featuring nature sounds, static noise, and soothing music. Ask Alexa to “open night light,” and the ring will lightly pulsate with light to soothe a restless child, or to light the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. There are also Bedtime Story and Guided Meditation apps. The Echo Dot also comes with Parental controls, so you can limit use for your kids’ Echo and set it to Bedtime Mode at a certain time.
The Echo Dot comes with a lot, but it’s limited in many ways, too. It has one of the shortest smart home hub warranties we’ve seen, at only 90 days, and is limited in its compatibility with protocols and other smart home brands. It has a short range and there’s no battery backup, either. And while the Echo Dot is a mini-speaker, if you really want music to be loud, you’ll need to invest in separate speakers to connect.
The Echo Dot is not just small on your budget; it’s small in size, too. At just over three inches in diameter and 1 inch high, you’ll barely notice this device. It comes in silver and black to suit varying preferences.
Smart hubs are feature-packed devices. It’s important to understand the common features so you can make sure the ones you want are included in any smart hub you decide to purchase.
Now that you know what features to look out for, how do you ensure you select the best smart hub for you? Read the below FAQ to learn more about how smart hubs work and choosing the best smart hub for your home.
What is a smart home hub? What does a smart home hub do?
In short, a smart hub serves as the hub that ties all of your smart home devices together. This provides you with several benefits.
Because your smart hub connects to your home internet, it essentially sets up all of your devices on the cloud. This is especially useful in the case of certain smart home devices, such as smart lights or smart locks, that may not connect to the internet by themselves Many of these use Bluetooth or connect directly to a smart hub.
Once connected to your smart hub, however, you can control these devices remotely and set up trigger actions between them and your other smart home devices. The smart hub essentially brings all your devices online for interconnected functionality with the rest of your home.
With a smart hub, you can control all of your devices remotely using either a compatible voice assistant or the app on your smartphone. Plus, you can set up trigger actions for your various smart home devices from one centralized app, instead of using multiple apps—one for each device. You can create routines that tell your smart lights to begin dimming at a certain hour to prepare you for bed, at the same time your smart thermostat starts lowering the temperature.
Do I need a smart home hub?
If you plan to have multiple smart home devices, the answer is probably yes. In many cases, you can get away with not having a smart home hub, as each individual device will have its own form of connectivity.
However, you’ll be sacrificing a lot. If some of your devices work only on Bluetooth, you won’t be able to use them remotely. You’ll have to remember how each one connects so you’re aware of which are remote and which aren’t. Plus, you’ll completely miss out on the ability to set up routines, such as automatically turning all your devices into sleep mode—dimming the lights, cooling the temperature, locking the doors—all at the same time.
If you are only going to have one smart home device, getting a smart hub is over engineering for your needs. For example, Philips smart lights come with their own Philips Hue hub, so you wouldn’t need a separate hub if you don’t plan on getting any other type of smart home device.
Also, if you are using the Nest smart home system, you can probably get away with not having a smart hub, since the Nest devices are all set up to talk to each other anyway.
How can a smart hub help me sleep better?
Many smart devices tackle different senses of the sleep experience. Your smart thermostat cools at night and warms in the morning, facilitating your body’s own thermoregulation process and subtly reinforcing your natural circadian rhythms.
Likewise, your smart lights dim at night, or change to a redder hue, signaling to your brain that darkness is approaching and so is the time for sleep. In the morning, they brighten to give your body a natural energy boost and help you wake up more energized. These devices engage your senses of touch and vision as they relate to sleep.
Because smart hubs integrate with Amazon Alexa or another smart voice assistant, you can use your smart hub to engage your sense of hearing. You can turn on a white noise library, blocking out disruptive street noise and cuing your mind to fall asleep.
Best of all, you can set up schedules with your smart hub for your bedtime and morning routines, incorporating a variety of these devices to help you alternately calm down or get energized.
Finally, the whole point of smart devices is to provide you with time-saving convenience. Because your smart lights know to dim at night when you tell them to, you don’t have to dim them manually. Smart hubs take time-saving to a new level. You don’t have to tell individual devices what to do. You can just tell your smart hub what you want, and it will relay your message to all of the devices at once, dimming your lights, cooling the thermostat, and locking your doors.
What is the best smart hub for me?
There are plenty of great smart hubs out there, as you can see from our rave reviews. But the best smart hub for you will depend on a variety of factors.
- Compatibility: The most important consideration is which devices your smart hub is compatible with. You want to buy one that works with your current devices, as well as any you might like to purchase in the future.
- Budget: Smart home hubs range from $50 to $250, and that doesn’t include the cost of your other smart home devices. Choose a smart hub that fits your budget, while meeting your functionality needs.
- Protocol: The wireless protocol your smart home hub uses will dictate the range and remote control of your device. If your hub has a small range and you live in a huge house, you may need to purchase multiple smart hubs for your home. If you want to be able to control your devices remotely, you’ll need a smart hub that uses Wi-Fi.
- Mobile App: Since you’ll be making the bulk of your changes in the hub’s app, you want to ensure it a) works on your smartphone and b) is easy for you to use. Take a look at the reviews and the screenshots in the app store to determine whether the app seems intuitive.
How can I save money on a smart hub?
Like most things, smart hubs go on sale at various times throughout the year. If you want to save on your smart hub, you can wait to purchase it during Black Friday weekend, or—if you’re purchasing an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot—during Prime Day.
We also recommend purchasing your smart hub online, as you may be able to bundle it with other deals or smart home devices. For additional savings year-round, you can purchase any of the smart hubs using one of our affiliate links above.
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