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|A smart hub, or home automation hub, is exactly what it sounds like: a centralized “hub” device that connects all your smart devices together. If you’re planning to transform your home into a smart home, you’re going to need a smart hub.
In many cases, selecting your smart hub is the best place to start. Your smart hub’s compatibility dictates which other brands you’ll be able to use. When you buy a smart hub, you want to get one that connects to all of your current smart home devices, as well as any you may buy in the future. Ranging from $50 to upwards of $250, this is not a choice to make lightly.
Smart hubs are growing in popularity for the convenience and time saving they offer homeowners. They’re also just plain neat; it’s exciting to be able to modernize your home with smart devices you can control with your voice.
At Tuck, we love smart hubs for their ability to help you sleep better. With a smart hub, you can sync your smart lights and smart thermostats to work together to boost your natural sleep-wake cycles, dimming and cooling in the evening and brightening and warming in the morning. You can ask your smart hub to turn on your white noise playlist as you’re getting ready for bed. Many smart hubs come with morning and bedtime routines built-in, that you can adapt to your lifestyle for easy waking and restful sleeping.
What’s the best smart home system? Which smart hub should you buy? We answer these questions and more in our buyer’s guide below. Read on, and check out our reviews for the best smart hubs.
Best Smart Hubs
Editor’s Choice – Samsung SmartThings Smart Home Hub
Best Hub for Beginners – Wink Hub 2
Best Budget Hub – Echo Dot (2nd Generation)
Best Smart Hub Speaker – Echo (2nd Generation)
Best Entertainment Hub – Logitech Harmony Elite
The Samsung SmartThings Hub is compatible with WiFi, ZigBee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth, and IP-powered devices. With its wide range in protocol compatibility, you shouldn’t have any trouble connecting your smart home devices.
Compatibility isn’t limited to protocol, either. The Samsung SmartThings hub is compatible with an extensive range of smart home devices, including smart lights from Philips Hue, Sylvania, and LIFX; smart cameras and doorbells from Samsung, Ring, and Skybell; smart locks from Yale, Shlage and Kwikset; and smart thermostats from Ecobee and Honeywell. Instead of using the proprietary app for each of these brands and devices, you can connect them to your phone’s SmartThings app and control everything centrally from there—or you can use your voice with Amazon Alexa.
The Samsung SmartThings Hub allows you to create custom scenes and routines for all of your devices, and comes with five routines built-in. Two of these include “Good Night!”, which triggers a Night Mode, and “Good Morning!”, triggering Day Mode. “Good Night!” can dim lights and turn some off completely, set the thermostat to cool, and arm your security system, while “Good Morning!” raises the temperature and brightens the lights.
This smart hub is AC powered, and comes with 10 hours of backup power, so your home will never stop being smart, even if the power goes out. The Samsung SmartThings Hub packs a lot in for under $100, earning it our Editor’s Choice.
The Wink Hub 2 is a favorite among smart home beginners, as the app auto-discovers your smart home devices and walks you through a guided setup. The app itself is very intuitive, with products separated into smart categories, like Lights and Locks, right on the home screen.
In the Wink app, you can create schedules for any of your smart home devices, as well as routines (known as Shortcuts in the Wink app) to fit your lifestyle. In addition to schedules, your Wink app can be configured to automatically go into sleep mode based on the activity it senses from your sleep tracker.
The Wink Hub 2 is compatible with over 400 devices from brands in all of the top smart home categories, including smart locks, smart doorbells, smart cameras, smart thermostats, smart lights, and more. It also works with the most protocols of any of the hubs we’ve seen, including Kidde and Lutron Clear Connect in addition to the standard WiFi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, and Z-Wave protocols. And, you can pair up to 530 devices with the hub, so you’ll never run out of opportunities to smarten up your home.
The Wink Hub 2 can run wirelessly or through an ethernet cable, and the slender, vertical design makes for easy placement. However, there is no battery backup.
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.
The Amazon Echo does everything the Echo Dot does, but bigger and better. It’s got a longer, 1-year warranty, and it’s a powerful speaker with 360° omnidirectional audio.
If you like to sleep with fully-immersive white noise, this smart speaker is loud enough to block out any other noise. If you have multiple Echo devices, you can play different music in different rooms, ideal for parents, kids, or anyone who has different white noise sound preferences than their roommates. You can also set up playlist alarms.
With Amazon Alexa, you can control over 10K compatible smart home devices using your voice, including thermostats, lights, locks, and more. For additional savings, you can purchase the Amazon Echo as part of a bundle with an Echo Dot, which can be useful if you need to outfit multiple floors or rooms in your home.
The Amazon Echo is unique among smart hubs for its wealth of design options, too. It’s available in 5 colors.
This is the most expensive smart hub on our list, and that’s in large part because of its entertainment features. The Logitech Harmony Elite is compatible with the widest range of smart home devices—over 270K—including the top media, TV, and speaker brands. It’s even compatible with Mac and PC computers, in addition to smartphones.
The full-color touchscreen remote includes the app, so you can control everything from the remote instead of downloading yet another app for your smartphone. The buttons are motion-activated and backlit, so it’s easy to use whenever you need it. Like an app on your phone, you don’t need to point the remote at a device for it to work. Since it’s connected to your Harmony Hub via wireless, any action you take on the smartphone or remote will be communicated to the appropriate device.
In the Harmony app, you can create one-touch activities, like “Bedtime Routine,” in order to set off routines and trigger your devices. “Good Night” is a default one-touch experience that adjusts your lighting, thermostat, and more for bedtime. You can program schedules for all of your devices.
Where the Logitech Harmony Elite falls short is that it only works with up to 15 smart home devices. This will work for smaller homes, but it may not be the best fit for those looking to equip their home with an ever-growing suite of smart home devices.
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.
Smart hubs connect to your home internet through either a wired ethernet or wireless connection. Make sure to check which connection your smart hub requires. In the case of wired connection, you’ll need to have a free port on your wireless router for the ethernet cable.
Smart hubs may work using Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, ZigBee, or several of the above. The wireless protocol they use is also important for connecting your smart home devices. They’ll need to use the same standard to communicate, so you want to ensure that the devices you have use the same protocol.
To make themselves attractive to consumers, smart hubs will be compatible with a wide range of devices, including Apple, Amazon, Next, Google, Wink, Zigbee, and more. However, some smart hubs only work with a small range of devices that match the same manufacturer. Typically, the more compatible device support a smart hub offers, the more expensive it will be.
Depending on the technology and the range of the hub’s sensor, you’ll need to be thoughtful about where you place your smart hub in your home to avoid interference and smooth functioning with all your smart home devices.
Many smart home hubs also work as smart speakers, allowing you to make changes or issue voice commands using a compatible smart voice assistant. You’ll want to confirm that the voice assistant your smart hub is compatible with is one that you already enjoying using or are comfortable with learning.
If This Then That (IFTTT) is a free web service that allows you to set up trigger actions, or chains of activity, called “applets.” If your smart hub has IFTTT, then you can set up routines that trigger multiple devices (or a single device) to perform an action based on another trigger (such as the time of day or another device turning on). For example, if you use IFTTT, you can trigger your smart hub to start dimming the lights anytime you turn on your white noise playlist.
Besides trigger actions, smart hubs allow you to create schedules for your smart home devices, as well as routines that sync multiple devices together. For example, you can create a schedule for your lights and thermostat to follow, in accordance with your sleep and wake schedule. You can also create a bedtime routine for your devices in the evening to help you fall asleep. At a certain time of day, the smart hub will set your lights to dim, your thermostat to cool, and your smart locks to confirm they’re locked.
Smart hubs have their own proprietary mobile app. It’s through this mobile app that you’ll connect your various smart home devices, set up schedules, create IFTTT routines, and perform status checks on your devices. This app will also send you notifications whenever unusual activity occurs, such as someone approaching your front door. Ensure that the mobile app is compatible with your smartphone and that the app store screenshots make it look easy and intuitive to use. This is especially important for Windows phone users: while most smart hubs are compatible with iOS and Android, less so are compatible with Windows OS.
Many smart hubs are so-called “dedicated” smart hubs. This refers to their design as a smart hub first and foremost. There are also smart hubs which are more properly known as entertainment smart hubs. These are smart devices that primarily serve an entertainment need, but also function as a smart hub. In addition to the functionality a smart hub typically provides, an entertainment hub may also include speakers, TV, music libraries, and more fun apps built-in. Because they also include these entertainment features, entertainment hubs tend to be more expensive than a standalone smart hub.
Smart hubs work on electrical power. You’ll need to plug your smart hub into the wall for it to work. Because smart hubs often support security and safety-focused devices, such as smart locks or smoke alarms, they’ll often include a battery backup so the device keeps working in the event of a power outage.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.