The smart home hub, a piece of equipment that links all of your smart gadgets — lightbulbs, locks, thermostats, and more — is at the heart of many smart homes. A smart home hub allows you to operate your devices from a single place, similar to a smartphone app or voice assistant, making it easier to set up and utilize routines involving many products.
But, with so many big-name manufacturers like Amazon, Google, and Apple — as well as a few smaller ones like Aeotec — it might be difficult to choose a hub for your own smart home.
We spoke with smart home technology experts to learn about the best smart home hubs on the market and what to look for when purchasing one for yourself or your family.
How to Select a Best Smart home hub
Selecting a smart home system is largely a question of “which company you feel comfortable with because you are inviting that company into your home,” said Jonathan Collins, smart home research director at ABI Research, a tech research and strategy firm that advises on topics like 5G telecommunications technology, artificial intelligence and the growing network of interconnected data-driven devices.
There are a few questions to ask as you get started:
- What smart devices do you have already? If you have a smart speaker like an Amazon Echo or Google Nest or smart home products under a certain brand, you may choose to stick with that platform.
- What kind of smartphone do you use? Again, if you’re accustomed to a specific user experience, it may be simplest to go with that platform: Apple HomeKit for iPhone users, for example or Google Nest for those on Android.
- Which smart home products do you want to add? The list of devices compatible with smart home ecosystems is long, so you’re likely to find most of what you need no matter which platform you anchor with. However, if you’re looking for something specific, make sure your hub supports it. And if your devices operate primarily via Z-Wave or Zigbee (more on those communication protocols below), you’ll need a compatible hub.
- Do you have or plan to buy a smart TV? Smart home hubs, like Samsung SmartThings, are already being integrated into TVs, cutting out the separate hardware entirely.
There appears to be a huge range of gadgets to pick from, but Sumi Helal, director of the Gator-Tech Smart House and professor of computer and information science and engineering at the University of Florida, says that practically any smart house hub would suffice.
The Best Smart Hubs
If you need a hub, consider one of the following options, which are highly rated and meet our experts’ recommendations, such as ease of setup and integration with familiar smart home ecosystems, interoperability with a wide range of smart home devices, and compatibility with smartphone operating systems and apps.
Those looking for a smart home hub that can also function as a speaker, as well as those who rely on Alexa’s voice assistant skills, might consider the fourth-generation Amazon Echo. According to Amazon, this versatile hub is compatible with a wide range of smart home devices that use Zigbee, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, and it has all the benefits of a smart speaker, including voice-activated music and entertainment from Spotify, Audible, Amazon, and Apple Music, more than 130,000 Alexa skills and routines, and hands-free calling, among other features.
Furthermore, Alexa Guard has the built-in smart home capability – Amazon claims that the speaker itself listens for smoke alarms and shattering glass, thus removing the need for extra sensors.
The Amazon Echo smart hub has an average 4.7-star rating from nearly 105,000 reviews on Amazon.
Nest Hub by Google
The second-generation Google Nest Hub does not support mesh protocols, but it does interface with Wi-Fi-enabled smart home devices and Google Nest products such as cameras and doorbells. Google claims that over 50,000 devices are compatible with its Google Assistant-enabled speakers and hubs. According to Google, the touchscreen on the Nest Hub allows you to tap and slide through your settings, as well as monitor feeds from your security cameras, and even stream video from Netflix, YouTube, and other services.
The hub does triple duty as a smart light for morning and evening routines, as a sleep tracker and as a smart sensor for glass breaks and smoke alarms via Nest Aware, according to the company. The second-gen Nest Hub has an average 4.7-star rating from more than 1,300 reviews on Best Buy.
Smart Home Hub by Aeotec
If you’re searching for a truly smart home hub that combines over 5,000 devices across protocols and smart home assistants, the Aoetec may be worth investigating further. According to the business, it is Z-Wave, Zigbee, and Wi-Fi compatible, and it can be voice-operated with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Bixby. Nest, Sonos, Samsung, Philips Hue, Ring, and Yale are among the major brands that operate with the Aeotec Smart Home Hub, according to Aeotec. It takes the place of Samsung’s now-defunct SmartThings hub. On Amazon, the Aeotec Smart Home Hub has a 4.3-star rating based on over 500 reviews.
Apple TV 4K
If you’re in the Apple ecosystem, the Apple TV 4K may be a top choice for easily integrating your smart home via HomeKit: All you have to do is log into your iCloud account on your TV and launch the Apple Home app, according to Apple. Apple’s iPads and HomePod speakers can also be used to control HomeKit scenes and automation, but with the Apple TV 4K you get the visual, on-screen experience and, unlike the iPad, the device doubles as an entertainment and streaming hub, according to the company. Note that it does not support any other protocols, like Z-Wave or Zigbee. And though HomeKit’s device is compatible with fewer devices than other platforms, Apple, which has long marketed itself as having more privacy protections than its rivals, is generally considered a safer bet for the privacy-conscious than some other companies. The Apple TV 4K has an average 4.8-star rating from more than 1,500 reviews on Best Buy.
Do I need a smart home hub?
The ability to combine all of your gadgets into scheduled routines is one advantage of a smart home hub — for example, if you want your Phillips Hue light bulbs to dim, August door locks to close, and Nest thermostat to turn down when you’re ready for bed. With hubs that allow voice assistants such as Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri, a simple “It’s bedtime” command might start a chain reaction of events. Plus, instead of having to open multiple apps to set up or edit your routines, you can do so through the dashboard of your hub’s mobile app.
A hub is also required for smart home devices that use Zigbee, Z-Wave, or another home automation protocol in addition to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
One perk of a smart home hub is the ability to connect all of your gadgets into automatic routines – for example, if you want your Phillips Hue light bulbs to dim, August door locks to close, and Nest thermostat to turn down when you’re ready for bed. With hubs that allow voice assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri, a simple “It’s bedtime” command may set off a chain of events. Furthermore, rather of having to launch several applications to set up or update your routines, you can do so from the dashboard of your hub’s mobile app.
A hub is also required for smart home devices that use Zigbee, Z-Wave, or another home automation protocol other than Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
Matter, an open-source platform launched at CES 2022 (previously the Consumer Electronics Show) and debuting later this year, has a lot of promise to ease any choice concerning smart home gadgets. It is intended to incorporate smart home gadgets from a variety of manufacturers, including Apple, Google, Amazon, LG, and Samsung. According to the business, Matter eliminates the need to pick just one platform, and devices that were previously incompatible would be able to communicate with one another.