Best Smart Hubs

Smart hubs can make your life easier and they work by connecting all of your smart devices to create a smart home. That way, you can use a single input instead of giving several different commands to each of your devices. Take a look at Counting Sheep’s guide to choosing the best smart hub for your home, and our top models, based on research, analysis, and verified reviews.

Have you ever watched a futuristic movie and just loved how technology was depicted? Everything in there can be controlled with a simple voice command, and it seems so convenient and time-saving. Well, what if we told you that you don’t have to dream about it, as this is entirely possible at this moment, and it’s not expensive either?

Smart devices are quickly taking over the market as people realize how advanced and useful this technology can be. These gadgets can improve your life in so many ways, from increasing comfort, boosting natural rhythms, saving time, conserving energy, to spending less money on electricity bills. 

Smart hubs work to connect all of your smart devices to create a smart home. This makes it more user-friendly as instead of giving several different commands to set everything, you can simply use a single input. And the most convenient thing about them is that you can control everything with your voice, which will save you a lot of time. Not to mention that owning multiple devices that you can control with your voice is exciting, so if you like that futuristic look, modernizing your home may be a perfect idea.

Most smart hubs cost between $50 and $250, so you want to make the right choice when getting one. The most important thing is compatibility with other smart devices, so if you own any, or you are planning to buy some, this is the first thing you want to check. Continue reading if you are interested in learning about all the exciting features and the best smart hubs on the market.

Smart Hub Features

Smart hubs are devices with many useful features. It is vital to understand them so that you can pick a model that suits you. Here are some things you can find in a smart hub that can be useful at making your life a little easier:

Connectivity
You can use a wired Ethernet or wireless connection to connect your smart hub with your home internet. Make sure to check which one it uses before making a purchase. In case of a wired connection, you’ll need a free port on your router for the Ethernet cable. When it comes to wireless protocol, your smart device can use Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, ZigBee, or other. This is very important to check, as your hub and other devices need the same protocol to communicate, so if your smart bulb only uses Bluetooth, and your hub doesn’t have that option, you won’t be able to connect them.

Compatibility
Many smart hubs are compatible with a wide range of devices from Google, Amazon, Apple, Nest, Wink, and more. Most manufacturers made them suitable for use with products from other brands to increase their popularity. However, others have taken a different approach, and their smart hubs are only compatible with a limited list of devices, mostly from the same manufacturer. They often come at a lower price, and the idea behind this is that you’d buy all of your gadgets from the same brand, and avoid mixing it up. Usually, hubs that are compatible with more devices are a bit pricier, so choosing one ultimately comes to the smart gadgets you already have, and the ones you are planning to buy. 

Range
Every smart hub has built-in sensors and based on this technology, you need to pick the right place to place your hub. You need to ensure smooth functioning with all of your smart devices and no interference. Even though each manufacturer states the range of their products, it also depends on other environmental factors like your home construction, electronic devices, atmospheric conditions, and other obstructions. 

Voice Control
Many smart hubs allow you to change the settings using only your voice. They can do this thanks to the voice assistant, which can do a lot more than just change the settings. Besides the standard controlling of your other smart devices, it can also answer questions, set schedules, alarms, play music, and many other things. You want to make sure to get a device that has a voice assistant you already enjoy using, or research which one you would like the most if you haven’t had the chance to use one.

Mobile App
Smart hubs have their smartphone apps where you can change settings, set schedules, routines, and trigger actions, and see the performance of your devices. It can also notify you when unusual activity occurs, such as somebody approaching your front door, device malfunction, or when you need to change the air filter. Make sure that the app is compatible with your phone. While Android and iOS users don’t have to worry about this as much, there are fewer hubs compatible with Windows OS. You also want to check the screenshots of different apps before you decide to get a smart hub, as the interface is essential on how easy and intuitive it will be to use it.

Trigger Actions
If This Then That (IFTTT) is a web service that allows you to set trigger actions. This way, you can create chain actions that activate multiple devices in your home. For example, to help you relax and fall asleep faster, you can dim the lights every time you turn on the white noise playlist. 

Routines and Schedules
Besides making simple trigger actions, you can set your hub to perform more complex routines or to follow specific schedules. For instance, you can schedule your lights and thermostat to work together to create a pleasant environment and boost your sleep/wake cycle. Your lights can start dimming in the evening, the temperature can cool down, smart locks can confirm that they are locked, and relaxing music can start playing. The goal is to make you more relaxed and comfortable and help you fall asleep faster. You can also create certain routines for some occasions, like watching a movie. Your lights can turn off, and the volume could increase as the opening scene starts playing. 

Entertainment
Your smart hub has a job to connect all of your smart devices and make your home more functional. But it can also serve as an entertainment center as it can include speakers, movie and music libraries, and many more fun apps. Some hubs don’t offer these features, and they usually come at a lower price, but if you are already buying one, we recommend to get a one with these options so that you can fully enjoy all the perks.

Battery
Smart hubs operate using electrical power, and you’ll need to plug in your device for it to work. Since they are often connected with security devices such as smart locks and smoke alarms, hubs often include a backup battery in case the power runs out so that everything can continue working.

How a Smart Hub Helps You Sleep Better

We love smart hubs mostly for their ability to boost your natural rhythms and help you get a good night’s rest. In today’s age, where the technology is ruining sleep, and more and more people don’t get the recommended daily rest, these devices can help you with your nightly slumber.

They can do that by controlling two main things, your lights and home temperature. Our brains and bodies are incredibly functional, and they use internal as well as external stimuli to adjust to every situation. When it comes to your circadian rhythms and sleep/wake cycle, hormones and other chemical signals are in sync with the environment. When your brain perceives bright light and warmer temperatures, it knows that it is daytime and it concentrates on being alert and active. When the temperature drops and the lights start dimming, that means that it is the time to slow down and prepare to go to sleep.

You can set the schedule on your smart hub, which will start decreasing temperature and dimming the lights in the evening. Warmer light with lower intensity signals your brain that it is time to begin producing melatonin, a hormone responsible for sleep. This starts in the evening, and the melatonin levels continue rising throughout the night and peak somewhere before the dawn. It ensures that you stay deep asleep so that your body can restore properly for the next day. The production of this hormone fades during the day, and then it starts again in the evening.

In contrast to that, cortisol is one of the hormones responsible for staying alert. It begins production in the morning, before you wake up, and then continues through the day, to ensure you stay active. It starts fading in the evening as the melatonin and relaxation takes over. Your body temperature also follows this pattern, and it significantly drops during the night. 

You can program smart lights to dim in the evening and emit warmer shades and brighten in the morning to ensure you wake up properly. Smart thermostats can keep the temperature somewhere in the mid-60 degrees Fahrenheit during the night as it is the most optimal for sleep. In the morning, it can warm the place up so that you wake up and transition smoothly to the daytime. The combination of this will help your brain understand better when is the time to go to rest, and when it should be active. It means that you won’t have to spend time in your bed unable to fall asleep and that getting up in the morning will be more pain-free. On top of that, your sleep quality will significantly improve, as you will enjoy deeper and REM sleep.

Should You Get a Smart Hub?

You should get a smart hub if you have several smart home devices or you plan on buying some in the future. That way, you can connect all of them for a more functional and comfortable home. To experience more from these devices, a smart hub allows you to set different routines and schedules, which makes it a lot easier to control than having to change the settings on each gadget. You can use one app for everything, or you can simply use voice commands for more time-saving benefits.

However, if you only plan on having one smart device, you can go without owning a hub. And keep in mind that some devices already come with this option. For instance, if you purchase Philips smart bulbs, you will also get a Hue hub so that you won’t need another one. Other manufacturers like Nest don’t even need them, as all of their devices are made in a way that they can connect and communicate without the need for a hub.

Main Things to Consider Before Buying a Smart Hub

  1. Compatibility is the most important thing to consider. If you have any smart devices, check which hub can connect with them, as not all can work together. That also goes for any device you might want to buy in the future.
  2. Range depends on the wireless protocol that the device uses, but also on the environmental factors and obstructions. If the model you are looking at seems to have a small range, while you have a big home, you should probably look for a different one.
  3. The app needs to be intuitive and easy to use. You can read online reviews and see screenshots from the app to decide if it is going to suit you.
  4. Price is usually somewhere between $50 and $250. Keep that in mind, in addition to other features you are looking at, so that you can get the best value item. If you are on a tighter budget, you can go shopping during the holidays when there are many sales.

 

Our Top Picks

Now that we’ve covered all the features and advantages of owning a smart hub, it is time to look at some of the best models on the market.

Echo Dot (2nd Generation)

Features:

  • Wireless Protocol – Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
  • Voice Control – Amazon Alexa
  • Range – 30 to 40 feet
  • App – iOS, Android, and Fire
  • Warranty – 90 days

The Echo Dot 2nd generation is a small speaker and a smart hub that measures just over three inches in diameter and is one inch high. It is also very affordable, as you can pick between the silver or black design for just under $50.

The Echo Dot can connect with many devices from brands like Philips, Ecobee, Wink, Nest, and Honeywell. It has over 50 thousand different abilities and apps, such as music from Pandora, Spotify, and Amazon, games like Jeopardy, and integration with popular services such as Lyft. There are many possibilities with this device, including making calls through your Echo Dot.

This device can do many things, and we like its Sleep and Relaxation Sound app, that has a library of white noises featuring nature sounds and mellow music to help you relax. It also has a light ring on the outside, and you can use it as a night light when going to the bathroom, or when you wake up during the night, without having to turn the lights on. If your kid uses this device, you should know that it has parental control options, and you can limit the use for your child, and even set it to go to a bed mode at a particular time.

Some downsides are that the speaker isn’t powerful enough for people who need higher volume, and they will probably need to invest in additional speakers. The warranty is only 90 days, which is a lot shorter than with other models. The range is 30 to 40 feet, which should be enough, but some people will probably have a problem with that as well. Some people would like to see the integration with more different brands, and a backup battery, but at this price, we can say that it is the best buy for value seekers.

Samsung SmartThings Smart Home Hub

Features:

  • Protocol – Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, Z-Wave, and IP
  • Voice Control – Amazon Alexa and Google Home
  • Battery Backup – 10 hours (4 AA)
  • Range – 50 to 130 feet
  • App – iOS and Android
  • Warranty – 1 year

The Samsung SmartThings Smart Home Hub is compatible with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, ZigBee, and IP-powered devices. With this wide range of available protocols, you should have no problems connecting your smart devices to this hub.

Samsung SmartThings can integrate with many smart devices including light bulbs from Philips Hue, LIFX, and Sylvia; doorbells and cameras from Ring and Skybell; locks from Yale, Kwikset, and Schlage; and thermostats from Honeywell and Ecobee. Imagine having to use the separate app for each of these devices, it would be too time-consuming. This way, you can set everything with your phone’s SmartThings app, or by using your voice with Amazon Alexa.

The Samsung Hub has five different routines built-in including “Good Morning” and “Good Night,” which are triggered by the time of the day. “Good Night” dims or turns off your lights, cools down the temperature and reinforces your security system, while the “Good Morning” raises the temperature and brightens the lights. Besides this, you can make custom routines and schedules for all of your devices to better suit your needs.

This model comes with 10 hours of backup power which ensures that your home stays smart, even if the power goes out. With so many amazing features and a price that is under $100, the Samsung SmartThings is one of the best choices on the market.

Logitech Harmony Elite

Features:

  • Wireless Protocol – Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • Voice Control – Amazon Alexa
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Range – 30 feet
  • Harmony App – iOS and Android
  • Warranty – 1 year

The Logitech Harmony Elite smart hub is the most expensive on our list, mostly because of its fantastic entertainment features. It is compatible with over 270 thousand devices, including the best TV, media, and speaker brands. In addition to smartphones, it is also compatible with Mac computers and PCs.

The Logitech Harmony Elite Hub comes with the full-colored touchscreen remote that you can use to control everything if you don’t want to download the phone app. The remote is very easy to use, and you can change the settings on all of the connected devices.

In the Harmony app, you can create custom routines and schedules that you may need. There are already some default ones like the “Good Night” which adjust your lighting, temperature, and more when it is time to go to bed. If you prefer voice commands over touchscreens, you can control your devices through Amazon Alexa. 

This model comes with a standard 1-year warranty, and a rechargeable backup battery which can be extremely useful in the event of power outing. Some downsides of the Logitech Harmony Elite are that the range is 30 feet and that it can only connect with 15 other smart devices. This won’t be a problem if you own a small home and don’t plan on buying too many gadgets, but if that is not the case, you should consider purchasing some other model.

Wink Hub 2

Features:

  • Protocol – Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, ZigBee, Kidde, and Lutron Clear Connect
  • Voice Control – Amazon Alexa and Google Home
  • Range – 50 feet
  • Wink App – iOS and Android, including Apple Watch and Android Wear
  • Warranty – 1 year

The Wink Hub 2 is one of the favorite options for beginners because the Wink app automatically discovers your other devices, and will walk you through a setup step by step. The app is very intuitive and easy to use, and all of your gadgets will be separated into different categories that appear on the home screen. 

The Wink app refers to routines as ‘Shortcuts,’ and you can set as many as you want to fit your lifestyle better. You can also set schedules or even set your devices to go to sleep based on the activity from your sleep tracker.

The Wink Hub 2 is compatible with the devices from over 400 brands and pair up to 530 different gadgets to your hub. It also works with more protocols than other smart hubs, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, Zigbee, Kidde, and Lutron Clear Connect. You can connect your Wink Hub wirelessly, or you can use Ethernet cable, and the modern white design will make it fit nicely into any home. 

This device has a 50 feet range which should cover most comes, and it also comes with a 1-year warranty. The only downside is that it doesn’t have the battery backup.

Echo (2nd Generation)

Features:

  • Wireless Protocol – Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
  • Voice Control – Amazon Alexa
  • Range – 30 to 40 feet
  • App – iOS, Android, and Fire
  • Warranty – 1 year

The Amazon Echo 2nd generation is a smart hub that comes with an incredibly powerful speaker with a 360 audio that goes in all directions. It uses Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to connect with other devices, and it has a range of 30 to 40 feet, which should be enough for most homes. This device comes with a standard 1-year warranty.

This speaker is powerful enough on its own, but if you own multiple Echo devices, you can connect them and play different music on each one. That can be suitable for kids and parents, and anyone with different preferences. 

With Amazon Alexa, you can control more than 10 thousand different devices, including smart lights, locks, thermostats, and many more. The Amazon Echo also comes in various color options, and you can currently choose between five different ones. The small downside is that it doesn’t have a battery backup. 

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