Best smart home hubs for every budget 2023
Smarten up and automate your home with these smart and connected control centers with speakers and displays.
Your first step in turning your home into a smart home is to buy a hub or a controller. This is the brain or control center that tells all other devices – from light bulbs and plugs to window blinds, speakers, and the thermostat – what to do and when to do it.
So come along, and let GearBrain explain everything you need to know about the best smart home hubs of 2023.
All-New Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen - 2022 Release) Amazon
For those on a small budget, who don't want to invest hundreds or even thousands of dollars into their smart home right away, the $50 Amazon Echo Dot 5th Gen is an excellent place to start. The Echo Dot 5th Gen is very similar to the 4th Gen, except the speaker has been improved for better sound, and it has eero built-in to provide better connectivity in your home.
The Echo Dot 5th Gen is a smart speaker, first and foremost, so it can be used to play music from services like Amazon Prime Music, Spotify, and more. It also has Alexa, Amazon's voice assistant, which can be used to answer questions, read out the news headlines and weather forecast, play games, tell jokes, buy things off Amazon, add items to a to-do list - and, of course, control smart home devices. But the Echo Dot 5th Gen does not have Zigbee built-in like the Echo Dot 4th Gen speaker.
Any device with the 'Works With Alexa' icon on its box can be controlled by the Echo Dot because Alexa works in exactly the same way on all Amazon Echo devices.
You can start with a couple of smart light bulbs from Philips Hue, LIFX, or Ikea, then have Alexa switch them on and change their color and brightness when you ask, or automate them via the Alexa smartphone app. After this, you can hook up a Nest smart thermostat, some smart wall plug, a Ring video doorbell, and maybe even some motorized window blinds - and have Alexa control everything when you ask out loud or use the phone app.
If you want a smart display that works with Amazon Alexa and can be used as the hub for your smart home, we would recommend looking at any of the Amazon Echo Shows. These smart displays come with the same features found in the Echo smart speakers but offer touchscreen control too. They also come in various sizes: 15", 10", 8" and 5" screens. Here is a little description on each of these Alexa smart displays:
If you have a similar budget to spend and looking for a small smart speaker but prefer speaking to Google Assistant instead of Alexa, then try the equally-priced Nest Mini. Formerly known as the Google Home Mini, this $50 speaker can act as a hub to control a huge range of smart home devices.
For a more detailed look at what devices work with Amazon Echo devices, head over to The GearBrain.
Smart displays are devices that work just like smart speakers – in that, you talk to them to control things and play music – but they also feature a touch screen.
The Nest Hub (formerly called the Google Home Hub) was one of our favorites, but it's hard to find these days. Therefore, we recommend the new Nest Hub 7" smart display with Google Assistant (2nd Gen). This is really the second generation of the Google Nest Home Hub which can be used to control devices either by voice or touch – the latter being particularly useful if you don't want to disturb someone who is asleep or just don't fancy chatting with the Google Assistant. We love how the Nest Hub 7" acts like a central command unit for your home, with simple on/off and slider icons for dimming lights, adjusting the heating, and more.
We also found the Nest Hub is great for when you share a house with less tech-savvy people. If they can't remember exactly how to adjust a lamp, for example, instead of working out, "Hey Google, dim the lounge lamp to 30 percent", they can tap and swipe at the display, working out visually what to do.
All Google and Nest Home devices work with smart home products with the 'Works With Google Home' logo on their retail packaging. And while this isn't quite as many products as work with Alexa, there isn't much in it. Chances are, the smart home devices you want – lights, locks, cameras, doorbells, etc. – will also work with the Google Nest Hub.
You can also use the Nest Hub to view photos and watch Netflix and YouTube videos. The pricier and larger Nest Hub Max also includes a camera for video calls, which doubles as a Nest home security camera, keeping an eye on the home while you are away and alerting you to movement or the sound of a nearby alarm and broken glass.
If you prefer to use Alexa, then Amazon also sells smart displays in the form of the Echo Show range, which is currently priced from $90 to $280 depending on size.
For a more detailed look at what devices work with Google Home devices, head over to The GearBrain.
Samsung SmartThings Station
Samsung SmartThings StationAmazon
For those who want a smart home without a smart speaker and voice assistant like Alexa and Google Assistant, there is the SmartThings Station. This is their newest hub for connecting a huge range of smart home devices to your Wi-Fi network and does double up as a 15W Super Fast Wireless Charger. It supports Matter, a new smart home standard that is designed to make it easier to connect and control smart home devices from different manufacturers.
The Samsung SmartThings Station is a small, puck-shaped device that plugs into your router. It has a built-in Zigbee and Thread radios so that it can connect to a wide range of smart home devices that work on other wireless platforms like Apple HomeKit. It also has a built-in speaker and microphone, so you can use it to control your smart home devices with your voice.
SmartThings is instead controlled by default using an app for iOS and Android, with which routines and scheduling can be configured. The hub connects to devices using the popular Zigbee and Z-Wave smart home wireless systems, as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Cost: $59.99
As well as connecting to a huge range of third-party smart home devices, like lights and door locks, Samsung sells some of its own. These include water leak sensors, smart plugs, buttons, and multipurpose sensors for helping to automate your smart home.
And, should you want to use a voice assistant, SmartThings can be controlled by speaking to an Alexa or Google Assistant smart speaker or display, too. You can also use Bixby, Samsung's own voice platform, which is on all Samsung mobile, smart TVs, and smart devices.
It may seem a little left-field to include the Apple TV 4K – a media streaming set-top box – in this article, but over the years, it has quietly become a smart home control center.
Third-party devices made to work with Apple's HomeKit smart home platform all connect to the TV 4K, and can then be controlled via the Home app on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac or by speaking to Siri on any Apple device.
HomeKit devices might not be as common as those made to work with Alexa and the Google Assistant, but interest in Apple's system from manufacturers is growing. There are smart plugs from iHome, switches from Lutron and Ecobee, lights from Philips Hue, Lifx, Ikea, and Eve, door locks from August, and thermostats from Honeywell.
Of course, the Apple TV also doubles as one of the best media streaming boxes on the market, with support for Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, 4K Ultra HD content, and services like Netflix. The Apple TV also turns your television screen into the central command hub for your smart home, which is pretty cool, and of course, there is access to Apple TV+.
Apple's HomePod smart speaker can also be used as a smart home hub and taps into the company's HomeKit home automation platform.
Best Z-Wave Hubs for your Smart Home
HomeSeer HomeTroller Pro Z-Wave hubHomeSeer
If you are looking for a good smart home hub that works on a Z-Wave connection, there are a few we would recommend. For those of you who don't know or haven't heard of Z-Wave, it is a wireless communication protocol used primarily for residential and commercial building automation. It is a mesh network using low-energy radio waves to communicate from device to device, allowing for wireless control of smart home devices, such as smart lights, security systems, thermostats, sensors, smart door locks, and garage door openers. Many of today's leading smart home security companies use Z-Wave to connect all their devices and cameras onto one platform.
The Z-Wave hubs we would recommend include HomeSeer HomeTroller Z-Wave hubs. There are three models: HomeTroller Pi, HomeTroller Plus and HomeTroller Pro. Each is compatible with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice platforms and has tons of effective integrations with smart home devices to make your smart home run safely and smoothly.
Another hub to consider using that works on a Z-Wave connection is the one from your home security company. If you have Vivint Smart Home or a home security system powered by Alarm.com or Honeywell, you can use their hubs to control your smart home. These companies have robust platforms, so you can easily add other smart devices as long as they are compatible with their hubs. We recommend you check with your home security provider to see what platform they use to control your system. Most likely, they are using Z-Wave, which will allow you to connect many smart devices that fit your new connected life.
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