Posted in Information Technology

Best Smart Hub (updated 2019)

If you own several Samsung devices or own some of the 200+ SmartThings-compatible smart devices on the market, the router you should invest in for your home is the Samsung SmartThings Wi-Fi + Hub. This router lets you connect all your smart devices to one place, allowing you to control all the devices through the SmartThings app for iOS or Android. A single Samsung SmartThings Wi-Fi + Hub will cover up to 1,500 square feet in your apartment or home, but if you want 4,500 square feet of coverage, you can buy three of these and connect them together. With positive reception so far, the SmartThings Wi-Fi + Hub has been praised for covering a large home with wireless signal and for delivering fast speeds to many devices.

With a compact seven-inch display, the Google Home Hub is a perfect fit for smaller spaces like a bedroom or office, or in an apartment where there isn’t much surface space to spare. The display is well lit, easy to read, and offers crisp resolution to show off your pictures. The Hub is also compatible with products from over 400 different smart product brands, allowing you to sync all your smart devices to one central unit including internet-connected thermostats, light bulbs, security cameras, and more. Plus, the setup is hassle-free.

In many ways, the Google Home Hub is a cheaper version of the Amazon Echo. The voice-activated Google Assistant provides the same hands-free convenience offered by Amazon Alexa. It’s easy to hook up to your PC for more granular control. This device makes a few concessions to keep the price low, like settling for sub-par audio quality and skipping the front-facing camera (so you can’t make video calls). For most people, that’s a small price to pay considering the actual money you’ll be saving.

Watch out, Alexa — Lenovo has introduced a new contender to the digital assistant hub market. The 10” Smart Display and its built-in Google Assistant are there to meet all your needs, whether you want to check your meetings for the day, watch a YouTube video, or turn up the air conditioning. Lenovo’s Smart Display is fully voice-controlled. Treat it as a hub for your home, commanding it to turn smart lights on or off, adjust thermostats, or display feeds from smart home cameras. While it doesn’t have the strongest speakers, the 10-watt driver delivers a crisp, clean sound that pairs well with its 1920×1200 screen resolution for when your needs are just pure entertainment: Google Cast allows it to act like a TV, or you can run compatible apps like YouTube, Spotify, or Netflix. With a white body and a bamboo back, the Lenovo Smart Display easily blends into any décor for a sophisticated and smart addition to any room in the house. The 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 624 processor is sufficient for daily use, but it should be treated as a device to make your life easier, rather than store apps — if you’re expecting the latter, you won’t get much out of its 2GB of RAM.

Need some more help finding what you’re looking for? Read through our best smart home products article

The Google Home Max combines big smarts with big volume. Packed inside its streamlined profile are a pair of 4.5-inch woofers and dual 0.7-inch custom tweeters. And when you crank the volume, it really shines, delivering high, undistorted volume with a booming bass. And it’s easy to set up. Just plug in the speaker to a power supply, open up the Google Home app, and it will walk you through the steps to get your speaker up and running.

Fortunately, heart-pumping sound isn’t the only claim to fame for the Home Max. The built-in Google Assistant makes it a two-in-one product. Just say “Hey, Google” to play music, control a variety of smart home devices or answer any search inquiry. Six far-field microphones will pick up your voice from nearly anywhere in a room even if you’re playing music. The Home Max is also capable of recognizing up to six different voices, synchronizing music between rooms, and playing music from a multitude of streaming services.

The latest Amazon Echo Plus comes standard with a seamless protocol that lets it function as a true smart hub: Zigbee. The Echo Plus’s Zigbee support allows it to more directly and seamlessly control devices like smart thermostats and smart light bulbs, making it a widely-compatible and user-friendly choice for a smart hub.

The Echo Plus is technically a follow-up to the original Amazon Echo, but it does bring with it a few new design features. First of all, you now have your choice of three different neutral colors: charcoal, heather gray, and a very light gray called “sandstone” on Amazon. It looks a bit more premium, blends in with all kinds of decor, and with that signature gradient light ring on the top, it fits in with the rest of the Echo line.

The Alexa functionality is also still there, meaning you’ll be able to ask questions, check the weather and a whole lot more (Amazon has built an Alexa library that is more than 50,000 skills strong). But the real standout feature here, in our eyes, is the speaker setup. The smaller Amazon Echos sometimes struggle with quiet, thin sound quality. The Echo Plus here offers a three-inch neodymium woofer alongside a tweeter that’s nearly an inch big. For reference, the smaller Dot line sports a single woofer that’s only about one and a half inches. What this bigger speaker will most likely amount to is a louder, fuller sound that will more adequately fill a room.

Want to take a look at other options? Read through our list of the best Amazon devices available now.

If you can’t quite shell out the cash for Amazon’s new flagship Echo Plus, you can still get the latest tech in a smaller, less expensive package. The newest generation of Echo Dot gives you a pretty solid amount of features without breaking the bank. You do end up sacrificing the Zigbee smart home connectivity and the massive speaker set of the new Echo Plus (the speaker size here is 1.6 inches, which is admittedly small). But it does seem like Amazon has exerted some effort to update the speaker to give you more oomph and volume. The Alexa functionality is present here, too, allowing you can stream music, run searches, or teach it up to 50,000 different skills from Amazon’s ever-expanding library. There’s a line out or Bluetooth connectivity, and that new premium mesh-grill look is present here. The three new colors carry through, as well — charcoal, heather gray, or sandstone. And because it’s a flat, smaller device, it’s perfect for smaller rooms or anywhere that you want Alexa capabilities without a big screen or big speakers.

The second generation of the Echo Show demonstrates a renewed commitment from Amazon to create a solid smart display hub. This version looks quite a bit more premium than the prior model, with a 10.1-inch screen with 1280×800 resolution (that amounts to 720p HD sharpness). Add that to the built-in 5MP camera, and you basically have a tablet’s worth of visual features sitting on your counter.

But this gets our pick for best display-based hub because of just how much more it can do. The wedged back housing contains a serious set of speakers — dual two-inch neodymium drivers, to be precise. Those 10W speakers are Dolby-tuned which means that you’ll get full, carrying sound. Naturally, you also get all the Alexa features — voice commands, day-to-day weather checking, and 50,000 other teachable, third-party skills — that you’d expect from an Echo device.

With a sleek Scandinavian design, the Libratone Zipp 2 Smart Wireless speaker is an eye-catching smart hub with plenty to offer.

The cylindrical speaker comes in four different colors, including black, gray, red, and green. But if you want to switch it up, you can unzip the main sleeve and replace it with a new one in a different color. On top of the speaker, you’ll find a few simple light-up buttons that control it. On the side, you’ll find a handy leather strap for extra portability.

The Zipp 2 includes support for Alexa, but not Google Assistant or Siri. Libratone has said it is considering adding support for Google Assistant at a later date. But for now, this isn’t the smart hub for you if you need Google Assistant. It is, however, compatible with Airplay 2, meaning that it can be paired with other Airplay-compatible speakers, such as a HomePod or Sonos speaker, in the same house. In fact, you can connect up to 10 different speakers using Airplay 2.

In short, the Zipp 2 will be particularly useful for people already using Airplay 2 and for those who want Alexa.

The LG ThinQ WK9 may not be as sleek as some of its competitors, but it’s a powerful and efficient addition to the smart hub ranks. The eight-inch touch screen is bright and colorful, making it ideal for video calls or cooking demonstrations, or just using it to play your favorite podcast. It also features a front-facing camera and audio tuned by Meridian Audio. The two built-in woofers deliver a total of 20W of power. The smart hub can connect with both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and you can stream audio or visual to the WK9 from any Bluetooth-equipped device

The WK9 is far from a one-trick pony: with Google Assistant, it lets you check the weather or traffic, browse the web, monitor your schedule, or sync it with other Assistant devices. With built-in Chromecast, you’ll also be able to pair it with other Chromecast speakers in your house.

Logitech’s Harmony Hub isn’t your typical smart hub, but it’s compatible with more than 270,000 devices. With a simple setup that can have you online and connected to up to eight devices within minutes, the Harmony Hub works great with your TV, satellite, cable box, Blu-ray player, Apple TV, Roku, game consoles and more.

Creating customized activities is a breeze through the downloadable Harmony App for both Android and iOS. Tapping a pre-programmed button on the app can immediately turn down your Philips Hue smart lights, turn on your connected speaker and TV, launch Netflix and let date night begin instantaneously with one click. And the Harmony Hub adds Amazon Alexa support as well for voice control, so you can do this just by talking. Beyond voice control, the Logitech truly stands out with closed cabinet control, which allows it to send commands to connected devices through infrared commands that don’t require direct line-of-sight to function.

The Wink 2 is a second-generation smart hub that connects to an impressive number of gadgets, including Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, Z-Wave, Zigbee, Lutron Clear Connect and Kidde devices. Inside the Wink and its sleekly designed 7.25 x 7.25 x 1.75-inch frame are powerful Wi-Fi radio and Ethernet ports for rock-solid Internet connection. Fortunately, the ease of setup matches the quality of its design, thanks to a straightforward smartphone app for both Android and iOS. In less than five minutes you’ll be connected to smart devices such as Philips Hue lighting, Ecobee thermostats or the Nest camera.

The four main features (control, automate, monitor and schedule) round out the Wink 2’s full spread of capabilities. All totaled, between those four functions, the Wink 2 can support up to 530 devices paired at once with seamless integration. Additionally, the separately purchased Wink Relay plugs directly into your wall allowing control of all Wink-ready devices without a smartphone.

With 6,000 square feet of combined coverage, the Tenda Nova MW6 3-pack ensures powerful, high-speed internet in every inch of your house. Don’t quite need 6,000 feet of coverage? The Tenda Nova also sells two-packs and single modems to fit your home’s specific needs. Doubling as a Wi-Fi router and a home automation system, it is compatible with all major internet providers (AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, Spectrum, etc.), and supports a stable connection for up to 90 devices simultaneously. The Tenda Nova also links to your favorite smart devices, like the Amazon Echo and Alexa, as well as your smart TV, security system, and other advanced appliances.

The set-up process is as simple as plugging in the modem and following the app’s instructions. From there, the Tenda’s system can be controlled from anywhere, and on any device: adjust temperature settings, listen to music from your home entertainment center, or even set timed-restrictions on Wi-Fi use for your children and teens.

Tested by

How We Tested

We bought and tested four top-rated smart hubs. Our reviewers spent more than 500 hours setting them up and experimenting with their various capabilities. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these smart hubs, from their automation software to their coverage areas. We’ve outlined the key points here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in a Smart Hub

Compatibility – There are different standards for communicating with smart home devices including ZigBee and Z-Wave. Before purchasing a smart home hub, ensure that it supports the standards used by your existing smart home devices.

Automation – Some hubs will include automation software for your smartphone or computer. If you’re looking to have the lights in your home automatically turn on at a specific time or have the thermostat adjust itself depending on the weather, you’ll want to make sure your hub includes the needed software.

Coverage – Depending on the size of your home, you may need to check that the hub you’re purchasing will provide sufficient coverage. If it isn’t powerful enough to transmit a signal throughout your entire space, you might find that some of your smart devices won’t respond.

What We Like

  • Easy to use
  • Seamless
  • Great-quality Wi-Fi

What We Don’t Like

  • Time-consuming setup
Samsung SmartThings Wi-Fi + Hub
Samsung SmartThings


Samsung SmartThings Hub


Samsung SmartThings Wi-Fi + Hub Box

One of our testers, who used this device with an Amazon Alexa and a collection of Phillips Hue lightbulbs, reported that it changed the way he interacted with his home: “The highlight of this product is that, once it was set up, we didn’t think about it,” he said. “We slowly but seamlessly integrated it — and its associated ‘smart’ products — into our lives.” One reviewer also felt that its Wi-Fi signal was excellent: “I able to completely eliminate dead spots in my apartment,” he said. “I didn’t realize that my home Wi-Fi could be so fast.” On the other hand, our testers noted that even though the setup process was fairly straightforward, it was still time-consuming.

What We Like

  • Easy setup
  • Great display quality
  • Versatile

What We Don’t Like

  • Sound quality could be better
  • Can’t power via USB
Google home hub
Google hub


Google home hub smart hub


Google home hub google assistant

This device won over one of our testers with its simple setup process and great-quality screen display: “I love how the screen brightness adjusts to light,” she explained. “You don’t have to fiddle with the brightness settings.” One reviewer — who set up this device in her kitchen and used it primarily to look up recipes, watch instructional cooking videos, and control her other devices — was also impressed with its versatility. “There’s so much you can do with it,” she said. “I’m discovering new features every day.” The downsides? Our testers wished its sound quality were better and also that it had the capability to be powered via USB: “Pretty much all devices nowadays do that,” one reviewer explained, “and it’s useful in cases where you may want to run it without a full plug (like in an RV).”

What We Like

  • Easy setup
  • Sharp display
  • Amazing sound quality

What We Don’t Like

  • Can’t customize home screen
Lenovo 10
Lenovo 10


Lenovo Smart Display


Lenovo 10


Lenovo Display

“This display really has made spending time in the kitchen more exciting,” declared one of our reviewers. The highlights? Its easy setup process, its “sharp and vivid” display, and its sound quality: “It was loud enough to fill the kitchen with music,” one tester explained. “The higher ranges provide deep, robust sound without sounding tinny.” In terms of negatives, one of our reviewers wished that the device’s home screen had more customization options: “I’d rather tap into different apps to find my personal information instead of having my calendar and recent Google Assistant queries readily listed for everyone to see.”

What We Like

  • Simple setup
  • Excellent sound quality
  • Easy to interact with Google Assistant

What We Don’t Like

  • Slight delay when executing voice commands
  • Heavy
Google Home Max
Google Home


Google Home Max smart hub


Google Home Max hub


Google smart hub

The Google Home Max stood out to one of our testers because of its excellent sound quality: “It filled my living room and it was easy to adjust the bass and treble on your mobile app as you please,” he reported. “I like this product so much that I may consider purchasing another one for pairing usage — just imagine the extra sound I’d get!” Our reviewers also liked that it was easy to set up. Although one tester enjoyed interacting with Google Assistant, he noted that it was slightly slow to execute voice commands. One reviewer also thought that the device’s weight made it less portable.

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