The best smart home hubs of 2021


By Bradly Spicer
Published on: September 16th, 2021

Smart home hubs are the brain of your connected home. They connect all of your smart devices, and without one, you’re not really living in a smart space.

Your hub is what connects you to all of the services that make your life easier – like controlling your lights with voice commands or using an app when you’re away from Smart Home.

Before you start here, definitely check out these important guides first:

There are plenty of options out there but which ones will last? Here is our list of best Smart Home Hubs.

Testing Information

Number of devices we tested14
How long we’ve been testing3 years +

Best Smart Home Hubs

Best Overall: Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen)

The best smart home hubs of 2021

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, Sidewalk
Price: $49.99 / £49.99

If you’re an Alexa user, this is the best choice so far, not only does it boast a new spherical design that looks great it also offers Bluetooth, Wi-Fi & Zigbee making it the first voice assistant based hub on the market with this integration.

The sound quality is incredible for something in this price range, if you’re big into music you may wish to get an additional speaker to plug in via a 3.5mm audio jack, although it’s not really necessary.

This Alexa device works with Alexa Guard which means it will constantly listen for glass breaking or smoke alarms, it’s an obvious choice to have if you’re not at home often.

This generation of Echo now supports their new connectivity protocol called Amazon Sidewalk, which in short shares your internet bandwidth with other nearby devices so if your or someone else’s internet goes down you can still access online facilities.

Read our full Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) Review.

Pros:

  • Alexa is a great Smart Assistant
  • Great Sound Quality
  • Zigbee Support
  • Extremely Easy to use
  • Skills allow you to connect to plenty of third-party applications
  • Extremely Durable

Cons:

  • No Z-Wave Support
  • The Alexa App isn’t intuative
  • Extensive Routines aren’t reliable

Best Smart Home Hub Runner Up: Aotec SmartThings Hub

The best smart home hubs of 2021

⭐⭐⭐⭐
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth, Zigbee, Z-Wave
Price: $129.99 / £95

Prior owned by Samsung, the SmartThings Hub is the go-to hub that has no voice assistant built-in. This is because it offers the most in terms of connectivity options and simply works to function as a way to control your smart devices.

The original Samsung SmartThings hub is for the most part pointless now, there’s no need to try and pick up that older generation Smart Hub when the Aoetec is exactly the same as the SmartThings Hub V3 but with a different logo put on it.

We rate the Aotec SmartThings Hub extremely highly for anyone who is familiar with using both Zigbee and Z-Wave integration as it’s extremely versatile and allows you to purchase much cheaper Smart Home Devices.

Despite not having a voice assistant built-in, it is fully compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant which means you can control routines etc setup in those Voice Assistants directly from your SmartThings Hub.

If you do already have the Samsung SmartThings hub, unfortunately, I have some bad news. Your prior automation and scenes will not come over from the old app into Aotec’s newer app, this means you will need to remake everything from scratch.

On the other hand, if you’re new to the SmartThings ecosystem, you’re going to enjoy constant updates and features with this fantastic hub, we really do recommend this if you don’t need a voice assistant!

Read our full Aotech SmartThings Hub Review.

Pros:

  • Wide Variety of support for other IoT products
  • Zigbee & Z-wave Support
  • Extremely small
  • Integrates both Alexa & Google Assistant

Cons:

  • A little more confusing to set up
  • Higher price point than an Echo Dot

Best smart home hub for the Google Ecosystem: Nest Hub Max

The best smart home hubs of 2021

⭐⭐⭐
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Price: $229 / £219

Nest Hub Max is Nest’s largest smart home hub. It’s a voice assistant, speaker, and screen all in one. The device also doubles as a security camera with two-way audio so you can speak to people at your door from anywhere.

The Nest Hub Max has the Google Assistant built-in, which means it does everything that other Google Home devices do like telling you about the weather or playing music on Spotify for instance.

You can also use its large display to watch YouTube videos or take photos of your surroundings using its built-in Nest Cam feature. All of this is powered by an AC adapter and comes in either black or white color options!

Unfortunately, products with Google Assistant built-in are still a little behind the Alexa EcoSystem, especially at this price point.

It’s also worth noting that Google recently killed off the “Works with Nest” program which means its system is even more closed off than prior.

If you already have other Nest products such as the Nest Thermostat, Nest Doorbell and Nest Secure alarm system, then the Google Nest Hub is probably the better choice as we don’t know if they will kill support for communication with other voice assistants in the future.

One of the nicest features about the Nest Hub Max is that it works as a moving picture frame whenever it’s not in use, so if you’re looking to make your house a little more “homey”, this definitely helps with the aesthetic.

If like myself you use your Google Account for managing your schedule via Google Calendars, it’s perfect for any productive fanatic.

Read our full Nest Hub Max Review.

Pros:

  • Great Quality Screen
  • Great for people in the Nest ecosystem
  • Extremely small
  • Can be used as a photo frame

Cons:

  • Considerably more expensive
  • No Zigbee / Z-Wave support
  • Lacks as much functionality as Alexa

Best smart home hub for the Apple Ecosystem: Apple HomeKit

Apple TV 4K

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet
Price: $144 / £169

Before we go into this, it’s worth mentioning the Apple HomeKit / HomePod only really works with other Apple products, especially as Apple traded out Zigbee and Z-Wave compatibility for the Thread protocol. That being said, the Apple HomeKit system is a fantastic cross between a traditional hardware hub and a software hub.

In short, Apple HomeKit is a framework that connects your Smart Home Devices to either your Apple HomePod or Apple TV 4K to allow the use of Siri.

For example, if you buy a HomeKit-enabled product, the HomeKit framework connects that device to iOS devices on your Local Network. This means you can control your SmartHome from your Mac, HomePod, etc. There’s a lot going on with the Apple HomeKit Framework, but it really is a genius system.

The Apple HomeKit Hub allows you to move from a totally local Wi-Fi network to having your devices controlled remotely.

Simply sign in to your Apple HomeKit Hub with your Apple ID and you can control your home from your iPhone or iPad without any third-party app or integration.

Due to all this, your Smart Home will be extremely responsive because it doesn’t need to communicate with remote servers like Alexa or Google Assistant. It’s quite possibly one of the smoothest experiences on the Smart Home Market.

Despite not having Zigbee or Z-Wave, this doesn’t mean you can’t use products like Philips Hue or Sengled, you will, however, need to use their specific hubs as an extension to your Smart Home Network.

Read our full Apple HomeKit Review

Pros:

  • Visual Interface
  • Works as a 4K Streaming Top Box

Cons:

  • Exclusive to Apple ecosystem
  • No Zigbee / Z-Wave support
  • The HomePod has a better Microphone

Best DIY Hub: OpenHAB

OpenHAB on a Raspberry Pi

OpenHab is a piece of software that lets you create your own Smart Home without requiring a cloud service, this is because it runs on a localised device such as Linux, macOS, Windows, Raspberry Pi, Synology and even Docker. If you’re a bit of a tech junkie or work in SysAdmin this may be a fun alternative project!

Despite not requiring Cloud Services to work, it does still have accessibility to many Cloud-Based Smart Home platforms such as Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit.

Read our breakdown into OpenHAB

Software-Only Hub

The best smart home hubs of 2021

Yonomi is a virtual Smart Home, Voice Assistant, and Hub all in one app. The voice assistant component of the Yonomi App will help you find recipes, set up reminders, or turn on your lights from any location. It also integrates with Amazon Alexa & Google Assistant for a seamless experience.

The Yonomi App makes it easier to control your home by organizing all of the smart devices into manageable groups called “scenes.”

You can create scenes that have specific settings for different occasions such as watching TV or going to sleep – no matter what device you use to control them!

Surprisingly, Yonomi has an extremely impressive list of compatible product brands it works with. These can range from your big companies like Alexa, Google Assistant, Philips Hue, LIFX, and even EcoBee.

Yonomi is only compatible with Android and iOS as of the moment, sorry Blackberry users!

If you’re looking for a cheaper option to set up your Smart Home, definitely do check out the Yonomi App or read our Yonomi guide here.

Smart Home Hub Considerations

Not every hub will meet our criteria through testing, but that doesn’t mean all Smart Home Hubs are bad. These are some additional hubs you may want to look into:

What does a smart home hub do?

A Smart Home Hub is a device that connects all of your smart home devices together. It can also be called a “Home Automation Controller” or “Smart Home Controller.” The hub acts as the central point for controlling, monitoring, and automating everything in your connected home through the use of IoT (Internet of Things).

For example, those Smart Devices can include your Smart TV, Smart Bulbs, and even ‘dumb’ technology converted smart with the use of a Switchbot.

The goal of the hub is to simplify your life by eliminating the need to use different apps for each individual device you have installed in your house. For example, turning on or off your lights whilst you aren’t at home or in another room.

Your voice assistant will then control these functions for you with just one command! You don’t have to worry about remembering what app controls what device anymore because now it’s all accessible from one screen.

Smart Home Hubs will use varying different protocols to talk to one another, these fall under Bluetooth, Thread, Wi-Fi, Zigbee & Z-Wave.

These protocols allow devices designed and built for different purposes to be controlled and communicate with one another. Like a language, everyone can speak.

What types of Smart Hubs are there?

There are varying different Smart Hubs you have access to, some better than others each with its own positives and negatives. Typically, you will only need one of these options, however, depending on your ecosystem and configuration you may need up to 2 different hubs.

Voice Assistant Hubs

This is the most common option as this will be anything like a Google Nest Hub, Amazon Echo, or Apple HomeKit device. There is a crucial difference between Smart Hubs and Voice Assistants, Smart Hubs. Smart Hubs control your Smart Hub whereas Voice Assistants are the communication point between yourself and the command center.

A Voice Assistant Hub is a combination of the two, this will be a Voice Assistant who will work as your Smart Hub rather than buying two separate devices.

The downside to Voice Assistant Hubs is that they cannot handle complex tasks that the Aoetec SmartThings Hub can for example. This is because typical Voice Assistant Hubs will use their own software to connect to an online service which allows them to communicate with compatible devices. Not only is this a slower process but will make your Smart Home redundant if you have no internet connection.

However, if a device can communicate with the Voice Assistant in question, for example, Alexa via Skills. You will be able to fluidly control that device through voice or your Smart Devices like normal or by grouping them.

Given the Amazon Echo (4th Gen) has Zigbee now built-in, it removes the need for specific ecosystem hubs like the Philips Hue or Sengled Bulb Hub.

Software Hubs

Not all hubs require you to go out and purchase a $50+ device that requires constant power, in many cases you can use apps to operate as a Smart Hub and unite different branded devices via your Smart Phone. This does however limit some tasks to being on your local WiFi connection, so if you are remote or using 4G/5G you likely won’t be able to control your Smart Home.

That being said, the Apple HomeKit is both a software and hardware hub which allows you to do all this via HomeKit compatible devices. For example, if you have an Apple TV 4K, that can work as your Software-Hub via some Apple Hardware you already have, this means you can control your Smart Home via Siri or your iPhone directly regardless of being on your local network or remote.

Alternatively, as we mentioned earlier, Yonomi allows you to add multiple devices to your Android Phone and use that as an App, it’s an incredibly useful app for people who rent or don’t want an extensive Hub collection. However, as the saying goes, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Standard Smart Hubs

Before Voice Assistant Hubs dominated the mainstream market, these hubs ruled them all, and whilst they aren’t as popular anymore they are incredibly crucial to bigger Smart Home control.

Hubs like the Samsung SmartThings (Now Aoetec), Hubitat, and Wink typically come with more advanced software and a wider range of protocols that means they’re of a better use for homes with many ecosystems in use. This means you can mix and match bulbs, etc

You should do your own research beforehand as not all devices will work with every Smart Hub, despite price tags and what they typically boast.

In some cases, you will need to have an additional hub for a product in a place with your main hub which allows them to then communicate with each other. Alongside this, whilst these hubs are more expansive on what they offer they are also a little more complicated in terms of configuring and setting up. If you have a basic understanding of networking that can really help when using these.

Conclusion

Smart Hubs come in many different varieties and each one has its own purpose. Only you can decide which one is best for your home. Make sure to do some research on the type of hubs that are available, what they do, how much they cost, and where you can purchase them before making a final decision about which hub will be right for you.

If you’ve already purchased a smart hub or have any questions about choosing the right one for your needs, feel free to reach out to us on Twitter @smarthomebit


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