A smart home hub allows you to connect your smart devices into a single network to unlock almost endless features that make your life easier, organized, and more informed. "A smart home [powered by a standard smart hub] unlocks a host of services across a variety of devices to suit your changing needs from day-to-day," says Bobby Rai, Product Business Leader at Google Nest.
We researched dozens of smart home hubs, including smart speakers and smart displays that double as one-stop smart home controllers, judging them on compatibility, connectivity, ease of use, and design. Our best overall pick is the Amazon Echo, which combines usability, features, and compatibility in a way that few other smart home hubs can.
Here are the best smart home hubs to suit all needs, smart home setups, and budgets.
Best Overall: Amazon Echo (Fourth Generation)
Incredibly easy to set up and use
Impressive and immersive sound
Accurate voice recognition
Activation light can be difficult to see
Many consider Amazon to have started the smart home hub trend, and the latest version of its Echo device is our top pick for its audio quality and usability at a reasonable price. This fourth-generation model features a new circular design that’s smaller and resembles the budget-friendly Echo Dot. One major drawback of the redesign is that the activation light appears on the underside and is difficult to see. However, the Echo has a more powerful speaker with a woofer that offers a crisp sound that’s surprisingly full of bass for such a relatively small speaker. Music-wise, the Amazon Echo supports all major streaming and audio services, including Amazon Music, Spotify, SiriusXM, Audible, and Apple Music, via the relevant Skills.
Aside from great audio, the redesigned Echo takes seconds rather than minutes to set up and connect to other compatible devices on your network. Since it includes a built-in Zigbee hub, you can ask Alexa to search for and link to Zigbee smart lights, plugs, and sensors in your home. This feature makes the fourth-gen model the easiest Echo we’ve ever used and the most user-friendly smart hub on our list.
You can use voice controls straight out of the box or expand the hub’s repertoire by installing Skills via the Alexa app or asking Alexa to download them. Skills are like phone apps that allow Alexa to carry out specific tasks or “talk” to certain devices in your home. We use our Echo to open Amazon Prime on our Amazon Fire TV stick, turn on our Hive smart lights in our bedroom, and turn down the temperature on our connected Ecobee smart thermostat.
You can also use Amazon Routines to manage and run these tasks automatically. Meanwhile, Alexa Guard is a free service in the Alexa app that will send notifications if your Echo device detects the sound of a smoke alarm or glass breaking while you’re away. The only major protocol the Echo doesn’t currently support is Thread, meaning you can’t use your Echo to control the Apple HomePod Mini or Google Nest devices.
Best Budget: Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) | Smart speaker with clock and Alexa
Great value for money
Easy to set up
Affordable way to create speaker system
Activation light can be difficult to see
If you want the smart home hub benefits of the Amazon Echo without the higher price tag, you can’t go wrong with the Amazon Echo Dot. The most significant visible difference between the two devices is that the Echo Dot is available with or without a digital clock face. The biggest technical difference is that the Echo Dot has a single rather than dual-tweeter speaker setup and no woofer, so the sound isn't as robust. It also lacks a built-in Zigbee hub. However, this device works perfectly well as a standalone speaker without any other Echo devices connected, but adding Echos is an affordable way to create an entire smart home network.
The Echo Dot can automatically connect to other Amazon devices on the same network, from Fire TV sticks to Fire tablets and other Echo speakers to Amazon Sidewalk. Setup takes seconds and can be done via the Alexa app or by directly asking the built-in Alexa assistant. As with other Amazon Echos, the Echo Dot can’t control the Google Nest or Apple HomePod Mini, but it does support the full range of major music services from Amazon Music to Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music via the relevant Skills. It’s also compatible with Amazon Guard—a free service enabled from the Alexa app that sends notifications if your Echo device picks up breaking glass or a smoke or carbon monoxide alarm sounding when you're not home.
Best for Automation: Aeotec Smart Home Hub
Doubles as a SmartThings hub
Supports SmartThings automations
Compatible with 5,000 devices across brands
Multiple control options
Automations setup can be finicky
It’s not the most stylish, but the Aeotec Smart Home Hub is a highly versatile and affordable hub compatible with more than 5,000 devices. It’s a smart home platform that supports many smart services, from Philips Hue to Ring, Yale, Sonos, Honeywell, Bose, and more. It’s also a smart home hub supporting Zigbee, Z-Wave, and SmartThings, a Samsung technology found in all Samsung products, including phones and appliances. Because it qualifies as a SmartThings home hub, you can use it to control any SmartThings products via voice, iPhone or Android apps, Amazon Alexa, or Google Assistant.
Another benefit of supporting SmartThings is that the Aeotec hub facilitates SmartThings Automations, a software feature that lets you build custom routines that automatically trigger multiple actions. You can use them to turn the lights on when you arrive home or switch on a smart coffee machine when your alarm goes off. The possibilities are practically endless via the app. Our biggest complaint is that this range of options can feel overwhelming if you're a smart home newbie. Plus, while it’s great the Aeotec smart home hub supports so many devices, we regularly had connectivity issues with several different products. In each case, it was the devices themselves causing the problems, but managing them all was frustrating at times and slightly reduced the versatility of this hub.
Best Smart Speaker: Sonos One
High-quality, customizable sound
Streams stored locally and in cloud
If you want speaker capabilities on a smart hub and are willing to pay more for the highest-quality audio, we highly recommend this compact smart speaker from Sonos One. It includes two digital amplifiers, a high-frequency tweeter, a mid-woofer, and a far-field microphone array. The microphone picks up your voice without difficulty no matter the noise level, and the sound is clear, adjustable, and distortion-free even at its highest volume. You can pair multiple Sonos speakers to form a network and play either the same audio—from 130+ internet services including Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, and Tidal—throughout your home or control the musical output of each speaker individually via the Sonos app.
While it’s primarily a smart speaker designed to connect with other Sonos products, the Sonos One’s compatibility with Amazon Alexa (built-in) and Google Assistant vastly increases its versatility. Any smart device that works with either smart assistant, and all the skills and commands available on both platforms, can be controlled via voice using Sonos One. The downside is that setup can be a little finicky. Beyond internet services, Sonos One is compatible with Apple AirPlay 2, meaning you can listen to any purchased audio files stored on your Apple devices at the touch of a button. It’s also easy to stream your entire music library from any computer storage drive.
Best Smart Display: Google Nest Hub Max
Highly versatile device
Intuitive and familiar operating system
Responsive, HD touchscreen display
Time-consuming to set up
Advanced features require additional subscriptions and accounts
App-controlled, audio-only smart home hubs are fantastic for managing your home, but some tasks (watching YouTube recipes, making video calls, or seeing who’s at your door) require touch-activated displays like the Google Nest Hub Max. This multitasker has built-in Google Assistant and Chromecast, which means you can control the display and connected devices via voice or stream content from your phone or tablet. The 10-inch touchscreen is responsive and familiar to Android and Google users, and you can create personalized results for up to six users. Thanks to Face Match technology and the built-in Nest camera, the Nest Hub Max knows who it’s “looking at” and highlights relevant notifications and apps. This feature takes a bit of effort to set up but is worth it.
Protocol-wise, the Google Nest Hub runs on Thread. It’s directly compatible with Nest, Arlo, Hue, Wink, and Ring products. It’s also indirectly compatible with thousands of other devices because it supports SmartThings. It’s not compatible with Zigbee or Amazon Alexa, however. Our biggest complaint is that it relies heavily on Google products; each user has to have a separate Google account. You’ll have to pay extra for Google Duo video calls and messaging, YouTube TV, and Nest Aware, which allows continuous video recording and familiar face alerts. These extras are optional, but if you want to get the very best out of this device, make sure you set aside enough time (and patience) to get it up and running.
Best for Alexa: Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd generation)
Rotating base means the display is always in view
Built-in Zigbee hub
Enhanced privacy controls
Doubles up as a remote-controlled smart home camera
Touchscreen and software lags
Large, clunky design
It’s not the largest or newest model in Amazon’s Echo Show range of smart displays, but the Show 10 offers the best combination of design, features, and price we’ve seen. It gets its name from its 10-inch HD display and the built-in 13-megapixel camera and tracking software, which enables the display to rotate on its base. It can follow you as you move around the room during video calls or can keep your TV shows and more always in view. This hardware combo doubles as a remote-controlled smart home camera, letting you check in on your home or pets when you’re away. You can also mute the mic and cover the camera if you prefer.
You can use Alexa to control any compatible smart devices, but the Show 10 acts as a Zigbee hub and instantly connects to Zigbee-powered devices via the app or Alexa. The display base has the same speaker combination as the latest Amazon Echo. The Show 10’s speaker will adjust the audio based on your location but struggles with distortion at high volumes. The touchscreen can be laggy, and the operating system can feel slow and clunky. This larger unit also requires some consideration with placement because of the rotating feature. However, if you have room, the voice and touchscreen functionality can help you get the most out of your smart home setup.
Best for Google Assistant: Google Nest Hub 2nd Gen
Chromecast built in
Accurate voice recognition
Sleep Sensing software
Best suited to existing Google users
No camera/video call capability
No HD display
While the Nest Hub Max is considered Google’s flagship smart home hub, the smaller, 7-inch Google Nest Hub is still a great and easier way to add many of the same features for less. It’s missing the built-in Nest camera, which means no video calls or the ability to see your home when you’re away or out, and it lacks HD resolution, but the rest of its features are admirable. The display, for instance, is more than adequate for streaming movies and TV and viewing your Google Photos. Its speaker can stream from Spotify, YouTube Music, and more at high volumes without too much distortion. You can also use the Google Nest Hub to make audio calls, and the three microphones make calls and commands clear and accurate.
The Nest Hub comes with Google Assistant, but there’s no support for Amazon Alexa, SmartThings, Zigbee, or Z-Wave. You can use your voice to control connected devices, but the range is limited and largely reserved for Google-owned Nest or Thread protocol devices. On the plus side, the Google Nest Hub is the first to feature what’s known as Soli radar technology for gesture controls. It can be a little sensitive and often thought we were gesturing to the device when we were gesturing to family members, but it’s a useful addition. This hub also includes ambient light, temperature sensors, and a Sleep Sensing feature that can monitor your sleep.
Best for HomeKit: Apple HomePod Mini
Immersive and powerful 360-degree sound
Automation features via the Home app
Instantly hand off audio from your iPhone
Few compatible third-party devices
Best for existing Apple users
The best way to control Apple-powered and HomeKit-compatible devices is via the Apple HomePod Mini. It resembles the size and shape of the Amazon Echo but comes in a broader range of colors. You can control any device compatible with HomeKit, Thread, and AirPlay via Siri on HomePod or Apple’s Home app. This list of devices is small compared to other platforms like SmartThings but covers a decent selection of product types, including security cameras, lights, doorbells, and garage door openers. Apple’s Home app also comes with automation features.
As a speaker, its 360-degree setup isn’t the loudest, but the sound quality is far better than expected. Its compatibility with Apple TV allows you to use HomePod Minis as a surround sound system. Our favorite feature is that you can “hand off” whatever you’re listening to on your iPhone straight to the HomePod Mini by putting the two devices next to each other. There’s no fiddling around with app controls, and you don’t have to rely on Siri. At the same time, personalized listening suggestions will also appear on your iPhone when you hold it next to HomePod Mini, letting you jump straight in. As with the Google Nest range’s reliance on Google, the HomePod Mini relies heavily upon and works best with Apple devices and services.
Best for Versatility: Wink Hub 2
Supports the most smart home protocols
Can be used via Wi-Fi and Ethernet
Easy-to-use app and automation features
Doesn’t support SmartThings
If you’re already a smart home pro or don’t want to worry about the various protocols offered by manufacturers, the Wink Hub 2 is your best bet. It works with more smart home protocols than any other platform and is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant out of the box. Aside from some exceptions like the Apple HomePod Mini, the Wink Hub 2 will work with many devices. Its compatibility is comparable to Samsung SmartThings while being marginally easier to set up and use. Speaking of setup, Wink added an Auto-Discovery feature, which makes the whole process straightforward. It took us less than five minutes to connect all our devices, enable notifications, and schedule basic automations.
Managing more complex automations takes longer, but the process is less involved than the SmartThings app. The options are also more varied than those offered by Apple because Wink uses If This Then That (IFTTT), a user-friendly online tool that helps you automate many tasks from a vast selection of apps, sites, and services. Another standout feature is the addition of an Ethernet port. By plugging the hub directly into your router, connections are more reliable, commands are faster, and there are fewer signal problems than when used over Wi-Fi. We never once had any issues using the Hub 2 over Wi-Fi, but the Ethernet option will appeal if your home has several signal dead spots.
When you factor in price, design, ease of use, compatibility, controls, and features, the best smart home hub is the fourth-generation Amazon Echo. It’s great for smart home newbies and seasoned pros, and the entire Echo range fits nicely with most home aesthetics. If you’d rather buy a high-quality smart speaker with the bonus of wider smart home features, the Sonos One is an excellent alternative for music lovers.
What to Look For in a Smart Home Hub
When choosing a smart home hub, two of the most significant considerations should be connectivity and compatibility. At its simplest, connectivity allows one device to discover and recognize another on a network and form a link. There are thousands of devices from hundreds of manufacturers, and not all hubs will work with all devices. No matter how cheap or how good the display, speaker, or design is, if your chosen product doesn’t connect or isn’t compatible with your hub, you won’t be able to use it to its full potential—if at all.
To navigate this, it’s worth spending time mapping out all of your current smart home products. From here, you’ll see which connectivity and compatibility options are most common across your products. You can then cross-check these options with those supported by the smart home hub you’re looking to buy. Be aware that two products that support the same connectivity options won’t automatically be able to “talk” to one another. Connectivity just describes how the network is created and formed. Protocols and software will ultimately determine how smart and useful this connection and network are.
Smart home hub compatibility requires considering the protocols used, the supported software, and connectivity. For a smart home device to be compatible with a smart home hub, they both need to speak the same language. A smart home protocol is the “language” that different devices use to send data and communicate. The largest and most common smart home protocols are Zigbee, Z-Wave, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy, and Thread. The two products should be compatible if a Zigbee-powered device and a hub support the Zigbee protocol. If a device only works with Z-Wave and your hub only supports Thread, the two products won’t be compatible.
Even if a device isn’t directly compatible with a protocol, you may still be able to use it via the software it supports. The easiest way to guarantee compatibility is to buy all the products and devices from the same manufacturer. However, not everyone wants to rely on one specific ecosystem. “When choosing a product, it’s important that it will be future-proof. In this way, advancing technologies will be key,” explains Rai. Look for products that support newer technologies such as Bluetooth Low Energy, Thread, and Matter. “Matter is the new protocol that simplifies smart homes by using one standard across the industry,” says Rai. Products that support it today will still work everywhere they currently do in the future.
If there are smart home tasks that you carry out regularly and repeatedly, many platforms will let you automate them. This schedule can be as simple as setting your smart lights to turn off at a particular time. More complex routines might include getting your thermostat and lights to turn on, your door lock to open, your kettle to start boiling, and a notification to be sent to a loved one as soon as your smart camera recognizes you arriving home.
Typically you manage these automations with the relevant app. The software determines the level of complexity and how easy they are to use. Apple manages its automations through its Routines and Shortcut tools. Any devices and hubs compatible with SmartThings can use the Samsung Automations feature. Google’s Home app lets you manage Home and Away routines, while other platforms, such as Wink, rely on If This Then That (IFTTT) services. IFTTT is a simple-to-use, well-established online tool that helps you automate numerous tasks from a broad selection of apps, sites, and services from any web-connected device. All you need is an IFTTT account.
Do I need a smart home hub?
If you don't already own any smart home products or don't intend to in the future, then it's unlikely a smart home hub is for you. If you only have a small network of devices, particularly if those devices are all from the same manufacturer, you're probably controlling and managing them easily via an app. A smart home hub may be overkill. However, if you've got smart home devices from various manufacturers and different types, or you're wrestling with multiple apps for multiple products, a smart home hub will help you streamline your network. A hub can also make it easier to control and manage your devices.
"A smart home is perfect for any individual or family that wants to experience a more helpful and well-connected home," says Rai. "Life can be hectic, even chaotic, but we all want our homes to be a haven where we can switch off and relax. If that sounds ideal to you, a smart home hub can do the hard work for you."
How do smart hubs communicate with other devices?
For a hub and a smart home device to communicate with one another and for you to use the hub to control your smart home products, the two need to speak the same “language.” This language refers to the protocols they respectively use, as well as their connectivity options. Smart hubs use shared connectivity to discover and network smart home devices, and standard methods include Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Hubs send and share data to connected devices using their shared language or software.
If two devices don’t speak the same languages, or they don’t share the same connectivity, they can’t join the smart hub’s network, and they can’t receive data and commands from this hub.
How do smart hubs differ from smart displays or speakers?
Smart hubs refer to products that connect and control multiple smart devices but don’t have any additional functionality. Smart speakers are smart hubs that can respond to voice or app commands. Smart displays add on video capabilities and controls and can act as standalone entertainment centers and smart home cameras.
“A smart speaker in isolation allows a user to listen to their favorite music or set timers,” says Rai. While smart displays create what Rai calls “a truly connected home,” allowing you to “communicate with a delivery man from your morning commute using a smart doorbell, or catch up with your family while cooking a meal and following a recipe on devices like the Nest Hub Max.”
Why Trust The Spruce?
Victoria Woollaston is a freelance science, technology, and lifestyle editor with more than a decade’s experience testing and reviewing consumer products. She’s had firsthand experience of every smart home hub in this list, as well as a number of others from different manufacturers and of different types. Her home has smart lights, a smart thermostat, multiple smart outlets, and a smart camera system.
To learn more about how smart hubs interact with such a range of products and device types, Woollaston spoke with Bobby Rai, Product Business Leader at Google Nest. Using these expert insights, she looked for smart hubs that were easy to set up, could be controlled in multiple ways, and which stood out from their competitors in terms of price, design, features, and automation tools. She prioritized smart home hubs that offer a wide range of connectivity and compatibility options and, as a result, would suit most smart home setups.