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2020’s Best Smart Home Automation Systems

If you're looking for one hub to rule them all (all your devices, that is), we've narrowed down the field and handpicked the best smart home hubs to fit your lifestyle and your budget.
Written by | Updated October 1, 2020
Best compatibility
Samsung GP-U999SJVLGDA 3rd Generation SmartThings HubSamsung SmartThings
  • Broad compatibility
  • Easy device recognition
  • Broad compatibility
  • Easy device recognition
Best voice controls
Echo Plus 2nd GenAmazon Echo Plus
  • Alexa skills
  • Good sound quality
  • Alexa skills
  • Good sound quality
Best for media
Logitech Harmony HubLogitech Harmony Hub
  • Closed cabinet operation
  • Universal remote
  • Closed cabinet operation
  • Universal remote
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Last Updated: 3 weeks ago
  • Amazon recently redesigned its Echo smart speakers, but they don't ship until October 22, 2020. Read up on these new products in the Amazon Echo reviews below.
  • Google announced a redesign of their Google Home smart speaker, now called the Google Nest Audio. More details to come in our upcoming smart speaker review.
  • If This Then That (IFTTT) recently introduced a subscription plan (about $10 a month). Unfortunately, the free plan lost most of the things that made IFTTT worthwhile for smart homes.
  • Bottom line: Bring it all together with Samsung SmartThings

    One of the most important questions when you’re shopping for a smart home hub is “Will it work with my devices?” The 3rd generation Samsung SmartThings Hub earned our top pick because more often than not, the answer to that question was “yes” with this hub.

    It works with Zigbee, Z-Wave, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. It’s a little bit cheaper than its past versions because it doesn’t have a backup battery, and the cloud-to-cloud protocols require less memory space. Also, you don’t need to connect it to your router using a cable, so you can put it pretty much anywhere.

    Find out how it compares to the competition in our full breakdown of the best smart hubs.

    Compare the best smart home hubs

    List price*
    Connection type
    Smart home compatibility (partial list)
    Best compatibility
    Best voice controls
    Best for media
    Budget Alexa hub
    Budget Google hub
    Samsung SmartThings
    (3rd Gen)
    Amazon Echo Plus
    (2nd Gen)
    Logitech Harmony Hub Amazon Echo Dot
    (3rd Gen)
    Google Nest Mini
    Samsung GP-U999SJVLGDA 3rd Generation SmartThings Hub Echo Plus 2nd Gen Logitech Harmony Hub Amazon Echo Dot Google Nest Mini Smart Speaker
    $89.99 $149.99 $99.99 $49.99 $49.00
    Bluetooth
    Wi-Fi
    Z-Wave
    Zigbee
    Bluetooth
    Wi-Fi
    Zigbee
    Bluetooth
    Wi-Fi
    Infrared
    Bluetooth
    Wi-Fi
    Bluetooth
    Wi-Fi
    Alexa, Arlo, August, Bose, Cree, Ecobee, GE, Google Assistant, Honeywell, Kwikset, Leviton, LIFX, Philips Hue, Ring, Schlage, Sylvania, Yale Alexa, Arlo, August, Ecobee, GE, Honeywell, Kwikset, LIFX, Lutron, Nest, Philips Hue, Schlage, SmartThings, Sylvania, TP-Link, WeMo, Yale Alexa, Apple TV, Google Assistant, PlayStation, Roku, Sonos, Wii, Xbox Alexa, Arlo, August, Ecobee, GE, Honeywell, Kwikset, LIFX, Lutron, Nest, Philips Hue, Schlage, SmartThings, Sylvania, TP-Link, WeMo, Yale August, Cree, Ecobee, GE, Google Home, Honeywell, Leviton, LG, LIFX, Nest, Philips Hue, SmartThings, Sylvania, TP-Link, WeMo
    View on Amazon View on Amazon View on Amazon View on Amazon View on Home Depot
    Read review Read review Read review Read review Read review

    *Amazon.com list price as of 10/01/2020 at 4:00 p.m. (MT). Read full disclaimer.

    Our approach

    To select the best smart home hubs, we dug for hubs that were compatible with the most brands and easy to use. We studied real user reviews and compared product features side by side in hands-on tests. Read our full methodology to find out more.

    Best smart hubs reviews

    1. Samsung SmartThings (3rd Gen): Best compatibility

    Samsung GP-U999SJVLGDA 3rd Generation SmartThings Hub

    Samsung SmartThings (3rd Gen)

    Having a Samsung SmartThings Hub is kind of like traveling the world with a multilingual friend. It breaks down communication barriers and helps you and your devices all communicate better together, giving you a fully integrated smart home system.

    Unlike other smart home hubs that require you to scan in the QR codes from all your devices, the Samsung SmartThings scans for your devices’ signals on its own—it might even discover smart products you didn’t even know you had!

    Pros

    • Android and iOS compatibility
    • Easy setup
    • Routines and scenes
    • Multiple communication protocols
    • Independence from router

    Cons

    • Not compatible with Nest
    • Connectivity issues

    If you use Google Assistant or an Amazon Alexa device, the Samsung SmartThings is compatible with both. The Samsung app manages all your devices in one place, so you can create routines and “scenes” for certain times, like when you first wake up in the morning or when you leave the house.

    The app is a little slow to open, and we noticed that some non-Samsung brand devices tend to have some connectivity issues. But overall, it’s a solid choice for multiple device integration.

    Read our full Samsung SmartThings review.

    2. Amazon Echo Plus (2nd Gen): Best voice controls

    Echo Plus 2nd Gen

    Amazon Echo Plus (2nd Gen)

    The Amazon Echo Plus takes the Echo family further into smart home integration by adding a Zigbee-enabled smart home hub. It supports Zigbee, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth smart home devices. Use it to call people hands-free or ask Alexa to read the news, answer questions, and play music.

    It can also work like a home intercom system with other Amazon Echo devices in your house. If you’re like me and you don’t want your smart home hub to look like an alien spaceship that landed in the middle of your home, you’ll appreciate the variety of Echo Plus finishes to choose from.

    Pros

    • Voice control
    • Alexa skills
    • Different finishes
    • IFTTT compatibility

    Cons

    • Incompatible with some devices
    • Disappointing sound quality

    The second generation Echo Plus is touted as having better sound quality than its predecessor, with 360-degree Dolby speakers and a mini woofer for better bass performance. But many users who have upgraded say that the sound quality actually falls short when compared to the original Echo Plus.

    Check out some of our favorite Alexa-compatible devices.

    The end of the Echo Plus

    Amazon recently announced the Echo (4th Gen), which now includes a built-in Zigbee hub. This new Echo starts shipping on October 22, 2020 for around $100 (cheaper than the Echo Plus it's replacing).

    3. Logitech Harmony Hub: Best for media

    Logitech Harmony Hub

    Logitech Harmony Hub

    The Logitech Harmony Hub is for folks that dream of dimming the lights, powering up the surround sound, and starting a blockbuster movie on your big screen with a single tap. You can use the hub to design scenes like “movie night” with custom settings for each device to follow when it activates.

    It works with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so you can use your voice to connect to your set-top box to change channels or adjust the volume on your TV. If you prefer a quieter interaction, the Harmony app turns your phone or laptop into a universal remote, and IR blasters (they’re like an infrared remote control) can control up to eight different devices, even with those devices behind closed cabinet doors.

    Pros

    • Closed cabinet control
    • Universal remote
    • Voice control
    • Computer app access
    • Favorite channels

    Cons

    • Incompatibility with Z-Wave and Zigbee
    • Challenging setup

    Unfortunately, the Harmony Hub can’t connect to radio communication protocols like Zigbee or Z-Wave devices, and it controls only up to eight devices with its IR blaster. But you can pair it with another hub for added functionality if needed. For a full color touchscreen remote that controls up to 15 devices, check out the Logitech Harmony Elite (about $270).

    4. Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen): Budget Alexa hub

    Amazon Echo Dot

    Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)

    The Amazon Echo Dot is a lot less expensive than traditional hubs and still performs many of the same functions, like giving you Alexa integration and voice control for your smart home devices.

    It costs a third of the price of the Echo Plus, so you can expect lower sound quality and no built-in Zigbee controls, but the Alexa voice assistant still answers your questions, plays your music, and gives you access to thousands of other skills.

    New version coming soon

    Amazon recently announced the Echo Dot (4th Gen), which ditches the hockey puck design for something akin to a child's basketball. This new Echo Dot releases on October 22, 2020 for around $50.

    5. Google Nest Mini: Budget Google hub

    Google Nest Mini Smart Speaker

    Google Nest Mini

    Like the Echo Dot, the Google Nest Mini isn’t much of a hub, but it offers hub-like features like controlling your smart home devices using your voice. It’s compatible with a wide variety of smart lights, plugs, appliances, and home security products.

    We found that Google Assistant is a little bit better at recognizing voice commands than Alexa, and we like the option for using less specific follow-up questions, like asking, “When does it open?” after asking where the nearest bakery is.

    Check out some of our favorite Google Assistant-compatible devices.

    More hubs we considered

    Broadlink

    The Broadlink RM4 Pro (about $45) is a cheaper universal remote alternative to Logitech Harmony. Its IR/RF technology allows you to control a wide variety of devices using your smartphone. While Harmony has a focus on entertainment devices like TVs and stereo systems, Broadlink expands beyond that to also control appliances like air conditioners and fans, provided they already use some sort of remote control.

    Hubitat

    The Hubitat Elevation (about $150) is a powerhouse of a smart hub, easily beating SmartThings in user privacy and customization options. But it’s mostly for hardcore smart home enthusiasts since it’s more difficult to set up. Plus, it’s one of the more expensive hubs on the market.

    Wink

    The Wink Hub 2 (about $100) was one of the earliest smart home hubs to hit the market, and it remains a compelling alternative to SmartThings. We like its native support for Nest and Lutron smart devices, both of which don’t work with SmartThings. Unfortunately, Wink’s products have become less reliable and harder to find in stock. Plus, its recent move to a monthly fee makes it a poor choice for folks on a budget.

    Final word

    The Samsung SmartThings Hub is our top smart hub pick thanks to its compatibility with an overwhelming number of smart devices. We especially like how you can just press “discover all my devices” in the app, and the SmartThings hub does the rest for you. The only real downsides to this hub were that it’s not compatible with Nest thermostats and it’s not always as reliable as we’d like.

    Smart home hub FAQ

    What should I look for in a smart hub?

    Always look at the compatibility, mobile app, and setup when choosing a smart home hub:

    • Compatibility: Make sure the devices are compatible with each other to avoid buying additional hubs or new devices. If you already have connected devices in your home, choose a hub that connects with them as well as future devices on your wishlist. The hub’s website should have a full list of compatible devices.
    • Mobile app: As you shop for a hub, read app reviews from users, and if you can, test drive different automation hubs. You want a user-friendly app that’s easy to navigate while interacting with your devices.
    • Setup: Most smart home hubs walk you through setup using tutorials and guides. It’s nice to have help setting up your hub and other devices in this growing market with lots of unknowns.

    If all my devices connect through my Wi-Fi network, do I need a smart home hub?

    Technically, no, and it can be tempting to rely on Wi-Fi-enabled smart gadgets and apps to avoid a hub setup altogether. Wi-Fi is fine for wired smart devices like bulbs, plugs, and smart doorbells, but it quickly drains the batteries of your wireless devices like security sensors or door locks.

    Having too many can also drag down your network speed. If you want to avoid frequent battery replacement and keep your Wi-Fi network running smoothly, it’s worth it to look into wireless devices that use radio frequencies like Z-Wave and Zigbee.

    Can I link multiple smart hubs together?

    Yes. You may have some hubs that speak one language and some that speak another, and that’s okay. As you learn more about how home automation works and get more comfortable with your system, you may discover more gadgets that don’t work with your current hub.

    In that case, you can use another hub or a bridge to loop them into your smart home system.

    Can security systems work as smart home hubs?

    Yes, the “brains” of some of the best smart home security systems also operate as smart home hubs and give you control of your smart home gadgets through your security system app.

    If you want voice control, look for a system that’s compatible with a voice assistant, and you’ll be able to access devices like your Ring Video Doorbell with your voice. Security system hubs can also offer you the added bonus of cellular and battery backups in case of power outages.

    Contributing writer: John Carlsen

    Disclaimers

    *Amazon.com list price as of 10/01/2020 at 4:00 p.m. (MT). Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Safewise.com utilizes paid Amazon links.

    Certain content that appears on this site comes from Amazon. This content is provided “as is” and is subject to change or removal at any time.

    †Google, Google Nest, Google Assistant, and other related marks are trademarks of Google LLC.

    Written by Kasey Tross

    Kasey is a trained Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) member and a freelance writer with expertise in emergency preparedness and security. As the mother of four kids, including two teens, Kasey knows the safety concerns parents face as they raise tech-savvy kids in a connected world, and she loves to research the latest security options for her own family and for SafeWise readers. Learn more

    Share this article.
    • Danintherockies

      Were these products actually tested for this review, or solely specs-based and what can be found on the Internet?

      The three of these are not even close to apples to apples. They meet different needs and have different purposes. Google Home and Alexa devices are in the same category (voice assistants with write-only control and camera support). Logitech is in the category with device-specific hubs, such as Hue and others. SmartThings is a true home automation hub comparable to Hubitat Elevation, Wink, Home Assistant, and many others. The “true” hubs all require a Voice Assistant such as an Alexa-enabled device, Google Home, and possibly others. These hubs can also take inputs from water leak sensors, motion sensors, and other sensors that provide data to the hub rather than being told what to do (like a light switch).

      • Celeste Tholen

        Hi there!

        Thanks for your comment—we test as much as possible before writing our reviews. We also acknowledge that for a lot of consumers, a smart speaker with a voice assistant is all they’ll need to get going with a smart home system. So while these aren’t apples-to-apples, we feel that they fit the needs of most folks just dipping their toes into home automation.

    • HomeTechHacker

      I know this is more about hardware smart home hubs, but I’d like to encourage people to take a look at Home Assistant. It runs on most hardware and is pretty easy to install. It’s powerful, and growing in features regularly. There’s a little bit of a learning curb, but it’s the best hub I’ve used and has a great community for help.

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