Choose Your Best Smart Home Hub

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A smart hub is a device that gives you control over other smart devices in your home via one central application, enabling you to control basic functions like turning on the living room lights, setting the thermostat, opening the garage door etc. There are a variety of factors to consider when choosing the right smart hub for your home. Simplicity should be right up there at the top of your list. It shouldn’t be too complicated to use or take up a lot of your time in running it.

Security is also important. You wouldn’t want one that can be controlled by anyone. A good hub should be able to verify user credentials before executing commands. It should also have a reasonable price tag and most importantly, it should be compatible with most, if not all, of the smart devices in your home. With the dawn of the artificial intelligence age, home automation was bound to be a reality sooner rather than later. For the average American who spends a lot of time at work, it is a highly convenient way of managing your home. Smart home hubs have taken the country by storm and it isn’t hard to see why. 

Google Home

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Google home review

Google Home

Home

Google Home is a smart hub best suited for a single home owner and not a home with multiple inhabitants. It signs into a single account and gives responses based on one specific user.

Google Home Pros

  • Google Home uses Google search, obviously, which has the upper hand in various aspects over its rival, Bing. Home also gives well-detailed responses on follow-up questions.
  • Google Home uses your personal information (from your Google account) to help it give personalized answers.
  • Home's listening in the process of playing music or in the presence of background noise is quite good. It also doesn't pause the music completely when replying; it just lowers the volume a bit.
  • Home has access to Google Play Music and YouTube Red which means you have access to tons of music.
  • The Google Home smart hub is quite small and looks just like your typical air freshener. The clean white touchpad and an array of lights at the top make the Google Home assistant very visually appealing.
  • Your Google Home smart hub can be easily customized to your liking. The speaker grille at the bottom effortlessly slides off and can be removed and replaced with that of a color of your choosing.

Google Home Cons

  • There appears to be a serious problem with the mute feature. Many users have complained that Google Home still listens even after pressing the mute mic button.
  • Another common problem is accidentally activating other devices when you mean to only talk to Google Home. Once you utter the hot words, all other android devices in proximity spring to life along with the assistant.
  • You can't set reminders. For example, if you told Home to remind you to go to the gym at 5 o’clock, it will decline.
  • Google Home only supports a limited number of smart home devices i.e. those made by SmartThings, Nest, and Philips Hue brands.

Amazon's Alexa & Echo

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Amazon

Alexa & Echo

Amazon's Alexa is the perfect home assistant if you have a large family or if you share your living space with other people. It supports multiple profiles and anyone can add events to the calendar. If you are a notorious online shopper, then Amazon's Alexa is exactly what you need.

Amazon Alexa Pros

  • You can add new reminders on to your to-do list whenever you want and Alexa will acknowledge it.
  • Alexa has numerous skills (over 3,000 and counting) compared to many of its competitors. She was among the very first smart speakers in the market and Amazon has managed to secure a lot of third-party partnerships for Alexa over the years.
  • Amazon Alexa supports a wide range of smart home devices which means it can carry out a wide range of your day to day home activities. She does almost everything from switching off the lights to opening the garage door and controlling security cameras.
  • Alexa is able to tell you the movies showing in adjacent theaters (Google Home does not yet have this feature).
  • Alexa is the best online shopping assistant. She was built by one of the giants of the online shopping industry and her expertise in this area comes as no surprise at all given Amazon's mastery of the business. You can also set passwords to prevent unauthorized purchases.

Amazon Alexa Cons

  • Alexa doesn't offer detailed responses on follow up questions on a lot of its search results and instead offers alternative Bing links on its Alexa app.
  • Some songs are completely unavailable since its music library is not as big as Google Home's. Sometimes, you would have to settle for samples or not so good alternative versions of a song.
  • The Amazon Alexa is not as effective as Home when it comes to describing certain travel routes. Sometimes, it doesn't specify how long it will take to get from one place to another by bus or any other means of transport.

Apple HomeKit

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Apple tv homekit review

Apple

TV & HomeKit

Who can use the Apple TV as a smart home hub? If you already own an Apple TV, then this alternative becomes cost effective because you just need to only buy the HomeKit and you're good to go. On the other hand, if you are looking to start from scratch then the opposite is true.

The hefty price tag on the Apple TVcoupled with the cost of buying the associated HomeKit products means that a lot of middle-class Americans cannot afford this option. 

Apple HomeKit Pros

  • It offers a good way to recycle that old Apple TV that you don't use anymore.
  • The Apple TV allows you to execute commands from afar. Siri, Apple’s smart home AI assistant, doesn't recognize commands issued beyond your home network for security purposes. Syncing the Apple TV with your iCloud account enables user verification from outside your home network range.
  • Certain smart home devices (like the Schlage Sense deadbolt) in your home rely on Bluetooth as a means of communication, which means that you can control them from a limited range. However, using the Apple TV as a hub and the nearest Bluetooth device within your home, you can control such devices even when you are not at home.

Apple HomeKit Cons

  • Setting up the Apple TV to work as a hub is, in some cases, very frustrating. Although the setup procedure is quite straight forward, certain units can just be a nuisance to set up as they might require a lot of troubleshooting. There have been quite a number of complaints online regarding such cases.
  • If you don't own an Apple TV already, then buying one simply for the purposes of using it as a smart hub can be expensive. The black box and the HomeKit could cost you upwards of two hundred dollars compared to buying one of the other smart home hubs for less than $150.

Which Smart Home Hub is Best?

Apple HomeKit (using the TV as a hub) does almost everything you'd want from a smart hub; however, the deal breaker is that it is quite costly to set up. The Apple TV alone would set you back $150, and even if you did have one lying around, the Apple HomeKit goes for well over $200. Therefore, this option doesn’t make a lot of sense given the Amazon Alexa and Google Home are almost $100 cheaper and can do the job just fine.

Although Google Home is almost $80 cheaper than the Amazon Echo, the Alexa holds one crucial advantage over Home; it is compatible with a wider range of smart home devices. In our opinion, Alexa is the best smart home hub for the most people. However, Google Home is not a bad choice either, especially if you do a lot of Google searches on a regular basis.