Smart-home devices sometimes require complicated installation that just doesn’t make sense for renters. Plus, apartments have different needs than single-family homes. That’s why we decided to outfit a whole condo with smart devices that don’t require rewiring or permanent installation. Each week, we’ll tackle a different category and look at various products, then explain how we made our selections. At the end of the series, we’ll examine the smart apartment as an ecosystem, and how all these devices — or do not — work together.
For the second installment in our Smart Apartment series, we’re looking at hubs. Once you go beyond a couple of products — say, both lights and a security camera — you’re going to want something that connects them.
There are a few reasons for that. A good hub will have an app that pulls everything together, for one thing. But better than that, it will allow you to make recipes, scenes, or whatever you want to call them that render that app a last resort. Here’s how we picked the best of the bunch.
Choosing my home automation hub
While the smart-home market is becoming more crowded, in some ways there are fewer solid options for home automation hubs. Nest bricked the Revolv, and Staples discontinued the Connect. But there are still quite a few white boxes that want to control your home — and a few that come in different colors and shapes. There’s Iris by Lowe’s, for example, although the dealbreaker there is a $10-a-month fee for features others give away for free.
If this were November of last year, we probably would’ve gone with SmartThings. Despite some issues, Samsung’s smart-home hub is one of the best choices around. That is to say, nothing is perfect and you take what you can get. But Wink just released its Hub 2, and a few reasons pushed us to go with that option instead.
La voce to me
One of my main goals with this smart apartment is to not have to pull out my phone — like, ever — to get stuff done. That means once things are all set up, I don’t want to have to take more effort to turn out the lights than merely flipping a switch. Thus, voice control is definitely a must-have. I set up an Amazon Dot, and luckily, Alexa works just fine with Wink’s new hub. They’re both playing central roles, so I look them as co-hubs (which is probably what I would call my husbands if I were a polygamist).
The just-released Google Home doesn’t yet work with Wink, but it does work with SmartThings, so in a few months, who knows where we’ll be?