Automating repetitive tasks within your home saves you resources like time, energy, and others that allow you to concentrate on more important things.
Technology is evolving and advancing daily and a smart home hub is enough evidence. No longer a preserve for a few, smart home hubs are now available on the shelves of major stores and online retailers like Amazon. It connects all the devices in your houses to the same network and controls communication among them. With internet coverage and many smart home hub devices coming up on the market at an affordable cost, you can’t afford to miss out. These devices are slowly becoming essential and part of our homes since we all want to connect all your devices and control them from one app making it easier and faster.
These hubs control a lot of smart home devices like thermostats, door locks, garage doors, light bulbs, switches and outlets, energy monitors, doorbells, sensors, water heaters, smoke detectors, heaters, fans, etc. You can also use them as virtual assistants, for a voice chat, or streaming. Unfortunately, knowing a home hub is what you need is not all. There are other things like factors you need to look at when buying a smart home hub for your home making sure you get a hub with the desired features offering you the best performance. You would prefer your home hub to come with a screen instead.
In this review, we look at the best home hubs and what you should consider when searching for the best home hub for your home.
Best home hubs with screen – A Comparison Table
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Google Nest Hub Max – Best overall home hub
This hub from Google tops our list of home hubs to get in 2021. It’s a great all-around and versatile smart hub with a smart display and works well with other Android and Google devices. It has a sleek design and comes with a 10-inch touchscreen display, an inbuilt Nest camera, and a pair of stereo speakers. You can use the 6.5-inch megapixel camera that comes with auto-framing to make calls via Google Duo and using these same cameras it can identify and show personal information like upcoming calendar events, reminders, etc to your house members. This camera is also able to follow you around the room. Its large HD screen is great for streaming videos. It comes with Google Assistant for voice commands. You can also use your hand gestures to control things such as playing or pausing music with its quick gesture control capability.
- The screen automatically adjusts its brightness and color depending on the room lighting
- It uses face to match to send you relevant notifications
- You can display your Google Photos in form of a live album using the Nest Hub Max
- You can’t buy it from Amazon. You can get it from Google Express
- It’s costly
- Google Assistant has fewer actions than Alexa
Lenovo Smart Display – Best for display
This Lenovo display offers something similar to the Google Nest hub Max or Echo Show. It comes in three different touchscreen sizes – 7, 8, and 10 inches with a 1080 pixel (1920 x 1200) and weighs 2.6lbs. It runs on an inbuilt Google Assistant, has a speaker on the right of the screen, and bamboo back. It offers you Google’s smart home control panel as well as recipe guides if you love cooking and trying out new recipes. The 7 and inch screen is ideal for your kitchen while the 10 inches may be too big for some. It has a 5-megapixel camera with a physical privacy shutter that you can use when making video calls via Google Duo. You can make direct outgoing calls in the US, Canada, and the UK. It supports wireless connectivity of 802.11ac, 2.4GHz, and 5GHz as well as Bluetooth.
- It has a beautiful design
- It’s powered by Google Assistant
- The display is large, touch and crispy
- The sound is not that great
- You can’t send messages as it is not yet supported
- You can only video or voice chat via Google Duo
Lenovo Smart Clock – Most ideal alarm clock replacement
At 4 inches, this is one of the smallest smart clocks and is ideal for your bedroom. It doesn’t come with a camera making it ideal for your bedroom and it’s powered by Google Assistant and it does more than just waking you up and telling you the time. This device is what you need to unwind and get better sleep. You can program your sleeping and waking up routines or automating things like lock doors, turn off/on lights, lock doors through a compatible device. You can also use it to plan and manage your schedules since it can get you the weather information or the local traffic updates. It comes with an extra USB port that you can use to charge your phone.
- It comes without an inbuilt camera giving you much-needed bedroom privacy
- It has an excellent user interface and a mute switch
- It provides you with a mono and auto-brightness screen
- It comes with a USB port that you can use to charge other compatible devices
- The sound it’s loud and customizable for alarms
- You cant make use of it to make video calls
- It has a slow performance and the sound quality is average
- The wall charger is huge and its USB charger is limited to 5 watts
Google Nest Hub – Most budget-friendly Google home hub
If you’re a Google fan and are on a budget, then you might want to consider this device. Google Nest hub previously known as Google Home Hub has a 7-inch screen size with no camera and weighs 1.1lbs making it smaller than Nest Hub Max. It uses Google Assistant as its voice assistant and uses a full-range speaker and has a 2-mic array. You can directly dial the US, UK, and Canada and can stream content from YouTube, Youtube TV, CBS All Access, Google Play Movies, and HBO Now. It connects to 802.11b/g/n/ac, 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-FI, and Bluetooth 5.0. While it does not support Z-wave and Zigbee devices, you can control smart home devices like your smart doorbell. Despite it not having a camera, you can rest assured of your privacy.
- You can use it as a digital photo frame
- It has a beautiful display with automatic color adjustment and dining
- It has a sleek and minimalist design
- It comes with a control panel screen that makes it easy to control and organize your smart devices
- It’s very affordable
- It can fit in may spots in your home due to its compactness
- You can’t stream Netflix on it
- You can video chat since it doesn’t have a camera
- To integrate it with Nest video Doorbell is not easy
Amazon Echo Show 2nd Generation – Best Alexa display
For Alexa fans, this smart display grants you access to Alexa and all other Amazon services. Amazon Echo 2nd Gen has a 10.1-inch screen and two rear speakers giving it a minimalist look. It also incorporates Dolby sound and passive bass. It has a 5MP camera that you use for video calls, or streaming music or videos from Amazon Prime Video. If you use Ring devices, you can pair them and use it as a security camera. Being Amazon’s product, it uses Alexa to run voice commands like asking questions, controlling smart home devices, and even making a video call. This device also comes with an inbuilt Zigbee smart home hub. Having a large screen, you can use this Amazon Echo Show 2nd Generation as a second screen in your kitchen or other rooms and stream videos from your favorite streaming services.
- The user-interface touch screen has a lot of features
- It has a friendly design with a big and bright screen
- The audio is powerful and has a good bass
- It comes with a web browser
- It uses Alexa which always responds
- It doesn’t have a native YouTube app
- It only supports a 720-pixel video resolution
Facebook Portal – Best for video calls
Facebook, a social media giant got tired of being confined within apps and decided to venture into hardware with this device. It offers an 8, 10, and 16-inch Portal that allows you to stay in touch with your family and friends using your Facebook accounts. You can make video calls via WhatsApp and Messenger with its 13MP smart camera that can pan, zoom, and follow you around the room. You can use a privacy shutter or disable both the microphone and camera using a disable switch when not using it. It comes with Stereo speakers with a rear woofer and Amazon Alexa. Its user interface is user-friendly and you can operate it like an Echo show using Alexa by playing music or streaming an online video when not making a video call. This is a great device for family and friends who use Facebook apps to keep in touch.
- It’s easy to make calls using WhatsApp, Messenger, and Workplace
- You can view your uploaded photos, Facebook and Instagram photos
- The Alexa capabilities are solid
- Increased Facebook’s privacy concerns
Echo Show 5 – Great value for money
The Echo Show 5 is an ideal starter smart home hub and has a budget display. It has a 5.5-inch touchscreen display, a 1MP camera, a mono speaker, a microphone, and a built-in Alexa voice assistant. This makes it pretty small and budget-friendly. It also features an optional clock display and is compact. You can perform basic functions such as making video calls, streaming videos, controlling your smart home devices, and asking questions. It lacks the inbuilt Zigbee Hub that’s found on the Echo Show 2. When it comes to camera privacy, this device guarantees it with a privacy shutter to block off the camera when not in use. that This Amazon product is relatively low and you still get newer Alexa features like erasing all your recordings for the day.
- The screen is colorful and bright
- It offers you useful touchscreen controls for the web browser
- It improves your privacy with a camera shutter
- It grants you access to all Alexa voice commands
- It’s very affordable compared to other home hubs and smart displays
- It has a sunrise alarm to make it easier waking up
- The sound quality is not that good
- It doesn’t have support for any Google services
- It’s not possible to customize snooze times for the alarm
Echo Show 8 – Most ideal for your bedroom
This latest Echo Show device from Amazon is smaller and designed to fit in your bedroom. It comes with an 8-inch HD touchscreen and a 720p resolution. It includes a 1MP camera with a shutter for privacy, smart home controls, a customizable home screen, and Alexa. You have access to Amazon photos and you can customize the home screen with your routines and also link it to a baby monitor camera or security cameras. It has a camera and microphone that are great for calling family and friends or connecting it to other Echo Shows in your house which you can turn off for privacy using a switch. You can control your smart devices using voice commands via Alexa. Besides, to ease you off from your sleep, Amazon has included a sunrise alarm feature that allows your screen to get brighter 15 minutes before your wake-up time.
It has a good screen resolution and solid sound quality
The camera is small and has a privacy shutter
The price range is affordable
- The high-frequency response and bass could be stronger
- You can’t use voice command to call up YouTube videos
- You can’t switch off the onscreen Alexa suggestions
Buying guide of the best home hub with a screen
Bigger screen size is great if you want to read or stream videos. It’s worth noting that most manufacturers tend to only support their video apps and if you use YouTube, then some Amazon smart homes won’t support the app.
Most home hubs lack powerful speakers and you may not need a powerful speaker if you already have a high-quality external speaker. You can go for a device with high-quality stereo speakers if you plan on using it as your main source of music.
You need a hub with a good and solid camera if you plan on linking it to smart devices like security cameras and Doorbells. This together with the built-in microphone helps monitor your home’s security and you won’t want to miss any action.
We all value our privacy and wouldn’t want anyone harvesting our data or listening in on our calls. We’re increasingly giving these products more and more access to our private lives. Most home hubs come with features to help you safeguard your privacy like a shutter for your camera that you can toggle when it is not in use or a switch to turn off both the camera and microphone. Some don’t come with a camera at all.
When shopping for a home hub, make sure it’s compatible with all your existing smart devices since they may be products of different companies and may not have a similar interaction. It’s best to get a hub that has uniformed sensors that can control a wide array of products such as thermostats, light bulbs, door locks, and many more. You may also want to consider an open-source software hub that allows different device manufacturers to build software that incorporates several multiple hubs.
Smart home hubs use four major protocol types: Wi-Fi, Zigbee, Bluetooth, and Z-Wave. Wi-Fi is mostly used for Internet and video streaming and tends to drain power. You may need to keep your devices plugged into the power source. Bluetooth protocol does not have a high bandwidth like Wi-Fi’s meaning it uses less power and is mostly used for sending and receiving. Zigbee and Z-Wave use very little power and are most ideal for applications like motion sensors and light bulbs. However, they aren’t compatible with PCsmartphones, and tablets. So, to use them, you need an Ethernet cable or use them over a Wi-Fi network. We recommend finding a hub that accepts more than one protocol to be able to work with more devices in the future.
Voice Assistance Support
Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant are key players. Most devices come with either of these inbuilt giving you the power to control your home using voice commands. You can choose whichever voice assistant you prefer but Alexa offers more capabilities than Google Assistant.
Can I use both Alexa and Google Assistant together?
Both Alexa and Google Assistant offer great prowess when it comes to voice commands. If you want to get different devices that use these assistants, then there is no issue at all when asking questions. However, you can go ahead and mute one if you find the other to be better. You can also control your smart home using both by pairing them with 3rd-party devices but only one for help at a time. However, this won’t work if you use a device such as Echo Plus 2nd Gen as the home hub because devices that are compatible with Zigbee and paired via the Alexa app can’t be configured with Google Assistant.
Can search Alexa using the Google search engine?
Alexa isn’t directly compatible with Google and there is no official way of doing this and Alexa uses Bing for its search queries. However, you can make use of third parties like IFTTT and set up a Google search on your Alexa device. You’ll however need to install Google Assistant too to use Google’s voice command.
A good home hub might just be the thing you need in 2021. The home hubs reviewed above are the best options with a screen display and promise you the performance needed.