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Top three smart hubs for 2017

By Martin Pratt

An excellent smart hub removes the headache of using multiple apps to control your connected tech. These are the best hub we’ve tested in 2017.

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Smart hubs have been around for a few years, and as smart tech is now commonplace they are becoming more useful. The increase in popularity means household names such as Panasonic and Samsung are creating their own smart hubs and connected devices.

Now that you can use smartphone apps to control everything from your washing machine to your light bulbs, having a hub is a good idea if you want your connected tech to work harmoniously. The best hubs can control most, if not all, of your smart devices, which means you can use one app rather than bother with switching between different ones for each device.

The popularity of smart tech is only going to increase, so we’ve rounded up the best smart hubs to control the ever-increasing number of smart home devices set to be available in 2017.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, you can get instant access by taking a £1 trial to Which?.

Top three smart hubs of 2017

Typical price £0.00
Which? score 69%
Reviewed Jan 2017
Connectivity:
3 out of 5
Scenarios:
4 out of 5
iOS privacy:
5 out of 5
Wi-fi:
Member exclusive
First-party peripherals:
Member exclusive
Can I use third-party peripherals?:
Member exclusive
IFTTT:
Member exclusive

This integrated free software works with tech that many people already have to control a smart home. It offers a feature that many other hubs don’t, but we would like to see more compatible devices added.

Typical price £150.00
Which? score 68%
Reviewed Jan 2017
Connectivity:
5 out of 5
iOS privacy:
5 out of 5
Wi-fi:
Member exclusive
First-party peripherals:
Member exclusive
Can I use third-party peripherals?:
Member exclusive
IFTTT:
Member exclusive

This smart hub has some interesting features that set it apart from its competitors. Despite being unconventional, it’s still a competent smart hub that’s easy to set up and is compatible with a wide range of smart devices including Philips Hue light bulbs and Samsung smart devices. We’d like to see some improvements made to the app though.

Typical price £199.00
Which? score 66%
Reviewed Jan 2017
Connectivity:
5 out of 5
Scenarios:
3 out of 5
iOS privacy:
5 out of 5
Wi-fi:
Member exclusive
First-party peripherals:
Member exclusive
Can I use third-party peripherals?:
Member exclusive
IFTTT:
Member exclusive

This hub is as close as we’ve got to the complete smart home solution. It’s not too difficult to set up and it works with a wide range of products from different brands including Hive thermostats and D-Link security cameras. Home automation is where the hub really shines. Setting up routines to make your tech work in harmony is simple and intuitive.

Not found the product for you? Browse all of out smart hub reviews.

And here are three smart hubs to avoid

The meteoric rise of smart tech means that plenty of companies are trying to get in on the action. The rush to get competing products out the door leads to half-baked hubs that are dunces compared to the smart hubs in the table above.

Our testing found hubs that were difficult to set up, with some taking up to 30 minutes to connect to our router. We also found hubs that didn’t work with some of the most popular smart home gadgets, even when they were claimed to.

Unfamiliar tech can be challenging at the best of times and, while some hubs are simple to use and feel intuitive, we’ve found several that will leave you longing for the day when your phone and computer were the only things accessing the internet.  We’ve rounded up some of the worst hubs on the market, so you know which ones to avoid.

Three smart hubs to avoid

Typical price £85.00
Which? score 52%
Reviewed Jan 2017
Connectivity:
5 out of 5
iOS privacy:
4 out of 5
Wi-fi:
Member exclusive
First-party peripherals:
Member exclusive
Can I use third-party peripherals?:
Member exclusive
IFTTT:
Member exclusive

Despite its low cost, we can’t recommend this hub. It doesn’t come bundled with any of its own smart tech and we found that when we connected other brands’ smart tech some features were missing. A smart hub is supposed to add functions and make it easier to control tech in your home. Any hub that can’t do that is one we can’t recommend.

Typical price £170.00
Which? score 52%
Reviewed Jan 2017
Connectivity:
4 out of 5
iOS privacy:
5 out of 5
Wi-fi:
Member exclusive
First-party peripherals:
Member exclusive
Can I use third-party peripherals?:
Member exclusive
IFTTT:
Member exclusive

The closed nature of this system is its major failing. If the range of devices was bigger, this wouldn’t be such a problem, but without tech as basic as a wireless security camera on offer this system is too limited at the moment. Devices aside, we also struggled to create an account, and there are several niggling drawbacks to the app, such as not being able to group your devices by what room they’re in.

Typical price £230.00
Which? score 50%
Reviewed Jan 2017
Connectivity:
4 out of 5
Scenarios:
1 out of 5
iOS privacy:
4 out of 5
Wi-fi:
Member exclusive
First-party peripherals:
Member exclusive
Can I use third-party peripherals?:
Member exclusive
IFTTT:
Member exclusive

It takes an eternity to connect to your router and when it does you’ll find you need to log into a website to set up your automated tasks. It comes bundled with some smart tech, but when we tried to add other brands’ devices we found their functionality to be limited. One popular gadget didn’t work at all. All that adds up to the worst hub we’ve tested.

How to find the best smart hub

When we test smart hubs we look at how easy they are to set up, how well the control app works and whether they play nicely with other devices. Many smart hubs come with an assortment of devices such as security cameras, smart plugs and motion sensors. The hub will often be best at controlling these bundled devices, which is why we also look to see how the hubs work with smart tech from other brands.

The most important things to consider when you choose a smart hub are what devices it works with and how secure it is. If you’ve already got some smart tech at home, don’t buy a hub that isn’t compatible. Likewise, have a think about what connected tech you might want to add in the future.

Check to see whether the hub is part of a closed system. Some hubs, such as the Panasonic and Hive devices, only work with devices from the same brand, so if you’re looking to expand your collection of connected tech, you may find your choices are limited.

When it comes to security, you’ll want a hub that requires you to set your own password. Some go further by asking for a security code to connect with certain devices. There have already been high-profile hacks where criminals have exploited weaknesses in smart home security, which is why we tell you how secure each hub is.

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