Smart Home Controllers – A Buyer’s Guide

September 29, 2023 0 Comments

Smart Home Controllers

Smart home systems come in a dizzying array of shapes and sizes, from brain-dead simple to vastly complex. Most of the systems on the market make similar claims: that they will automate your life, save you money, and keep your family safe. The real differences, though, are in how they deliver on those promises and how much you pay for them. That’s why it’s important to choose the right system for you and your budget. This buyers’ guide will help you narrow down the options and find the best smart home controller for your needs.

Most of the smart home controller gadgets you buy use some kind of wireless protocol to communicate with one another. Smaller devices such as door and window sensors or motion detectors generally use Zigbee or Z-Wave, while larger gadgets like smart speakers or thermostats typically use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. To connect all these devices, you need a central hub to act as the bridge. Those hubs also serve as voice assistants so you can control them with your smart speaker or by voice.

The best smart home hubs provide a complete ecosystem of devices, including their own voice assistant (for example, Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant) and a full suite of app controls. They can also support other smart protocols such as IFTTT (If This Then That), a simple scripting system that allows you to create automations between compatible devices. You should also look for a hub that offers a mobile app with a clear layout and is easy to navigate.

Smart Home Controllers – A Buyer’s Guide

Some of the top smart home controllers combine a hub with a smart speaker, giving you both a way to control your gadgets by voice and a way to display your device’s status on a screen. Others focus solely on integrating with the most popular third-party apps and services. Still others have dedicated focuses, such as turning your TV into a home theater control center or offering advanced security features such as video monitoring and two-way audio communication.

To maximize the value of a smart home controller, choose one that supports the majority of the devices you already own or plan to buy. Then, read reviews and compare prices to ensure you’re getting the best value for your money.

Smart home controllers aren’t cheap, so you want to make sure that the ones you select have the features you need. Look for a wide range of supported devices, both currently available and planned, as well as an extensive list of compatible apps and services. Some smart hubs, such as the Wink Hub 2 and SmartThings, offer a variety of protocols and support for Thread, an up-and-coming protocol that’s not yet widely supported.

Other smart home controllers, such as the Abode Iota and the Amazon Echo Plus, offer a combination of a voice assistant with a Zigbee-based ecosystem. That makes them ideal for those who need both a voice assistant and a smart home controller.

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