|Smart hub||Amazon Echo||Google Home||Apple HomePod|
|What it looks like|
|Best for||Best for interconnectivity||Best smart assistant||Best for Apple users|
|What we like||The Echo gives you voice control over the most smart home products.||Google Assistant offers unique features like voice recognition.||HomePod lets Apple users automate their homes with Apple HomeKit.|
|Shop now||View Product||View Product||View Product|
|Amazon Echo||Google Home||Apple HomePod|
|Best for interconnectivity||Best smart assistant||Best for Apple users|
|The Echo gives you voice control over the most smart home products.||Google Assistant offers unique features like voice recognition.||HomePod lets Apple users automate their homes with Apple HomeKit.|
|View Product||View Product||View Product|
Smart Home Overview
As smart home technology evolves, traditional home automation hubs are becoming less and less necessary to build an interconnected home. In place of these third-party hubs, companies like Amazon, Google, and Apple are pushing a new wave of smart speakers and intelligent assistants that work just as well as—if not better than—traditional hubs.
We spent a good amount of time testing these hubs. We interrogated the smart assistants, dialed the speakers up to 11, and played with their ability to connect to other smart devices. At the end we came away liking the Amazon Echo best for its ability to connect to so many different smart devices. But if you’re looking for another option, we break down these speakers below to help you decide which is the best for you and your home.
Compare smart home hubs
|Product name||Best for||Product image||Price*||Voice control||Speaker quality||Learn more||Shop now|
|Amazon Echo||Best for interconnectivity||$99.99||Amazon Alexa||Good||Read our overview||Shop Now|
|Google Home||Best smart assistant||$99.00||Google Assistant||Good||Read our overview||Shop Now|
|Apple HomePod||Best for Apple users||$299.99||Apple Siri||Excellent||Read our overview||Shop Now|
|Best for||Product image||Price*||Voice control||Speaker quality||Learn more||Shop now|
|Best for interconnectivity||$99.99||Amazon Alexa||Good||Read our overview||Shop Now|
|Best smart assistant||$99.00||Google Assistant||Good||Read our overview||Shop Now|
|Best for Apple users||$299.99||Apple Siri||Excellent||Read our overview||Shop Now|
*Prices listed based on listed retailer prices as of this writing. Data effective 5/9/2019. Prices and availability subject to change.
Amazon Echo pros and cons
- Widest range of compatible smart home products
- Easy setup and device discovery
- Alexa Skills feature that gives Alexa more abilities
- No multiuser support
Why we recommend Amazon Echo
The Echo is likely the best of the bunch if you’re strictly using it as a hub to build a smart home system. It’s easy to set up and sync to any compatible smart home equipment you have throughout the house.
It’s not the prettiest smart hub, but Amazon’s ecosystem offers the largest selection of compatible smart home equipment, like the Nest Thermostat, August door lock, Philips Hue smart lights, and more. Even if a smart product isn’t directly compatible with Alexa, Amazon lets you download custom skills—like its skill that lets you order an Uber—to give your Echo extra abilities.
Alexa also lets you interconnect your Echo to Amazon’s mini devices like the Dot, Fire TV, and its smart plug to connect your entire home to the hub. If you have more than one Echo device, you can sync them together to play music in other rooms. Or you can drop in on other rooms to chat with someone in another room.
As a voice assistant, Alexa is hard to beat. Google Assistant might be superior at handling voice queries, but Amazon’s Alexa is still the most comprehensive voice assistant of the three.
Google Home review: Best smart assistant
Despite entering the smart hub scene later than Amazon, Google Home has narrowed the gap and offers a few key advantages over its competitors.
Google Home pros and cons
- Our favorite smart assistant for web-based queries
- Cloud uploading for music
- Multiroom audio systems with Chromecast
- Multiuser support and voice recognition
- Quietest speaker
- Less smart home control
Why we recommend Google Home
We actually prefer Google’s smart assistant over Alexa because it seems to have a more fluid understanding of language and queries.
As a latecomer to the industry, Google had to come from behind in order to catch up to the Echo and Amazon Alexa, but it’s safe to say the Google Home is on the right track. We actually prefer Google’s smart assistant over Alexa because it seems to have a more fluid understanding of language and queries. For example, I didn’t have to rephrase or simplify as many questions as I did with Siri or Alexa, which can be frustrating as you’re learning the limits and capabilities of these smart assistants.
Google Assistant recognizes up to six unique users by voice and tailors its responses to different people’s accounts and preferences. We really like that Voice Match makes more personalized music and video recommendations so you don’t get stuck listening to Enya when you’re trying to listen to Van Halen.
The Google Home does everything right as far as simplifying your life at home. You can ask it to turn on lights, change the temperature on your thermostat, or set an important calendar reminder. Google Home is currently compatible with some of the best smart home products like Philips Hue smart lights, Nest thermostats, the Nest Hello video doorbell, and a whole lot more. You’ll have no shortage of options when building out your intelligent home.
If you have a Google account and regularly use tools like Google Calendar and Google Maps, Google Home will fit right in. Combine Google Home with Chromecast and you can control your TVs by voice, which can stream media from Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify on command. But the Google Home is still catching up to the Echo’s robust smart home equipment compatibility and control.
Apple HomePod pros and cons
- High-quality speaker
- Home app allows you to automate scenes with smart home products
- Apple HomeKit limited to iOS users
- Siri isn’t the strongest smart assistant
Why we recommend the Apple HomePod
The HomePod is far and away the best-sounding speaker of the bunch, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone given it’s more than twice the cost (and triple the size) of the other smart speakers. Siri is limited as a smart assistant—both in its compatibility with smart equipment and its usefulness as a smart assistant. But you can still use it to control a wide range of home automation equipment with voice commands.
The HomePod isn’t quite as compatible with home automation equipment as Alexa or Google Assistant, but it offers enough options for most smart homes. The HomePod is compatible with the Ecobee3 thermostat, Lutron Caseta smart switches, Kwikset smart locks, and Logitech security cameras, to name a few.
What we like most about the Apple HomePod is the control it gives you within the Apple HomeKit app. With location tracking on your iPhone, your home automation system can detect when you enter the house and automate a scene for your entrance. So if you want the lights to come on and music to start playing every time you come home, you’ll have that power. While the other hubs make this possible, we found Apple’s scene setting to be the most intuitive.
Since Apple likes to keep its ecosystem exclusive, home automation systems with HomeKit are limited to Apple users.
Other brands we considered
In addition to the three smart speakers above, we considered a handful of more traditional hubs to see how they stack up in terms of smart home interconnectivity. We tested the Samsung SmartThings hub, the Logitech Harmony Hub, and the Wink Hub.
SmartThings integrates all your smart devices in your house so you can automate your entire home from one app. The hub is Zigbee and Z-Wave compatible so it works with the majority of your smart home gadgets. We really like the SmartThings and its compatibility with lots of different smart devices, but without a smart assistant we felt it was somewhat limited. That said, you can connect SmartThings with a Google Home to get the best of both worlds.
Logitech Harmony Hub
The Harmony Hub is another solid option if you want to centralize all your home automation equipment. It offers decent compatibility, but you have to buy the Harmony Home Extender (which costs more than the Harmony Hub itself) to gain Z-Wave and Zigbee compatibility.
The Wink Hub is compatible with Zigbee, Z-Wave, and Bluetooth, which gives you compatibility with most smart devices. The Wink offers a unique touchscreen control panel called the Wink Relay so you can control your smart home without a mobile phone. But the Wink Relay isn’t compatible with Z-Wave or Bluetooth, so you might not be able to control a lot of your smart devices. That’s part of why Wink didn’t make our shortlist of favorite hubs.
Home security hubs
We also considered a handful of hubs from home security systems, including Vivint and Frontpoint, which make an effort to include smart home interconnectivity. But unless home security is your main priority, you’re better off paying less for one of these smart speakers that offer similar, if not more, compatibility with smart home equipment.
Why we recommend smart assistants
It’s no coincidence that our favorite smart home hubs feature built-in smart assistants. We found that these hubs are the best way to centralize all the smart technology and gadgets throughout your home. Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are widely compatible with leading smart home brands (like Philips Hue lights, August and Kwikset smart locks, and Lutron smart switches, to name a few). And they’re so much more useful than traditional hubs like Wink and Samsung SmartThings.
They go beyond just centralizing all your smart home gadgets with their built-in smart assistants, which give you the power of voice commands to control the technology throughout your home, ask questions to take advantage of their robust search engines, and listen to music. If you’re going to go all-in on smart home, why not invest in the hubs that will bring the most value to your day-to-day life?
The gap is certainly shrinking in terms of these hubs’ abilities, but no company has quite been able to catch up to Amazon’s smart home ecosystem. Amazon offers the widest range of compatible smart devices and appliances, and it gives you the most flexibility in setting up your smart home.
Google Assistant is a better choice if you proactively use Google Calendar, Google Maps, and Gmail. But you won’t get the same flexibility or compatibility that you get with Amazon’s ecosystem.
If you’re still on the fence between Google and Amazon, we’ve got you covered. Check out our post on Google Home vs. Amazon Echo.
For Apple users, the Apple HomePod and Apple HomeKit can help you create a serviceable home automation system, but you’ll be limited in compatible smart home devices.