SmartStings, Wink and Insteon are three of the most famous SmartHome hubs in the world — they all offer a consumer-friendly hub that allows users to connect all kinds of SmartHome devices together and manage them in one place. But which one to buy? Here are a few things to know about the two centers and which one might be the best for you.
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What is all hubbub about hubs?
Before we get into the minutiae, let’s explain what the purpose of SmartHome hubs is and why you might want them in the first place.
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Smarthome hubs connect to your router (thus giving it access to your network and the Internet) and act as a central device to which various other SmartHome devices can connect — such as sensors, smart bulbs, smart sockets, and smart light switches.
Many of these small devices communicate using the Z-Wave and ZigBee wireless protocols, which is why a dedicated SmartHome hub is needed in the first place — your router doesn’t support either of these protocols, so your phone has to communicate with something that sends Z- Wave or ZigBee signals for all your devices.
There are many smarthome hubs on the market, but SmartThings and Wink are two of the most popular and user-friendly options that support all kinds of Z-Wave and ZigBee devices. Insteon works similarly, although it uses its own proprietary protocol — so it only works with other Insteon devices and X10 products if you have an older X10 system.
So which hub should you buy? Let’s talk in more detail.
Maybe you can skip Insteon (unless you’re using X10)
Let’s follow the simplest recommendation: you can skip Insteon. Its app isn’t great, its integration with Amazon Echo is difficult for some devices, and it doesn’t support handy automation services like IFTTT. In addition, it uses a proprietary protocol that only works with devices that Insteon sells (with a few exceptions such as Nest, Logitech and Sonos). In short, it doesn’t really compete with Wink and SmartThings — it’s more of a closed home automation system.
However, there are one or two exceptions to this rule. If you have an X10 system in your home, Insteon can work with it, bridging the gap between old, complicated SmartHome setups and next generation devices. In this kind of setup, it can be very powerful, but very expensive and complicated. Most smarthome users won’t want the hassle of the X10, and so Insteon doesn’t really offer many benefits over other options.
Also, if Insteon is the only company that makes the device you need (for example, they are the only companies that make smart ceiling fans), and you absolutely must have this device then it might be for you. , Otherwise, we’d recommend skipping it and looking at Wink or SmartThings, which we’ll be focusing on for the majority of this article.
Wink has a much better user interface
Things like this always seem subjective, but from my experience, I feel that Wink has the best user experience, both in terms of performance and looks. Look at the screenshots above: the Wink app on the left, SmartThings on the right. (Insteon is not displayed.)
First, the SmartThings app isn’t very appealing to the eye. Everything is not very well organized. Overall, it’s like an app that was released to the masses but then never updated for years.
Insteon is similar — its interface brings your devices to multiple screens, allowing you to create a list of favorites or organize them by «rooms». But in the end, it’s just clunky because your devices are duplicated across multiple screens that don’t make good use of space.
The Wink app, on the other hand, looks a lot more modern and has design elements that make it look very modern, like the slide-out side menu. It’s also much faster and easier to create automation tasks in Wink, while menus and new screens load in one or two seconds each time you click on one of them in the SmartThings app. Also, many of the automation tasks that you can enable in SmartThings must be accessible from another section called SmartApps, which doesn’t make much sense and is likely to cause confusion for those new to SmartThings and home automation in general.
SmartThings and Insteon have their own line of sensors and devices
SmartThings and Insteon have their own line of sensors and devices, while Wink only builds a hub designed to be used with third party products. The Insteon Hub really only works with its own devices, while the SmartThings Hub only works with its own. and third party devices.
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It’s not really for or against. If you are just starting out, having a SmartThings catalog is good as customers can find a SmartThings branded open/close sensor and know immediately that it will work with their SmartThings hub. However, there are no Wink-branded sensors and devices, so users might have to do a bit of research to see if something will work with a Wink hub on every device they come across. But if you know what you want, it’s not really the downside.
All three have an extensive list of devices they support.
Despite the above notes, none of the hubs have options. Both SmartThings and Wink have an extensive list of third-party sensors and the devices they support, and Insteon’s catalog is pretty decent (you won’t get much choice between devices of the same type, but they sell many different types of sensors and devices). ).
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The good thing about SmartThings and Wink, however, is that their third-party support is so extensive that you really won’t run into a situation where a given ZigBee or Z-Wave device doesn’t work with any of the hubs. Even if the sensor you found doesn’t work with either hub, you can usually find another brand of similar sensor that works great.
In addition, virtually any of the major standalone SmartHome products can be connected to any hub, including the Nest thermostat, Ecobee3, Philips Hue lights and more. And because Wink and SmartThings support IFTTT, you can set up all sorts of advanced interactions between your devices. (One odd omission: Wink does not currently support the Belkin WeMo platform.)
All three can be unreliable at times
We’ve been playing with these hubs for several months and overall they are both 90% reliable. It doesn’t sound bad, but that 10% can be really annoying.
In SmartThings, all the sensors worked pretty well most of the time, but when I connected an alarm to one of the door sensors, the damn thing didn’t turn off when I went to check it out. It said it was turned off in the SmartThings app, but my ears said otherwise.
With Wink, from time to time the door sensor will report that the door is open when it is actually closed. And sometimes the sensor will be completely disabled. It’s only happened a couple of times, and it’s actually been a long time since I last had problems with Wink, but I’m going to keep knocking on wood.
With Insteon, device setup would sometimes fail for seemingly no reason, and other times the devices would not respond. Once I got everything set up everything seemed to work a little better, but sometimes the device won’t respond and I’ll have to wait a bit and try again before that happens.
Of course, it’s nearly impossible to make anything 100% reliable, but if you’re relying on any of these systems to keep your home safe and secure, it needs to be as reliable as humanly possible. Right now they are not.
SmartThings pays more attention to security
Speaking of security, if you want a SmartHome center that focuses more on home security than just the convenience of home automation, SmartThings puts more emphasis on it than others.
Personally, I wouldn’t use either of these systems as your only security system (I have a separate CCTV system for that), but it would be nice to have one as an add-on to see if your house may have been broken into while you were away from home.
At the same time, SmartThings pays great attention to home security with its Smart Home Monitor function, with which you can easily arm and disarm the entire system. SmartThings can even integrate with Scout, a home security service that can alert you and call the police if an intrusion is detected.
Wink and Insteon do not have these features, but they all can also be used as a security system. You can still connect alarms and sirens to the Wink hub to alert you to any movement. However, he cannot call the police for you. Wink and Insteon are mainly focused on home automation and making things more convenient in the home… which is probably better either way given the reliability of all three systems.