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The 5 best smart home hubs for 2024

The 5 best home hubs for 2024
Amazon, Google

Let's keep this simple: A good smart home hub lets you control your home security equipment, smart appliances, video calls and more -- all from one place. It's a smart speaker that works with voice-activated digital assistant (like Alexa or Google), and has a touchscreen display. 

You can ask your home hub questions; stream audio (music, audiobooks, or podcasts) or on-demand video content; display a live feed from a video doorbell; remotely control appliances using your voice; or make video calls. The best home hubs can also display a slideshow of your favorite digital photos and video clips, plus give you easy access to the internet for online shopping, or checking the weather, traffic, stock market, news headlines or sports scores.

Home hubs come in a variety of designs. What sets them apart are screen size, the compatibility of the voice assistant and other equipment, and the quality of the speaker. Some have a single speaker, while others offer stereo -- much better for streaming music or video. When choosing a home hub, stick with one that's compatible with equipment you already own and use.

Our picks for the best home hubs of 2024

Our in-house consumer tech experts have compiled this curated list of the five best home hubs available right now. In addition to giving users access to a wide range of functions, the best home hubs are customizable and offer integrated security and privacy features. These devices are designed to give you audio and visual access to the internet, without needing to use a computer or mobile device. And because they have a built-in display, each is far more versatile than a basic smart speaker.

Best home hub overall: Google Nest Hub Max

Google Nest Hub Max

Touchscreen Display Size: 10 inches | Screen Resolution: 1,280 x 800 pixels | Display Type: LED | Memory Card Slot: Yes | Compatibility: iOS, Android | Speakers: 2 (Stereo) | Microphones: 2 | Dimensions: 9.85 x 7.2 x 4 inches | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth | Power: AC power | Search Engine: Google | Digital Assistant: Google Assistant | Camera: 6.5MP | Storage: 4GB

In addition to a 10-inch touchscreen display, the Google Nest Hub Max's base has integrated stereo speakers that work with a 30-watt subwoofer to fill a room with rich and clear audio. This includes streaming music, audio from streamed video content (think YouTube, YouTubeTV, or any other supported service), or audio from video calls via Google Meet. 

This home hub puts Google Assistant at your service, so you can get questions answered, access information from the web, make a video call, or handle a wide range of other tasks. As you'd expect, this home hub works with many of Google's own services, like Calendar, Google Photos, Google Maps, Google Shopping, YouTube, YouTube TV, YouTube Music and Google Play. When it comes to audio or video streaming, you get access to services like Netflix, iHeart Radio, Deezer, Apple Music and Spotify. (Subscription fees may apply.)

You also get seamless integration with hundreds of smart-home devices from Google, Nest, Arlo, Hue, SmartThings, Nanoleaf, TP-Link and Wink. In fact, you can use your voice to remotely control appliances from Frigidaire, GE, Jenn-Air, LG, Kohler and many other companies.

You'll easily discover all sorts of everyday uses for this hub -- from accessing how-to videos on YouTube to streaming your favorite music on demand. As a digital photo frame, it displays pictures from Google Photos, or serve as an indoor security camera that shows a live video feed (via your smartphone) from inside your home while you're away. 

Since the Hub Max is designed to cater to families, it can identify people using face and voice recognition and then display appropriate content. A child can stream kid-friendly music, for example, or a parent can prevent a child from placing online orders or accessing inappropriate videos. For a household that's already invested in the Android or Google Home ecosystems, you won't find a better home hub.

Best budget home hub: Amazon Echo Show 8 (3rd Generation)

Amazon Echo Show 8

Touchscreen Display Size: 8 inches | Screen Resolution: 1,280 x 800 pixels | Display Type: LCD | Memory Card Slot: No | Compatibility: iOS, Android, FireOS | Speakers: 2x 2-inch full rage neodymium drivers with passive bass radiator (supports spatial audio) | Microphones: 4 | Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.5 x 4.2 inches | Connectivity: Dual band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.1, Zigbee | Power: AC power | Search Engine: Microsoft Bing | Digital Assistant: Alexa | Camera: 13MP 

The third generation of the Amazon Echo Show 8 was released in 2023. We like that the device's internal speakers now support spatial audio (when listening to compatible content). You can also access a vast amount of audio and video content (with a subscription) from Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, SiriusXM, Audible, the Amazon FireTV channels and more.

You can remotely control any Alexa-compatible smart equipment, or use the Alexa digital assistant to get questions answered, or access the internet. Thanks to its 13MP camera and enhanced hardware, video calls are clearer and sound better than ever. And when it's not in use, the hub serves as a digital photo frame. You also get easy access to your calendar, to-do lists and reminders. 

The Echo is also compatible with a wide range of smart home equipment from Amazon and other companies, so it can control smart lights, plugs, door locks, a thermostat, a video doorbell, or many other types of smart appliances. If there's ever an emergency, Alexa Emergency Assist is available 24/7 via the home hub. Plus, parents can take advantage of parental controls and the Amazon Kids+ service to offer their children age-appropriate content via the home hub. For families that already rely on Alexa and other Amazon services, the Amazon Echo Show 8 (3rd Generation) will make a great addition to a home.

Best large screen home hub: Amazon Echo Show 15

Amazon Echo Show 15

Display Size: 15.6 inches | Screen Resolution: 1080p | Display Type: LCD | Memory Card Slot: No | Compatibility: iOS, Android | Speakers: 1.6-inch full-range drivers | Microphones: 6 | Dimensions: 15.8 x 9.9 x 1.4 inches | Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0 | Power: AC power | Search Engine: Microsoft Bing | Digital Assistant: Alexa | Camera: 5MP | Storage: 16GB | Remote: Voice remote included

Designed to be hung on a wall, the Amazon Echo Show 15 is a centralized information and entertainment center for the whole family. It can be used as a family messaging and scheduling system and display all sorts of content on its large, 15.6-inch display. 

Basically, this extra-large version of the Amazon Echo Show can do everything that the Echo Show 8 can do, but it takes full advantage of a larger and more detailed, 1080p resolution display. This makes it particularly useful for streaming video. In fact, this home hub supports Amazon's FireTV, so it can serve as a full-featured smart TV as well as a home hub. Access all the popular video and music streaming services you want, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+, Paramount+ and countless other services you subscribe to.

When you need information, Alexa is always just a voice command away. One nice feature is that the Echo Show 15 can be hung horizontally or vertically on a wall. And while you can use voice commands, the gadget also comes with a handheld Alexa voice remote control. 

We recommend this home hub as a family tool that makes it easy to share calendars, create and display sticky notes and stay informed. Anytime the device isn't being used, as its screensaver, it can showcase your favorite photos or famous works of art. While Amazon recommends hanging the Echo Show 15 in the kitchen, it can be used in any room.

Best home hub for high-quality audio: Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Generation)

Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Generation)

Touchscreen Display Size: 10.1 inches | Screen Resolution: 1,280 x 800 pixels | Display Type: LCD | Memory Card Slot: No | Compatibility: iOS, Android, FireOS | Speakers: 2x one-inch tweeters, 1x 3-inch woofer | Microphones: 7 | Dimensions: 9.9 x 9 x 6.7 inches | Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth, Zigbee | Power: AC power | Search Engine: Bing | Digital Assistant: Alexa | Camera: 13MP (with motion tracking) | Storage: 16GB

There are a few things that set each of the Amazon Echo home hub models apart. The Echo Show 10 (3rd Generation) fits in between the Echo Show 8 and Echo Show 15 in terms of screen size. This model works on a tabletop, desk or shelf. It's also notable for quality stereo audio that can really fill a room. 

Another great feature; When you're on a video call, the camera will lock onto your face. If you move around the room, the whole unit will rotate to keep you centered in the frame. The 10-inch display makes it easy to see the people you're talking to, while the device's 13MP camera ensures you're clearly seen. The video calling functionality works with several popular services, including Skype and Zoom.

Like all of the other Amazon Echo home hubs, this one works with the Amazon Alexa digital assistant and thousands of smart devices and appliances. It can also serve as an indoor surveillance camera when you're not at home. Using your smartphone, access a live video feed from the room where the Echo is located, and remotely control the camera's movement. A lot of versatile communications, informational and entertainment functionality has been built into the Amazon Echo Show 10, so if the people in your household already rely on Alexa, this device will make an excellent addition to the home.

Best home hub with tablet functionality: Google Pixel Tablet

Google Pixel Tablet with Charging Speaker Dock

Touchscreen Display Size: 11 inches | Screen Resolution: 2,560 x 1,600 pixels | Display Type: LCD | Memory Card Slot: No | Compatibility: iOS, Android, Chromecast | Speakers: 4 | Microphones: 3 | Dimensions: 10.2 x 6.7 x 0.3 inches (tablet only), 6.6 x 3.7 x 2.7 inches (speaker base) | Weight: 17.39 ounces | Connectivity: USB Type-C 3.2, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth | Power: Battery (up to 12 hours per charge) | Search Engine: Google | Digital Assistant: Google Assistant | Camera: 8MP (front and rear) | Storage: 128GB or 256GB | Processor: Google Tensor G2, Titan M2 security coprocessor | Operating System: Android

The Google Pixel Tablet is different from every other model out there. 

Yes, it's a full-featured Android tablet that's full of cutting-edge features you'd expect from the company behind the Android operating system and Google Pixel phones. But you can also place it in a base to transform it into a full-featured Google home hub -- one that can do everything that the Google Nest Home Hub can do and more.

So when you invest in the Google Pixel Tablet, what you're getting is two powerful devices in one -- both of which are supported by the Google Assistant and all of Google's most popular services. Plus, you can customize the tablet by installing  Android apps from the Google Play Store, and stream audio or video content from just about any service you subscribe to. The tablet is powered using Google's proprietary Tensor G2 processor and the Titan M2 security coprocessor. It's seamlessly compatible with all other Google Pixel devices and can display your favorite photos in your Google Photos account.

What we love about the Google Pixel Tablet is that it offers better functionality and more power than most tablets that cost two to three times as much. It also comes with the charging speaker dock that transforms the tablet into a home hub (and keeps the tablet's battery charged at the same time). For anyone who already uses any Android-based smartphone, especially a Google Pixel phone, this Google Pixel Tablet is the ideal mobile companion -- and a powerful home hub. Overall, it offers a really good value for the investment and is extremely customizable. 

What to look for when shopping for a home hub

The purpose of a home hub is to serve as a single gadget for running your smart home, getting information and streaming audio and video. Before making your purchase, consider where in your home the hub will go, and what types of features you'll primarily be using it for. 

Here are nine important things to consider when choosing which home hub is best suited for your household: 

  • Display size and resolution: This determines how much content can be displayed on the screen and how detailed it will be. If you plan to watch video content, make video calls, or display high-resolution photos, 1080p resolution is ideal. 
  • Placement: Some home hubs are designed to be placed on a flat tabletop, desk or shelf, while others (particularly those with larger screens) can be mounted on a wall. After determining in which room you'll be placing the home hub, decide where it will be the most accessible.
  • Speaker quality: If you plan to watch video content; do video calls; or stream music, podcasts or audiobooks, a home hub with high-quality stereo speakers is ideal. Speakers that support spatial audio will provide a more immersive listening experience.
  • Digital assistant: One of the main purposes of a home hub is to provide easy access to a digital assistant that will respond to your questions and voice commands. Based on which home hub you choose, it will either support Google Assistant ("Hey, Google") or Amazon Alexa. Which option you choose should be based on what smart home gear you already use to ensure full compatibility. If your smart lights, video doorbell, home security cameras, or smart coffee machine, for example, support the same digital assistant as the one built into your home hub, you'll be able to use voice commands to remotely control those other smart devices.
  • Compatibility: All of the home hubs featured in this roundup support both iOS and Android-based mobile devices. However, you should also focus on capability with your other smart home devices. 
  • Camera: The camera built into the home hub is used primarily for video calls. The higher the resolution (measured in megapixels), the more detail someone will see during a video call with you. Based on which home hub you have, if the person you'll be video calling with has a compatible device or app, you'll be able to initiate a video call with a voice command such as, "Hey Google, call Grandma."
  • Screensaver: When you're not using the home hub for other tasks, all of them can display an animated slideshow featuring your favorite digital photos or video clips. In some cases, this content must be stored locally using the home hub's internal storage, but in most cases, the home hub can retrieve photos you have within a folder or album in the cloud. The Amazon Echo Show 15 also has the ability to display famous works of art. 
  • Online shopping: Since Amazon is the world's largest and most popular online retailer, it makes sense that the company's own home hubs will allow you to use voice commands or the touchscreen to shop online. If there's an item, like paper towels, you've already purchased from Amazon that you want to reorder, use the voice command "Hey Alexa, reorder paper towels," and the home hub will place the order with Amazon and have it shipped to the address on file. All of the Google home hubs also support online shopping via Google Shopping. Many home hubs also allow you to order food from popular delivery services or fast food chains using voice commands. Or, order an Uber, Lyft or taxi using a voice command.
  • Special features: Each of the home hubs featured in this roundup offer a handful of unique features that set them apart. These features might include enhanced stereo speakers that support spatial audio, support for a handheld remote control, a base that rotates so it tracks your movement when you're participating in a video call, or the ability to remotely control the other smart devices and appliances in your home.

Save 20% and get a gift card when you upgrade your home hub through Amazon

Amazon offers a unique program that allows you to trade-in your old home hub (or certain other Amazon equipment) when you purchase a new Echo home hub. Take advantage, and Amazon will give you a gift card for the appraised value of your trade-in, plus a 20% discount on your new Amazon Echo home hub. Visit Amazon's product page for any of its home hubs. Below the displayed price, click on the "Save 20% with Trade-in" button and then follow the on-screen prompts.

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