- Compatible with lots of devices
- Future-proofed with Thread
- Lots of memory
- Easy to set up
- No battery backup
- Pairing can be a pain
Many smart-home hubs are squat and puck-like, designed to live near your router. The Wink Hub 2 is tall and thin and meant to sit upright. With some new features and a more expensive price tag than Wink’s original hub, it’s definitely an upgrade, but how does it stand up to the competition?
At 7.25 inches long and high, and 1.25 inches wide, the Hub 2 is a bit slimmer than its predecessor. It flares out a bit toward the middle, so it’s not perfectly rectangular. All white with an LED light at the front that changes color to alert you to issues, it’s unimposing and unremarkable. In the back, you’ll find a power jack and Ethernet port.
It’s lacking a couple things the SmartThings hub has, namely USB ports and a battery backup. But the Wink hub has a lot packed into it: 512MB of memory and support for 2.4 and 5GHz Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy, Z-Wave, ZigBee, Lutron Clear Connect, and Kidde wireless protocols. It’s also prepped for the Google-backed protocol, thanks to its Thread radio. That’s a pretty comprehensive list, which is why the hub is compatible with so many devices off the bat.
When Digital Trends spoke to Wink CEO Nathan Smith about the new hub, he said the company wanted to make setup easy enough that the average customer at Walmart who isn’t familiar with home automation could pick it up and get it working right away. Setup is pretty easy: You download the app (iOS | Android), create an account, tap on the add products button, select hubs, choose Wink Hub 2, and the app leads you through the steps. First, I plugged in the hub and connected it to my router. (I also had the option of connecting via Wi-Fi.) Within a minute of hitting the Next button, the hub was connected. The hub ran through some updates, then I was ready to add my Amazon Dot.
To do that, I actually had to go to my Alexa app and enable the Wink skill, then let the Dot discover my devices. Most devices, however, can be connected through the Wink app. My Lutron wall dimmers, for example: I clicked the add products button, chose lights, picked Caseta in-wall dimmer, and the app told me what to do. Annoyingly, I had to reset my dimmers by holding down the button for several seconds to get them to pair with the hub. It worked fine for the office dimmer and my Lutron plug, but the hallway dimmer didn’t work until the hub randomly updated.
Resetting the dimmers and plug means they don’t show up in the Lutron app anymore. That’s okay, though — the point of the hub is that you don’t have to open a zillion separate apps anymore. Of course, my husband was a little annoyed that I hadn’t mentioned this, and he tried to shut off the office light from bed.
Each device will have it’s own little routine for you to go through; adding GoControl door/window sensors meant unscrewing the device, putting the hub in pairing mode, and putting the battery in the sensor. Each took a few minutes to pair, and hopefully you only have to do it once. I had to reset and move a door sensor, and that required removing the battery and hitting the sensor’s reset button, then setting it up all over again.
The Wink hub has 22 categories of devices it works with — including lights, locks, sensors, fans, cameras, doorbells, fans, and garage door openers. Several of those have multiple brands and types within those subsets; you can connect locks from Kwikset or Schlage, for example. There are 14 types of sensors listed.
Do the robot
Earlier, I said the point of the hub is that you don’t have to open a million apps, but the Wink wants to make it so you basically never have to open its app, either, with its If This Then That-style robots. I set one up so that when my sliding door opens, my Lutron dimmers in the hallway and office turn on the lights, and my Hue lights in the living room turn on. Opening my front door automatically turns on the hallway light, via the Lutron dimmer, between 5:30 p.m. and sunrise.
That’s all well and good, but if you really want to ditch the app, pairing it with Amazon’s Alexa is really the way to go. In some ways, a Dot or Echo makes the Wink hub redundant, as it can pair with many of the same devices without the Wink. However, there are still some things that you want a visual for, like your Dropcam or Ring video doorbell. Wink’s app also has an activity tab, so you can see if your door opened at 3:30 when your dog walker was supposed to arrive.
The $99 Wink Hub 2 is more expensive than the original, but it’s also safer, faster, and more versatile. It’s dead simple to set up, and while pairing can be a pain compared to, say, Alexa, it’s not a deal-breaker. The robots are easy to figure out and pretty powerful, and the hub works with a lot of devices. It’s not totally universal — it doesn’t work with August locks, for example — so you’ll still want to be on the lookout for the Wink-compatible sticker when shopping for new products.
The Wink hub updated at least three times during the couple weeks I used it, and that’s the beauty of smart products: They can always be improved with software updates. The thing that really shows Wink is looking to the future, though, is the Thread radio. The company admits it doesn’t have a lot of information about how the protocol will work or when it’s coming, but when it does, the hub will be ready to play.
Should you buy it?
If you want to be able to turn on your lights with your voice, maybe you should stick with HomeKit or Alexa, but if you’re really looking to make your whole home smarter, you’re going to need a router, and the Wink Hub 2 has the most going for it right now, as well as some future-proofing, like the Thread radio. The original hub had some issues with reliability, but so has virtually every other smart-home hub. Right now, the Wink Hub 2 is one of the most inclusive devices you can buy when it comes to controlling your smart home.