Editors’ Note: Wink announced that existing Wink Hub and Wink Hub 2 devices will require a $4.99 monthly subscription in order to retain full functionality beginning July 27, 2020. Wink says that with this updated subscription model, it plans to expand support to new brands. Without a subscription, users will “still have access to limited functionality.” We plan to take another look at the Wink Hub and Wink Hub 2 in the near future to see how this change affects their value proposition. Until then, our original review of the Wink Hub 2 from October 20, 2016 is below.
When we reviewed the original Wink Hub back in 2014, we were impressed with its versatility and affordable price, but not so impressed with its lack of 5GHz Wi-Fi and buggy pairing process with new devices. Since then, Wink has been sold and the $99 Wink Hub 2 is here. The new hub not only offers more memory, better network support, and a sleeker design than its predecessor, it adds Bluetooth support, enhanced security, and a simplified guided setup and pairing procedure. Moreover, it supports more wireless protocols than any hub we’ve tested, making it our new Editors’ Choice for home automation hubs.
Design and Features
The Wink Hub 2’s slender, tapered design is decidedly more appealing than the original’s. It has a matte white finish, measures 7.25 by 1.25 by 7.25 inches (HWD), and stands upright. A thin LED strip on the top front edge lets you know what’s going on; it blinks blue while pairing, white while rebooting, and solid blue when everything is connected and working properly.
Under the hood is circuitry for connecting to a boatload of wireless devices (more than any hub we’ve tested to date) and 512MB of memory (the original hub had 64MB). In addition to dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy wireless networking, the Wink Hub 2 supports Z-Wave, ZigBee, Lutron Clear Connect, and Kidde wireless protocols. Additionally, it is Thread enabled for whenever the new low-powered mesh protocol hits the mainstream. All of these radios mean you can use the hub to control a wealth of third-party devices including thermostats, security cameras, door locks, lighting systems, sensors, ceiling fans, garage door openers, window blinds, doorbells, and more. It also works with Amazon’s Alexa voice commands and has its own If This Then That (IFTTT) channel. The Samsung SmartThings Hub, for comparison, only supports ZigBee, Z-Wave, and single-band Wi-Fi.
The rear of the hub has a power jack and an Ethernet port, but lacks the USB ports you get with the SmartThings Hub. It also lacks the battery backup you get with the SmartThings and the Lowe’s Iris Smart Hub . But you do get dual-band Wi-Fi, which makes it easy to connect to the hub anywhere in your home without the need for a wired connection. It’s a convenient feature that neither the Iris or SmartThings hubs offer. Also new to the hub is Secure Boot, a hardware-based security feature that makes sure only Wink software can run on the hub, making it difficult for hackers to compromise your smart home devices.
The free Android and iOS Wink app is well organized and offers detailed instructions to help you pair components and monitor your connected devices. Its use of large icons makes it a bit more user-friendly than the SmartThings app. The home screen displays icons of product categories such as Thermostats, Sensors, Cameras, and Lights + Power. Tapping any category icon takes you to a screen with icons for each installed device in that category. Tap any device to check its status and access its settings, or in the case of a camera, launch a live video stream. The Sensors screen has icons for temperature, humidity, motion, and door-window sensors and their current status (temperature, motion detected, door open, etc.).
At the bottom of the home screen are icons for Products, Shortcuts, Robots, and Activity. Shortcuts offer a one-touch way to make something happen; for example, I created a Heat shortcut to change the Ecobee3 heat set point to 68 degrees, and a Lights Out shortcut that turns off all connected lights. Once you create a shortcut it gets its own icon on the Shortcut screen.
Robots provide an easy way to make installed devices work together. Similar to an IFTTT recipe, you pick a device, an event, and an action. For example, I created a robot that turns on the Nest Cam when a door sensor is triggered. I also created a robot that turns off a specific light when I leave home. This particular robot uses geofencing to determine my location before turning off the light. You can have robots run all the time, or you can schedule start and end times for specific days of the week. The Activity icon takes you to a screen that displays a history of events such as motion detection, lights turned on and off, doors opened, and cameras recording video. The Products icon takes you back to the home screen.
Installation and Performance
You can install the hub wirelessly, but Wink suggests using a wired connection for simplicity. Once configured you can then relocate the hub anywhere in your house and connect it to your router’s 2.4GHz or 5GHz band. To start, I downloaded the app and created an account. I tapped the plus button on the opening page and selected Hubs from the product list. I chose Wink Hub 2 and followed the onscreen instructions to connect the hub to my router using the included Ethernet cable and plugged in the power adapter. I hit Next and waited 30 seconds for the hub to be discovered. I clicked Add To Wink to add the hub to my account, which took all of four seconds. After a three-minute update I was ready to begin adding components.
I tapped Add a Product on the home page and selected Power from the list of categories. I was pairing a Leviton Z-Wave Plug-in Appliance Module (smart plug), which I selected from the list of power devices. I had the option of watching a short video tutorial, but skipped to the next step which had me plug the smart plug into an outlet. I hit Next and followed the instructions to wait for the hub’s LED to blink blue, then pressed the pairing button on the plug. Within seconds the smart plug was paired with the hub. Each step came with detailed pictures that showed me exactly what to do. The app displayed a short Welcome To Lights + Power tutorial, then opened the Lights page where my plug was listed as an installed device.
I repeated the pairing process with a motion detector and two door-windows sensors that make up the GoControl Home Security Suite, and they too were paired instantly without any of the issues we experienced with the original hub. The app even provided an installation guide for mounting and calibrating the door sensors. Likewise, I paired a Cree ZigBee light bulb in less than 10 seconds.
Adding the Ecobee3 thermostat was also quick and easy. I went to the Heating & Cooling category and selected the Ecobee3 from the list. I tapped I Have An Account and entered my Ecobee email address and password, which authorizes Wink to access my Ecobee account. I hit Accept and with four seconds the thermostat was paired with the hub.
As we saw with the original hub, the Wink app may not offer the full set of controls that you get with a device’s dedicated app, but I was able to do the important things like set the temperature, turn the heat and fan on and off, and enable Home and Away modes. I was also able to create a schedule for these functions, but couldn’t do things like configure vacation settings and setup reminders and alerts.
The Wink Hub 2 performed wonderfully in my tests. The door-window sensors were very responsive, as was the motion sensor and smart plug. Every installed device reacted instantly to my commands using the Wink app, and the Robot automations worked like a charm. My Lights Out Robot, which had the Cree light bulb turn off when I left the premises, worked without a hitch. So did my Camera Robot that had the Nest Cam turn on when a door sensor was triggered.
I had no trouble setting and turning on my Ecobee3 thermostat using the Wink app, and received accurate temperature and humidity readings in real-time. Live video from the Nest Cam was sharp, with none of the lag we saw with the SmartThings hub. Alexa voice commands were also executed instantly, as was my IFTTT recipe to have the smart plug turn on at the start of a NY Jets game.
Comparisons and Conclusions
If you’re not quite ready to automate your home with a hub or simply don’t have that many smart devices to justify getting one, consider using an Amazon Echo or the forthcoming Google Home to control your connected devices. Both support voice commands for popular products such as Philips Hue lighting and the Nest Thermostat, as well as smart switches, speakers, and streaming audio services. They’re also great for getting quick information such as the latest news and sports scores and will even tell you what movies are playing locally and when. But they don’t support quite as many different devices, and they don’t offer the same granular level of control that a hub does.
With the Wink Hub 2 there’s (almost) no limit to how many smart home devices you can control using a single mobile app. This new version of the hub resolves many of the issues that plagued the original, and adds some user-friendly features including detailed instructions and illustrations for pairing devices. The hub is very responsive and the mobile app is thoughtfully designed and easy to use. The Robots make it easy to have installed devices work with each other, and the hub had no trouble responding to my Alexa voice commands and IFTTT recipes. Granted, the Samsung SmartThings Hub also supports IFTTT and Alexa voice commands, and it has a battery backup, but the Wink Hub 2’s ability to work with a wider range of wireless protocols, coupled with a friendlier interface and dual-band networking abilities, give it an edge. As such, the Wink Hub 2 replaces the SmartThings Hub as our Editors’ Choice for home automation hubs.