Home & Office
Why you can trust ZDNET : ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.


Amazon's Echo Hub solved my biggest problem with being a smart home enthusiast

I just tested the most useful smart home device ever, and I still can't believe Amazon made it. But also, I sort of can.
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer
Echo Hub
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • Amazon just made the Echo Hub available for purchase at the price of $180.
  • The Echo Hub gives Alexa the place it has earned in the smart home market: A control panel to easily access smart devices, no ads, no unnecessary fluff.
  • The smart display can be slow and buggy, especially while loading multiple camera views. Only Ring cameras are currently available in the snapshot view, though this will change in the future.

Many smart home enthusiasts, myself included, are tired of juggling dozens of apps on our phones to control the smart devices in our homes. And while the release of Matter alleviates this hassle, the new smart home connectivity standard has yet to become supported enough to eliminate the challenge.

As a result, many of us are left looking for smart displays that can give us quick access to control our devices. Some tech-savvy folks may use a repurposed old tablet mounted to the wall as a smart home control center, while others opt for a smart display like an Echo Show or Google Nest Hub that can already function as a smart home controller out of the box, among other things.

Also: Smart home starter pack: 5 devices that will make your life easier

But these devices always have their drawbacks. Amazon's newest Echo Hub hopes to fill a gap in the smart home controller market by being what these devices are not: a smart home controller and only that. 

View at Amazon

There are no frills with the Echo Hub. No spatial audio speaker attached to its base, no ultra-high definition for streaming, and no ads to display while in standby mode -- it doesn't serve any main purpose other than to be a smart home hub and controller. 

Testing the Echo Hub for the past week has been a refreshing experience for my smart home. Its navigation is sorted into categories and widgets. At a glance, the Echo Hub displays your widgets on about two-thirds of the screen, with your routines and rooms on the left side of the screen and device categories at the bottom. The widgets can be customized, and you can add more that you download from a widgets store.

Echo Hub

The Echo Hub can get a bit laggy when you pull up your security camera feeds.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

The 8-inch touchscreen display can be wall-mounted, which was my preference as I've always wanted to repurpose a tablet as a wall-mounted smart panel, or propped up on a flat surface with a table-top stand purchased separately. 

Also: How AI in smart home tech can automate your life

Aside from being a smart home control panel with the Alexa voice assistant, the Echo Hub, as its name indicates, works to connect Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, Matter, Thread, and Sidewalk smart devices. 

Echo Hub

The Echo Hub makes it easy to control all of your Alexa-compatible lights.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

But if Amazon already has the Echo Show, why make the Echo Hub? The Amazon Alexa smart home network is quickly becoming one of the largest and most intuitive smart home automation systems available. The system has the most compatible devices, supporting 100 million devices.

The Alexa app quickly connects and adds new devices you add to your smart home with little effort on your end and lets you control devices from different manufacturers in one place. If a smart home device says it 'works with Alexa', you can trust the technology will be easy to set up and control with the Alexa app, the voice assistant, and now the Echo Hub.

Also: Amazon's Echo Show 5 made me a smart display believer

I currently have three Echo Shows and four other Echo speakers, so there's a lot of Alexa in my home. As an Apple HomeKit house, I got an Echo speaker to see how Alexa fared against Siri. I then got my kitchen's Echo Show to listen to music or watch the news while cooking dinner and to control smart home devices, but also because I thought the display would give me better visuals into my calendar and smart home, which wasn't the case. I like that the Echo Hub does exactly what it promises to do: Give me a clear view into my smart home and a quick way to control it. 

Echo Hub

The Echo Hub camera view.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

I've never been quiet about the Echo Show's shortcomings, especially as a person who uses the technology daily. I dislike that I can't control what is displayed during standby, that Alexa only understands me about 80% of the time, that the hardware itself is slow and laggy, that an app like YouTube, which requires a browser, is so hard to navigate with your voice, and that smart home control is such a secondary feature.

ZDNET's buying advice

Because Alexa can handle many different devices, maintains a reliable connection, and makes routines easy to use, I hate to admit that I reach for it more often than my Apple Home app. The Echo Hub puts all that convenience on my wall, within my reach. I can easily run routines from the hub, arm or disarm my Ring Alarm system, check my security cameras, adjust the downstairs thermostat, or turn a light on or off on my way upstairs for the night.

Echo Hub

While the Echo Hub isn't a smart speaker, Alexa does respond on the device, so you can mute it so it doesn't listen for the wake word and adjust its volume.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

During setup, you can choose which Echo device in your home to play music on when you ask Alexa on the Echo Hub to play something, as it's not a speaker -- another differentiator between the Echo Hub and other Echo devices. This approach means you don't get an Echo Hub instead of an Echo speaker if you still want to play music, especially if you want smart speakers around your home. 

Like many smart home users, I am only reluctant to completely give in to Alexa and Amazon due to privacy and security concerns, especially considering that data is not handled locally. While companies can always claim to prioritize consumer privacy, you can only take them at face value when it comes to your personal information. 

Editorial standards