The Best Smart Home Hubs for Every Budget

The Best Smart Home Hubs for Every Budget
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When putting together your smart home, a hub is an invaluable piece of your ecosystem. It can work as a command centre, the central nervous system that connects and controls all of your home’s smart devices.

However, the most suitable smart hub for you depends on your home’s current setup. Do you already have a smart ecosystem in place? Does your home favour Alexa or Google smart devices? Do you want a screen, or are you just happy with a smart speaker? And if you only want just a speaker, how important is audio quality to you?

If you’re looking to upgrade your home, these are our picks for the best smart hubs, broken down by price.

Best smart home hubs under $100

Google Nest Mini

google smart home hub
Image: Google

If you’re after a simple smart home hub, the Google Nest Mini is as simple as they come. This smart speaker does exactly what it says on the can. You can use it as a hub to control all of your compatible smart devices via Google’s voice assistant (using four far-field microphones), while also doubling as a solid speaker that offers decent 360-degree sound from a 40mm driver.

It does need to be plugged in at all times, and the mic switch is located on the underside of the Nest Mini, so you won’t be able to eyeball whether or not the speaker is listening in. It’s a basic smart hub, but that might be exactly what you need.

Where to buy the Google Nest Mini: Catch ($66.96) | eBay ($62)| Kogan ($69.99)

Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)

amazon smart home hub
Image: Amazon

According to Amazon, the Echo Dot (3rd Gen) is the brand’s “most popular voice-controlled speaker”. This Echo Dot shares a lot of similarities with Google’s Nest Mini – it’s a fairly basic interface, needs to be plugged into power at all times, uses four far-field mics to pick up your voice and doubles as a decent smart speaker (for the price, that is). If you already own a few Alexa-compatible devices, it makes sense to pick this as your smart hub.

Unlike the Nest Mini, the Echo Dot has a mic control button on its face, which will light up red when turned off. The third-gen Echo Dot also has a 3.5mm output jack, so you can hook it up to a bigger speaker if you don’t think this hockey puck’s audio is lacking.

Where to buy the Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen): Amazon Australia ($59)

Best smart home hubs under $200

Apple HomePod Mini

apple smart home hub
Image: Apple

After the standard HomePod was discontinued in 2021, the HomePod Mini is the only Apple smart hub that’s currently available. While you might expect an Apple device to be a bit more expensive because it’s Apple, that’s not the case for this smart speaker.

In Gizmodo Australia’s review of the Apple HomePod Mini, we were happy with the decent audio and the great smart capabilities, concluding that “They’re definitely value for money, which isn’t something usually associated with Apple products.”

There’s one thing that the Apple HomePod Mini has over all the other smart hubs on this list: colour. With yellow, orange and blue colourways, you’re not just restricted to the standard white/grey/black options.

If you’re happy with just a speaker the HomePod Mini is a solid and reliable option. However, both Amazon and Google’s smart hubs in this range come with screens that give them a better edge when it comes to overall features.

Where to buy the Apple HomePod Mini: Apple ($149)

Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen)

Image: Amazon

As we move into the medium tier of smart hubs, you need to be a bit more conscious of your home’s ecosystem. If you already have a few smart devices, then you should pick a hub that’s more compatible with them – ie. if you predominately own Alexa-enabled devices, then get an Amazon hub.

The Echo Show 8 is a subtly designed hub, with a crisp 8-inch touch screen. While it wouldn’t replace a TV or laptop as your primary media screen, it’ll serve you well elsewhere. Whether that’s having Alexa run you through a recipe while you’re cooking, or having it roll through the daily news feed. You can use the hub to stream video from certain services like Prime Video and Netflix. However, not all apps and services are available for native streaming through the Show – like Disney+, for example.

In Gizmodo’s review of the Echo Show 8, we noted that while the built-in speaker has a nice heft to it, the sound quality does start to suffer when pushed to higher volumes. Outside of that, we were pretty happy with the overall experience of using the Echo Show 8 as a smart hub. It also uses separate switches for disabling the microphone and 13-megapixel camera, so won’t lose access to one by switching off the other.

Where to buy the Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen): Amazon Australia ($229)

Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen)

google smart home hub
Image: Google

With a stylish design and a clean interface, the Google Nest Hub has a 7-inch touch display and sits on a stand that slightly raises it from whatever surface it’s placed on. The Nest Hub has no built-in camera, which might be positive or negative, depending on your own sense of privacy (the mic control switch is on the back of the device). While it doesn’t have a camera, the Nest Hub uses the Soli sensor, which uses motion-tracking to let you control the hub with hands-free gestures.

The Nest Hub also gives you the option of native streaming with select apps, but you’re also able to cast non-native services to its screen via ChromeCast. The Nest Hub has decent audio – it’s better than the Mini, but if quality audio is more important than visuals, then you might want the Nest Audio instead.

If the Nest Hub is set up in your bedroom, you’ll also be able to use its Sleep Sensing feature, which will track your breathing and assess the quality of your sleep. Sleep Sensing is currently a free feature, but it looks like Google is planning to charge for it beyond 2022.

Where to buy the Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen): Catch ($139) | eBay ($94.80)| Kogan ($129)

Best smart home hubs over $200

Google Nest Hub Max

Image: Google

The design of the Google Nest Hub Max is quite similar to the standard Hub, except bigger. It comes with a 10-inch touchscreen display, with the biggest addition being a built-in camera that can be used for face recognition and video calls.

The audio has also been bumped up, with larger speakers and the addition of a subwoofer at the back of the display stand. It also maintains the Soli-powered motion tracking, so you won’t need to worry about touching it with dirty hands, which is handy if you plan on using this as a kitchen helper.

In Gizmodo Australia’s review of the Google Nest Hub Max, we were pretty happy with the overall experience, both in terms of overall appearance and smart assistant skills. If the price tag isn’t a problem then the hub is “probably Google’s most useful home smart assistant.”

Where to buy the Google Nest Hub Max: Catch ($289) | eBay ($289.99)| Kogan ($295)

Echo Show 15

Image: Amazon

The Echo Show 15 is big and depending on who you ask, that size either works for or against it. Despite its size, the Echo Show 15 is easy to use, with a customisable 15-inch home screen that can be filled with notes, weather reports, reminders and more (that home screen can also be uniquely adjusted for each user, based on their voice and/or face recognition).

If you’re living by yourself and/or don’t have a lot of smart devices in your life, it might just be a tad overkill. But if you do own a lot of Alexa-compatible devices, or live in a household where the hub’s multi-profile feature will get a good workout, then the Echo Show 15 will fit into your home nicely.

Much like the Echo Show 8, it can be used to natively stream certain services (although if have the Show 15 in portrait display, the video will awkwardly sit with a lot of negative space around it)

Due to its size, you’ll most likely need to make a dedicated space before setting it up. The Show 15 can be wall-mounted or displayed on a stand that needs to be purchased separately.

Where to buy the Echo Show 15: Amazon Australia ($399)

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At Gizmodo, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.