Home Tech Amazon Echo Hub review: Alexa’s affordable smart home control panel

Amazon Echo Hub review: Alexa’s affordable smart home control panel

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Amazon Echo Hub review: Alexa's affordable smart home control panel

Amazon’s latest Alexa device looks like the missing piece to making a home completely smart, acting as a hub for controlling lights, doors, cameras, timers and heating.

The Echo Hub arrives ready to be your smart home’s touchscreen controller and is a budget-friendly option for a device that usually needs to be installed by a professional, costing thousands, or a DIY job that requires more than a little experience. .

The Echo Hub, which can be wall-mounted or placed on a stand, costs £170 (€200/$180) and acts as a clock and digital photo frame when idle, displaying a variety of stock photos or taking snapshots of your Amazon account previously required. or Facebook on its 8-inch LCD screen.

An infrared sensor detects your presence to activate the screen when you approach and display the home screen. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

When you wake up, it’s full of buttons and widgets to control things around the home. A list of rooms on the left lets you see all the devices connected to Alexa, while a row of buttons at the bottom gives you quick access to categories of things, like security devices, cameras, thermostats, and lights.

Routines can be programmed and activated, such as dimming the lights at night or opening the curtains in the morning. Widgets can be added to the home screen that show the weather, a to-do list, and other little things, although I found that the simpler the home screen, the better.

Some of the home screen widgets were useful, such as the camera view or favorite devices in other rooms. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

What makes the new device unique is the price and ease of setup. Until now, implementing a similar center would have had to be part of a system like Control4, which cost thousands of dollars. It’s also possible to do a DIY project with a tablet, but that brings its own problems and getting it to work as ably as the new Echo Hub is tricky.

Fortunately, absent are the ads that have become prevalent lately on Amazon’s equivalent Echo Show smart displays, although Amazon wouldn’t commit to that being the case in the future.

Replacing dependency on phone apps

If you have a Ring alarm, you can use the Hub instead of a physical keypad or give Alexa your PIN via voice. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

As a way to group controls for multiple things in one place that anyone in the house can access, the Echo Hub works well. I especially liked the ability to take a look at recent camera activity and heating temperature, and to quickly turn on groups of lights, reducing reliance on disparate phone apps or unpredictable voice commands.

Button taps are responsive, but swipes elsewhere can be slow, especially when loading rooms with many devices. The Echo Hub may look like a tablet, but it’s not as fast as one.

The home screen is quite well designed and starts with a panel of widgets for the room you place the Hub in. Each room has a main light switch with a dimming slider, but only seven other buttons are displayed on the smart panel and they are locked in alphabetical order, with the rest of the devices hidden behind a “show all” button. If you have a lot of individual lights or other devices, it can mean a lot more taps and swipes than desired. You can get around this by being creative with named groups of devices within rooms, like “A Kitchen Spotlights,” so they appear higher up in the alphabetical order, but that seems like an unnecessary hack.

Most home screen items can be rearranged to put the things you want front and center, but customizing the device is a fairly time-consuming task and has limits that some may consider too restrictive. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

You can switch between room panels via voice, but it’s an unpredictable process at best, often resulting in a light turning on. The Echo Hub contains Zigbee, Thread, Matter, and Bluetooth so you can connect directly to a variety of smart home devices if you don’t already have them set up with a different hub or gateway. It comes with a standard USB-C power plug, but can be connected to Power over Ethernet with an adapter, if you have an advanced home network, for a neater finish.

In addition to controlling your smart home, the Hub can do most of what a smart display typically does, including playing music and videos. It has stereo speakers that fire from the top, but they have smartphone-like sound quality rather than a real speaker; It’s fine for Alexa’s voice, but I wouldn’t want to listen to music for too long. The Hub can be grouped with other Echo speakers, displaying convenient playback controls, or streaming to a Bluetooth speaker. I found that the Hub had a harder time hearing me more than the equivalent Echo Show over ambient noise, forcing me to speak directly to it more often.


The speakers come out of the top, while the microphones are on the front of the Hub and both can be muted with a switch. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Echo Hub is generally repairable and will receive security updates for at least four years after the device is discontinued. Contains 27% recycled materials. The company offers exchange and recycling schemes.


Amazon Echo Hub costs €169.99 (€199.99/$179.99) and includes a wall mount. The stand costs £29.99 ($29.99).

For comparison, the Echo Show 8 costs £150the Echo Show 15 costs £280the Google Nest Hub costs £90 and costs of Brilliant plug-in smart home control $299 (US and Canada only).


For many, the Echo Hub will be the off-the-shelf smart home controller they’ve been looking for. It requires all of your smart home devices to be connected to the Alexa ecosystem and works best with Amazon’s own equipment, such as Ring devices or Alexa speakers. But it provides a better central place for everyone in your home to have control without having to have specialized knowledge, search for apps, or resort to unpredictable voice commands than anything else out there.

It has plenty of caveats and small drawbacks, such as certain actions being slow, limited customization options, and weaker speakers and microphones than the equivalent Echo Show 8. Despite being cheaper than some competing smart home controllers, the Hub is still a little expensive to tempt. everyone, especially when it costs more than the equivalent Echo Show.

So the Hub isn’t for everyone, but it feels like the missing part of Amazon’s smart home ambitions, which could help rejuvenate Alexa as a platform even if people have grown cold on talking to voice assistants. .

Advantages: good smart home controller that’s relatively beginner friendly, extensive smart device support, great with Ring/Amazon devices, presence detection without camera, good photo frame mode, Alexa, speakers, can be mounted on wall or on One stand, multiple power options, economical for a smart home controller.

Cons: Expensive for an Amazon smart display, slow scrolling and loading, weaker speakers and microphones than the equivalent Echo Show, limited customization options, requires an Amazon account and full adoption of the Alexa platform, support costs more.

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