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clever control for your smart home

clever control for your smart home


The Amazon Echo Hub is a little different than other Amazon Echo devices. While you can chat with Alexa, play music, watch videos, and access other information, this hub is primarily focused on helping you manage your smart home devices. That includes technology from other brands, thanks to its support for Matter, Thread, Zigbee, and Bluetooth ecosystems.

Among the vast range of Alexa-based devices from Amazon, is it the right one for your home?

Amazon Echo Hub review

First impressions

You can tell right from its thin 8-inch touchscreen that the Echo Hub is more akin to a wall panel than a self-standing speaker and screen. It has a new interface too that puts your smart home devices front and centre, such as your camera feeds, smart lights, thermostat, blinds, smart plugs, robot vacs and more. 

While it suits being a panel on your wall, there’s a stand accessory too, which I’ve set up for my test.

The interface is customisable too, using widgets to group together devices, routines, media, contacts, weather, and other information. The hub also has a motion sensor so it can detect when you’re approaching and automatically turn on or customise the screen. 

And true to its smart home intentions, the Echo Hub has built-in support for a range of standards including Matter, Zigbee, Thread and Bluetooth. This means that it can consolidate different flavours of devices into a single point of control and it negates the need for a separate smart home bridge.

More than just smart home devices, the Echo Hub can be used to manage media, appointments and contacts. Image: Valens Quinn.

In order to set it up, the Echo Hub needs a Wi-Fi connection, the Alexa app on your smartphone, and you also might want to enlist a sparky (or electrician to those not living in Australia) to conceal the power cable.

Amazon Echo Hub specifications

Price (RRP) $329
Official website Amazon store
Warranty 1-year limited warranty
Screen size 8-inch touch screen, 1280 x 800 resolution
Dimensions 202 mm W x 137mm H x 15mm D (7.9” x 5.4” x 0.6”)
Weight 365 grams
Speakers Pair of top ported full range speakers, with stereo playback
Sensors Passive infrared (PIR) sensor for proximity detection, ambient light sensor (ALS)
Smart Home compatibility Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy Mesh, Zigbee, Thread and Matter
Network Dual-band Wi-Fi supports 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
Processor MediaTek MT 8169 A
In the box Echo Hub, power adaptor (12.5W) and 1.8m (6ft) cord (white)
Wall mount, anchors, screws, mounting template
Quick start guide

Setting it up

Getting the Echo Hub up and running was fairly straightforward. Once you switch it on and link it to your Amazon account, you can use the Alexa app on your smartphone to finish the installation. The Hub will inherit devices already registered to the Alexa app, and it will help with adding new devices too.

For instance, I had a selection of Arlo security cameras around my house and office, and these were set up with my Arlo app. To get them connected to the Echo Hub, the Alexa app talked to my Arlo app to establish the necessary permissions. It did the same for my Tapo smart power plugs, and it already knew about my other Alexa devices including my Echo Show 15 and Echo Pop speaker

Interface showing smart plugs and moreInterface showing smart plugs and more
Connecting smart devices was fairly quick and easy. Image: Valens Quinn.

I had trouble connecting my LIFX smart lights, however. These are a bit older, and while identified by the Echo Hub, they couldn’t seem to talk to one another.

Managing your devices

Once your devices are connected, you can then decide how you want them to display on the home dashboard. You can group them together by type, or arrange your view by room. Also really useful is creating widgets for your routines, so you can tap on one to, say start your morning routine, but I prefer just asking Alexa using my voice. Then your routine works like it would with other Echo devices, such as turning on your lights, reading the latest news, and even switching on the coffee machine if you’ve configured a smart power plug. 

Echo Hub showing widgets config screenEcho Hub showing widgets config screen
Choose from a range of widgets for your devices, media, productivity and more. Image: Valens Quinn.

One thing I would like to see, however, is direct camera feeds right on the home screen. This could be a widget per feed, or a group of them. As I have around 6 cameras, I have to tap on a generic camera widget that takes me to a 4-camera grid to see any of the live feeds. This could have something to do with Arlo compatibility, as it appears that other cameras like Ring Cameras will display a live feed right on the dashboard. I could of course always ask Alexa to just show me a particular camera feed in full screen with my voice. Once displayed, I can pinch and zoom the image. However, I needed to revert to the Arlo app to see my video recording, change camera settings and the like.

The Echo Hub is a handy way of controlling your home’s speakers too, either using the panel or asking Alexa to play something in a particular room. You can also see what’s playing in one or multiple rooms from the display.

Nice too that it can display selected full-screen photos or put the weather forecast on-screen. There are other widgets too like Question of the Day, shortcuts to call my contacts, top audio podcasts and games.

On-screen smarts

With its Adaptive Content feature, the Echo Hub can detect when I’m nearby and switch from, say, photo frame mode, back to the smart home dashboard. It’s also smart enough to tell if you’re far away and will adjust what’s on screen for a long-distance view, such as a large clock display and then it will transition to a more detailed view as you get closer to the screen – clever!

Incidentally, for those with second-generation Echo Show devices, the Adaptive Content feature should be rolling out next month via a software update.

And if it hasn’t sensed anyone for quite a while, the Echo Hub can switch to a low-power mode to save energy.

Sound, vision and privacy

Given its small size, I was surprised by how loud the speakers are, so you can play music or have a voice call with somebody without needing to be right next to it. There are three mics too, and these were adept at detecting and discerning my voice.

The screen is bright and reasonably easy to see from sharper angles, and the interface is quite responsive thanks to the MediaTek MT 8169 A processor, although there are a few delays when the Eco Hub waits to access information from the internet. Delays are also dependent on the smart device you’re using, so your experiences may vary here.

Taylor Swift media playing on Echo HubTaylor Swift media playing on Echo Hub
Who else would you be playing these days? Image: Valens Quinn.

You can adjust the volume with direct buttons on the right-hand edge of the panel and there’s a privacy button too that turns off the microphone and puts a red indicator on the screen so you know that Alexa isn’t listening.  And for added privacy, Amazon lets you view audio recordings that it saves in the cloud and delete them.

Who is the Amazon Echo Hub for?

At $329, the Echo Hub is more expensive than an Echo Show 8, for example, which has a similarly sized screen and larger speaker. However, the Echo Hub is really more about creating a centralised place to control your smart home devices. Plus, it still has the features that you’d expect in an Echo Show device.

Its broad smart home compatibility is also a bonus, negating the need for a separate bridge to bring everything together. So for those who really want to streamline control of their smart home, Amazon’s Echo Hub makes for an intuitive and convenient way to bring it all together.

GadgetGuy occasionally uses affiliate links and may receive a small commission from purchased products.

The Echo Hub is more about smart home management than it is an Alexa smart speaker and screen. Its customisable dashboard is handy although you may still prefer to use your voice than tapping the screen.

Positives

Customisable dashboard that uses widgets for devices, routines and media

A wall-mountable design for those who want to control their smart home devices

Clever Adaptive Content mode adjusts what’s on screen based on how close you are

You can use your voice or tap widgets to access your devices and info

Easy to set up and connect to your Amazon / Alexa account

Still does all the things you’d expect from an Echo Show device

Negatives

Panel-based design needs professional installation to hide cables

You’ll pay extra for the flat design and customisable smart-home dashboard

Some issues showing live feeds on the Home Screen and connecting to select legacy devices



The article was first published here

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