Home automation technologies seem to improve every few months, and the number of devices on the market is growing fast. While we still wait to see what Apple can do with HomeKit and Microsoft can produce with AllJoyn, there is still plenty of scope for the existing home automation leaders to improve and evolve their products.
Those using Z-Wave wireless technology are among the most popular. With wide compatibility, a range of solutions, and being familiar and available to users for the past few years, there are a number of contenders out there. But, which one you should choose is probably down to your specific needs and the layout of your home.
Whatever your demands, we can heartily recommend the follow three models, the SmartThings Hub, Mi Casa Verde VeraLite and the HomeSeer HomeTroller SEL. They cover a range of specifications and offer user friendliness and flexibility in varying degrees, see what features they offer in our comparison.
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Key Features of The Top 3
The $99 SmartThings Hub remains one of the most popular choices among buyers. It is easy to home install, offers a well priced hub to connect all your home sensors or smart devices. A free app means you can monitor and set them, with notifications of changes in conditions.
The SmartThings Hub not only supports ZWave but also Zigbee and Wi-Fi devices, so pretty much all smart applicances, lighting, locks and other gadgets, from any location. That means you can turn the lights on or off to create the impression you’re home, set the heating to match your schedule and so on.
Mi Casa Verde VeraLite
The VeraLite, recently reduced from $199 to $99 is, as the name suggests, the baby unit of its range, but still supports up to 50 devices. That should be more than enough for most homes.
Its sophisticated controller helps control connected devices via your smartphone with energy monitoring features for the environmentally concious.
It stores much of its data in the cloud using Amazon’s AWS service, which is pretty reliable, but you’re still dependent on your Internet connection for access and to make changes.
HomeSeer HomeTroller-SEL Home Controller
A step up from the other two in this comparison, the HomeTroller-SEL is the company’s mid-range device at $395. It launched last fall and is part of a range with products that do cost a lot more, making HomeSeer the power-user’s favorite.
As such, the SEL packs a lot more hardware than the rival devices, but is still a small and compact hub. It uses Z-Wave to work with most light switches, thermostats, door locks, smoke detectors, alarm sirens, motion sensors and other devices.
It comes with a free mobile app, HSTouch, to offer remote control, with an advanced automation “engine” that will give the home tinkerer more control over their devices than most other hubs. There’s also the optional Android control pad tablet you can buy to control your smart home with a dedicated device.
Pros and Cons of the Best Z Wave Controllers
The coolest feature of the SmartThings Hub is the SmartThings Labs where approved third-party apps for your devices can be found. These can give you maximum control over all the features and settings of any smart home device, from lighting to locks. This also means you’re not totally depending on the SmartThings company or the userbase to help get new devices working.
Since it only connects to your home router via an Ethernet connection, that does limit where you can place the SmartThings Hub, which might have some impact on more distant devices. Still, if you have a bigger home, you can probably afford a workaround. There’s also no easy way to get it working with Insteon or ClearConnect devices.
For those reasons, some users complain about lack of flexibility, but for many it seems an ideal basic level solution. Another potential issue is the second generation SmartThings Hub, due sometime soon, that you might want to wait for. It features a more powerful processor, Bluetooth Smart support and a new range of sensors.
Mi Casa Verde VeraLite
The VeraLite only supports the Z-Wave specification, so you need to own or purchase compatible devices for you smart home. That limitation aside, this is a stylish and friendly device for controlling your home.
It comes with a power supply, but can run off 4xAA batteries, which some may find useful. It can be controlled from a PC or smartphone.
Similar to the SmartThings Hub, which is due to be upgraded, there’s already a newer VeraEdge on the market. More powerful, but more costly, it has had a troubled launch, which is why the VeraLite remains popular. If the company fixes the VeraEdge and reduces the price then it may become the more useful hub to own.
HomeSeer HomeTroller-SEL Home Controller
As a more advanced product, basically a micro PC, there is a lot to like about the HomeSeer, but only if you’re the kind of smart home owner that wants total control, and to set up a scenario for just about any event that you can imagine.
It can relate events to the weather or changes in your sensors, and all data is stored locally on a small hard drive, so you’re not dependent on the cloud or an Internet connection to keep your smart home operating.
It is also Insteon compatible, which may be useful if you already have those products and can also support DirecTV and iTunes, plus a few other services via third-party plug-ins.
Of couse, you pay for that power, and with the HomeSeer range offering a lot higher-spec Pro units, if price is no object, you could equip your smart home with some serious kit. Since it’s a bit more advanced, users looking for a “user friendly” experience might not have the same comfort level as – say – the SmartThings Hub.
|Dimensions||12 x 6.4 x 5.2 inches||4.6 x 1.7 x 3.7 inches||4.5 x 2.25 x 4.25 inches|
|Colors||White||White and green||Black|
|Price||$ hover here for latest||$ hover here for latest||$$$ hover here for latest|
|Power source||Micro USB port||4xAA||PSU|
|CPU||Microchip 512H||500MHz MIPS SoC||1.58 GHz Dual-Core with 1 MB Cache|
|Memory||512K||32 MB flash memory; 64 MB DDR2 RAM||2 GB, 32 GB SSD|
|Connections||WAN||WAN + USB||LAN, 3x USB, HDMI, VGA, Split Audio|
|Protocols||ZigBee, Z-Wave, and Wi-Fi||Z-Wave||Z-Wave|
Final Recommendation – Which is Best?
All three devices have a lot to recommend them, with the SmartThings Hub and the VeraLite offering great, entry-level solutions for a smart home hub. However, both are in the process of being superseded, so you may want to grab one while you can, since the new models will offer even more features that might overwhelm the less demanding user. For first time owners, I’d go with the SmartThings Hub or VeraLite.
The HomeSeerHomeTroller is a step up from those two devices, offering more flexibility and power when it comes to controlling your smart home. But, if you’re one of those people who only use four apps on your smartphone, that might be a bit of overkill. For people looking for endless customization – and who have the technical aptitude – the HomeSeer is the best Z-Wave option out there.
The ultimate choice is really down to what devices are already in your home, or you plan to buy. Figure that out and you should have a pretty good idea of what hub you need.