Home Automation

The Best Zigbee Controllers

(Last Updated On: April 5, 2017)

ZigBee is one of the many smart home standards that continues to play an important part in the evolution of this market. Despite new products focusing on Z-Wave, WiFi or Bluetooth Low-Energy standards, there is a huge range of ZigBee products available and more coming.

Sengled Elements lights from Silicon Labs are the latest to add ZigBee support, and as it works at 2.4GHz, it remains one of the best functioning communications networks in most homes.

As long as there are thousands of smart home products out there that use it, such as Philips Hue, and new controllers like the ASUS SmartHome Gateway (currently limited to Asia), there will be a healthy supply of hubs that maintain support for the standard.

If you have an existing smart home setup, but want to upgrade the brains behind your home, then this line up of hubs and controllers all take their ZigBee support seriously. Most smart home products use ZigBee Home Automation (HA) 1.2 standard, while ZigBee uses a mesh network to help devices communicate.

ZigBee isn’t going anywhere soon, the alliance has already announced an IoT universal language called “dotdot” that will allow any device to communicate on any network, including its own ZigBee 3.0, which could be of great use in future smart homes.

#1 Second Generation Samsung SmartThings Hub

Anyone worrying about ZigBee falling off the smart home radar were relieved with Samsung’s popular SmartThings Hub continued to offer support for that and other communications standards, allowing a huge range of devices to work with the South Korean company’s hub. The $99 hub launched at the end of 2015 and is still hugely popular, especially among those new to the smart home market.

Samsung’s Hub uses a software feature called Device Type Handlers (DTH) to talk to ZigBee and Z-Wave devices, this allows them to be identified by the Samsung platform, used and controlled via the app. The company continues to add more ranges of products that are officially supported, while many will work to some extent.

Officially Zigbee supported products include the Kwikset 910 deadbolt, 912 lock and 914 touchpad deadbolt, Fidure Thermostat, Yale KeyFree Lock and the company’s own Moisture, Motion and Multi Sensors. Samsung’s Hub is one of the few that comes with battery backup to keep working in case of a power outage.

Full Review: Read it here.

#2 Vera Control VeraPlus

Vera is one of the older players in the smart home market, the company’s premium VeraPlus launched in early 2016 and is still a popular choice and supports a range of standards (unlike the VeraEdge, which is Z-Wave only).

Compatible devices include Centralite Appliance Module wall sockets, Centralite Sensors, GE’s plug in lamp module and LG bulbs among others. The VeraPlus supports up to 125 devices, so is ideal for those with more active smart home projects.

#3 Wink Hub 2

Wink Hub 2
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One of the newer products on the market, the Wink Hub 2 arrived in September 2016 and costs $99 as of this writing (check the latest price here). It adds auto-discovery over the previous model, support for over 500 devices and adds Bluetooth LE support to ZigBee and Z-Wave among others.

The new hub has a sleek design and its wide-ranging Alexa support allowing ZigBee locks and other devices to be operated via voice control. There’s also a wall-mounted touchscreen controller option for families where giving everyone a smartphone isn’t an option.

Compatible ZigBee products should cover pretty much everything, but specifically listed are GE bulbs, Lutron bulbs, Kwikset and Yale locks. The Hub 2 has a really natural setup process, and comes with practical default alerts or settings, although it can reportedly wipe out existing settings in extreme cases, but will help those with an extensive smart home set up get it up and running quickly.

Full Review: Read it here.

#4 Sylvania Lightify

Designed to control the company’s smart light bulb range, Lightify’s controller can also take charge of ZigBee motion sensors, power switches or outlets, and communicate with products like the Nest thermostat for additional input.

For just $30 as of this writing (check here for live data), it provides a low cost way to start up a smart home, and since it plugs directly into a wall socket relies on your smartphone app (iOS or Android) for control and management. The Lightify range comes with a host of bulbs, light strips and recessed lights to create stylish themes and effects across any home. Prices range from $30-$75, so most people will be building up their smart light collection piece-by-piece.

Users can link bulbs to sensors to create automated rules for turning lights on and off. This controller will work with all the other hubs in this list if you want to expand your smart home and is also Alexa compatible.

#5 Philips Hue

One of the most popular ZigBee controllers, is actually one of the least useful products. Philips use ZigBee to work with its own Philips Hue bulbs, and those of a select few partners, but that’s about it, it can’t be used for as a Hub or for any other purpose.

That said, if all you want is a highly functional, super-smart set of lighting around the home, then the Philips Hue setup is probably the one to get. It also proves the success of the ZigBee network and radio system to anyone who thinks that just because it isn’t amazingly new, it isn’t worth investing in.

Hue lights are coming down in price but the Philips Hue Bridge to control them still costs around $60 (check here for latest). Check you get the new second generation version with extra storage that comes with all the latest features and supports the new-generation bulbs. Beyond just lights, Philips is starting to roll out some ZigBee accessories, including a Hue motion sensor, Tap sensor, along with a wide range of white and color bulbs, strip lighting, lamps and artistic bulbs. Hue is Apple HomeKit compatible and works with Amazon Alexa.

A range of starter kits are available packing  bulbs and the bridge together to provide a more cost effective way to get started. However, as a ZigBee controller it is only designed to work with a few products, so be aware of that before you jump in.

Comparing the Zigbee Options

ProductCategoryZigBee products supported
Samsung SmartThings Hub 2nd GenerationHubKwikset, Fidure Thermostat, Yale KeyFree Lock and the company’s own Moisture, Motion and Multi Sensors
Vera Control VeraPlusHubCentralite Appliance Modules, Centralite Sensors, GE Plug-in Lamp Module, LG bulbs, NYCE garage and motion sensors
Wink Hub 2HubGE bulbs, LeakSmart sensor, Lutron Connected bulbs, Kwikset and Yale locks
Sylvania LightifyControllerOsram Lightify bulbs, Logitech
Harmony Home Hub Extender
Philips HueControllerHue lights, Osram lights

With solutions covering most price ranges, ZigBee is very much here to stay, whether you just want some smart home lights, or a fully-featured home of the future. Check carefully which products are supported by each Hub when you are shopping around, and look for the latest version of any model.

About the author

Patrick Sinclair

Patrick Sinclair is a geek; make no mistake about that. He runs All Home Robotics in his spare time so he doesn't have to think about his depressing cubicle and it gives him an excuse to buy expensive gadgets to review!

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