Wink Hub Review – My Experience with the Wink Home Automation Hub

Another day, another smart hub to review! I’d read a few mixed reviews on the Wink Hub online. It seemed that it was yet another “love it” or “hate it” smart home controller.

There is always a bit of extra frustration in this niche because smart home technology is still in its early stages. Regardless of the device, there will almost always be at least minor issues to troubleshoot or research. If you are looking for a plug and play option, I don’t think we are quite there yet as an industry.

The Wink is a new smart home controller that caught my eye (no pun intended) as a key competitor to the SmartThings Hub. It really competes with all the other home controllers (Nexia and VeraLite, etc…), but competes with the SmartThings Hub by offering a wide variety of communication protocols and compatibility.

In the following Wink review, I’ve broken down my analysis into a variety of sections (seen below). Feel free to “jump” to any particular area if you are looking for specific information, or just start reading the whole article through.

Core Features of the Wink Hub

Wink Hub Compatible vs Wink Ready: This is a key distinction to make right from the start. Devices categorized as “Wink ready” already have the wink technology baked into their configuration. For these devices, you can hook them directly to your app and do NOT require a “hub” to control.

For the purposes of this review, we are concerned primarily with the Wink Hub as a controller working with compatible devices. As of this writing, there are not really enough “Wink ready” devices to make going without a hub a good option.

Uses a Variety of Protocols: Taking a page from the SmartThings Hub book (or maybe it’s the other way around), the Wink has tried to push the bounds of compatibility to new lengths.

The Wink uses the popular Z-Wave protocal (a personal favorite of mine), but can also work with ZigBee, ClearConnect, and other WiFi/Bluetooth devices. This inter-operability is a key selling point of this hub, as it should be.

Professional App Integration: A good hub comes with a good app. Wink has done a good job of creating a user-friendly app that syncs with your home network for remote control and monitoring.

The app is streamlined and straightforward to use. Adding devices and pairing them is very easy. This is one of the better smart home apps that I’ve used recently.

Compatible with a Variety of Third Party Brands: Wink has partnered with brands like GE, Schlage, and Home Depot to provide a wide array of integration options. This is the sign of a smart hub that has at least achieved some level of success.

The big brands are able to use Wink’s API to develop their own third party offerings  (locks, switches, etc…) using one of the compatible protocols. For devices that don’t work out of the box with the app, the home hub will bridge the gap.

Pre-Configure Shortcuts: The app isn’t just used for monitoring and real-time control, you can also set up “rules” or “shortcuts” to kick in automatically with simple commands. For example, you can set up a “wake up” or “night time” button that instantly shuts down or starts up devices.

In this case, if you select “night time” as a pre-configured option, you can turn off any lights that are still left on, lock the outside doors, turn on your security system and lower your thermostat.

It takes a little up front time investment to set up these shortcuts, but once done they can save you time and money in the long term.

Receive Alerts: You can also set up your Wink system to automatically send you email alerts when certain conditions occur. For example, your heating system goes and the temperature drops rapidly in the middle of the Winter.

You’ll get an email notification and be able to address this situation right away (especially if on vacation). No more asking the neighbor to check on your house every few days.

Video Overview of the Wink Hub

Wink Pros and Cons to Consider

Every home controller that I’ve reviewed has pluses and minus, without exception. Some have more than others, but I find it to be a very useful exercise to think carefully about what I liked (and found functional) and what I didn’t.

Because I configure – or reconfigure – each smart hub with my existing home network, I tend to get a very good sense of whats working as intended and what isn’t. The Wink definitely was a “mixed” bag, like many other smart controllers. As you’ll see below, there are plenty of different angles to consider.

Pros of the Wink

  • Simple Set-Up: Wink has done a good job of practically dummy-proofing implementation, set-up, and configuration. You’ll still run into hiccups – as with any smart hub – but for the devices it does work with, it’s easy to get started.
  • Affordable: As far as smart hub’s go, the Wink is a relatively affordable option. Many other devices regularly retail for close to $100. You be able to find the Wink Hub for about $40 at this listing online.
  • No Monthly Fees: A lot of times when smart home controllers have lower initial price points, they also have monthly service fees associated. In some cases, you have to sign up for a monthly service in order to access advanced features that are almost a necessity. The Wink does NOT have ANY fees! I already pay enough in monthly fees (“ankle biters”….as I like to call them). The fact that the Wink does not have monthly fees is a big plus for me and also gives me a bit more patience when dealing with technical difficulties.

Cons of the Wink

  • Not Compatible with Every “Smart” Device: This might seem like a “spoiled” complaint, but I’m always a bit frustrated when my smart hub doesn’t work with certain popular smart home devices. Z-Wave and ZigBee compatibility is great and the Wink works really well on the products that are clearly compatible. However, my Nest smart thermostat wasn’t able to be added, despite numerous attempts and workarounds. I collect smart devices, so it’s not a huge deal. I have a few backup smart thermostats that I’ve tested which ARE compatible, but I can imagine how frustrating this revelation might be for someone who recently purchased a Nest or similar device. They aren’t cheap! I’d recommend checking out the WiFi Honeywell Lyric (full comparison here) as a competent Nest alternative, if you are going to use the Wink Hub.
  • Non-Certified Z-Wave Inclusion is Buried: Wink integrates really well with a wade variety of WiFi devices like Dropcam, Lyric, etc… However, the Z-Wave “inclusion mode” is buried really far into the app for devices that are not specifically certified by Wink. This leads me to believe that Wink is trying to protect their own system from competition OR compatibility isn’t quite a sure thing. For the handful of Non-Wink Certified Z-Wave devices I added, it wasn’t a problem. But it also wasn’t as easy as adding the “certified” devices.

Popular Compatible Devices for the Wink

It’s helpful to see what kinds of possibilities a smart hub can offer. I’ve done some research on the best Z-Wave compatible devices on the market. Since Z-Wave has the most compatible third party partners, it’s a good barometer for the “health” of a particular hub in general.

A hub with a very shallow or selective pool of compatible devices, probably won’t last long. Some of the devices are “Wink certified” and some are not, but they all should work in theory. See below for the most popular Z-Wave (and Wink) compatible devices:

Z-Wave ProductUsageBrandPrice Range
GE On/Off SwitchGE$$
Smart Energy SwitchAeon Labs$
Programmable Thermostat2gig$$
Programmable ThermostatHoneywell$$$
Deadbolt LockSchlage$$$
Touch Screen DeadboltYale Security$$$$
Motion DetectorEcolink$
Outlet ControlGE$

Final Recommendation: Is the Wink Worth a Second Blink?

I can definitely recommend the Wink Hub as a competent option to consider. I have my favorites and Wink is probably an “above average” offering, in my opinion. If you are still on the fence, I’d recommend checking out my reviews of the VeraLite and the SmartThings controller.

The Wink is not perfect, and I found the advanced features to be a bit lacking; however, this is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s very easy to add certified devices and overall the experience is very user-friendly.

Having a powerful hub with advanced features can be overwhelming and confusing, especially for first time “hub buyers”. If this is your first smart hub, I think the Wink is a great investment.

At only $40, it’s a great device to learn how to configure your smart home. Worst case scenario, you can always graduate up to a more complex Z-Wave compatible hub and re-purpose all your smart accessories as needed.

If you are going to purchase, I’d recommend checking out this price listing for a good baseline cost estimate. They frequently have discounts, as well.