When picking a smart home hub, SmartThings, Hubitat, and Home Assistant are some of the most popular DIY options you'll find on the market. Each hub supports the most common smart home protocols like WiFi, Zigbee, and Z-wave – though some may require additional hardware to accomplish this.
Each platform has it's own unique strengths and weaknesses. The beauty of this is one platform or another might work best for you and your unique needs!
Backed by Samsung, SmartThings is the most widely used consumer smart home platform on the market. Originally released as a Kickstarter project in 2012 and later acquired by Samsung in 2014, SmartThings has evolved into a tremendously popular smart home hub.
SmartThings originally sold their own first-party hub hardware, but more recently they've licensed the technology to third-parties, with Aeotec now producing what is effectively the same hardware as the Samsung SmartThings V3 hub at $125 USD.
SmartThings has historically combined a mix of local communication along with cloud connectivity. The hub takes care of communicating with the devices on your network and the cloud is where the actual 'brains' reside. More recently, SmartThings has pushed more of the 'brains' into the local hub – with a significant push in 2022 to make devices and automations run directly on the hub where possible. This makes simple, time-sensitive automations like 'lights turning on when motion is detected' run much faster than before while still keeping the power of complex automations available through solutions like SharpTools Rule Engine.
- Official support for the most popular smart devices
- Simple user experience in SmartThings app
- Easy device pairing process through the SmartThings app
- Supports Google Assistant, Alexa and Bixby voice control for free
- No additional subscriptions or costs
- Still has cloud dependencies, though there is a push for more local support
- Edge device drivers are being rolled out for local automation
- Committed to support Matter, which is the new smart home protocol backed by Google, Amazon, Apple, Samsung (SmartThings) and other vendors aiming to reduce fragmentation in the smart home industry
- Sunset of Groovy devices and SmartApps planned. Time will tell how the community engages with the new tools, but SharpTools has been working closely with SmartThings to migrate to the new APIs.
Built by a number of former contributors in the SmartThings community, Hubitat is a powerful smart home hub offering a commercially available 'off-the-shelf' solution. Hubitat and its community have continued to grow since its debut, with a solid interest amongst the smart home power user community.
Often available for under $120, Hubitat provides a local-focused hub with optional cloud support. This means your devices and 'apps' can run locally directly on the hub, but you can still use services like Alexa and Google Home without requiring an additional fee. Hubitat offers an optional Backup and Hub Protection plan for $29.95/year and Remote Admin for $2.99/month at the time of this article's publishing.
Hubitat's interface is similar to the IDE interface of SmartThings and has been a common hub for SmartThings users to transition to who want a local solution with Groovy support that they are familiar with.
- Core features don't depend on the cloud
- Strong community support
- Supports advanced automation creation
- Supports both Google Assistant and Alexa voice control at no cost
- Often enriched with community apps like SharpTools dashboards for a polished interface
- Hub Protect + Remote Admin yearly bundle $54.99/year. (15% saving each year)
- Frequent updates and improvements to hub software based on community feedback (changelog)
The most popular open-source smart home platform, Home Assistant is a local-focused solution with optional paid ($65/year) or self-managed cloud support. Home Assistant is primarily a software project where you can choose to bring your own hardware or pre-order first-party hardware.
The complete Home Assistant Yellow (first party hardware) is $175 and includes Zigbee but not Z-wave. Most people choose to run Home Assistant on their own hardware and the cost varies depending on the options chosen – when estimating your costs, don't forget to include accessories like cases, power supplies, and Z-wave/Zigbee radios – these small items add up! Perhaps even more interesting, you may already have a computer, NAS, or Raspberry Pi that you can run Home Assistant on!
- Exceptionally wide range of devices, protocols, and services supported thanks to open-source contributions
- Supports advanced automation creation with first party automations or popular community solutions like NodeRED or SharpTools Rule Engine
- With local devices, you don't need to worry about cloud device platforms getting shut-down as you run the software locally
- Some things still require tinkering with YAML editing, though the team is working towards introducing more adjustments directly in the UI
- Beholden to the nature of open source software – updates often come quickly, but may need several iterations to stabilize – and community developed integrations may lack consistency with features and design
- Requires additional hardware to support Zigbee/Zwave
- Additional cost or effort for voice control integration
- SharpTools Addon introduced April 2022 which offers a more intuitive approach to creating custom smart home dashboards and automation rules
- Home Assistant Yellow hub with Zigbee support coming soon (and includes chip-support for Matter)
- Nabu Casa (Home Assistant Cloud) subscription price changes:
Introduced yearly plan for $65/yr in US first and other countries to follow. Increased monthly price from $5/mo to $6.50/mo.
Google Home/Amazon Echo
While smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon Echo are great products for voice control and basic smart home needs, we wanted to keep this comparison focused on smart home hubs that provide rich smart home device support and extensibility through community developers.
Each of these voice assistants have excellent cloud-to-cloud device support, but tend to have very limited local protocol support. For example, Google Home primary focuses on cloud connections (with bespoke Bluetooth connections with limited partners like GE) and only some Echo models include limited Zigbee support.
Perhaps more concerning is these platforms tend to be "walled garden" closed ecosystems. They do a fantastic job getting partners to connect devices into their ecosystems, but don't provide APIs for other systems like Home Assistant, SmartThings, Hubitat, or SharpTools to interact with those devices – effectively keeping you locked in to their proprietary ecosystem.
Each platform has it's own unique strengths – depending on your smart home needs, you'll likely want to decide what factors are most important to you as you continue your smart home journey.
But fret not, it's totally OK to have a mixed setup with more than one hub – or to transition between hubs as your needs evolve. We're heavily engaged in many of the smart home communities + user groups and frequently see people transitioning between hubs or mixing-and-matching hubs in their home.
For example, SmartThings provides a number of unique cloud integrations that you won't find in other hubs and provides a simple way to get started in the smart home space. Hubitat provides an engaged developer community who have put together some amazing device integrations and 'apps' that work with a fantastic commercially available hub. And Home Assistant has a tremendous depth of available device integrations and is constantly evolving.
Best yet, you can mix-and-match devices from each of these smart home hubs in your SharpTools dashboards and rules as we support all three of these popular smart home hubs!