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Amazon’s Echo Hub Makes It Easy for My Whole Family to Use the Smart Home

 Amazon’s Echo Hub Makes It Easy for My Whole Family to Use the Smart Home


I’ve had smart home devices in my house for the better part of a decade now. The complexity and number of devices occupying my rural Kansas farmhouse have risen greatly over the last few years. While this expansion has mostly been good, it has added layers of complexity in terms of the types of devices, platforms used to access the products and ways to control each one.

Things like smart speakers and smart displays, which aim to help with smart home management, improvements to the blossoming Matter protocol and third-party platforms like Samsung SmartThings are all working to become the virtual home you place your smart home devices into. For the most part, this all works, but if you have people living in your home who have to deal with these things, it can be confusing and frustrating for all. The Amazon Echo Hub has become the surprising savior in my home.

Familiarity is key

Quick toggles shown on the Amazon Echo Hub Quick toggles shown on the Amazon Echo Hub

Much of the UI for the Amazon Echo Hub has a lot of similarities to the Echo Show lineup.

Chris Wedel/CNET

If you haven’t heard of the Amazon Echo Hub, it has the look and shape of an Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet and some of the interface of the Echo Show 8 — but without the big speaker. The Echo Hub itself has the same 8-inch display as the tablet counterpart but nearly double the thickness.6 inches rather than the .37 of the Fire HD 8 tablet. 

The bigger separation between the Echo Hub and the tablet is in the interface, and this is where things begin to express how this thing has helped me and my family enjoy our smart home more. When I said before that the Echo Hub was also a bit like Amazon’s 8-inch smart display it was because everything you can do with that product, you can also do with the smart home controller. That includes voice interactions, digital photo frames, music and more. It’s the home screen that brings it all home.

The home screen of the Amazon Echo Hub. The home screen of the Amazon Echo Hub.

The home page for the Echo Hub provides quick ways to access smart home devices by room or by type.

Chris Wedel/CNET

Amazon reworked the UI from its smart displays to give the Echo Hub an easy-to-understand and navigate smart home control view. While the panel can be mounted to a wall with the included mounting plate, I decided to purchase a tablet stand on Amazon as well and place it on my kitchen counter. It didn’t take long for my kids to begin asking questions, but even less time for them to start flicking lights on and off all over the house.

Aside from the fact that kids seem to be naturally more attuned to gadgets, the Echo Hub’s interface has a list of the rooms you have set in Alexa along the lefthand side of the screen, small pill-shaped buttons along the bottom edge for quick access to smart home device categories, and customizable widgets for things like cameras, rooms, shopping lists and more. It may seem obvious, but I’m a bit surprised it’s taken this long for Google or Amazon to offer something like this.

Keeping it simple

Amazon Echo Hub on a counter showing smart home controls Amazon Echo Hub on a counter showing smart home controls

The room controls page is helpful to see what devices are active in a particular room.

Chris Wedel/CNET

Amazon’s Echo Hub isn’t the first or only smart home control panel on the market. I recently reviewed the Brilliant Smart Home Plug-in Control Panel, and although it looks great and has some unique features I like, the UI is a bit complicated, and it is expensive at $400. 

The Echo Hub excels in these areas. At $180, it isn’t cheap, but if you have a smart home with a wide range of devices, a dedicated controller can help ease confusion in controlling all of them — especially for those who didn’t create the chaos. That’s the other place the Echo Hub is great: in its simplicity of use.

The lights tab screen on the Amazon Echo Hub The lights tab screen on the Amazon Echo Hub

A dedicated lights tab shows you the current status of all the smart lights in your home.

Chris Wedel/CNET

The interface I mentioned above is intuitive and self-explanatory. Not only were my kids instantly able to see what lights were and weren’t on, but they were able to view live camera feeds from my front door, lock the door, and more without having to remember any specific device names or phrases. Now, there are downsides: My kids can now easily manage and control all the smart home devices in my home, which can quickly become quite annoying.

I like that the Echo Hub can still be a regular smart display when needed, but the dedicated UI for managing smart home devices is great for everyone. It’s nice being able to tap on a room to see what’s on or off, what devices may have gone offline, and quickly tap to lock the backdoor. The processing speeds could be faster, as there are some delays in loading screens from time to time and when loading a camera feed, which only works with Ring cameras. 

Sanity from a screen

The Routines tab on the Amazon Echo Hub The Routines tab on the Amazon Echo Hub

Amazon’s Echo Hub gives simple control over all your smart home devices, but also any Routines you have set up.

Chris Wedel/CNET

Unfortunately, the Amazon Echo Hub isn’t going to calm all the craziness that can come from my house. Limiting the questions for what to say to get desired smart home results from my wife and kids is a win. It isn’t a perfect product and has some improvements I’d like to see done, speed is one. I’d also like to see an option to make the UI the default for other Amazon Echo Show devices, such as the Echo Show 15. 

The accessibility and approachability of the Echo Hub are part of the magic of the device. Amazon has nailed the setup experience over the years and combining that with the company’s history in the smart home space is on full display, pun intended, with the smart home control panel that is singlehandedly reducing my family’s irritation with my smart home.



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